Friday, June 29, 2012

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Francisco Liriano

Twins SP and RP.  Well lookey here - methinks a fantasy zombie has arisen from the dead.  Check out Liriano's stats for the past 30 days: 2.41 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.64 K/9 and 2.86 K/BB.  Plus this nugget from Matthew Berry: Liriano's 29.7 swing and miss rate is the best in baseball, even higher than Stephen Strasburg.  And he's RP eligible, meaning in weekly leagues you can use him to load up on the counting stats (IP, K, W).  Only 20% owned in ESPN leagues as of today, get him now.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dress Smarter: The Wingtip Boot

Why the Wingtip Boot?  Because it's the perfect balance between casual and dressy, between office wear and weekend wear.  Goes with a fall/winter wool suit just as well with jeans and khakis.
I've seen two problems when buying wingtip boots, though: 1) if affordable (like the $35 UO boot), they tend to rise up too high on the ankle, giving them a hiking boot rather than dress shoe feel, or 2) the boots are gorgeous but way too pricey for something you might need to wear in rain/mud/snow (AE Dalton, I'm talking to you).

Florsheim, however, seems to have struck just the right balance, getting lots of brogue detailing in a hightop-high boot. In the Florsheim Limited line, there's the Gaffney Boot in chestnut, $140 through Zappos but can be had for about $100 with code NEXT20 on website.  Rates fives stars on both sites.  Yes, it has a lug sole but the chestnut is perfectly colored and the uppers polish up nice.
Then there's the major upgrade: the Brogue Boot in the "Florsheim by Duckie Brown" line.  Normally $475, you can scrounge one up for $200 on eBay and on Neiman Marcus and LastCall - but who knows what colors and sizes will be available.

Luckily, is running an insane deal right now on the Broken-In Brogue Boot in Brown - only $79.  Yeah, $400 off - making it even cheaper than the Gaffney for a boot that's leather-soled, Goodyear welted, and made with Horween leather.  Both the Gaffney and Brogue Boot run large and wide by a half-size, so be sure to size down when you buy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Geraldo Parra

Arizona OF.  If Quintin Berry and Ben Revere are already taken in your league and you want steals without a gaping flaw in average or power (ruling our Rajai Davis, Juan Pierre and Tony Campana), give Campana a look.  A career .282 hitter, this year he's at .274/.341/.421 with 10 SBs, 31 R and 4 HRs thrown in.  Only 13.3% owned in ESPN leagues.

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Ben Revere

Minnesota OF.  Revere is riding to the rescue (couldn't help myself) for owners in need of steals help: In only 107 ABs, the speedster has 9 SBs, scored 17 times, and has shown a good eye with a .327 AVG and 4/6 BB/K ratio.  Think Rajai Davis with a better AVG, or Juan Pierre with a better SLG, or Tony Campana with a better batting AVG and SLG.  Only 10.9% owned in ESPN leagues.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dress Smarter: Allen Edmonds - Walnut Strand

Why is it called the Strand?  Because if you were stranded on a desert island and had to wear only one pair of dress shoes for the rest of your life, this would be it.  Dollar-for-dollar, no other American shoemaker beats Allen Edmonds in quality, and the walnut-color Strand is on its way to joining the Park Avenue as AE's iconic dress shoe.

What's so good about the Strand?  Beautiful, top-quality calf (doesn't crease much, takes a gorgeous shine), Goodyear welted, made in the USA, a durable leather sole, and - best of all - it will last you decades because for $100 AE will recraft it to look like new.  Plus the Walnut color goes with almost any suit (except solid black).

Where to buy it?  Whatever you do, don't pay the full $335 retail price.  AE's outlets sometimes sell second-quality Strands for $199, and Nordstrom and Amazon usually have new Strands around $200 once a year.

But the best place to score a new pair is at, where military service members can always buy new Strands direct from AE at $200 a pop (in any color and size) - see screen shot below. Of course, most people aren't in the military and you can't even view the site without a login, so ring up your Army/Navy buddy and have him buy you one.  The best thing of all?  MilExchange is always running online coupons of at least 10% off - and for February 29 this year, 29% off - meaning that you can get your new Strands for as little as $142 a pair, an amazing value.  The Strand runs long and narrow, so a 12E was perfect for my normally 13D feet.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dress Smarter: Italian-Made Silk Knit Ties

It's never a bad idea to take a fashion cue from Tom Ford.  Yeah, I can't afford his $4000 three-piece suits, either - but the silver knit silk tie is definitely a game-changer that can be done at an affordable price.

Why silk knit ties?  Because unlike your normal, shiny silk ties, knit ties 1) are seen far less frequently (and therefore noticed more, even in dark, solid colors), 2) add a whole new level of depth and texture to your shirt/suit combo and 3) work in both dressy and casual environments.  A great solid-color knit tie gets noticed in a good way; a loud shiny silk tie gets noticed in a bad way.

Ideally, the only knit ties you in your closet should be 100% silk, made in Italy, 2.75" wide, affordable, and come with an unlimited return policy in case it ends up defective.  Lands End's silk knits are the only ones I know of that fit the bill, coming in at less than $30 on sale.

Take the plunge; once you start wearing Italian silk knits you'll find normal ties hard to go back to.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dress Smarter: Lands End - No Iron Tailored Dress Shirts

A pretty simple question: what's everything you want in the ideal dress shirt?  The answer (I hope) is: slim fit, non-iron, monogram-able, unbreakable buttons, an unlimited return policy, and about $35 or less.

Now who can offer all that?  Brooks Brothers and Charles Tyrwhitt offer great shirts, but you pay a premium just for the brand. Lands End's Dress Shirts, on the other hand, hit all of these marks at the right price.

Even better: for Father's Day, LE is offering $20 off of $75 plus free shipping no minimum with code FATHER and pin 2610.

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Cody Ross

Boston OF.   Where's the love, man?  Don't people remember what he did in the 2010 playoffs, or more importantly, how he was absolutely en feugo (8HR, 28 RBI,  .833 OPS in in 133 ABs) before he got hurt last month?  His ownership has dropped to a mere 20.6% in ESPN leagues as of today, making him a great value add onto your roster's DL slot.

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Jerrod Parker

Oakland SP.  Yeah, I've heard those A's have produced some good pitchers over the years (though many now play for other teams).  Parker has been consistently solid for the A's all year: less than 2 ER given up in 7 of his 8 starts, with a 2.40 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.  And look how he's schooled some pretty good offenses: TEX  0 ER; TOR 2 ER; DET 2 ER, CWS 1 ER, BOS 1 ER.  Guy looks legit, and only 27.1% owned in ESPN leagues as of today,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Felipe Paulino

Kansas City SP.  Look, I'm not thrilled to be recommending a Royals SP not named Greinke, but 1) you ain't reading this unless you're desperate and 2) check out the stats: 1.70 ERA, 3-1 record, 9.5 K/9 in six starts.  And not against cupcakes, either: he's pitched twice against the Yankees and won twice, giving up zero ER in 12.2 innings with a 14/4 K/BB ratio.  Another sign he may be legit: pitched twice against the Orioles giving up only 3 ER in 12.2 innings.  47% owned in ESPN leagues as of June 5.

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Quintin Berry

Tigers OF.  Guess who's hitting leadoff for the Tigers?  If you said Quintin Berry, congrats.  A .333 AVG, .393 OBP and 6 SB in only 51 ABs.  With some guys named Cabrera and Fielder and Delmon Young hitting behind him when he gets on-base.  Who knows if he'll keep this up, but in a deep league do you want to wait around to find out?  25% owned in ESPN as of June 5.

Dress Smarter: Target Graphic Tees

There are two types of people in this world: people who like Target, and losers.  Luckily everyone I know is in the first camp, and for good reason: from household goods to baby furniture to snacks to toiletries, Tar-get (the -t is silent) has got you covered at great prices.  Some people like to waste their Sunday mornings at the park, I love to waste mine at Target buying lots of stuff I don't really need.

And of course, at the top of the list are the great clothes you can get at Target.  The Merona Kensington Blazer has gotten all the blogosphere love this spring (and rightly so), but don't forget about the incredible range of graphic tees.  Think Junk Food vintage at 1/3 the price.  Almost all are $10-$13.

Beatles.  Star Wars.  Seinfeld.  Superman.  College.  Coors.  Even I'm Just a Bill and Jack in the Box?  You get the idea.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Matt Adams

Cardinals 1B.  Remember that face.  What do we know? 1) We know Lance Berkman and Matt Carpenter are out for a while, leaving Adams alone at 1B.  2) We know the Cardinals lineup is stacked and anyone who can hit in the middle of is set up for success. 3) We know this guys raked in the minors and has real power in his bat.  And 4) we know Adams is hitting .317 this year with a .890 OPS.  Less than 19% owned in ESPN leagues, he'll provide some short-term help if you need it.

Read Smarter: Gentleman by Bernhard Roetzel

The coffee book Bible of men's fashion.  $20 on GQ and Esquire are great reads if you love to look at pics of men's clothing and learn a thing or two, but if you leave them on your coffee table more than a few months, they look stale.  Not this book.  Lots of great pics and info on suits, coats, shoes, hats, grooming, etc.  Yes, some of the pics look dated, but the style in the pics is timeless.  It'll have a place on your coffee table for years.    Ever want to know what goes into making a Savile Row suit?  How a pair of balmoral oxfords looks before it's welted?

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Dexter Fowler

Rockies OF. Don't look now, but Fowler is on a tear and looks to be a great pickup if you own Kemp and Ellsbury and need an OF who isn't in the hospital.  His .954 OPS would rank him 17th in baseball if he had enough ABs to qualify.  8 HRs, 28 runs scored, 5 steals, he's walked 21 times and driven in 26 - and only 35.8% owned in ESPN leagues.

Shop Smarter - Dealigg and RetailMeNot

I'm always surprised when colleagues talk about buying something on the Internet and I ask, "Did you check Dealigg or RetailMeNot for a coupon?" and I get a blank stare in return.

These are great sites that collect coupon codes for sites around the Internet.  It only takes an extra ten seconds to look up whether Lands End or Banana has a discount code/coupon that you've missed or is better than yours, and in the long run you'll save money.  A no brainer.

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - David Hernandez

Arizona RP. Though I've been watching him all year, I have to give ESPN credit on this one.  Only 3.2% owned in ESPN leagues, that is likely to change soon.  With JJ Putz looking like JJ Sucks, Hernandez is looking like the next Diamondbacks closer.  A 1.93 ERA,  1.07 WHIP, 12.34 K/9, 4.0K/BB ratio, 9 holds and 1 save (which he just got last night - and expect more of that).  Great peripherals and a dirt-cheap way to speculate on saves if you need help there.

Dress Smarter: Paul Smith on the Cheap

Paul Smith is the man.  Whether it's men's suits, dress shirts, or accessories, Sir Paul's ability to take classic, expertly tailored menwear and infuse it with a twist of color and whimsy is unmatched.  You don't even need to know the man, the brand, or his logo to appreciate how cool his stuff is.  As a wise man once said to me: "Want to dress well? Just wear one thing from Paul Smith every day."

The problem, of course, is that almost everything he sells is damn near unaffordable, even during the annual summer half-price sale.  As much as I love the guy, I wouldn't own my Paul Smith suit and folio bag if they hadn't been gifts.

But as intimidating as his prices are, there are a few inexpensive ways to get into the brand.  A few ground rules: it must be something immediately identifiable as Sir Paul's, something you can use several times a week, and you want to keep it under $50.  Here are four ways to do it:

1) POCKET SQUARE - $18 (Paul Smith Japan)
Fold it neat and flat, with just a 1/4 to 1/2 inch peeking out of a casual navy blazer, and you're all set.  If anyone looks askance at it, nod and say "It's a Paul Smith."

2) SOCKS - $16 (

Wear 'em with shorts, jeans, khakis, a suit, whatever - they'll add pop to your outfit and you'll be amazed how many people stare at your socks. regularly has Sir Paul's socks at steep discounts, but they sell out quick so check often.

3) GYM TOWEL - $26 (Paul Smith Japan)
Wanna look cool even when you're drenched in sweat and wearing ratty clothes?  Here you go.

4) CUFFLINKS - $40 (Off Sak's Fifth Avenue)

Was blown away when I went to the Off Sak's in Gilroy in January and saw a stash of Sir Paul's cufflinks (normally $125-$140) sitting around for $50-$75 - and mind you, that's BEFORE you factor in the 30% off one item (sometimes 40% off one item) coupon you can find most holidays in the free VIP area of the Premium Outlets website.  Which drove the final price to $40 on each set of the ultracool cufflinks pictured above - an incredible bargain for something that will make complete strangers come up and say, "I'm so sorry to bother you, but can I look at your cufflinks?  What brand are they?" 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Jason Grilli

Who?  The Pirates setup man, that's who.  You realize this guy has the second-highest K/9 rate (15.67) among all qualified MLB pitchers but is only 0.5% owned in ESPN leagues?  Key stats: a 1.89 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 33Ks/9 BBs in 19 innings.  Dude has more strikeouts than either Ted Lily and Tim Hudson.  Plus a win and 11 holds, he will get you almost starter-level K's and great ratios every week.

Dress Smarter: The Brogue Sneaker

A key fashion rule most men don't seem to know: wear running shoes when you're running, but sneakers when you're strolling.  Can't count how many times I see men wear Nikes or ASCISs with jean, khakis, even a summer blazer - for the love of God, stop and buy some sneakers, man!

When it comes to sneakers, no one will begrudge you for going with a classic, like Converse, Keds, or Vans - but no one will walk up to you and say "Cool shoes!" either.

To step it up a notch, swap the canvas out for suede leather and switch the regular cap-toe of the Converse All-Star for some dressy brogue detailing.  None of this has to cost any extra: to wit, the ASOS suede sneakers pictured above.  The Tan Brogue Trainers cost $43 and (if you want to channel your inner Elvis) Navy Brogue Trainers cost $40.  They run true to size and feel good, even when sockless.  Note the shoe sizes are UK.  If you - like me - treat your sneakers as beater shoes to wear the hell out of and toss after a year, you shouldn't pay more than ~$50 per pair.

Don't bother with the competition, BTW: the Hush Puppies Carver and Hawkings McGill Sheriff have cheap, awful looking suede.  The Ben Sherman Nloy looks great, but fits tight and has a thin sole and cushioning.  The Polo Orrick just looks weirdly off-balance with only 2 eyelets.  Only the Generic Surplus Wingtip comes close, with nice suede and a comfortable lining and sole, but the wingtip is so truncated at the front that makes your foot look funny.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day: Indebted to Our Military

Sure it's nice to have a Monday off and it's nice give retailers an excuse for a sale.  But Memorial Day is and should be about remembering and honoring our men and women in uniform for the unimaginable sacrifices they make.

And let's not also forget the huge sartorial debt we owe the military as well: and by that, I mean the navy blazer, the peacoat and the trench coat - all of which have military origins.

"In 1837 the Commander of the frigate H. M. S. Blazer was told that England’s young queen, Victoria, would soon inspect his ship.  He took one look at the unsightly condition of his crew’s dress and decreed that they would get new uniforms.  He decided on a short jacket with Brass Royal Navy buttons.  There is a disagreement as to the color of those first Blazers.  In one account the jackets were striped navy and white, but another reports solid navy serge.   In either case, Victoria was so favorably impressed she required all the Queen’s sailors to be in similar uniform."

If it's good enough for the Queen, it's good enough for me.  For spring and summer, go with a slim-fit, unstructured (i.e., no lining, no padding) 100% cotton blazer that is light enough to wear in hot weather but sturdy enough to take a beating.  For $40, the Merona Kensington Blazer at Target can't be beat.  Puts similar offerings at Lands End Canvas, Uniqlo, and Muji to shame.  Size S fits like a slim 36, size M fits like a slim 39.

"The US Navy Pea Coat was adopted during the early 20th Century, from Britain’s Royal Navy Reefer Jacket. The Royal Navies first regulations for uniforms for other ranks were issued in 1857, a century after the regulations for officers and this garment was originally used by Midshipmen ( Reefers ). These crewmen had to climb the rigging and furl and unfurl, or ‘reef’, the sails of the sailing ships of the era. The jacket was short, to allow ease of movement through the rigging. It had a double-breasted front, which displaced the buttons to each side. This helped reduce the chance of them getting caught on ropes, as the wearer maneuvered the sails. The pockets were often close to vertical, and over the flanks, rather than horizontal and at wrist level. It was made of a very heavy wool, in dark Navy blue, with a nap on the face side.

The success of the style is proved by its singularly universal appearance throughout the Navies of Europe. This may account for the US Navies nomenclature as an Anglicization of the Dutch ‘Pijekkat, being a jacket made of ‘Pij’ (a coarse wool) cloth. Conversely, it may be from the shortening of the Belgium Navies term ‘Pilot’s Jacket’ to P. Jacket, then being misspelt / adapted to Pea Coat."

Love, love, love the pea coat in all of its forms.  Obviously you'll look ridiculous with a thick wool pea coat on in the spring and summer, but the khaki pea coat is a perfect alternative.  Alas, Lands End Canvas is out of their sublime $40 Heritage Pea Coat, so your next best bet may be this $121 Ben Sherman number from ASOS (wait for the price to drop more).  As with all Ben Shermans, fit is slim:

"The trench coat was developed as an alternative to the heavy serge greatcoats worn by British and French soldiers in the First World War. Invention of the trench coat is claimed by both Burberry and Aquascutum, with Aquascutum's claim dating back to the 1850s. Thomas Burberry, the inventor of gabardine fabric, submitted a design for an army officer's raincoat to the United Kingdom War Office in 1901.

The trench coat became an optional item of dress in the British Army, and was obtained by private purchase by officers and Warrant Officers Class I who were under no obligation to own them. No other ranks were permitted to wear them. Another optional item was the British Warm, a wool coat similar to the greatcoat that was shorter in length, also worn by British officers and Warrant Officers Class I as an optional piece.

During the First World War, the design of the trenchcoat was modified to include shoulder straps and D-rings. The shoulder straps were for the attachment of epaulettes or other rank insignia; There is a popular myth that the D-ring was for the attachment of hand grenades. The ring was originally for map cases and swords or other equipment to the belt. This latter pattern was dubbed "trench coat" by the soldiers in the front line. Many veterans returning to civilian life kept the coats that became fashionable for both men and women."

If it rains where you live, a trench is a requirement for your wardrobe arsenal.  Period.  For a spring/summer (i.e., lightweight, doesn't go past your knees) trench for less than $100, the Lauren by Ralph Lauren Galant Trench sold at Sierra Trading Post for $96 ($160 but sign up for their emails and wait for a 40% off link),  can't be beat.  Sizing is spot on for a regular fit, but size down one if you want a tight fit and don't plan to wear a blazer underneath.  Great fabric: high water resistance, smooth hand, feels sturdy yet very lightweight.

For about $119 ($198 but a 40% off coupon is inevitable), you can get this Banana Republic trench as well, but note: the fabric is worse, it's not as water-resistant, it runs one size too big, and - deal-killer for me - lacks a back gunflap across the shoulders (which adds an extra layer of protection against rain).  Unless you're obsessed with BR brand, save $25 and go with the Lauren.

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Wade Miley

Arizona SP.  It's almost June 1 and Miley - a pitcher with 6 Ws and a 2.41 ERA (the 9th best in all of baseball!) - is barely 20% owned in ESPN leagues.  Yes, not a lot of Ks but he wins games, doesn't give up runs, and gets to pitch in SF, SD, and LA.  Now please don't go dropping Chris Sale for him, but if you're in need of SP help in a deep league, you could do a lot worse.

Other SP options for the pitching poor that are 30-35% owned in ESPN leagues Erik Bedard, Drew Smyly, and Vance Worley.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dress Smarter: Grey Suede Wingtips

Florsheim No String Wing in soft grey suede.  Perfect wingtip shape, super light, and a soft interior that feels like you're wearing slippers.  On sale for $61 at using code NEXT20.  Runs a 1/2 size large and a touch narrow.  Add some blue laces like these $6 Benjo Nemos

and you get this:

Play Smarter: Fantasy Baseball - Ernesto Frieri

Angels relief pitcher.  You don't need me to tell you that the closer position has been decimated this year - one more reminder why you should never pay for saves in fantasy baseball.  Another reason: the emergence of guys like Frieri.  Dude has pitched 11 innings for the Halo, giving up zero runs and striking out 23 batters while picking up 2 saves and 3 holds .

For the year, he has a 1.19 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 41Ks in 22.2 innings and a 3.42 K/BB ratio.  Only Jason Grilli has a better K/9 ratio among all RPs in baseball.

Insane that he is only owned in 31.5% of ESPN leagues as of May 28.  Though the Angels' closer situation may be unclear, Frieri is clearly the Angels' best reliever.  He'll either get 20+ saves or 20+ holds along with a steller ERA, WHIP and K/9 the rest of the way.

Dress Smarter: The Suit Company

Tokyo is suit-shopping Nirvana for skinny men of the world.  Tons of places to get high-quality (Italian or British wool) suits for under 30,000 yen.  The Suit Company is one of the best-known and the best at delivering well-made suits affordably. A slim-fit 100% wool three-piece suit for $250?  Yes, please!