The Legacy of Lawr Michaels in Tout Wars

by Ron Shandler

In 2001, the fourth year of Tout Wars, I invited Lawr Michaels to join the American League. At the beginning, nobody knew anything about this flighty throwback from the 1960s, and I heard more than one comment questioning my decision to bring in a “village idiot” to the league.

He did not dispel the impression quickly, drafting two high-priced closers early in the draft, then filling his Utility spot with catcher Chris Widger. I asked him if that was a mistake, and he just shrugged his shoulders and laughed.

Lawr proceeded to win the league on the backs of his pitching staff. “Idiot” was replaced by “curiosity,” and eventually “savant” as we warmed to his uniqueness, and he became instrumental in helping to build the new community.

When I relinquished the reins of Tout after that season, Lawr joined the group that continued to coordinate the leagues. In 2004, when we were approached by Sam Walker about his “Fantasyland” book project, we proceeded with cautious optimism; Lawr supplied the optimism. His exuberance may have been the only thing to get us through the eponymous film four years later.

The “Fantasyland” experience fostered the creation of the Tout Wars LLC, which Lawr was a part of from the start. Tout weekend became a full-fledged event during this time, including the annual public gathering at Foley’s, and capped by our Sunday lunch at Virgil’s. Virgil’s was all Lawr, because the Times Square mainstay had “the best wings I’ve ever tasted, ever.”

Lawr won his second Tout title in 2009, taking’s Mike Siano down to the very last day of the season. At the following March’s draft, he passed off his celebratory moment – and initial player nomination – to Mike, acknowledging him for making that experience so much fun and challenging.

Over his 18-year tenure in Tout-AL, Lawr won and lost as often as anyone, but he was always engaged for six months each season. His success was driven, in part, by his amazing memory. Yes, it gave him instant recall of random music and literature references, and unremarkable events at baseball games he attended decades earlier. Yes, he was able to archive obscure details about family members of passing acquaintances, endearing him to so many people. But it also allowed him to sit down at a draft table and let his Zen take over. Sometimes he hardly prepped at all; he didn’t have to.

Joe Sheehan wrote that gatherings like Tout Wars “…are both collegial and competitive, an environment where you’re hanging out with people you like, but you also need to beat them to gain prestige, build a brand, make a dollar. Lawr Michaels… lived as if that part didn’t exist at all. He just wanted to connect with you, over whatever you loved. Your draft, your team, your new putter, your favorite band, your kid.”

Lawr Michaels was the heart of Tout Wars, though the beat was uniquely his. It breathed life into this “game about a game” and the camaraderie he fostered for nearly two decades. We’ll need to hold tight to the oxygen his memory leaves us with now.

Below are links to some of the tributes posted by friends and colleagues (to him, all friends):

Brian Walton: The Man and His Brand

Joe Sheehan: Lawr Michaels

Jason Grey: via Jeff Erickson’s Twitter

Ron Shandler: Facebook Post

Steve Gardner: Remembering Lawr Michaels

Justin Mason: Unabashedly Lawr

Todd Zola: Not Too Old to Rock but Too Young to Roll

Paul Sporer: Remembering Lawr Michaels

Zach Steinhorn: Lawr Michaels: The Approachable Man from ‘Fantasyland’

Danny Cross: Creativesports Staff Remembers Lawr Michaels

Gene McCaffrey: Lawr Michaels, Rest in Peace

Tom Muscarella: Song of the Week – Livin’ With a Flashlight, Lawr Michaels

Peter Kreutzer: Lawr Michaels, Have Fun Til the End

Lenny Melnick: RIP Dear Friend

Glenn Colton: Celebrating the Life of Lawr Michaels

Short remembrances on Twitter









Goodbye Good Friend, Lawr Michaels

Lawr Michaels was a member of the board of Tout Wars since, like, there was a board. He has been a tireless advocate of the fantasy baseball community for a really long time. How long? He started by writing for John Benson.

He passed away today after a recent bout with illness. He died way too young.

In 2009 he won Tout Wars AL (because, if I recall correctly, his team hit an improbable eight homers on the last day), which gave him first nomination. He did something novel with it.

Rudy Gamble Wins Tout Wars Mixed Draft League for the Second Year in a Row

Rudy (Still) Can’t Fail
by Jeff Erickson

We’ll delve into Rudy Gamble of Razzball’s hegemonic-like dominance of the Tout Wars Mixed Draft League momentarily, but first, a song:

I know that the spelling is different, but any excuse to include a Clash song has to be taken.

For the second year in a row, Rudy Gamble of has won the Tout Wars Mixed Draft League. Once again, he had to hold off Adam Ronis of for the title. I wanted to say that Rudy and Adam are the Red Sox and Yankees of the Mixed Draft League, but that wouldn’t do justice to the size of the field they are besting each year, and the comparison fails because there’s no carryover from year-to-year. Moreover, Rudy made a better analogy in his write-up of his victory—they are Federer and Nadal, with a combined four firsts and three second-place finishes over the last four years.

With the win, Rudy vaulted into third place on the All-Time Tout Wars leaderboard, behind only Fred Zinkie and Larry Schechter, despite having played only four years. Thus, Rudy will get another meal named after him at our annual Tout Wars get-together at Foley’s. It’s a good bet that if you ever have leftover Tout Wars currency from that meet-up and it has Rudy’s visage on it, you should keep it so that you can use it the following year.

It’s worth noting that Ronis isn’t that far behind on the list, sixth all-time and fifth among active participants, and fellow Razzballer Grey Albright has demonstrated similar strength, following up his 2017 win with another “cash” finish in 2018.

If you’re looking to see where I’m on the list, don’t bother. Seriously, it’s embarrassing. Having me write this article is like having Anders Jarryd or Manuel Orantes compare themselves to Federer or Nadal.

So … how did Rudy do it? Let’s take a quick look at the standings first:

The first thing that jumps out is Rudy’s utter dominance of the pitching categories. He won four of five categories outright and finished third in saves. He did this despite getting only 25 starts from his first pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, who he took at the 2-3 turn. Unlike many of his competitors, he backed up Thor with a second ace, getting Aaron Nola at the 4-5 turn. Two great starters aren’t enough to dominate the starting pitching categories, however – he had to hit on the slippery mid-round starters to succeed, and he did that in spades by getting Charlier Morton in the 13th and Blake Snell in the 15th rounds.

One might be tempted to dismiss those picks as windfalls – but I think that’s underselling the skill in picking in the mid-tiers. Moreover, because he had that second ace, he was less reliant upon ‘hitting’ with all of his mid-tier SPs. Obviously, there are so many landmines that he could have gone with (and in one case, in Round 12, did go with, in Jon Gray) instead of Morton and Snell – just looking at the draft grid, some disastrous alternative picks in that range included a lot of injuries (Danny Salazar, Garrett Richards, Taijuan Walker, Dinelson Lamet) and underachievers (first-half Cole Hamels, Chase Anderson, Aaron Sanchez, Jake Odorizzi). Rudy was able to combine all that top end starting pitching with quality contributors late in the draft, too – getting significant contributions from Eduardo Rodriguez, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Tyler Skaggs, the latter two in the reserve rounds of the draft.

Rudy might not have won saves, but he got two solid closers in Felipe Vazquez and Raisel Iglesias that weren’t ever a threat to lose their jobs. 2018 was a really frustrating year to chase saves – plenty of closers lost their respective jobs, but often their replacements weren’t all that stable, either. Iglesias was Rudy’s first “value pick” at 9.1 – and it had the added bonus of preventing a disaster in Delino DeShields.

Turning to the hitting, once again most of Rudy’s value came from the draft rather than through trades or the waiver wire. Starting out with Mike Trout is great, especially in an OBP league, and then he hit perfectly at 3.1 with Christian Yelich. After that, he had a number of solid players but few breakout hitters (at least compared to the year before, when he nailed Tommy Pham and Whit Merrifield), though he got great values with Shin-Soo Choo (16.15) and Michael Brantley (19.1).

It wasn’t the proverbial “perfect draft” for Rudy – he had to overcome injuries and suspensions from Kevin Kiermaier (10.15), Steven Souza (11.1) and Jorge Polanco (14.15), for example. But he avoided the critical early-round disasters, which is so important in a format like this. He also invested very little in scarce positions. Catchers were a disaster in 2018, but with his catchers coming in Rounds 17 (Mike Zunino) and 28 (Bruce Maxwell), any shortcomings there weren’t that damaging.

Can Rudy be stopped? All signs point to no, but you should tune in next spring and of course read up at Razzball to find out!