Okay, first off, if you've never played Carcassonne, you need to. Not to go all Keith Law on you, but it's easily the single best board game in the world, and you must play it.
That's out of the way. Now let me get to the point. I didn't even come close to watching the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight Saturday, because reasons, but I couldn't possibly avoid conversation about that fight in the days since.
Mayweather wpm the fogjt. By any and all definition of what it takes to win a boxing match, he did it. But when you win by making the game no fun for anyone, what kind of win is it, really?
See, Carcassonne is a tile game. You build cities, roads and fields using various tiles. The people who claim and finish the most cities, etc., win, but in the long run, it's a communal game — you make a "metropolis" together, hoping to claim more of the finished pieces than your opponents.
When we as a family got the game a year-plus ago, one thing we agreed to as a family was that we wouldn't intentionally screw someone else's game up. Like, you can place pieces in such a way that someone else's city simply can't be completed. That keeps them from accruing points, giving you a better chance to win. On the flip side, it would lead to an end game with a bunch of tileless spaces on the board, with nothing to fill it out. You might win that way, but the aesthetics would be completely gone. Put simply, the game isn't as fun that way. Is it really all about winning? Or should you enjoy the path to the win?
So yeah, we agreed not to play that way. Sometimes, though, I'll play a stranger on the Carcassonne app, and they don't necessarily follow the same unwritten rules we do.
Similarly, Mayweather won Saturday night by denying every last bit of aesthetic appeal boxing has. Now, I'm not a boxing fan, so I don't care about the sport, aesthetics or otherwise. But there are those who love it, who call it the "sweet science," who want to watch the art of the fight as much as they want to watch a winner.
Instead, Mayweather plays to block. He doesn't worry as much about building his own cities as he does about keeping you from finishing yours. If you can't possibly succeed, then any little tiny success he has dwarfs every half-success you might attain.
If you're only out to win, it's genius, inarguably so. And sure, he's made himself into an all-timer as a result. But for anyone (everyone?) watching/partaking of the fight, it's miserable. It's a bad viewing experience, it's an awful competitors' experience, and it's not anything people are going to be eager to recreate.
The other day, I was playing Carcassonne on the app, and the guy I was facing didn't care about getting anything done himself; he just wanted to play defense. Every move he made was designed to make my attempts unfinishable. The practical effect of this was that, halfway through the game, I had a lot of pieces on the board, but literally no way to finish their parts, so I was stuck, and the game was basically over for me.
Good strategy? Eh. I mean, dude basically ensured he would win. I guess that means it was smart. But in a two-player game, he eliminated literally any facet of fun to the game. And call me a spoil-sport if you want, but at the point I realized I was just going to be placing tiles for no benefit, the game was ruined. I abandoned the game and gave the guy the win.
Games, sports, everything is great when you win. But when you suck any enjoyment out of the game for anyone else, that win almost has to feel hollow, doesn't it? That's what, I think, bugs people the most about Saturday's fight. Mayweather has a great strategy if his end game is only "win." And it seems clear that's what it is. But man, is that completely without any audience consideration.
That's the same reason why the waiver wire exists in fantasy. I don't have the entire game's timeline in front of me, but it wouldn't surprise me if fantasy started the way most kids' first leagues do — the bones are the same, but it's pretty basic, and that means no waiver wire. Just free agency, in which Mike could pick up Player A whenever he feels like, and Jim couldn't do anything to stop him.
That led to Mike, the guy who had a work-from-home job, could grab every single player he wanted. As soon as a prospect was called up, Mike could pick him up. As soon as a starter was hurt, Mike could grab the backup. As soon as there was a cross-league trade in an AL- or NL-only, Mike could pick up the newbies.
Mike was playing entirely within the rules. And for everyone else, the game started to suck. Yeah, he was being smart, if his endgame was just to win. But winning if everyone else hates the game is a pretty damn hollow victory.
And so the waiver wire came into being. Sitting-at-home guy can't just grab whoever. You have a process that, sure, makes things harder on him, but makes the game more fun for everyone else. Sitting-at-home guy can still win.
Anyway, that's what I'm thinking about today. On to The Ticker. Programming note that it's a smaller Ticker this week, as I'm writing this in the passenger seat of my brother's car as we drive to Washington, D.C., for the weekend, and getting a full Ticker out would take up way too big a chunk of the drive. But that doesn't mean I don't still have advice. Ownership percentages are as of Thursday morning:
Stocks I'm buying
(low-owned players who are doing well, and I believe it)
Nick Hundley, C, DEN (21 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
I was all over Hundley in the preseason, calling him to become a top-six catcher by the end of the year. I ranked him 15th among catchers, because I couldn't be sure, but even that was 15 slots higher than anyone else ranked him, and only one other person even had him top-30. But Wilin Rosario was never going to hold Hundley off, and the chance to be a full-time hitter with Colorado is good times indeed. Through Wednesday, Hundley is hitting .343/.390/.529 in full-time-for-catchers play, getting a day off every week or so. I mean, I don't think he'll hit .343 for the season, but still, this is far more real than not, and with Jonathan Lucroy, Yan Gomes and Travis d'Arnaud out for who-knows-how-long, Hundley being that lightly owned is criminal.
Kyle Blanks, 1B, TEX (6 percent)
I wrote about Blanks in June of 2013. At the time, he was filling in for an injured Yonder Alonso in San Diego, as a one-time decent prospect who couldn't stay healthy long enough to produce. And while that health has still been an issue for Blanks as his career has gone on. Despite that, every time he's latched on with a new team, Baseball Twitter has gone ... well, atwitter over it, excited for the chance at him finally developing into what we thought we were going to get. Blanks is a giant — 6'6", 265. He's 28 now, right in what his prime should be. And since getting the callup to Texas a bit ago to fill in for an injured Mitch Moreland, he's hit .357/.400/.714 (through Wednesday), earning himself playing time even when Moreland gets healthy, likely in left or right field. He's a good hitter as long as he's healthy.
Stocks I'm not buying
(low-owned players who are doing well, but I am not a believer)
Mike Pelfrey, SP, MIN (6 percent)
At 31 years old, Pelfrey is finally having the results of a genuine, decent big-leaguer. Through five starts, he's 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA. Of course, that 2.63 ERA comes with a 4.78 FIP, and while drawing conclusions on FIP from a 27.1-inning sample is in some ways as tenuous as drawing them on ERA in the same time, Pelfrey's K:BB ratio of 16:11 plus his six HBPs in 27.1 innings tell me the FIP is far more realistic than the ERA. This isn't some new, figured-it-out Pelfrey. This is a guy who is about to see things come crashing down hard.
Travis Snider, OF, BAL (5 percent)
I talked up Snider last August as a true post-hype sleeper, and he's doing well in that regard this year as well. Since the start of last season, Snider is hitting .268/.343/.431 with Pittsburgh and Baltimore, good for a 116 OPS+. That comes along with a .286 average through 20 games this year, as of Wednesday. The frustrating thing, though, is that Snider's good average in 2015 comes along with basically no power. He's a regular right fielder with one home run, with a .111 ISO. Snider at this point is a poor man's version of the guy he replaced in Baltimore, Nick Markakis. Decent average, not a lot of power, not much else. And considering last year's .264 average was already his highest since his 24-game rookie year, there's not a lot of reason o expect that .286 to continue.
Stocks I'm selling
(high-owned players who have struggled, and I'm out on them)
J.D. Martinez, OF, DET (93 percent)
The power is still there. Martinez has six homers through Wednesday, putting himself above the impressive power pace of his 2014 breakout. The downside is that he's doing literally nothing else well. Martinez has a .226 average, a .274 on-base percentage. He's struck out more than five times as often as he's walked, and the ratio is only that good because he walked three times Wednesday; his season ratio was 36:4 before Wednesday. While it's fun to see a late bloomer make it — it's sort of like seeing a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament — they all-too-often don't last. With Yoenis Cespedes, Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis all hitting well, if Martinez doesn't start improving, he might start losing playing time.
Stocks I'm not selling
(high-owned players who have struggled, but I still believe)
Chase Utley, 2B, PHI (54 percent)
It's a BABIP of .082, guys. Yes, his hard-hit rate is way down, and that's troubling as can be. But he's striking out and walking roughly as much as he has in previous years. He has three homers. There's still something here. We're never again going to see vintage Utley, but we are going to see a better Utley than we've seen so far this year. His price is going to be crazy tiny. Buy low.
(low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them or another reason to hold off, but there are things that could change)
Jake Lamb, 3B, ARI (16 percent)
So I had predicted Lamb as my Rookie of the Year, and while Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant are making that prediction look really rough, Lamb was great before he hit the DL in late April. He was hitting .414/.514/.690 through 10 games when he hurt his foot. In his absence, Yasmany Tomas has hit well, though his fielding still isn't any great shakes. Lamb is due back within a week or so, and the expectation is he'll get plenty of playing time, with Tomas moving to a 1B/3B/OF fill-in role as needed. Rookie of the Year might be slipping away, but he'll still be very good.
(handcuffs; low-owned guys who have someone in front of them, but they are strong backups or replacements to stash)
Tanner Roark, SP/RP, WAS (32 percent)
I mean, this was obvious enough even before last week. Roark would be the ready replacement for any of the Nationals starters who might get hurt — and with Stephen Strasburg already ailing, something might happen there. He's picking up more or less where he left off last year, when Roark was a surprisingly good contributor. And now, apparently, he's also the replacement in case something happens to closer Drew Storen, as Roark drew the call for the save in Monday's game when Storen needed a break. Roark could potentially help you on one side or the other, and warrants a stash.