[The following are mostly fantasy baseball notes with a sprinkling of pop-cultural snippets]
The always quotable Earl Weaver once said: “I think there should be bad blood between all [baseball] clubs.”
If true, Weaver would certainly love to be in the heart of the latest saga in the on-again, off-again rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and their kid brothers down south, the San Diego Padres. The blood between the two clubs is currently so bad that the medieval practice of using leaches to suck out the toxins is a viable option. It’s a rivalry with a growing dislike that at times has compared to some of the greatest rivalries we’ve seen: Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi; Mac vs. the PC; Lakers vs. Celtics. David vs. Goliath.
Perhaps that last analogy is the one that suits this current edition of the Dodgers-Padres rivalry, for it certainly feels as though the free-spending Dodgers and their quarter billion dollar lineup qualify as Goliaths in their own right and the Padres, with their Dollar Tree pitching staff and their lineup full of “hopefuls” are the scrappy David. It’s telling that the scouting reports for both teams couldn’t be any more different. For the Dodgers most would use the ‘if everything goes wrong’ caveat in describing how their season could unfold, for it is almost a foregone conclusion that the season will go well. For the Padres, the only optimism lies in the ‘if everything goes right’ line, and there are a LOT of ifs for that to happen this season.
However, when these two teams show up on the same diamond to square off, wins and losses, payroll discrepancies, and star power are tossed aside. This is one of those rivalries where the intensity is always there, records aside (I still remember going to a Padres-Dodgers tilt a few years back when both teams were mediocre at best and the stadium had playoff-level intensity). It may not be quite what the Dodgers-Giants rivalry has been in recent years, but that’s more attributed to the fact that the Pads haven’t held up their end of the bargain by winning.
So, when Carlos Quentin went all Jerome-Bettis-at-the-goal-line on Donald Zachary Greinke (thank you baseball-reference.com for sourcing this awesome name discovery) last week, it seemed inevitable. A rule of thumb is if the fans of both teams are fighting in between beers in the parking lot before the game, the players on the field probably feel much the same. A broken collarbone and an eight-week DL stint for Greinke and an eight game suspension for Quentin has sparked controversy and dialogue. Is it fair for one team to lose a core player for two months while the other team only misses the guy who hurt that player for a couple weeks? Let’s examine.
|Joel Hanrahan||Greg Holland||Shawn Camp||Joaquin Benoit|
|Mitchell Boggs||J.J. Putz||Addison Reed||Huston Street||Grant Balfour
|Ernesto Frieri||Sergio Romo||Craig Kimbrel||Aroldis Chapman||Joe Nathan||Tom Wilhelmsen|
|Brandon League||Jim Johnson||Mariano Rivera||Jonathan Papelbon||Rafael Soriano
|Jose Veras||Fernando Rodney||Chris Perez||Rafael Betancourt
||Jason Grilli||Bobby Parnell|
|Steve Cishek||Jim Henderson||Glen Perkins|
Notes: The closer carousel begins. Hopefully you bought into the closers who are in blue or green in your draft. The outside looking in isn’t where you want to hang out. But let’s take a look at each color. Trusted pitchers are “set it and forget it” guys. Solid pitchers have a reasonable chance at recording 30 saves. Danger pitchers have a reasonable chance at having the door closed behind them, very soon.
Sunset Strip was hallowed ground in the 80’s. It was a cornucopia of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, along with healthy doses of Aquanet, leopard print, and androgyny. Hair metal was everything. Motley Crue, Poison, L.A. Guns (who would later birth Guns N Roses), Great White, Warrant, and nearly any other assembly of dudes with long hair, trashy attire, and a half ounce of talent were snatched up and given massive amounts of money, cocaine, and women by every big record label in America.
It was the scene. You were not going to succeed as a record label in reaching the youth demographic in America if you didn’t have a successful stable of hair bands on your imprint, and Sunset Strip was the place to find them all. You needn’t look very hard either. They were pouring out of all the iconic venues: the Whiskey, Roxy, Troubadour, and Rainbow Room. It was a classic win-win for bands and labels alike; the right place and the right time applied equally to both sides. If you were the average, run-of-the-mill hair band, you wanted to be on Sunset to be “discovered.” Likewise, if you were the average label “suit” wanting to move up the proverbial ladder, you also wanted to be on Sunset, because that’s where the scene was.
The G-N-R cheese ballad ‘ParadiseCity’ summed the Sunset scene up perfectly. In baseball circles, the song title could also serve as an appropriate nickname for the Dominican Republic, Major League’s equivalent to the Sunset Strip of the 80’s.
The Dominican Republic championship at the recent World Baseball Classic was not the start of something new, rather it was the exclamation point on a phenomenon that has taken over the sport of baseball over the past decade. To borrow from another hair band classic: they rocked the world like a hurricane (a category five at that).
The D.R. has become the premier purveyor of Major League talent in the world. It’s surpassed all the traditional powerhouses [Japan, Cuba, and (yes) the U.S.], and it’s by no accident. This country literally creates ballplayers the way Mr. Miyagi creates karate masters; by raising and training young boys across the country as soon as they are able to throw and catch a ball.
From the time the words “Play Ball!” are first belted out on Opening Day, until the first week comes to a close, there are always hundreds of storylines that nobody could have predicted. Wacky stories will often be accompanied with “You can’t make this s**t up.” It’s why some of the best movies, especially lately, are based on “true” stories. This world is filled with incredible, sometimes unbelievable, happenings.
One such story came about in the first month of the 2006 season. Detroit Tiger’s first baseman, Chris “Red Pop” Shelton, selected in the 2004 Rule 5 draft from the Pittsburg Pirates, devoured American League pitching for the first 13 games of the season. Shelton had nine home runs before playing in his 14th game, the fastest American League player to do so. Needless to say, Shelton was a sought after commodity in fantasy leagues. Managers salivated over the power potential he possessed. The second coming of Mark McGuire was in our midst.
Sadly, after that 13th game, Shelton’s monstrous power retreated as fast as it had materialized. He only had one more home run that month, and only six more before being demoted at the end of July. Since that demotion, “Red Pop” only played in 63 more games before leaving the game for good. His magical fairy tale was over, and he turned back into an orange pumpkin.
Even though fantasy managers shouldn’t be surprised by fluke success stories like Shelton, it is still very tempting to think that this guy might be the real deal. For every Shelton, there is a Jose Bautista. Let’s take a look at some hitters who have jumped the gun and are treating this marathon like a sprint, and we’ll try and determine who is going to make it to the finish line and who is going to flame out.
Going back to look at last year, all of us were homers and picked Yonder Alonso to win the NL Rookie of the Year. How wrong we were. We were equally wrong when Matt Moore and Yoenis Cespedes were picked to win the AL ROY. We never said these predictions were any good. Predictions are like…well…let’s just say everyone has one and they stink. In fact, the only correct prediction made last year by our team was calling Miguel Cabrera the AL Most Valuable Player by Jared Cothren. Bravo, Jared. Bravo.
Here is this year’s list. Just don’t bet your life on it.
|NL ROY||Jedd Gyorko||Shelby Miller||Oscar Taveras||Julio Teheran||Jedd Gyorko||Shelby Miller|
|AL ROY||Wil Myers||Wil Myers||Wil Myers||Wil Myers||Wil Myers||Wil Myers|
|NL CY||Cole Hamels||Stephen Strasburg||Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kersahw||Cole Hamels||Stephen Strasburg|
|AL CY||Justin Verlander||Felix Hernandez||Justin Verlander||Felix Hernandez||Felix Hernandez||Justin Verlander|
|NL MVP||Ryan Braun||Andrew McCutchen||Joey Votto||Joey Votto||Justin Upton||Matt Kemp|
|AL MVP||Miguel Cabrera||Miguel Cabrera||Mike Trout||Evan Longoria||Miguel Cabrera||Prince Fielder|
The word “worth” means to be good or important enough to justify. Is this worth my time? Or He isn’t worth his weight in gold. Or It’s worth looking into. Retired NASA astronaut Frank Borman can teach us all a little something about worth. In 1968, he, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders orbited the moon in Apollo 8, the first of 24 humans ever to do so. That was a worthwhile experience. A year earlier, Borman was selected as the only astronaut to sit on the AS-204 Accident Review Board during the investigation of the Apollo 1 cabin fire that killed three astronauts. If you were to ask him today about that preventable fire, surely he would say that mission was not worth the lives of those three men.
Fantasy sports, like exploration, and like capitalism, are about taking risks. Those who make the best calculations, however, risk less. In exploration, the difference between a calculated risk and an uncalculated risk is life and death. And needless to say, if you die during exploration, it wasn’t worth your time. In capitalism, it’s the difference between success and bankruptcy. In fantasy sports, it’s between winning and losing.
But if you focus your lens even more, it’s the difference between overpaying for a player and getting a player at a discount. Is it worth drafting a catcher in the second round? Or I think this player will be worth more by season’s end. And when we’re talking about value of individual players unequivocally we’re talking about sleepers and busts.
A sleeper, according to this writer, is a player outside the top 150 (Average Draft Position) whose actual value is greater than the price you pay. A bust is any player whose ADP is greater than his actual value. To give an example of both: drafting Buster Posey, a catcher, in the second round would be an example of a bust and drafting Lonnie Chisenhall, a starting third baseman in the final round would be an example of a sleeper.
Long after his astronaut career was over, Borman said this: “Had that rocket not fired, I’d still be orbiting the moon. Forever. And I really didn’t want to do that.”
Neither do you.
Relief pitchers are often thought of as the “kickers” of baseball, and there is a reason for this theory. For one, there are 30 closers in the league (maybe even more if you count “by committee” bullpens). If you’re in a 10 team league, there will be a throng of closers to be had, even into the late rounds (not every closer will be owned by the end of the draft). Closers also only (really) fulfill one stat category (Saves), which means if you draft a closer with one of your top 10 picks, you’re going to be losing out on a lot of other categories.
That being said, I like to own one of the more renown closers as to avoid the headache of “chasing saves.” I won’t ever go out and draft the best closer, or the second best for that matter, but I like to have a guy on my team who is going to get me at least 30 saves and won’t be in jeopardy of losing his job.
There’s a reason I leave these rankings until last: without fail, every year, one or two closers lose their starting gigs in spring training due to injury or ineptitude. Already Chris Perez and Grant Balfour have injuries. Guys like Jonathan Broxton, Brandon League, and Ernesto Frieri don’t have solid ground beneath them and could begin the season as eighth inning hurlers. The reason most leagues hold their drafts at the end of March is to avoid wasting picks on dead end closers.