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Tuesday 20th Feb 2018

In my attempt to recapture third place and a share of the money in my National Fantasy Baseball Championship Classic New York Weekend 2 – League 1, I dropped my final $20 of my original $1000 free agent allocation budget two weeks ago on then-new Florida closer Clay Hensley.

One of our ultimate challenges in establishing player values is to accurately estimate playing time. On some clubs, changing roles can also be an uncertainty.

Such was the case coming into 2010 with centerfield for the St. Louis Cardinals. After a year off, long-time star Jim Edmonds was basically begging to return, but was turned away. Fan favorite and 2009 incumbent Rick Ankiel was allowed to walk as a free agent and late last season, left fielder Chris Duncan, son of pitching coach Dave Duncan, was sent packing as well.

All of those moves helped open the way for Colby Rasmus. The Cardinals’ top pick in the 2005 draft has been viewed as the pride of a minor league player development organization that has been out of synch with the major league operation back to the Walt Jocketty days. Rasmus struggled at times during his rookie season last year but also showed glimpses of what he might become. Hopes were high for him coming into 2010.

Despite manager Tony La Russa not locking him into a set spot in the batting order, Rasmus was among the National League leaders in OPS among outfielders early on. That was interrupted by a calf injury that seemed to linger which opened the door for the emergence of rookie Jon Jay, the latter an inferior defensive centerfielder compared to Rasmus.

Though Rasmus was never placed on the disabled list, he missed several stretches of games. Comments, actions and non-actions by La Russa led some to wonder if Rasmus was in the manager’s dog house.

Further, Rasmus was being asked to modify his approach at the plate in real time to go the other way more often rather than emphasize power and he was struggling to make the adjustments.

When Rasmus still didn’t become an everyday player following the trade of Ryan Ludwick, his frustrations grew to the point he allegedly requested he also be shipped out. It apparently wasn’t the first time, as the youngster has chafed under La Russa’s hard-driving style.

Once this came out in the press, a series of claims that indicated trenches had been dug by both player and manager became evident. Whether that indicates Rasmus will remain with the club in 2011 and beyond remains to be seen.

One thing that has happened is that La Russa has pretty much stopped moving Rasmus all around his batting order, acknowledging that Rasmus is his best option as the number five hitter immediately behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Of course, Ludwick now being in San Diego is a factor in that decision as well.

Keep an eye on Rasmus’ usage and results during the final month as an indicator of whether his third season might be an improvement over the first two. Despite all the smoke, I would be surprised if his 2011 will be spent wearing another uniform.



Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

One of the big questions facing fantasy owners in keeper leagues this week is what to do about Stephen Strasburg.

Should I hold or divest?

Chances are that most of his owners are going to ride out the storm and hope for the best. Other than the year-plus lost, Tommy John patients can come back even stronger than before due to better training.

While I have seen Strasburg pitch in person twice, first in the Arizona Fall League last year and in spring training this March, I was hoping to watch him up close facing the Cardinals again as I cover the four-game series in Washington this weekend. Alas, that is not to be.

It reminds me of a very difficult decision I faced in the XFL, Xperts Fantasy League, prior to the 2009 season. I had the first pick in the reserve draft and my primary alternatives were Strasburg or the Atlanta Braves’ Tommy Hanson.

I had seen Hanson the previous fall, again in the AFL, where he was Most Valuable Player. Needless to say, I had been impressed. Though Hanson appeared ready for the bigs, I knew he would be kept in Triple-A long enough to save a year of arbitration eligibility, likely for most of the first half of the 2009 season.

On the other hand, Strasburg still had a partial season of college ball remaining. Despite all the hype, his distance away from the majors was considerably greater, with more potential pitfalls ahead.

What shifted the balance was the fact that I thought I had a good chance of competing for the championship in 2009. Hanson could contribute in the second half while Strasburg would not.

When I announced my selection, if there was anyone among the other 14 owners who agreed with it, they didn’t speak up. There were plenty of critics.

Though I fell 3 1/2 points short of the league-winning 122 point total last season, Hanson did everything expected and more. The team of Strasburg’s owner finished 15th of 15. His roster obviously had other more severe problems.

Almost two seasons after I selected him, Hanson has contributed 19 major league wins, a 3.24 ERA and 257 strikeouts in 280 innings. For all the ink that has spilled about him, Strasburg has just five wins in his brief MLB career, not to mention an uncertain future.

In 2010, Strasburg’s owner has closed the gap between us, improving to seventh place, one spot and a dozen points behind me.

The jury is still out on the long-term ramifications of my early 2009 decision. The two pitchers’ keeper prices in this league will remain just three years apart for however many years into the future they are kept. In a +$3 league like the AFL, that should be a very long time.

I hope for the game of baseball that Strasburg recovers and enjoys a long and successful career. I really do.

At this point, however, I am glad I took the sure thing.


Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

In the 2010 National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC), I was placed in a challenging league with a group of 14 other solid players, including three teams run by industry names.

With a column title like “Articles of Configuration”, it would only stand to reason that I am an individual who tries to closely understand the rules of each league in which I compete. I am not a lawyer, but more than a few of my competitors are.

While keeping on top of everything is an even bigger challenge when playing in varied formats, as many of us do, it still behooves one to be aware as possible. It also provides the opportunity to port the best ideas from one league to another.

When you find loopholes or areas in your league rules that could use clarification or improving, don’t wait until the off-season to take action. Document the issue and ensure it is logged for the period when changes are opened up for the next season.

To that end, I strongly recommend constitution changes be considered at the end of this baseball season, not the start of next. Sure, people are busy with football and the like, but far too often, good update ideas are forgotten months later, only for the root problem to be stumbled upon again the next year.

In Tout Wars, I am currently pushing for two rules changes related to free agent allocation budget (FAAB) reclaim. The basic concept is that when a player is deemed out for the season, his owner can receive a rebate for the price paid for him, whether at draft time or as a free agent, at the rate of 100 percent if injured before the break and 50 percent after. That money can be added to one’s current FAAB balance for use in bidding on free agents.

A problem in past years was the uncertainty of a player supposedly being “out for the year.” At times, players managed to return against the odds late in the season, yet their managers had already received FAAB reclaim and often had already spent the money. This risk was addressed in the Tout constitution two ways.

First, it was decided the player must be placed on the 60-day disabled list to be eligible for FAAB reclaim. Second, when the FAAB request is granted, the player is immediately returned to the free agent pool. If someone else wants to gamble on the chance the player might return to action later, he can bid accordingly.

While the 60-day DL criterion is clear and removes ambiguity, it is also arbitrary and often not used at all. Clubs cannot place a player on the 60-day DL until their 40-man roster is full. As a result, FAAB still cannot be reclaimed for many players despite them clearly being out for the season.

An example is Milwaukee’s Gregg Zaun, out since May following shoulder surgery that is not only season-ending, but also career-threatening. Because the Brewers’ 40-man roster has been and remains below the limit, Zaun has sat on the 15-day DL the entire time. That means no FAAB reclaim for his owner, me.

Further, as I noted above, the way the Tout rules are currently defined, an owner receives full FAAB reimbursement when a player hits the 60-day DL prior to the All-Star break, but only half thereafter. In my example, even though Zaun has been useless for almost the entire season, if he was to be placed on the 60-day tomorrow, I would receive only half my investment.

What I have proposed instead is to make the determination of the amount due based on when the player was first placed on the DL, but still not payable until such time he hits the 60-day DL. Initial feedback from the Tout Wars board has been positive regarding this proposed change.

Back to the arbitrary 60-day DL designation with another example, also close to home. When it became clear that misbehaving Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez injured his hand punching his father-in-law and would require season-ending surgery as a result, the club took immediate action.

Instead of placing K-Rod on the 60-day DL, where he would be paid, the team put him on the restricted list. Just as if he was on the 60-day DL, Rodriguez has been removed from the Mets’ 40-man roster.

Unfortunately for me but not surprisingly, the Tout constitution did not anticipate this odd situation. It states the 60-day DL is mandatory for FAAB reclaim, so I am out of luck getting anything back for losing K-Rod at this time.

I have formally recommended the restricted list be added to the FAAB reclaim wording in the Tout constitution for 2011 and beyond. It has generally been agreed among the Tout board that the K-Rod situation does fall under the original intent of the reclaim process.

It is doubly bad for me in that despite K-Rod clearly being injured and out for the season, I cannot move him to my Tout DL, thereby saving a roster spot. Again, the constitution’s wording is very clear about the disabled list, with no mention of restricted list.

Instead, I have to decide whether to burn one of my four reserve slots on waiting to see if K-Rod asks for an appeal and subsequently loses it. Then he would probably move to the 60-day DL. In that case, I could finally reclaim FAAB. On the other hand, if I waive Rodriguez now, I would lose all rights to potential future FAAB recovery.

To see the Tout Wars constitution, click here.

Remember to get those needed changes locked down now in your leagues and best of luck in your races the rest of the way!

Brian Walton is the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 12-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC last season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.


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