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Thursday, March 30, 2023

2023 Bolts from the Blue

As I have previously written here, I began playing in the Hardy House fantasy baseball league in 1989. It was named for the building on the Northwestern campus where we conducted our first few auctions. I didn't have to travel far as I was teaching in the Political Science department there at the time. 

We started out as a standard 4x4 roto league, but switched from using batting average to on- base percentage as a hitting category in 2011 and also added strikeouts and runs as categories in that same season. We changed from saves to saves plus .5*Holds in 2019, but had no regular season in 2020 so this is still a fairly new category. 

The 2022 version of my team finished in the middle of the pack (6th) of 12 teams. It started slowly, had a strong run in the middle of the season, but ultimately had insufficient pitching to contend for the title. If I had purchased Kevin Gausman at the auction from the Toronto rotation instead of Jose Berrios my entire position and strategy might have changed. Their auction prices spring 2022 were nearly identical. As a result of my predicament, very late in the season I traded virtually all of my hitting stars (who would be free agents) for some players I could potentially retain in 2023.

Here's my roster from the auction, which was held in person for the first time since 2019, though two owners again participated over Zoom. Because of various time conflicts, the auction actually occurred on March 11, which is incredibly early by the standards of Hardy House. 

Retained players are in blue

C Kirk TOR $7
C Jansen TOR $11
1B Pasquantino KC $29
2B Semien TEX $26
3B Rendon LAA $5
SS Crawford SEA $8
MI Paredes TB $5
CI Turner BOS $14
OF Ward LAA $5
OF Hays BAL $10
OF Kepler MIN $10
OF Stanton NYY $21
DH Moore SEA $3

$154 hitting (or 59% of the $260 allotment)

P McClanahan TB $20
P Eovaldi TEX $8
P German NYY $3
P Rodon NYY $23
P Kirby SEA $20
P Hall BAL $2
P Kluber BOS $1
P Bautista BAL $3
P Pressly HOU $25
P Beeks TB $1

$106 for pitching (or 41% of the budget)

Reserves (I selected 6th in the snake draft):

OF Eaton KC $3
P Paul Blackburn OAK $2
P Bryan Baker BAL $1

The league did a much better job of spending its auction money this year as there was not much left over. This was the first time in awhile that I spent every dime of my cash. The pace was also quicker and we finished nearly an hour earlier than we typically do when meeting in person. This was largely because we did not break for lunch -- owners were asked to bring lunch or arrange delivery. 

I probably spent more than anyone on pitching, partly because I expected Rodon's salary to go higher despite the injury reports. I was price enforcing and the bidding stopped on me. At the listed price, he could be a big steal and a potential retained player for 2024 even after his required raise to $27. I apparently also valued Kirby more than others did, but a couple of other starting pitchers were bigger bargains -- Jon Gray went for $10, Tyler Mahle for $8, Pablo Lopez for $14, Luis Castillo $24, and Logan Gilbert $20. If I could reconfigure my pitching costs to swap out some other players, I would. 

As it often turns out, I ended up with some guys who moved over from the NL in the off-season (Rodon and Turner). Blackburn and Moore are hurt to start the season and Hall was sent to the minors by the Orioles. Crawford also has a minor injury apparently. I need to have a good outcome in the initial free agent run Monday.

Pasquantino was likely retained at too high of a price, but my pre-auction calculations showed that 1B was not going to be a great position and it was probably ok to overspend a few dollars on a guy with very good OBP skills. By my calculations several of the veteran players I bought were a bit under their auction values. But no pick screams BARGAIN. Right after I bought Kepler some other outfielders of comparable talent went off the board for lower prices. 

During auctions, I often jump bids to $10 from the opening $1 to move the process along. That backfired this year when my brain momentarily confused Austin Hays and Anthony Santander. No one bid $11 on Hays and I ended up with an outfielder that I likely would not otherwise have pursued. That was dumb. Santander went later for $19. Sigh. 


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Sunday, March 12, 2023

Oscars 2023

The past few weeks, my spouse and I have been viewing many of the Oscar nominees. We saw several over the course of 2022, but quite a few remain on the watchlist. We would have watched 2 more films last weekend, but the windstorm knocked out our electricity for 54 hours ending hopes of viewing on Friday and Saturday night.

These are my rankings for each category, not my predictions about the awards. You can find forecasts elsewhere. I'll update these by highlighting films or performances that I view after today. 

Best Picture

“The Banshees of Inisherin” 
“All Quiet on the Western Front” 
“The Fabelmans” 
“Triangle of Sadness”
“Top Gun: Maverick” 
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” 

“Avatar: The Way of Water” 
“Women Talking” 

I know that I'm ranking the favorite last, but it just didn't grab me. Maybe I should see it again. 

Best Director 

Martin McDonagh (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) 
Todd Field (“Tár”) 
Ruben Östlund (“Triangle of Sadness”)
Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”) 
Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) 

Banshees really was an excellent film. As was Tár. 

Best Lead Actor

Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) 
Austin Butler (“Elvis”) 
Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”) 
Bill Nighy (“Living”) 

Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”) 

Though I have Mescal behind others, he delivered a fine performance and I encourage everyone to see the film. Update September 2023: Nighy was also very good in Living, which is also worth your time. 

Best Lead Actress

Cate Blanchett (“Tár”) 
Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”)
Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”) 

Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) 

Williams was fine, but her performance didn't knock me out. Yeoh's role was a lot more demanding and she was very good. The winner may come from a film I did not see yet. 

Update: Cate Blanchett is a marvel. Riseborough was also excellent in a film few people saw based on the IMDB box office information.

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) 
Barry Keoghan (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) 
Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”) 
Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) 
Judd Hirsch (“The Fabelmans”)

It was really difficult to decide which actor to select here from Banshees, which could mean voters will divide their ballots and open the door for another actor. 

Best Supporting Actress

Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) 
Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Jamie Lee Curtis (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) 

Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) 
Hong Chau (“The Whale”) 

Condon was excellent. Obviously, you know what film would sweep my ballot if I had one. 

Best Documentary Feature Film 

“Fire of Love”

The Kraffts were risk-takers, making this film difficult to watch in spots. But it is an interesting story about volcano experts that is very much worth your time. 

“All That Breathes" 
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” 
“A House Made of Splinters” 

Best International Feature Film 

“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany) 

All Quiet captures much of the spirit of the novel, but there are some significant plot differences. It is nonetheless a superior film. See it.

“Argentina, 1985” (Argentina) 
“Close” (Belgium)
“EO” (Poland) 
“The Quiet Girl” (Ireland) 

Best Animated Feature Film 

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” 

I have some work to do here as I have not seen any of these animated films at the time of the Oscars. 

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” 
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” 
“The Sea Beast” 
“Turning Red” 

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