Last week, my wife and I went on vacation to Aruba. It was our first time on that island and it was also the first time in over two years that we went away without our daughter. Needless to say, Aruba was amazing and is a place we will definitely be going back to at some point. So why I am I writing an article about Aruba on the Fantasy Judgment blog? The answer is simple…Penn State.
I graduated Penn State ten years ago…May of 2001. It is hard to believe it has been a whole decade since I left State College. The memories are firmly implanted in my head and I look back at that time of my life as being extremely fun and emotionally challenging. Penn State boasts one of the largest campuses, football fields, student bodies and alumni associations in the world. I truly had no concept of how big the PSU network really was until my father and I were able to score tickets to various sporting events throughout the country thanks to various local Penn State Alumni networks.
So one morning while in Aruba, I was wearing a Penn State tank top to the pool. Later that day, several members of a family sitting near us at the pool came up to me and asked if I went to Penn State. As it turns out, the Maryland family’s 18-year old son was going to be a freshmen at PSU this August. They had a million questions about the school, which I happily answered as best I could. Talking about Penn State and what he could expect made me miss it even more. It also demonstrated to me how vast the Penn State network is because I was having this conversation in Aruba of all places.
Throughout the rest of our vacation, I ran into several other alumni. Once I spotted the Penn State logo on a hat, shirt, or bag, all it took was one “WE ARE…” before getting a smile and the required response “PENN STATE!!!!” Little things like that really do bring out school spirit. And interestingly, I didn’t hear anyone bragging about being from Ohio State or Michigan. Yes, I just went there.
After I previously wrote about Tiki Barber’s legacy and the fact that his career with the Giants is over due to his own verbal diarrhea, Eli Manning essentially confirmed this on the Dan Patrick Show. Manning said during a radio interview that the team would likely welcome back WR Plaxico Burress before RB Tiki Barber. “I think Plaxico would probably be welcomed back a little quicker,” Manning said. Manning added Barber left the team on a bad note, including multiple public criticisms of Tom Coughlin and the rest of the Giants coaching staff. On the other hand, Burress has fond memories of winning the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for him, he literally and figuratively shot himself in the foot.
Manning said he was effected by Barber’s criticism as a broadcaster after he left the team, although the criticism may have helped him become more vocal as a leader. Barber claimed that Manning’s speeches in the huddle were comical and non-assertive.
All of this simply confirms what we already knew. Barber did too much damage that is beyond repair.
The New York Post has reported that Gary Carter very likely has Grade 4 Glioblastoma which is the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans. According to Wikipedia, the median survival time after a diagnosis is approximately 14 months. However, the official results won’t be known until Tuesday. This all stemmed from a May 21, 2011 MRI that showed Carter had four small tumors on his brain. Doctors indicated they were about 90% sure the tumors were malignant. Carter went for the MRI because he had allegedly been batting issues with memory loss and other cognitive deficits in recent weeks.
There is no doubt that this represents a significant battle for the former Mets’ catcher. He will have to rely on his team of doctors, as well as his own perserverance and deep religious faith.
Carter, 57, is a very influential figure in my life. As I have written about before, the very first baseball game I ever watched was on Opening Day in 1985 when the Mets played the Cardinals in Carter’s first game after being acquired from the Montreal Expos. Carter hit a game-winning homerun in extra innings, which got me hooked on baseball and the Mets. The next year when I was playing Little League, my coach asked if anyone wanted to play catcher. Despite having no experience whatsoever, I volunteered because that was the position Gary Carter played. From that point on, I was hooked on being a catcher until my knees would let me do it anymore in my teenage years.
He was the last piece of the puzzle which elevated the Mets from an up-and-coming team to a championship team. His numerous clutch hits and intangible leadership skills were the glue to keep that 1986 team together. He would stay a couple more years with the Mets before finishing up his career with the Giants, Dodgers and back to the Expos. There was no doubt in my mind that Carter was a bonafide Hall of Fame catcher. His almost 2,300 games played along with three Gold Gloves, five Silver Slugger awards, 324 homeruns and 1,225 RBI were astounding for players at that position. However, he would not get inducted until 2003.
My dad and I had driven to Cooperstown before, but this was an important trip for me because I idolized Carter. I was a little upset he was not going in the Hall of Fame with a Mets’ hat, but I understand his significance to Montreal. Regardless of what hat is on his plaque, Carter represented a glorious time and era for the Mets…one that I yearn for to this day. Carter was a true professional and played with a passion and desire everyday. I was always influenced by his intense yet controlled demeanor behind home plate. He had a command of the game that was evident by his ability to call a game and lead his team on the field from behind the plate. He helped guide a young and talented pitching staff and taught them how to win. Do not be mistaken…the early success of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera, David Cone and others was immensely assisted by Carter’s wisdom and teachings.
After his playing career ended, Carter worked as a broadcaster for the Florida Marlins during their first four years of existence (1993-1996). A few years later he would venture into coaching as he returned to the Mets’ organization when he became the manager of the Gulf Coast Mets. In his first season (2005), he was named Gulf Coast League Manager of the Year. A year later, he was promoted to the A-level St. Lucie Mets and guided his team to the 2006 Florida State League championship, again earning Manager of the Year honors. With aspirations of managing in the big leagues, Carter would go on to unceremoniously campaign for the Mets’ managerial position while it was still occupied by incumbents Art Howe and Willie Randolph. In 2008, he managed and guided the Orange County Flyers of the Golden Baseball League to the GBL Championship, again being named Manager of the Year. In November 2008, Carter was named the manager of the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. The Ducks won the second half Liberty Division title, however, were defeated by the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the Liberty Division playoffs. Following the season, Carter was named head baseball coach for the NCAA Division II Palm Beach Atlantic University Sailfish.
On a personal level, Carter and his family live in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. This is a beautiful area in Florida (I have family that lives there) that is surrounded by more golf courses than you would know what to do with. Carter and his wife have three children, as well as three grandchildren. I remember from my childhood always seeing Carter’s wife and young kids with him at Shea Stadium. His reputation as a family man is well-deserved and has been paid back in spades. The Gary Carter Foundation (www.garycarter.org), a philanthropic organization that he founded, supports eight Title I schools in Palm Beach County whose students live immersed in poverty. Typically these schools will have 90% or more students eligible for free or reduced lunches. The Foundation seeks to “better the physical, mental and spiritual well being of children.” To accomplish this, they advocate “school literacy by encouraging use of the Reading Counts Program, a program that exists in the Palm Beach County School District.” Carter serves as the President and other family members assist on the Board.
Baseball has always been and will always be a vital part of my life. In my formative years when I was learning the game, Gary Carter served as the biggest inspiration to me (besides my father). I owned a blue Mets’ helmet without ear flaps, just like Carter wore. I modeled by first batting stance after Carter with my back elbow up high. Now twenty years after his playing days ended, I am still paying tribute to The Kid, I have a 1986 replica jersey with Carter and #8 on the back. My wife, daughter and I have two cats named Shea and Carter. I am still clamoring for the Mets to finally do the right thing and retire his number. He deserves that honor, regardless of what his medical condition is. It would be nice if they would do this while he is still physically able to be a part of the ceremony and enjoy the moment.
To Gary Carter – thank you for all of your contributions to the game of baseball and in life. You have the unconditional support of your fans for a healthy and speedy recovery as you battle this illness.
As a lifelong wrestling fan, the news of Randy Savage’s tragic death was shocking and upsetting. I grew up watching wrestling in the 1980′s when it was just reaching the mainstream audience and quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of entertainment. I was a Hulkamaniac even though I didn’t say prayers or take any vitamins. But I was also a huge fan of the Macho Man and his ridiculous sunglasses, shiny robes, quirky catchphrases, and his beautiful valet – Miss Elizabeth. He made people hate him with his brash attitude and mistreatment of Elizabeth. He had to fend off chivalrous men who wanted to fight for Elizabeth’s honor, such as George “The Animal” Steele. Savage was also known for his tremendous athleticism and ability to have a good match with anyone.
In the Hulkamania era, there were very few other wrestlers who could garner the reaction and emotion of the fans the way Hulk Hogan did. But Randy Savage was without a doubt one of those special individuals who was loved as a babyface and hated as a heel. He had the unique ability to be equally as entertaining as both a good guy and a bad guy. Even to this day, there are only a handful of wrestlers who can lay claim to this attribute. When Savage became associated with Hulk Hogan to form the Mega Powers, it was proof positive that the Macho Man was one of the main players.
He had catchphrases and gestures that kids loved to replicate. From “oooohhhh yeah!” to “freak out, freak out,” the Macho Man was someone that kids loved to emulate. His theme music of “Pomp and Circumstance” was fitting for a man with grace, class and deserved of the attention. His ring attire drew attention and could not be mistaken.
As a wrestling fan, the Macho Man is the source of a lot of good memories for me as a kid and then into my adulthood when he stuck around to be a part of the n.W.o. Lots of wrestlers have died over the years, and some have more of an impact than others. Eddie Guerrero was a tragic loss because he was in the prime of his career after overcoming his own personal demons. Chris Benoit and the murder-suicide of his family is obviously horrific. Many others have died young due to drug overdoses. But Macho Man lived to be 58, and even if he did use drugs or put other foreign substances into his body during his career, the point is that he lived long enough to retire and pursue his post-wrestling life.
I didn’t know Randy Savage personally, but he is a part of my childhood and the source of many great memories. I hope he is given the proper tribute and recognition by WWE as one of the true all-time greats and take his rightful spot in the Hall of Fame. Rest in peace Macho Man…your legacy will live on into immortality.
After six weeks and eight fantasy games played, it is now time for the first edition of the 2011 Power Rankings for the Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League (“OBFBL”). The OBFBL is an 18-team, non-keeper, head to head, points, mixed NL/AL fantasy baseball league that has existed since 1999 and is currently in its 13th season. We will rank each team in the league based on their overall record, points scored, roster trends, significant transactions, and other general criteria. Without further adieu, here are the first official power rankings through the middle of May 2011.
1. The Ewok Rebellion (7-1, 1st place AL Central)
Abe, the brash-talking tech guru of the league who always has a Star Wars theme for his team name, is sitting in first place in the AL Central and is currently tied for the best record in the league. He suffered his first defeat of the year this past week and conveniently he had a lot less to say. The Ewok’s early success can be attributed to several hot starts to the season by 1st round pick Robinson Cano, pitcher Dan Haren, and Ryan Howard. Russell Martin has provided an unforeseen amount of offense at the weak catcher position, and veterans Derek Jeter, David Ortiz and Aramis Ramirez still have yet to catch fire.
2. Benny Enjoys the Moment Being My Bee-otch (7-1, 1st place NL East)
Marc, an OBFBL original and two-time champion, is off to a fast start tied for the best record in the league. His draft strategy based around pitching has paid off thus far as Clayton Kershaw and Jon Lester have anchored his staff. Closers Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria haven’t provided the results he anticipated yet as Feliz was injured and Soria hasn’t had many save opportunities. Marc intuitively drafted an injured Brandon Morrow and is now reaping those benefits. Much of his early success can be attributed to good waiver wire pickups like Alex Avila, Jed Lawrie, Kyle Farnsworth, and Darwin Barney.
3. Fellowship of the Orange Veal Cutlets (6-2, 1st place NL West)
After having the worst record in the league in 2010, Maury has stormed back with a vengeance to begin 2011. His top draft picks have performed well, including Justin Verlander and his no-hitter. First round pick Ryan Braun has been a stud as expected, and Brian McCann is one of the best fantasy catchers in the league. Young pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and Ian Kennedy have provided depth to Maury’s pitching staff, and Jason Kubel’s resurgence has given him another potent bat. Maury is scoring more points per game this year than he has in his previous 8 seasons. Someone ought to test his urine for HGH or steroids…or viagara.
4. Madoff’s Marauders (6-2, 1st place NL Central)
Joey I. finds himself in first place in the NL Central despite suffering from injuries to crucial players such as Ryan Zimmerman and Ike Davis. His pitching trio of Roy Halladay, Yovanni Gallardo and Brett Anderson is as good as anyone in the league. Closers Craig Kimbrel and Jose Valverde round out one of the top pitching staffs in the OBFBL. He also has Jordan Walden and Sergio Santos on his bench, so Joey I. can likely leverage some of his excess pitching for infield help. With gaping holes at first base and third base due to injury, Joey I. has the Braves’ middle infield duo of Dan Uggla and Alex Gonzalez, both of whom are struggling.
5. Mets in 2011 (5-3, 1st place AL East)
Jordan got off to the best start to a season in terms of points scored in league history. The 2004 champion scored the 3rd highest point total in one scoring period ever during the Week 1 double-header. He has already won two $20 weekly awards for most points scored as he sits in first place in the AL East. Powered by Joey Votto, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, Jordan has amassed all of these points despite getting nothing from Carl Crawford. Jordan’s pitching staff is deep and productive with Josh Beckett regaining his old form and looking dominating again. Jaime Garcia, Tim Hudson and Brian Wilson have also been very effective, and he has Jake Peavy stashed on his bench and ready to be activated (despite not being in his lineup this week when he threw a shutout). Oh, and he has Johan Santana stashed away too.
6. Len Tuckwilla’s Nuts Over My Chin (5-3, 2nd place NL West)
It has been an all or nothing season thus far for Craig. Everything he has touched has either turned to gold or sent to the disabled list. Taking Troy Tulowitzki in the first round was a no brainer, but drafting Jered Weaver so soon in the second round caused a couple heads to turn. Well those heads were wrong. Weaver had arguably the most dominant April in recent history, and then he missed a start due to an illness and has been brought back down to earth. But for the first time in his OBFBL tenure, Craig has a deep and talented pitching staff that is also comprised of Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza, Michael Pineda and Kyle McClellan. On offense, Gaby Sanchez, Martin Prado and Carlos Beltran have all gotten off to quick and powerful starts. Craig is known for fading in the second half, so hopefully he has built up some OBFBL endurance.
7. Jewish Mafia (5-3, 2nd place NL Central)
The OBFBL’s resident Hebrew gangster is following up on his deep playoff run from 2010 with another fast start. Randy has benefited from some production from unlikely sources such as Alfonso Soriano, Leo Nunez and Francisco Rodriguez. His top picks, such as Carlos Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Mat Latos have all struggled getting out of the gate, but each have shown signs of breaking out. Brandon Phillips, Jason Heyward and Casey McGehee round out a solid offense. Randy’s weakness may be at first base where Freddie Freeman is the only option he has. His other weakness is Leonardo DiCaprio movies…he gets emotional.
8. RAD (4-4, 2nd place AL Central)
After another slow start, Matt has been on a roll lately putting up some big time points and proving that his success in his rookie year was no fluke. Adrian Gonzalez and Andrew McCutcheon are the most dangerous hitters he has, with veterans like Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon contributing to the cause despite their advanced age. On the contrary, Matt has solified his reputation as someone who values and recognizes young pitching talent. Daniel Hudson was the first pitcher he drafted, and he has rebounded to justify such a selection. James Shields has also rebounded from a poor 2010 to have one of the highest point totals in the league. Homer Bailey, John Axford, Zach Britton and Jordan Zimmermann round out Matt’s impressive young staff. I think Ian Kinsler just injured himself reading this.
9. Pap Smears (4-4, 1st place AL West)
Jared has brought back the team name of Pap Smears for the first time since 2000. And with the return of the vaginal swabs has come a return to glory as Jared currently resides in 1st place despite a .500 record. Injuries have been a major theme for Jared starting with the draft as he selected players like Jair Jurrjens, Corey Hart, and Shaun Marcum who all had injuries prior to the season beginning. Since then, he has withstood DL stints for Victor Martinez, Aaron Hill, and a scare with Josh Johnson getting hit by a ball on his right forearm. For the record, Jared selected Corey Hart only because he himself wears his sunglasses at night,
10. It’s Gotta Be Mooses…or Meese (4-4, 2nd place AL West)
When everyone is healthy, Cory has one of the deepest and most talented pitching staffs in the league. His staff includes C.C. Sabathia, Chris Carpenter, Chad Billingsley, Ricky Romero and Francisco Cordero. With all of that pitching, something had to give…and it gave in deep positions. Derrek Lee has been on the downturn for a few years, and his recent oblique strain won’t help matters at all. Additionally, Aubrey Huff and Carlos Lee do not look like they once did (and yes, I admit, I predicted big things for El Caballo coming into the season). Matt Holliday has been terrific despite missing the first couple weeks of the season. The biggest surprises on Cory’s team have been Asdrubal Cabrera and Erick Aybar both hitting for more power than anticipated.
11. This is the Business We’ve Chosen (4-4, 2nd place NL East)
Despite being the first and only team to suffer from the illegal lineup penalty, Jason still has a .500 record and is in 2nd place behind Bee-otch. Even more surprising that he has won four games is the fact that Hanley Ramirez has been horrendous and Evan Longoria missed several weeks with an injury. In keeping with his tradition, Jason is relying on young stud pitchers to carry him through, such as Clay Buchholz, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Drew Storen. A trade for another hitter could be in order since his current utility player is Melky Cabrera.
12. Montreal Espos (3-5, 3rd place AL West)
The Espos were dealt a serious blow this week as David Wright was placed on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back. This type of injury and the recovery necessary could keep the Espos’ second overall pick on the shelf for quite some time. Not that Wright was doing much when he was playing, but Pat will have to rely on other hitters like Shin Soo Choo and Curtis Granderson to pick up the slack. One thing that Pat does have going for him is the formidable pitching duo of former Cy Young award winners Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke. Greinke is still a bit of a wild card, but if he can revert back to his 2009 form, then Pat should be able to compete for the division title with this closely grouped bunch.
13. Blue Horseshoe Loves Giant Douche (3-5, 3rd place NL West)
The Commish is off to another slow start and has been dominated in double-header weeks, just as he was in 2010. Mike has been bitten by injuries thus far with Josh Hamilton missing almost the whole season thus far. His strategy of taking two top closers as his first pitchers drafted hasn’t worked out well so far because Heath Bell and Carlos Marmol haven’t had many save opportunities yet. Mike did draft Lance Berkman in the late rounds which turned out to be a steal. He then parlayed Berkman’s torrid start into a trade to acquire Cliff Lee, the stud starting pitcher he needed. First round pick Miguel Cabrera is still sobering up from his off-season DUI.
14. Dawg Eat Dawg (3-5, 3rd place NL Central)
The defending OBFBL champion is off to a slow start in his quest to become the first ever repeat champion in league history. In typical fashion, Benny drafted aging hitters like they were going out of style. He was immediately burned when Manny Ramirez tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and subsequently retired. A-Rod started off strong but then suffered an oblique injury and has struggled since returning. Jason Bay, Hideki Matsui and Vladimir Guerrero look like shells of their former selves. And Grady Sizemore is on the DL again with an injury to his other knee. However, Benny does have David Price and Roy Oswalt to match up against anyone else’s top pitchers.
15. Cole Hamels Adopted Charlie Sheen’s Kids (2-6, 3rd place AL Central)
The Philadelphia Boys and their fetish with Cole Hamels bastard children are off to a slow start in the basement in the AL Central. Jeff and Mike drafted a team of players who are known for their hot and cold streaks. Mark Teixeira had an uncharacteristically hot start to the season but then cooled off considerably. Rickie Weeks, Stephen Drew and Jayson Werth have had their production limited to a confined period of time. The eponymous Cole Hamels and Andre Ethier have been consistently productive. A turning point in Jeff and Mike’s season could be the pending return of all-star second baseman Chase Utley. Jeff and Mike can either plug Utley into the lineup along with Weeks, or they can entertain a trade offer to upgrade somewhere else.
16. It Byrnes When I Peavy (2-6, 3rd place NL East)
While Ari has the best team name in the league, his actual team is not the best at anything except underachieving. After drafting Albert Pujols with the first overall pick, you could have etched in stone that Pujols would have his typical season, or even better due to this being a contract year. However, it has been anything but typical for the game’s best hitter. Pujols has struggled mightily through the first 6+ weeks of the season, and this has been problematic for the OBFBL Co-Commissioner. Mix in the struggles of Kevin Youkilis, plus injuries to Adam Dunn, Vernon Wells and Nelson Cruz and you have the recipe for a 2-6 record. Ari has a proven track record of winning, so don’t be surprised to see him make a second half run.
17. Sharks With Frickin’ Laser Beams (1-7, 2nd place AL East)
Now entering his 3rd season in the league, Jim has finally learned that drafting Jimmy Rollins in the first round is not a good idea. Despite taking Tim Lincecum with his first pick, the Sharks are being hunted by Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss. Jose Bautista has easily been Jim’s best player by establishing himself as a true dominant fantasy stud. However, Dustin Pedroia and James Loney have been major disappointments. Delmon Young was producing but missed some time due to injury. Jim has never shied away from making trades in the past. He may need to shake things up before the Sharks jump themselves (if you don’t understand this, then Google or Wikipedia the term “jump the shark.”
18. Admiral Ackbar (1-7, 3rd place AL East)
In only his second season in the OBFBL, Mario has clearly established himself as one of the streakiest teams in league history. In 2010, he began the season 8-0. In 2011, he began 0-5 and is now 1-7. The problem has been Mario’s lack of offense because his deep pitching staff has consistently been carrying him. In fact, his offense has been so bad that he still lost one of the double-header games during the week that Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter. Mario recognized his problem and dealt away Cliff Lee in exchange for Lance Berkman (the top point scorer in the league at the time) and Aaron Harang. The good news is that Mario can only move up…there isn’t anyone below him.
It was a busy and eventful day in baseball, both real and fantasy. Every Tuesday night, I write a column for Fantasy Alarm (www.fantasyalarm.com) doing a Top Ten list of newsworthy events happening in baseball and analyzing any potential fantasy impact. You can view the full article at http://www.fantasyalarm.com/may-17-2011-fantasy-baseball-tuesday-top-ten/. Here are some of the headlines that I selected with my writeups:
Jose, Can You See? – I am man enough to admit when I am wrong. I have been dead wrong about Jose Bautista since the 2010 All-Star Game. At that time, I bet my father that Bautista wouldn’t even end up the season with 30 homeruns because I felt he was a fluke and the law of averages would catch up. I ended up taking my father for a nice dinner because Bautista would go on to hit 54 homeruns. Coming into 2011, I didn’t even put Bautista on any of my draft lists, scout teams, or draft room queues. I figured he had a Brady Anderson-type season and would revert back to being the pedestrian hitter he always was. But I was wrong again. Bautista is coming off a weekend where he hit five more homeruns, including three in one game. He currently leads all of baseball with 16 homeruns and is on pace to shatter his record from last year. Whether it’s steroids, human growth hormone, maturity, or even just natural talent, Bautista is a fantasy stud and can be relied upon for maximum production across the board.
Vin-dictive – Royals pitcher Vin Mazzaro redefined what it means to take one for the team. On Monday, Mazzaro entered the game against the Indians in the first inning after Kyle Davies was removed due to injury. Mazzaro proceeded to give up 14 runs in two and a third innings. According to STATS LLC, he has the distinction of being only the third pitcher since 1947 to allow that many runs in a game. As a result of this historic performance, Mazzaro’s ERA ballooned to 22.47. To reward him for his efforts, the Royals promptly demoted him to Triple-A following the game. If Mazzaro was on your fantasy team in the first place, then you probably have many other problems to worry about. Just remember, the next time a pitcher has to take a beating for the good of the team, you can say he is taking a “Mazzaro.”
There’s Something About A-Rod – When he is not having popcorn shoved down his throat by Cameron Diaz, Alex Rodriguez moonlights as the third baseman for the New York Yankees. A-Rod has been struggling since he returned from his oblique injury a few weeks ago, and as A-Rod goes, so go the Yankees. On Tuesday night, A-Rod slugged two solo homeruns in helping the Yankees end their six-game losing streak. Could this be the beginning of a hot streak for A-Rod? He is certainly due, and if he is feeling more comfortable at the plate, then he could be on the brink of a major tear. Buy low on A-Rod and expect first class results.
Hanley’s Horrors – The proverbial god of roto baseball players, Hanley Ramirez is consistently one of the top five fantasy players drafted due to his unique combination of high average, power, and speed. However, none of that is working for him in 2011. He is currently hitting .204 with two homeruns, fourteen RBI, twenty runs scored, and eight stolen bases. This is not the production anticipated with such a high draft pick. He looks lost at the plate and is letting his emotions get the best of him at times. Fantasy owners should start inquiring with fellow league members what trade possibilities may exist for Hanley. Granted, he is slumping mightily, but just mentioning his name in trade talks should elicit some real offers. It is surprising that he has struggled so much given the firepower in the Marlins’ lineup, including Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton.
Save the Drama for Posada – They don’t call baseball players the “boys of summer” for no reason. Yankees’ designated hitter Jorge Posada pulled a cardinal no-no in baseball acumen by asking out of the lineup on Saturday when he was scheduled to bat ninth in Joe Girardi’s lineup. Posada, a 16-year veteran, came into that game batting .165 and without any indications of being able to find his stroke. Posada apologized to Girardi the next day, but the damage was done as the Yankee veteran suffered from some impulsive and momentary Little League-like tantrum. Posada was viewed as a steal in fantasy drafts this year because he was eligible at catcher but would be a full-time DH in a powerful lineup. Things haven’t worked out that way thus far. Girardi has demonstrated his loyalty to the man who ironically took Girardi’s starting catcher job in 1998. Posada was used as a pinch hitter on Sunday, and then he was back in the lineup on Tuesday night where he collected two hits. Maybe he needed to hit rock bottom before getting back to the Mendoza Line. Buy low on Posada and bank on some of that Yankee magic.
We’ll be Wright Back – As if things couldn’t get any worse for the New York Mets, it was revealed on Monday that all-star third baseman David Wright has a stress fracture in his lower back. It does make sense considering how poorly Wright has performed thus far in 2011. While he refuses to use the diagnosis as an excuse for his lack of production, the reality is that it likely affected every facet of his game. Wright’s batting average has been uncharacteristically low and he has struck out at an alarming rate (even compared to his strikeout totals from 2009 and 2010). He will spend some time on the disabled list doing absolutely nothing, so at a minimum he will be out for a month, and maybe longer. This does not bode well for fantasy owners who spent a lot of auction dollars or a high draft pick on the second best third baseman on the board. Stash Wright on your disabled list and start looking for a replacement because it is possible you aren’t going to get much out of Wright the rest of the year.
Remembering a Legend – This isn’t relevant to fantasy baseball, but I would be remiss as a baseball fan if I didn’t acknowledge the unfortunate passing of Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew. “The Killer” lost his battle with cancer today just days after he announced he was stopping treatment for his esophageal cancer. The former Minnesota Twin was always one of the most popular players of his time and all future generations. He was a great ambassador for the game of baseball and will be greatly missed. In his career, he produced statistics commensurate with a first round pick in any fantasy baseball draft format. RIP Harmon Killebrew.
Today I made a significant trade in one of my fantasy baseball leagues. This is the league where I am the commissioner of an 18-team, head to head, mixed, points league where pitching is the key to success. Thus far, my staff has not performed up to standards that are even below my mediocre expectations. I have Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, Jhoulys Chacin, Javier Vazquez, Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg. We start any six pitchers, and wins and saves are both worth ten points. Additionally, quality starts are worth five, strikeouts are worth two each, and there are negative points for losses, blown saves, walks, and earned runs allowed. I have suffered from poor production and some poor decision-making as I had Chacin on the bench for one of his big starts, and my unwarranted faith in Vazquez has led me to mock his being on the bereavement list.
Every year I tend to make at least one blockbuster acquisition, so I began thinking big in order to improve my pitching. I knew I would have to make an enticing offer to someone who needed some offense, so I decided to reap the benefits of Lance Berkman’s insane start to the season. I recently sang the praises of the Big Puma (see http://fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/passing-judgment-the-resurgence-of-lance-berkman/) as he has enjoyed a renaissance thus far in 2011. But the reality is that he cannot maintain this pace over the course of the season. He is very likely going to miss some time at some point due to injuries, and his 35-year old body cannot sustain playing everyday in the outfield. So I offered Berkman and Kevin Gregg for Cliff Lee figuring it would be rejected but hopeful there would be a counteroffer. Sure enough, my fellow league member preferred a starter and asked for Harang. It was a done deal for me.
Cliff Lee is also a topic I have written about before (see http://fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/cliffs-notes-my-thoughts-on-the-cliff-lee-signing/). I made the arguments that Lee is a good pitcher, but his mediocre regular seasons in 2009 and 2010 seem to be forgotten due to his dominant playoff performances the last couple years. And for the purposes of fantasy baseball, the regular season is all that counts. While my thoughts on Lee remain the same, he is still a tremendous upgrade for me. He has been victimized by poor run support, but that should change going forward because Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Domonic Brown are not far away from joining the already respectable lineup. Even in a loss, Lee will still throw a quality start with a lot of strikeouts and few walks.
As I stated before, pitching is what wins championships in the OBFBL. I have won the league three times (1999, 2002, and 2007), and each time was because I had multiple dominant pitchers. This year is one of the only years I have ever gone with the multiple stud closer route (Bell and Marmom). With saves being worth as much as wins, they ranked near the top of all pitchers in 2010, so it was a relative no-brainer to draft them given who was available. Now adding Lee into the mix should give me a more formidable staff.
The beauty of making fantasy baseball trades is that there is always a nervous sensation you get because you wonder whether you are getting screwed or whether you will come to regret your decision. I have never regretted any trade I have ever made, even if things just didn’t work out. I don’t trade out of desperation or from a position of weakness. I target what my specific needs are and figure out the least I can give up to acquire that need. That is what I did here. Sure I will miss Berkman’s bat in my lineup, but I am counting on him tailing off at some point. Now I need to acquire another hitter, and with the pitching excess I have, that is the direction I will go.
The other key to making effective fantasy baseball trades is to be patient and have some self-restraint. I previously wrote about not over-reacting so early in the season (see http://fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/passing-judgment-dont-overreact-after-one-week/), and it directly applies to making smart trades and decisions. I was not happy with how my team performed after five weeks and seven games (we play divisional doubleheaders every few weeks), but I waited until the right opportunity presented itself to get the best deal possible. If I made this offer a few weeks ago, it likely would have been rejected because my fellow league owner would have wanted to wait and see how Lee would continue to do, and he may not have believed in Berkman after such a small sample. But now 20% into the season, there was a large enough body of work to convince him that Berkman was worth acquiring for a #1 fantasy starting pitcher. It also helped that Harang has been so good thus far because he would have had no value earlier in the year. So, in the words of the great Jedi master, Yoda, “Patient must you be.”
For those of you who don’t know, I was in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I was commuting into New York City on the PATH train to take my first law school exam that fateful morning. The weather was a perfect sunny and 80 degrees. I was a little tired from staying up late the night before to watch the Giants and Broncos play on Monday Night Football. I purchased a new 40-trip PATH ticket and I made my way into Manhattan. The train pulled in and I saw cops and firefighters standing on the platform directing people to the exit. The noises coming from the station were indescribable. Smoke was billowing from the tracks. But I had an exam to get to, so I calmly walked to the escalator and made my way out of the building assuming that the cops and firefighters would take care of the rest. I didn’t notice anything was remarkably wrong until I made it outside the Twin Towers and saw thousands of people across the street just staring up. I then noticed both buildings on fire at the same time, thinking to myself how incredulous it was for both of them to be in flames at the same time. That is when I started my journey away from the Towers, dodging falling bodies and debris. The rest had been chronicled in prior articles, but if you really want to hear the rest of my 9-11 story, it is easier just to email me.
In the immediate aftermath of that day, I required a few months of therapy just to deal with the traumatic experience and horrific things I witnessed. I decided to continue at my law school in New York and went on to graduate in 2004. It took me quite a long time to truly start “moving on” and trying to resume a normal life. It was quite difficult because there were constant reminders everywhere – both physically and mentally. Over time, I dealt with the memories better and better. But once the calendar turned to September every year, my anxiety levels rise and the memories come flooding back. Those first eleven days in September are quite difficult to get through because I uncontrollably obsess about what happened exactly at that day and time in 2001. It’s like a subconscious desire to remember what life was like before 9-11-01 because everything changed on that day.
It was frustrating not having sports immediately afterwards for the distraction. In fact, the WWE was the first form of entertainment to come back and broadcast a live show to help start the healing process. That edition of Smackdown was unforgettable. But it was the first baseball game played in New York after 9-11 that was awe-inspiring. Mike Piazza’s memorable homerun off Steve Karsay gave the Mets a 3-2 win and gave the fans something to truly cheer for. As I have openly admitted before, I was by myself watching this game and cried hysterically after Piazza hit the homerun. I needed to feel joy about something, and I got caught up in the emotions of seeing Shea Stadium rocking with electricity. As a former catcher myself, Piazza was my favorite player so it was even more special that he was the one who hit the homerun.
In the past ten years, I have watched hundreds and hundreds of baseball games with varying emotions depending how the Mets are doing or how my fantasy baseball players are performing. But generally speaking, I do not usually associate watching baseball games, or even Mike Piazza highlights, with anything associated to 9-11. I am able to watch a game and enjoy it for what it is worth or what I am looking to get out of it. That is, until Sunday night, May 1, 2011.
I was watching the Mets play their archrival Phillies on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball when the news started breaking about Bin Laden’s death. At first, I didn’t want to believe it because I have been cynical over the years as to our abilities to ever get to him in the first place. But then I changed channels to see the news and hear that President Obama would be making the announcement that Bin Laden was dead and there was definitive proof of his demise. All of a sudden, my joy and elation that the bastard was dead turned into a knot in my stomach. The memories of 9-11 and everything I go through each September just cascaded into a flood of visions and emotions all at once. My Facebook and Twitter accounts blew up with loving comments from friends and family that recognized what this meant to me. All of a sudden, I was unexpectedly forced to deal with these emotions – and I was admittedly not prepared for it.
It is a great thing that we can celebrate justice being served to that piece of garbage that murdered 3,000 people and changed the lives of millions forever. There is some sense of closure to this decade-long nightmare, but the truth is that it will never be over. Those who perished that day and as a result of this conflict can hopefully rest in better peace now.
But the baseball connection is also so important to me because baseball is such a vital part of my life and who I am. Once I had time to digest what was going on, it all became very apparent how ironic some things are with this situation. First of all, it was great that a New York team was playing in the game when this historic announcement was made. Second, the Mets were playing another archrival, the Braves, when Piazza hit the homerun in that first game back in New York after 9-11. Here, the Mets were playing in Philadelphia, an away location that has not always been friendly to the Mets and their fans. Just like how I got chills seeing the Mets and Braves hug each other in 2001, I got the same chills seeing and hearing the Philadelphia fans chanting “U.S.A.!” during the game. Third, Bobby Valentine was the manager of the Mets in 2001 and Orel Hershiser pitched for the Mets in 1999 under Valentine. They were two of the three ESPN announcers calling the game. Bobby V’s participation was very fitting. I am admittedly not a big fan of his as a manager, but he was a good guy and definitely had a successful run during his tenure. I respect what he did for the Mets and for the game of baseball. The final bit of irony is that the Mets won a one-run game in dramatic fashion thanks to a game-winning hit by a catcher whose last name begins with a “P.” Ronny Paulino hit a game-winning double in the 14th inning to secure a Mets win on Sunday night, just as Piazza hit a two-run homerun to help the Mets defeat the Braves 3-2 in 2001.
These comparisons may seem trivial to some, but they meant a lot to me. It really emphasized how circular and cosmic things can be in life. It’s like how Doc Brown feels about the day of November 12, 1955 as being the focal point of the space-time continuum. At the end of the day, I am glad that Bin Laden is dead. I am also glad the Mets won their game. Baseball has proven time and time again to be a constant form of therapy for me, and it didn’t let me down again.
In Jerry Reese we trust. Since Reese became the Giants’ general manager a few years ago, he has developed a well-deserved reputation as being one of the NFL’s best evaluators of talent at the top and bottom of the draft. Almost all of his draft picks have made the team and contributed on the field. Assuming there is an NFL season, 2011 looks like it will not be any different as the Giants drafted Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara with the 19th selection in the first round. Amukamara, the defensive player of the year in the Big 12 Conference, was surprisingly available for the Giants who gladly scooped him up.
In 2010, his senior season, Amukamara had 59 tackles and one sack. He did not have any interceptions, but that is more as a result of opposing teams refusing to throw in his direction – much like Derrelle Revis of the New York Jets. With Amukamara essentially negating his opposing team’s best receiver, the Cornhuskers allowed only 153.6 passing yards per game in 2010, which was the fewest in the Big 12 and the fifth lowest in the entire country.
Now the Prince comes to New York where he will likely step right in and play opposite Corey Webster forming a potentially formidable combination on the corners. Reese was thrilled to get Amukamara who he described as “big and fast, and a good tackler; a physical player.” Reese also acknowledged that he thought Amukamara “would get picked a lot higher than that.” Amukamara provided NFL-type defense while in college and received ringing endorsements from his coach, Bo Pelini, who thinks that he “has all the tooks to be an outstanding pro.” These tools will be put to the test as the Giants embark on their journey back to the playoffs after missing out the last couple years. Part of the reason for the Giants late season collapses was untimely defensive lapses and big plays allowed. Amukamara should help prevent that from happening again as he looks to establish the NFC’s version of “Prince Island.”
The 13th annual Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League (“OBFBL”) draft is now officially in the books. The OBFBL is an 18-team, mixed, H2H points league with no keepers. The point scoring system is set up to balance the value of hitters and pitchers. Arguably, the upper eschalon of pitchers are more valuable than most hitters not named Pujols. The theory has always been that a good offense will get you into the playoffs, but a good pitching staff is what wins championships. This was proven last year when the 2010 OBFBL champion had a pitching staff the included Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Roy Oswalt, Brett Myers and Billy Wagner.
To demonstrate why pitchers are so heavily revered, here some examples of point value for various pitching statistics: win (10), save (10), quality start (5), complete game (10), shutout (15), strikeout (2), no-hitter (50), perfect game (50), loss (-5), blown save (-5), earned run (-1), walk (-1).
This year, there were seven pitchers taken in the first round (Halladay, Lincecum, F. Hernandez, Sabathia, Lester, C. Lee, and J. Johnson) , which ties an all-time OBFBL record. I had the third overall pick in the first round and was tormeted for weeks on who to pick if Pujols and Halladay were both gone. I have never been a positional scarcity guy, so Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tuolowitski were not on my radar. Here is a breakdown of the team I drafted with some additional thoughts and commentary:
1. Miguel Cabrera-1B-DET. With Pujols and Halladay off the board, I decided to take the second best pure hitter in all of baseball. Despite Cabrera’s off-season alcohol problems, there is no reason to think he won’t be his awesome self again hitting in a better lineup with Victor Martinez providing some protection. Cabrera is a lock for .325, 35 HR, 120 RBI, and 100 runs, so I opted for him rather than go with a scarcer position like SS or 2B. Besides, I regretted not taking Cabrera last year so I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.
2. Josh Hamilton-OF-TEX. I was surprised the 2010 AL MVP made it all the way back up to me in the second round, so I grabbed him without hesitation. I soon realized I had a recovering alcoholic and drug abuser with my first two picks, so I’ll have to be very careful about the parties I throw in my team’s clubhouse. Hamilton’s health is the only question mark as he gets banged up quite easily. His shift from center field should help alleviate some of the danger. Assuming he plays 145-150 games, he should have no problems repeating his MVP performance.
3. Jose Reyes-SS-NYM. I debated taking Ryan Howard here and loading up on the homerun power, but then I would be locked into my Utility Position rather quickly. Plus, with Reyes still on the board, I had to get my Met and reap the benefits of him playing extra motivated as he approaches his first free agency. Reyes is a health risk as we have seen over the years, but he does seem far removed from the leg ailments that have plagued him since 2009. He will be playing for a $100 million contract next year, so look for him to be explosive. This pick truly vindicated me towards anyone who thought I should have taken Hanley or Tulowitzki in the first round.
4. Carlos Marmol-RP-CHC. The OBFBL amended its scoring system to make saves worth 10 points, which is equal to the points given for a win. This made closers very valuable commodities and justifies me taking one as my first pitcher. At this point, all of the top starting pitchers were off the board so I went for arguably one of the top closer options. Marmol just signed a big contract and is the official closer of the Cubs. His electric stuff is erratic at times, but he should have no problem saving 40 games and striking out at least a batter or two every time he is out there.
5. Heath Bell-RP-SD. Once I took Marmol, I decided to go with the multiple closer strategy. This is something I have rarely done in the previous 12 OBFBL seasons. But Bell is arguably one of the top closer options and pairing him with Marmol is akin to having two good starting pitchers. The Padres should have solid pitching and play in a lot of close games, so Bell should have plenty of opportunities to amass 40+ saves again. Just FYI, if we used the new current scoring system with last year’s statistics, Bell placed in the top five overall. And to think the Mets traded him away for nothing (sorry, sour grapes).
6. Jay Bruce-OF-CIN. This was the first pick of the guys I was targeting beforehand. I have been very high on Bruce all winter, trying to take him in the mock drafts I have done. Bruce is entering his third year in the big leagues already and could be on the cusp of breaking out into a star. He has already put up impressive power numbers since 2009, but he needed to work on his plate discipline and approach. Assuming he is batting in the middle of the order (please Dusty, don’t waste him leading off), Bruce should be good for .275, 30 HR, 100 RBI.
7. Brett Myers-SP-HOU. I also targeted Myers beforehand because he is a second or third tier pitcher with top tier talent and point potential. He proved he was healthy in 2010 and the Astros rewarded him with an extension. Now he looks to build on that and return to his 200+ strikeout days. He is essentially my third pitcher behind my closers.
8. Mark Reynolds-3B-BAL. Before I begin my analysis, let me alert you that in the OBFBL, batter strikeouts are -1 point. I was fully aware of the risk in taking Reynolds given that he is a lock for at least 175 strikeouts. But the move to Baltimore convinced me that this could turn out to be one of my better picks. Camden Yards is a hitters’ park and the Orioles have put together an impressive lineup. Reynolds should have no problems reaching 40 HR’s and 100 RBI, and he was one of only a couple other viable 3B options left at this time.
9. Ted Lilly-SP-LAD. I have never had Lilly on any of my teams over the years, but he has always been a thorn in my side. He doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers, but the guy is good for 12-15 wins and over 175 strikeouts every year it seems. He is pitching in the weak-hitting NL West for the entire season which is enticing. I was satisfied with this pick as my 4th pitcher.
10. Ryan Franklin-RP-STL. After taking two closers earlier in the draft, I decided to go all in and grab another one. Franklin is nowhere near the level of Marmol or Bell, but he can be relied on for 30-35 saves. The Cardinals should be involved in a lot of close games, and Tony LaRussa-led teams always rely on their closers heavily. The only thing that bothers me about this pick is Franklin’s goatee. Only Jim “The Anvil” Nedihart can pull that look off.
11. Jorge Posada-C-NYY. This pick elicited the biggest reaction amongst my fellow league members drafting live in the same room. In most of the mock drafts I have done this season, I ended up getting Posada with one of the last picks because people forgot about him since he will be a full-time DH. But there is a real “Yankee fan effect” in the OBFBL as most Yankees’ players are highly overvalued by the league’s resident Yankee fans. I decided this was the right time to take Posada since I didn’t think he would last another round…and it turns out I was right. Posada isn’t the hitter he used to be, but now playing everyday without the burden of catching might rejuvenate his bat. Regardless, he will be one of the more productive players at the catcher position in terms of fantasy value.
12. Javier Vazquez-SP-FLA. This was another one of my long-time fantasy baseball favorites. Coming off of his second failed stint with the Yankees, Vazquez is primed for a comeback season now that he has returned to the National League East where he had prior success on the Expos and Braves. Vazquez has been one of the most consistent fantasy performers due to his high strikeout potential and double-digit wins. He may not win 15 games due to the Marlins lack of offense and questionable bullpen, but I expect quality starts and 7-8 strikeouts per game.
13. Jhoulys Chacin-SP-COL. Besides having a cool first name, Chacin is one of the top young arms in the National League. He pitched very well down the stretch for the Rockies in 2010 and is now being relied upon from the beginning in 2011. Chacin has nasty stuff and high strikeout potential. He may suffer some sophomore slumps at times, but it looks like he has the tools and make-up to be a relevant fantasy pitcher.
14. Lance Berkman-1B-STL. Former perennial first round pick Lance Berkman has seen Father Time and nagging injuries sap him of his power and batting average the last couple years. 2010 was a lost season for Berkman as he struggled mightily in Houston before being traded to the Yankees and struggling there too until the playoffs. Now Berkman appears to be healthy and will be starting in the outfield for the Cardinals. I like his bounce-back potential hitting behind Pujols and Holliday. He may not put up his old school Berkman numbers, but 20 HR and 75 RBI is a reasonable expectation.
15. Nate McLouth-OF-ATL. I am excited about this pick because McLouth may have more bounce-back potential than anyone else in the league. The former All-Star had an atrocious season in 2010 and is poised to rebound. He has the ability to hit 25 HR, knock in 80 RBI, and also steal 30+ bases. He will be playing everyday, and unless he has a repeat of 2010, he will be a fixture in the Braves’ lineup with every opportunity to amass solid statistics across the board. There was very little risk in making this pick in the 15th round and as my third outfielder.
16. Tsuyoshi Nishioka-2B-MIN. I love sushi. It is my favorite thing to eat…ever. But I didn’t always like sushi. In fact, I was adament against it until I was finally convinced to give it a chance before judging it. That was a good call because now I am obsessed with sushi. My point is that I don’t know much about Nishioka at all. But from everything I have read about him, he seems like a good risk to take. The Twins are one of the smartest organizations in all of baseball, so I trust their ability to scout talent and invest money. If Nishioka turns out to be a great pick, then I will go spend some money at Target as my thanks.
17. Ivan Nova-SP-NYY. His friends call him “Nova.” No, not as in “Casa-nova” but because that is his name. I have a history of taking young Yankees’ pitchers in these drafts, and this year is no different. Nova showed a lot of poise last year in his stint with the Yankees, and he earned the #4 spot in their rotation this year. With the Yankees great offense and solid bullpen, Nova should win 12-15 games. Plus, he is good trade bait for all of the Yankees fans in the league.
18. Matt LaPorta-1B-CLE. I am completely indifferent about this pick. LaPorta has been a big prospect for several years (not as many as Brandon Wood) and should be getting his first opportunity to play everyday this year. He has big time power potential, but there are many flaws in his swing and his mechanics. I wouldn’t be surprised if he fizzles out and doesn’t amount to much. That would be a shame because then the Indians really wouldn’t have anything to show for the C.C. Sabathia trade in 2008.
19. Aaron Harang-SP-SD. The former fantasy stud has fallen on hard times due to injuries and ineffectiveness. I like Harang’s upside in San Diego if he stays healthy. He has always been a good strikeout pitcher, and Petco Park is a great pitchers’ park to keep his ERA down. The Padres got tremendous starting pitching from everyone last year, so there is no reason to think it can’t happen again. Harang has a lot of experience on his side, and with Heath Bell closing games, he should return to double-digit wins.
20. Domonic Brown-OF-PHI. With my final pick of the draft, I took the Phillies’ rookie who will start the year on the disabled list. When Browns does come back, he should likely take over in right field unless Ben Francisco is lighting it up against both righties and lefties. Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel worked on a lot of things with Brown’s swing and plate approach, so it will be interesting to see how he applies that knowledge on the field. If he gets 300+ at bats this year, he should reach double-digits in HR’s and SB’s.
So that is my team. Overall I am pretty happy with it. I like my offense led by Cabrera, Hamilton, Reyes, Bruce and Reynolds. My pitching staff lacks a dominant starter, but I made up for that with two elite closers. That is the key thing I will watch for this year is comparing the value of the closers versus the starters.
Let me know what you think of my team. If you want a copy of the draft board, just shoot me an email to email@example.com. You can also find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FantasyJudgment and Twitter at www.twitter.com/FantasyJudgment.