Listen to this. Last Friday, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine out in L.A. who desperately needed my help. “I am in a bad situation,” he explained. Turns out his football keeper league’s online draft was coming up on Sunday and he had to be at work during draft time. So he wanted to know if I’d be available to handle his draft. “You’re really the person I’d trust most,” he continued. “If you’re down, let me know and we can get on the phone and talk strategy.” At the time, I had yet to draft any of my teams, so I would be getting an inside look at someone else’s game plan before fully formulating my own. I thought this was kind of neat.
Armed with a laundry list of players to reach for and players to avoid, I headed into the draft room. And although I was able to scoop up most of his targets, the entire exercise was a lot more challenging than I had anticipated. First, a few of the players he liked were guys who did not appeal to me at all. But my marching orders were clear. I would draft them, even if it meant taking them a round too early. And to make things even more difficult, there was the keeper factor. Over half of his starting lineup was already filled with keepers, and this limited my flexibility. Rather than constructing a building from scratch, I had to finish building using someone else’s foundation. It was a pretty cool experience, and something I had never done before in my many years of playing fantasy sports.
Tuesday, September 6 – 6:14 PM
In a little over 48 hours, I will be officially managing eight fantasy teams. If you’re thinking that a fantasy fanatic like myself loves this time of year, the month when the baseball and football worlds overlap, you would be wrong. Honestly, this is a bit too much, and to tell you the truth, I consider fantasy baseball the far more interesting game. Lose your first-rounder to injury in Week 1 and you might as well say goodbye to your football title hopes. In baseball, the rosters are so large that one major injury, though debilitating, is not quite as devastating. The savvy owner could take advantage of the waiver wire, which always offers some useful pieces. The football waiver wire is rarely appealing, so there’s less in-season strategy involved. Draft your team, hope that everyone stays healthy and then hope that you can win as many games as possible while following a schedule generated by a computer. Fantasy football is fun, no question, but I just can’t take the game all that seriously.
Thursday, September 8 – 2:56 PM
I don’t think I’ve ever been more unhappy with a team than I am with the one I drafted a few days ago. As I see it, the key to the auction draft is to find the right balance between aggressiveness and restraint. When it comes to the elite guys, you want to be aggressive while at the same time resisting the urge to get caught up in a bidding war. Even worse is when you get caught up in a bidding war for a non-elite player.
I like Ben Roethlisberger this year and thought that I would be able to get him at a reasonable price. My thinking? The fact that he played in just 12 games last season due to suspension limited his stat line to the point where owners might not realize just how good he was in those 12 games (3200 YDS 17 TDs 5 INTs). Well, my thinking was way off on this one. Not only did I pay full price for Big Ben, but I overpaid. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have him, but shelling out so many bucks for Roethlisberger seriously damaged my No. 2 running back situation to the point where I had to settle for Joseph Addai. I had Addai on my radar, but not as an every-week starter. Who knows, maybe the Peyton Manning injury forces the Colts to run the ball more and Addai puts together a solid season. But I’m not too optimistic. The more likely scenario is that the absence of Manning seriously damages the entire offense and I’m left with a black hole in my starting lineup. Not to mention that Addai is injury-prone.
What makes the whole thing even more depressing is that I was so close to winning this league last year, losing in the finals after dominating throughout the regular season. I’d be shocked if I even make the playoffs this time around. With Ray Rice and Roddy White my only legitimate studs, there’s just not enough firepower on this roster, not enough players who could single-handedly win you games.
Alright, enough dwelling on this. Back to baseball next week. Come to think of it, maybe I do like this time of year.
Tuesday, August 23 – 10:15 PM
So much for Tommy Hanson returning to a big league mound anytime soon. Tommy was set to make a Minor League rehab start this coming weekend, but today’s scheduled bullpen session was canceled as Hanson continues to experience soreness in his throwing shoulder. This is absolutely terrible news for my NL-only head-to-head keeper league squad, which seems to be steadily unraveling with each passing day. Oh yeah, Colby Rasmus was also injured tonight, and the extent of his jammed wrist is currently unknown. Not to mention that my closer duo of Brian Wilson and Huston Street are both on the DL. The good news? I’ve clinched a first-round playoff bye, so my group has a little more time to get healthy before the upcoming two-week long semifinal round. But I have to admit I’m very concerned that a once promising season filled with championship aspirations could come to an ugly and premature ending. Oh, the joy of head-to-head leagues!
Thursday, August 25 – 9:40 PM
Stick with what has worked for the past five months or try something different? That’s the decision I’m facing now as I enter in my FAAB bids in preparation for next week’s playoff battle. For much of the season, I’ve gone with a six starting pitcher, three relief pitcher alignment for my active lineup and followed a defensive approach, avoiding inconsistent starters with risky matchups as a poor performance could mean negative points. But with Brian Wilson still on the shelf and Huston Street bound for temporary setup duty upon his return from the DL tonight, my bullpen is no longer a strength. So I’m thinking I’ll be better off scooping up as many decent two-start pitchers as possible and just hope that the solid outings outweigh the bad ones.
Randy Wells has been doing OK of late, registering a 3-0 record to go along with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in August, and has two favorable matchups on the horizon next week, on the road vs. the Giants and at home vs. the Pirates. He’s a must-add. I’ll also take a flier on Charlie Morton. I’m not a huge fan, but prior to his most recent outing, Morton had notched four straight quality starts. He’ll square off against the Astros and Cubs on the road. Throw in a claim on Jeremy Affeldt and I’m all set.
Friday, August 26 – 5:25 PM
Success! I won all three players, and though I might have overbid on all of them, now is not the time to be stingy. The bottom line is that I got all my guys. Next week, I’ll play seven starting pitchers who are projected to make a combined 12 starts. This should be fun.
Friday, August 26 – 10:46 PM
Remember when my Kyle Blanks for Colby Rasmus trade was considered a no-brainer, a deal that one owner even wanted to veto? Well, a lot can change in a few weeks. Since becoming a Blue Jay, Rasmus is batting a paltry .216 over 23 games. Blanks? He’s got six homers in just 32 games this year.
Rasmus was placed on the DL tonight, and although his stay is not expected to last long, my trade deadline swap is looking like a monumental mistake.
Saturday, August 27 – 11:22 AM
What else can go wrong in this league? Now, word comes down that even though Huston Street has been activated from the DL, the Rockies plan to continue using Rafael Betancourt as their closer indefinitely. “I’m not going to pull the plug on Betancourt right now,” manager Jim Tracy told the Denver Post. “It’s a decision that’s being made in the best interests of the players and the club, period.” Unbelievable. What happened to the unwritten rule that closers returning from the DL will automatically reclaim their old job? I still expect Street to be closing again sometime soon, but there’s no way around it. This bye week has been littered with gloomy news.
Saturday, August 27 – 7:22 PM
Is this fair? Hurricane Irene has already wiped out three National League contests scheduled for today in addition to tomorrow’s Mets-Braves game. Imagine being eliminated from your fantasy playoffs because you own multiple players on these teams. While the players will get their chance to make up for their lost stats weeks later, the fantasy owner is out of luck. That’s what I call cruel. Sure, my bye week was full of frustration, but at least it was a bye week. See, I really am a glass half-full kind of guy. So, as I write this from the 24th floor of my New York City apartment, rain pounding on my windows and the media hysterical as Irene’s eye approaches, I can’t help but think that this is a bit overblown. But just in case, let me post this entry real quick before I’m sitting in the dark with no internet connection for who knows how long.
Wednesday, August 10 – 10:45 PM
Really, who would have expected this? A 31-game hitting streak? For the first three months of the season, my decision to keep Dan Uggla in a 12-team mixed 5-keeper league was looking like perhaps my worst decision in a decade of playing fantasy baseball. I knew that last year’s .282 average was likely an aberration considering his track record in that department, but a .250 mark to go along with his usual 30-plus homers seemed like a lock. And his move away from that cavernous ballpark in Miami was supposed to help his overall production, not hurt it. So April came and went, then May, then June, and Uggla was batting .178 with a decent, but for his standards, disappointing 12 home runs. The fact that his average still stands at a lowly .220 despite the longest hitting streak in the Majors this year goes to show just how awful a first half he had. But unlike fellow first half bust Mr. Dunn, Uggla is actually rewarding his owners for their patience. If Yogi was right in saying that 90 percent of the game is half-mental, maybe Uggla can pass along his shrink’s contact info to Dunn. Barring a World Series meeting, the Braves and White Sox will not play each other this year. No conflict of interest whatsoever.
Thursday, August 11 – 10:32 AM
The nightmare that has been Hanley Ramirez’s 2011 season continues as the former consensus top-2 draft pick was placed on the DL last night with a sprained shoulder. Hanley’s second DL trip of the year now ensures that, for the first time in his career, he will fail to reach the 140 games played mark. And the frustrating thing is that Ramirez is coming off a very strong month of July in which he batted .293 with five homers, 21 RBI and five steals. But unlike earlier in the year when I frantically searched the waiver wire for a substitute, I’m surprisingly calm about all of this. I’m so far out of contention in my money league that the emotional Zach has been replaced by a more relaxed version, someone who really doesn’t care whether he finishes seventh, eighth or ninth. I’ll revisit this over the weekend. Lineups aren’t due until Monday and it’s not like there’s a waiver wire shortstop who can make an immediate difference anyway.
I’m feeling like a total hypocrite as I always advise owners to take advantage of this time in the season when many of their league mates will lose interest in their teams altogether and shift their focus to their football drafts. I’ll never be one of those guys, but let me be honest. Right now, I’d rather think about Adrian Peterson vs. Arian Foster than Yuniesky Betancourt vs. Alex Gonzalez.
Friday, August 12 – 11:30 PM
A part of me can relate to Carlos Zambrano. When Anibal Sanchez gave up five runs and couldn’t even make it through the second inning in his most recent outing, I felt like throwing my remote control out the window. But did I come close to doing that? Nope. The most effective fantasy owners are usually the ones who can maintain their cool in all situations, and I like to think of myself as a very even-keeled GM, someone who rarely makes rash decisions. Yet here I am getting ready to drop Big Z in an NL-only league! I’ve truly had enough of his shenanigans. How can someone who quits on his own team deserve a spot on my fantasy team, right? But as much as I want to make this move, something is stopping me. What if this entire incident blows over and Zambrano is back on the mound in five days? Yeah, it’s unlikely, but it’s possible. I’m not ready to clean out my locker just yet. Let’s see what comes of this melodrama.
Saturday, August 13 - 11:02 AM
Looks like the Cubs made my decision for me. That was easy.
Phew. An MRI on Cole Hamels’ throwing shoulder has revealed only mild inflammation, so my staff ace will avoid the DL. This is about the only good news to report when it comes to my NL-only non-keeper league squad, which actually looked very strong on paper back in April. But as the old cliché goes, games aren’t won on paper, and they certainly aren’t won when the majority of your team is either injured, underperforming, or both injured and underperforming. My Opening Day infield? Adam LaRoche, Kelly Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval. You get the point. Oh yeah, and I also own (or owned) both Carlos Zambrano and Logan Morrison, whose bonehead decisions have set me back even further. I’m an optimist at heart, but at this stage of the season with a roster full of role players with minimal upside and my available FAAB dollars dwindling, there’s little I can do but, like those old Brooklyn Dodgers clubs, wait till next year.
Wednesday, August 17 – 10:16 AM
I was very close to picking up Ivan Nova late last week, but resisted. Why? Because I had a feeling that the moment I’d add him to my roster he would implode. And apparently my league mates also had Nova phobia, as it’s pretty rare to find a starting pitcher who had gone 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 16 strikeouts over his last three starts hanging around on the waiver wire. Ivan was due for a stat correction. No doubt about it. So I figured I’d wait until he had at least one poor outing. There’s nothing more irritating for a fantasy owner than picking up a starter at the wrong time and being stuck with the worst part of his season. But as the days went by, I warmed up to the idea of adding Nova and starting him in a favorable matchup vs. the Royals. “Take some chances, have some fun,” I told myself. Besides, a game is a lot more interesting to watch when one of your fantasy starting pitchers is involved. I’d plop myself in front of the TV and enjoy the sight of Nova breezing through an inexperienced Kansas City lineup.
Or so I thought. 5 1/3 innings pitched, seven earned runs. Well, at least I got a win out of this, but was it worth it? Nope.
Friday, August 19 – 6:12 PM
Back in 2009, when the Yankees won the World Series, I remember reading somewhere that the reason why GM Brian Cashman was nowhere to be seen during the on-field festivities following the Game 6 clincher was that he was busy in his office planning for 2010. At the time, I found this explanation both ridiculous and humorous. And while I still consider it odd, it’s not as crazy as it once sounded.
Playoffs start next week in my other NL-only league, the head-to-head keeper league. With a first-round bye locked up, I have the luxury of devoting some time towards planning ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I have a long way to go before I can call myself a champion, but I’m a little concerned about the future of my squad beyond 2011. Joey Votto’s $10 contract expires at the end of this season, and after dealing Kyle Blanks for Colby Rasmus, I have very few attractive contracts left on my roster. Hopefully, I just took one step towards addressing this issue by winning Drew Pomeranz for a buck. Acquired from the Indians as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, Pomeranz is widely viewed as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. While the thought of him playing half of his games at Coors Field is somewhat scary, I took on absolutely no risk by making this move. He’ll cost me $6 to keep for next year, but I could then sign him at that price through the 2014 season. Honestly, I’m shocked that nobody outbid me here. Alright, enough of this long-term stuff. On to the more immediate task at hand: booking my own on-field celebration.
Sunday, July 31 – 9:35 PM
So much for saving all those NL-only FAAB dollars for a high impact player getting traded from the AL to the Senior Circuit. The MLB trade deadline has come and gone and who’s the big prize? None other than Derrek Lee! What a bummer. Lee’s first career season in the American League has been a rather mediocre one as the veteran first baseman is batting .246 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs through 85 games with Baltimore. I’ve always been a believer that non-mixed league owners shouldn’t go out of their way to conserve most of their FAAB bucks for the trade deadline with the idea that they’ll be greatly rewarded. It’s just too risky and limits their ability to add useful pieces throughout the first four months of the season. Anyway, I might as well just about empty my bank account for Lee. Who knows, maybe he finds his stroke now that he’s back in the more familiar league. I’m bidding 42 out of my remaining 44 dollars on the newest Pirate. First base has been a problem for me ever since Adam LaRoche went down. I could use all the help I can get.
Monday, August 1 – 7:12 AM
Whoa. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was reading this correctly. Late last night, minutes before my money league’s trading deadline, a mega-deal was agreed upon, a 4-for-4 swap between one owner way out of contention and another with an excellent chance of taking home some cash. And the more I break this down, the better I’m feeling about my Matt Kemp trade from last week, because the white flag owner is getting absolutely fleeced. I mean, this was the best he could do? Here’s the trade:
Felix Hernandez ($35)
Ian Kinsler ($26)
Jon Lester ($25)
B.J. Upton ($15)
Jered Weaver ($17)
Michael Brantley ($10)
Neil Walker ($5)
Jordan Zimmermann ($2)
I get it. Weaver is the best keeper in the deal. But did the guy really have to give up two aces, an upper-tier (yet overpaid) second baseman and a quality (yet inconsistent) outfielder for Weaver, two so-so keepers plus Brantley? He’s simply not making the most out of his trade chips. I would’ve saved one or two of those players for use in a second trade rather than pay such a high price for Weaver. Maybe the pressure of working against a rapidly approaching deadline got to him and he figured that any deal was better than no deal. Waiting until the last minute to do something usually doesn’t work out too well in real life, and it certainly doesn’t work out well in fantasy baseball.
Tuesday, August 2 – 11:42 PM
Want to get me in a bad mood? Mention the name Paul Goldschmidt. Yesterday, the kid made his big league debut and tonight he hits his first homer, a towering shot off a pretty good pitcher named Tim Lincecum. With Brandon Allen now in Oakland, Goldschmidt will receive everyday at-bats for the rest of the season and most likely the rest of his Major League career. And I let him slip right through my fingers.
Friday, August 5 – 4:36 PM
Never underestimate the power of hype. Not to say that Brett Lawrie won’t be a very good big league hitter. Hey, he could be a perennial All-Star. But for now, he’s just an ultra-talented prospect who has yet to play a game in the Majors. That will change tonight as the 21-year-old is set to don a Blue Jays uniform for the first time. And fantasy owners should be excited. But let’s not get carried away.
Here’s a sampling of Lawrie-related questions sent to us at the MLB.com Fantasy 411 this week. Some are reasonable, others are pushing it, and the last one is flat-out crazy. Keep in mind that these are all for non-keeper leagues.
•Lawrie or Freese?
•Lawrie or Kelly Johnson the rest of the way?
•Am I foolish for sticking with Ackley and not rushing to the waiver wire to pick up Lawrie?
•Pick up Lawrie and drop Valencia?
•Howie Kendrick or Brett Lawrie?
•Between 2B and SS I have Tulo, Rollins, Utley, and Kinsler. Would you swap any for Lawrie?
Now let’s see how long it takes for everyone to jump off the Lawrie bandwagon after he starts off 1-for-15.
What can I say…… I love my job.