Dear Mr. Fantasy

Dear Mr. Fantasy

Friday, December 18

As you might expect, me being a bartender, Im expected to help fulfill fantasies. Tough work, but somebody has to do it. The unfortunate part is its usually (?) only to provide advice to fantasy sports geeks. The rock-star lifestyle of a high profile bartender never ends! Ill admit that for years, I didnt quite get the guys who obsessed over fantasy sports. They talked a foreign language, kind of like back in college, those guys who used to play Dungeons and Dragons. (Thats one fantasy world I never understood: Sit around a basement table, casting charm spells? Why dont we go to a bar, and try to cast real charm spells?)

As the years passed though, my fascination with the numbers of sports and the ease of getting into a league on the computer, combined to get me started. Oops.

Once youre in, its hard to get out. I think the thing that hooks you is the fact that, for the most part, that it doesnt make sense. Until its over, then it makes complete sense. Most times. Churchill described fantasy football the best when he was asked about it and responded: Fantasy football is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. That dude was ahead of his time, because he couldnt have described all fantasy sports any better.

As much as you think you know, you dont know. But I know that I know more than most of the guys in my leagues. What do they know? (And by leagues, Im using a plural to represent different sports, not playing 5 football leagues at the same time. There is nothing more annoying than the guy who has every stud or surprise player because he plays in 11 leagues! Stop talking now!)

Another part of the intoxicating effects are the definite results. They might not always be indicative of what happened, but they are there none the less. This is in contrast to most bar discussions that usually dont have a definitive beginning or end. Fantasy sports give you a result. My favorite part of these results is, if they go against you, they dont matter anyway, and if they go in your favor, they cement your genius.

And isnt what its all about? 99.9 of sports conversation is about proving that youre right or at least understand whats going on. Fantasy sports, or shall I say, prowess in them, give you credibility. Doesnt it? In a word, NOT!

While they are based in fact, their results are not. The results are based on luck, in most situations. If you have Larry Fitzgerald, and he only has 3 catches because hes a decoy or the Cardinals are running against an inferior opponent, does that make him less of a weapon? Of course not, but if his lack of production comes at the wrong time, it can cost a fantasy owner a game, or heaven forbid, a championship. Great play- bad result. It depends on so many variables. Over the course of a season, Fitz on your team will give you great results, but for one game? Flip a coin. Isnt that awesome?!

Im writing this blog during one of the biggest weekends of the year, for me the biggest, for just about every fantasy football format. Its the 1st of two rounds of playoffs and I think this is the most important because, lose this weekend and all of your work is down the drain. Loser Bowl? Thats for losers! If youre playing for a little more than just pride, the big payoff is for the top 2 teams so you need to get to that game. But its a definite be careful what you wish for scenario, because my brain is being twisted into a pretzel. Ive examined every option I have for my team, and the other 250 or so free-agents that are out there that I can acquire. Im not kidding. I have serious issues!

This is especially where that luck thing comes in. Study all you want. Examine every match-up. One of your studs has a bad game and youre done. Have two Indianapolis Colts who have helped carry your team all year questionable because they have nothing to play for, and you roll the dice. Go for it Caldwell, go for it!

Anyway, I think that this fantasy adventure that Ive been on these last couple of years (football, and the root of all evil, baseball) have taught me something. Ive learned that fantasy is a lot like real life. You can study and prepare all you want, but just when you think you have it all figured out, something happens that you were never expected. Good or bad. What that teaches you is that, as much as you want to be in control, most times you have none at all. Just like being married!!

And the most important thing it teaches you, if you take it, and yourself, too seriously, theres never going to be a happy ending. And whats the fun in that? Its supposed to be fun, right??

So enjoy the weekend my fantasy brethren, and may the bounces go your way, (Unless, youre in my league!!) and remember: Jamaal Charles is my Boy!

John Danks to start for White Sox on Wednesday

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John Danks to start for White Sox on Wednesday

BALTIMORE — John Danks will get another turn in the White Sox rotation.

Even though he could have manipulated the team’s rotation with a day off upcoming, manager Robin Ventura said Friday that Danks would start again on Wednesday night at home against the Boston Red Sox. Danks allowed six runs in Thursday’s loss and fell to 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA in four starts.

“You’re sitting there going through it, he was just in the middle of the plate (Thursday),” Ventura said. “I think he has a good changeup, still battles and all that stuff. I know he’s frustrated. But where we’re at, we need him to battle, and at this point, that’s what we’re doing.”

Entering Friday, the White Sox won eight of their past 10 games with their only losses coming in both of Danks’ starts. Danks had his best turn of the season on April 21 when he limited the Los Angeles Angels to two runs over six innings. But he had no fastball command on Thursday and the Baltimore Orioles made him pay. Danks said he’s only focused on his work when he was asked Thursday about the big picture.

“I’ve got enough to worry about here than anything else,” Danks said. “I’ll be ready to go. I’ll work hard. I’m not going to pout or anything. Never have or never will. I guess it’s part of it. It’s not easy, but there’s only one thing to do and that’s work hard and get ready to take the ball.”

After the game, Ventura said the White Sox would work to help Danks, who’s in the final season of a five-year contract. Not only has Danks allowed two home runs per nine innings, his highest total since 2013, he also has walked 4.4 batters per nine, a career-worst.

“We’re trying to make him better and we’re going to continue to work at that and continue to make him better so he can help us,” Ventura said.

Reliever Tommy Kahnle joins White Sox as Daniel Webb goes on DL

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Reliever Tommy Kahnle joins White Sox as Daniel Webb goes on DL

BALTIMORE — Reliever Tommy Kahnle is set to join the White Sox, who placed Daniel Webb on the 15-day disabled list late Friday afternoon.

Webb, who pitched in Thursday’s blowout loss, has right elbow flexor inflammation.

A November trade acquisition, Kahnle had one save, a 3.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts in nine innings at Triple-A Charlotte this season. The White Sox acquired Kahnle from the Colorado Rockies on Nov. 24 in exchange for Yency Almonte.

The move to the DL comes only two days after Webb joined the team in part to cover David Robertson, who went on the bereavement list on Thursday. Webb made his 2016 debut Thursday and struck out three in a scoreless inning. He could be seen wearing an ice pack in the clubhouse before Friday’s game.  

Kahnle was a Rule 5 pick of the Rockies in 2014 off the roster of the New York Yankees. He has a 4.41 career ERA in 90 major league appearances between 2014-15.

The move comes at the end of a busy week for the previously healthy White Sox.

Catcher Alex Avila, who has made good progress, according to Robin Ventura, was placed on the DL on Sunday with a sore right hamstring. His replacement, catcher Kevan Smith, suffered back spasms during warmups Monday only a few hours before he was set to make his major league debut. Smith went on the DL the next day and is in Glendale, Ariz. to rehab his injury.

Though he didn’t go on the bereavement list until Thursday, Robertson knew he’d need three days off, which allowed the White Sox to call up Webb on Wednesday.

As Arrieta garners all the fanfare, Jon Lester keeps cruising along in Cubs win

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As Arrieta garners all the fanfare, Jon Lester keeps cruising along in Cubs win

Jake Arrieta is getting all the attention on the Cubs pitching staff, but don't sleep on Jon Lester.

As Arrieta defends his supernatural stat lines, Lester has looked every bit the $155 million starter this season.

The veteran left-hander turned in another gem Friday in the Cubs' 6-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in front of 34,007 fans at a frigid Wrigley Field.

Lester allowed only one run in seven innings, punching out 10 for his 26th career double-digit strikeout game.

He got himself into a major jam in the seventh when he gave up a single and a walk and then couldn't get a handle on a bunt (or didn't want to risk a throw to first), loading the bases with nobody out and adding another episode to the "yips" discussion.

"No matter what I say about the bunt in that inning, nobody's really gonna believe what I say," Lester said. "I never had a handle on it. I fielded it, the ball kinda rattled around in my glove. I reached for it twice and didn't have a handle on it, so I ate it. 

"You can believe me or not on that. There's no point in rushing the throw when I didn't have a handle on the baseball."

After a well-timed mound visit from manager Joe Maddon designed to calm Lester down and reset, the veteran southpaw struck out the next two batters and got Nick Markakis to ground out to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the threat and strand the bases loaded.

For the first time in his career, Lester has notched five straight quality starts to begin a season and now has a 1.83 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 2016.

Lester has gone at least seven innings and given up exactly one earned run in four of his five starts this season.

So has he lived up to his own expectations?

"Never," Lester said before allowing that he "feels good right now. My mechanics are good. I'm in a good place, executing pitches. 

"... I've always said, even when I was younger, no matter what expectations somebody else puts on me, it will never be as high as what I expect from myself. Every time I go out there, I want to be perfect and I want to win every game I pitch. That's where I'm at.

"Tomorrow, I'll show up and get back to work. It's neverending until the last pitch from me in my career is thrown and move on to something else."

The Cubs couldn't get Lester a win, however, putting up just one run through seven innings against the Braves pitching staff just hours after talking about how this lineup is built to generate offense even in cold, miserable conditions.

That run is the only tally of support the Cubs offense has given him in 20.1 innings of work at Wrigley Field so far this season.

But the bats came alive late when Rizzo broke the tie with an RBI single in the eighth and then Matt Szczur followed with his first career grand slam.

"In a game like today, you really believe you're going to win it somehow," Maddon said. "That's what that kind of a record does. You have a strong belief system you're going to win the game.

"You're getting no hits, but you still have the strong feeling that you're gonna win the game."

The Cubs' 17 victories are tied for the most in franchise history in April with 2008's squad and the 17-5 start is the best mark since the 1907 Cubs began 18-4.