For the May 24, 2011 list of newsworthy fantasy baseball events and happenings, I have truncated it down to five for this week. Before I delve into this week’s list, I must disclose something to you loyal readers. I am a lifelong Mets fan (hold your laughter and tears). This week has been even more embarassing to admit that, even after the last few years of collapses, disappointments and failures. If you haven’t heard, Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon was recently quoted in an article written by Jeffrey Toobin for the New Yorker where he essentially threw his three best players under the bus. He said Jose Reyes will never get Carl Crawford-type money in free agency, David Wright is not a superstar, and that he was a schmuck for signing Carlos Beltran to the 7 year/$119 million contract solely based on the 2004 playoffs (oh and that Beltran is now only 65-70% the player he once was). The disclosure I want to share with you is that Wilpon also said that my writing skills are mediocre at best and that I am as humorous as the German Funnybot from South Park. Thanks Mr. Wilpon. Onto the news.
5. No Way Jorge – Rockies starting pitcher Jorge de la Rosa suffered a tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow which means he is likely headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery. De la Rosa felt discomfort early in his start tonight in the first game of a double-header against the Diamondbacks. The Rockies received the news no organization wants to to hear, especially when it comes to a valuable and successful left-handed starter. De la Rosa was already having a solid 2011 campaign as he was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Now he is headed for the DL and will likely miss the remainder of the season assuming he does go for the surgery. If you are in a keeper league and have the space, hold onto him as he should be back by the July 4 holiday in 2012 (assuming he has surgery in the very near future).
4. Concussion Discussion – Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will be out at least several more weeks due to experiencing concussion-like symptoms as a result of a head-first slide he made. Head injuries are difficult to evaluate in terms of severity and ability to overcome. But this is just the next injury in a long line of injuries suffered by Roberts. Once considered one of the top options at second base in fantasy baseball leagues, Roberts has fallen into oblivion due to missing so much time over the past few years. His days of 50 stolen bases and 100 runs scored appear to be over, mostly because he cannot stay healthy. If you have DL spots on your roster, you should stash him. In all likelihood, Roberts will be back at some point unless his symptoms persist. If he is available on the waiver wire, he is definitely worth a pick up.
3. The Grandy Man Can – Yankees’ outfielder Curtis Granderson is having an MVP-type season as he has carried the Yankees through the first quarter of the season. After a four-hit night on Tuesday, Granderson is batting .275, 16 homeruns, 35 RBI, 37 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, an OPS hovering around .950, and a sudden ability to hit left-handed pitchers. He has been a fantasy stud thus far, and hitting in between Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira should provide him with great protection, lots of strikes to hit, and plenty of RBI chances. He will likely slow down his insane homerun pace, but in the end he should end up with 30-35 homeruns and 90 RBI depending on where he is in the lineup.
2. Go Back to Canada – Mets’ outfielder Jason Bay is the highest paid Canadian baseball player…ever. After putting up huge numbers for years with the Pirates and Red Sox, Bay signed a lucrative 4 year/$66 million contract.with the Mets prior to the 2010 season. In the year+ that he has been in the Mets organization, he has been nothing short of horrendous. Of course there was going to be a learning curve for him to readjust to National League pitching and deal with the unfriendly confines of Citi Field. Generally speaking people were patient with Bay in 2010, which ended early due to a concussion. Now in his second year with the Mets, Bay has been injured and unproductive the entire season. He left tonight’s game with a stiff right calf and a lingering .230 batting average, two homeruns, and under ten RBI. Keep an eye on Bay when and if he returns. He is quickly reaching the point where dropping him is a viable consideration.
1. Catcher in the Rye – Twins superstar catcher Joe Mauer should be starting to play in live games this week as he works his way back from bilateral leg weakness. Mauer is clearly a great hitter and someone the Twins will be banking on for many years to come. In order to preserve Mauer’s bat and career, he may be given a shot at a new position as the Twins start the process of getting him out from behind the plate. This makes sense on all levels. The rumors are that Mauer will be slowly transitioned to third base. If that is the case in 2011, then next year Mauer could actually be worth spending an early round pick on because he will still qualify at catcher yet be at a position that can keep him healthy and on the field everyday.
As if there hasn’t been enough drama surrounding the Mets with their pending lawsuit in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, employing two people who were caught distributing steroids in their clubhouse and stealing team memorabilia, and their epic failures on the field since the end of the 2006 season, owner Fred Wilpon has certainly created more. In an article for the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/30/110530fa_fact_toobin?currentPage=all), Wilpon spoke to Jeffrey Toobin about Bernie Madoff and their history. While that topic in itself is controversial, it was the more casual words spoken by Wilpon about three of his premiere players that has garnered a lot of attention.
Wilpon provided three honest but critical assessments of his players. Regarding the Mets’ prized possession and pending free agent shortstop, Jose Reyes, Wilpon said he “He’s a racehorse. He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money,” (referring to the Red Sox’ signing of the former Tampa Bay player to a seven-year, $142-million contract. “He’s had everything wrong with him,” Wilpon said of Reyes. “He won’t get it.” Then David Wright, the face of the Mets, was assessed. “He’s a really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.” Finally, it was Carlos Beltran’s turn – the same Beltran who still has his bat frozen on his shoulder as Adam Wainwright’s curveball crossed the plate for strike three to end the 2006 NLCS. The same Beltran who parlayed a magical playoff run with the Hosuton Astros in 2004 into a seven year, $119 million contract before the 2005 season. Wilpon, clearly exhibiting regret about this decision, said referring to himself: “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series. He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.”
The day has finally arrived where the Mets are without Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez on their roster. After months of speculation, both Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez have been released despite being owed a collective $18,000,000 for the 2011 season. While that is a large chunk of money to just swallow (especially given the Mets’ current financial turmoil due to the Madoff lawsuit), this was something that had to be done in order for the organization to start its rebuilding process. Both Castillo and Perez have become symbolic of the Mets’ recent failures and mediocrity on and off the field. In order to appease the starving fan base, something had to give, and it has now been given.
Castillo was acquired from the Twins in late 2007 to fill a hole at second base vacated by injuries to Jose Valentin. He seemed like a logical fit as a prototypical number two hitter behind Jose Reyes, as well as a solid defender and base stealer. He had been on several winning teams, so there was not much to argue with at the time he was obtained. The issue became when the Mets signed him to a four-year contract worth $24,000,000 after the 2007 season. In defense of Omar Minaya at the time, the move was made to appease Johan Santana and help convince him to sign an extension upon being traded to the Mets in February 2008. Santana apparently liked playing with Castillo in Minnesota, so the Mets helped their cause by locking up the former Gold Glove second baseman. At the time, people knew the contract was not a good one, but it was ancillary to the Santana acquisition.
Over the past few years, Castillo has personified the Mets’ failures with his lackluster defense, atrocious hitting, and nagging injuries. He was a shell of his former self despite only being in his early 30′s. He did not provide the solid defense he was known for. Perhaps the moment he will most be remembered for is his inexplicable drop of a pop-up hit by Alex Rodriguez during a 2009 Subway Series game at Yankee Stadium. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, A-Rod popped a ball up off Francisco Rodriguez which seemingly would end the game and give the Mets a solid win over their cross-town rivals. Amazingly, Castillo’s footwork towards the ball was agonizingly awkward and the ball hit off the middle of his glove letting the tying and winning runs score. That was the end for Castillo in Mets’ fans’ eyes and hearts. He followed this up with piss-poor hitting and a general malaise that gave the appearance of apathy.
Oliver Perez is another story. He was acquired at the trade deadline in 2006 from the Pittsburgh Pirates along with reliever Roberto Hernandez in exchange for outfielder Xavier Nady. The trade was precipitated by Duaner Sanchez’s car accident in Miami that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. Nady, who was playing a solid right field for the Mets and providing productive offense in the middle of the order, was shipped away for pitching help. Perez was essentially a throw-in in the trade. At the time, he was a 25-year old lefty with potentially dominating stuff and a huge upside. Pitching coach Rick Peterson was convinced he could turn Perez into a star. Down the stretch in 2006, it looked like the Mets had completely ripped the Pirates off as Perez won Game 4 of the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals, and then pitched great in Game 7 deserving a better fate. He was even known as “Big Game Ollie” because of these performances. He followed that up with solid seasons in 2007 and 2008 despite not being as consistent as the Mets would have liked.
Following the 2008 season, Perez entered free agency and was not even offered a contract by another team. The Mets, after seeing pitchers like C.C. Sabathia and Derek Lowe sign elsewhere, decided that Perez was the best option left and offered him a lucrative three-year, $36,000,000 contract. At the time, the deal was not vilified because Perez was still a young, talented left-hander with a big upside. Then, he showed up to the World Baseball Classic followed by spring training in 2009 completely unprepared and out of shape. His velocity barely reached 90 mph and his mechanics were out of sync. This translated into a horrendous 2009 season that culminated with a knee operation. With hopes that he would be healthy and in better shape, the Mets relied on Perez to return to his old self in 2010. However, nothing could have been farther from that. His control was non-existent and his velocity dropped even more. After being demoted to the bullpen, the Mets asked Perez to accept a minor league assignment to work his issues out. Selfishly, Perez exercised his right to decline this and he remained on the big league roster as a complete waste of space. He was placed on the disabled list with questionable lingering knee issues, only to return later in the summer and be sparingly used out of the bullpen in a mop-up role. By this point, the Mets’ fans were irate with Perez for his lack of performance and professionalism. When Omar Minaya was fired and Sandy Alderson was brought in, there were hopes that his first transaction would be releasing Perez. Instead, the Mets gave Perez another opportunity to redeem himself this spring. After competing for a spot in the starting rotation, Perez’s horrific performances moved him into contention for a left specialist role in the bullpen. That didn’t work out either. After surrendering back to back homeruns to two no-name Nationals this past weekend, Perez’s fate was sealed.
These moves represent a cleansing of the bad taste in the mouths of Mets’ fans. Castillo and Perez symbolized the frustration expressed by the fan base and represented a physical target to vent that frustration. Now they are gone. Castillo has already signed a minor league contract with the Phillies, and Perez is sure to catch on somewhere as a low risk, high reward $400,000 investment. Even if they do find success elsewhere, the Mets are better off today without them. There needed to be a change in the culture within the organization, and Sandy Alderson has helped facilitate this change with these two moves. Now, the Mets must learn from their mistakes and be more circumspect about the long-term investments they make.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”), a method of peacefully and amicably resolving disputes and conflicts between two or more parties with the assistance of a neutral party. Its origin dates back many centuries and has been effectively used in several cultures as a way of settling issues. ADR plays a prominent role in the United States’ legal system as 98% of all litigation never reaches a jury. That is because settlement is almost always a preferred method of resolution for all parties due to the inherent risks of leaving one’s fate to a panel of jurors. Fantasy Judgment’s function is a form of ADR in that the Supreme Court will hear a case presented by one or more parties with, and then the Court will impartially render a decision based on the facts of the case, existing precedent, written rules, and common sense. Fantasy Judgment has no stake in the outcome of a dispute so we are able to objectively look at all of the evidence and determine what the appropriate outcome should be.
ADR within the fantasy sports industry is still a relatively new concept. But ADR within the professional sports industry is prevalent in all of the major sports. Currently there are two very high profile instances where ADR is being used to help seek resolution to extremely complicated matters. The first matter involves the lawsuit brought by trustee, Irving Picard, against the owners of the New York Mets which stemmed from Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme. Picard has demanded $1 billion in damages, and the Wilpon family maintains its position that they knew nothing about Madoff’s illegal schemes. Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo has been selected to mediate this case in an effort to resolve the case before it goes any further. The second matter involves the labor dispute between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association regarding the new collective bargaining agreement. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and union head DeMaurice Smith met in front of George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (a U.S. government agency), for several hours on February 18, 2011 and have at least agreed not to speak publicly about the process.
While these two cases are extremely different in nature, they both represent circumstances where all parties involved have a lot to lose if resolution is not obtained. Chances are that they will both be resolved well before either would ever reach a courtroom. Both sides of each litigation will have to make certain concessions if they want to resolve their disputes, and that is the mediator’s job to recognize what is negotiable and what is not.
At the very least, these two high profile cases will make the general sports audience aware of what mediation is and how ADR works. And an ancillary, self-serving result could be that fantasy sports players are more aware of neutral dispute resolution for issues that arise in their own fantasy leagues. Yes, that was a cheap plug. But they all count.