Thursday, July 31, 2008

Knights 2B part of Griffey deal


Cincinnati has been bracing for a Ken Griffey Jr. trade since about four seconds after his 600th HR ball landed.

The prevailing thought was that Griffey would end up in Seattle, where his career began.

Leave it to Kenny Williams to change all that.

The White Sox GM, never shy from pulling the trigger on any deal, added Griffey to the South Side today, giving up RP Nick Massett and Charlotte Knights 2B Danny Richar.

Griffey, who had to approve the deal, was linked to the White Sox a couple offseasons ago, but the Reds were unwilling to part then. But his willingness to play for a World Series contender was enough for the future Hall of Famer waive his no-trade clause.

Richar has been one of the more promising prospects playing in Fort Mill, although his numbers have been mediocre this year, hitting .262 with 9 HR and 11 SB this year.  Richar played 56 games for the White Sox last year, hitting .230 with 6 HR and 16 walks.

Here's a clip of Richar working the count in a 14-pitch at-bat last year against Pawtucket. The video is edited, less than two minutes and the final pitch may very well surprise you:





Fantasy spin: Griffey's value should increase a hair as he'll be joining a slightly better lineup but should be rejuvenated. He's worth a claim in AL-only leagues, but wait to see what happens with the Manny Ramirez before putting in a claim.

Manny update: Ramirez has waived his no-trade clause as a possible three-way deal between the Red Sox/Marlins/Pirates heats up. The early buzz has Manny going to the Marlins, Jeremy Hermida going to Pittsburgh and Jason Bay to the Red Sox. Boston would also pick up all of Manny's salary.

The deal seems to be hinging on prospects and/or other complimentary players in the deal. Everyone is weighing in their opinion on whether or not this deal will get done. My gut says that Boston wants to do whatever it takes to wash their hands of Ramirez, who vocalized earlier today he wanted out. The problem is that about one of every 10 rumored three-way deals every comes to fruition. They're just too complicated.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pudge to Yanks; Manny to Fish?

To nobody's surprise, the Yankees pulled off a deadline deal today.

To most baseball fans surprise, they snagged Ivan Rodriguez from potential A.L. playoff rival Detroit Tigers.

Just days after landing RP Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh, New York sent talented but sometimes erratic RP Kyle Farnsworth to the Motor City.

Pudge's value is virtually unchanged, while Farnsworth may have a chance to close by the end of the year if new closer Fernando Rodney keeps struggling.

Manny to Marlins? A day after Manny Ramirez was closely linked to the Phillies, it seems the Florida Marlins have been talking to the Red Sox about a possible 11th-hour deal.

Manny in Miami? Is it possible, but it'll have to happen by 4 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

It would definitely make some waves in South Beach, but here's three legitimate reasons why it could happen.

1). Boston is offering to pay for either most or all of Manny's $7 million remaining salary this year (Florida's total team salary is $22 million; Manny's is $20).

2). The Red Sox and Marlins have recent history of pulling off blockbusters, i.e. Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell.

3). Boston seemingly has no qualms dealing a big star to rid the clubhouse of distractions, as it did with Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs in 2004. And that worked out OK.

Asking price is reportedly either OF Jeremy Hermida or OF Josh Willingham.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Update: Angels get Teixeira for Kotchman

Well, that didn't take long.

The Braves knew there was plenty of suitors for Mark Teixeira and today they pulled the trigger with the Angels.

A day after they reportedly talked to six MLB teams, Teixeira is being sent from Atlanta to Anaheim for 1B Casey Kotchman and Double-A left-handed pitcher Stephen Marek.


Both Teixeira (20 HR/78 RBI) and Kotchman (12 HR/54 RBI) are worthy of high claims in either AL- or NL-only formats. In mixed leagues, both hitters will retain relatively the same value.

Who'll win Teixeira sweepstakes?

The trading buzz is heating up squarely around Atlanta's Mark Teixeira.

The Arizona Diamondbacks appeared to be the front-runners, but really want Conner Jackson over Charlotte native Chad Tracy.

But Monday, at least five other teams jumped into the fray, including the Yankees, Rays and Angels.

Some think the Yanks are front-runners because of their willingness to part with higher prospects linked to their ability to sign Teixeira to a long-term deal.

The Braves, who received more bad news with Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson going on the DL, are seemingly out of contention and with Teixeira their biggest trade chip and a free agent at the end of the season, it only makes sense to cash him out by Thursday's trade deadline.

If you're a Tex owner in an NL-only league, it may be too late to get full value, but you still might be able to get something if you act soon. The smart money is that he'll end up in the American League, likely the Big Apple.

Other possible deals: Will Manny Ramirez be dealt? The Mets and D-backs don't want any of that action. ... Benji Molina to the Fish? .... Marlon Byrd to the Rockies? ... Jarrod Washburn not being suited for pinstripes, after all. ... Miguel Tejada to Boston? Depends on who you believe. But Fenway may be serving up some Brocail with their clam chowder.... Ron Mayay to the Phils? But will anyone care?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Irish Samardzija saves day for Cubs


Seemingly on life support, the Chicago Cubs got a defibrillator boost this weekend from Jeff Samardzija.

Yes, the same Samardzija that was hauling in TD passes at Notre Dame less than two years ago.

After giving up football by signing a $10 million deal with the Cubs, he quickly tore up minor league pitching and Sunday, he saved the Cubs game with two shutout innings, striking out three Marlins. 

Even Lou Piniella can't help but sing the rookie's praises. "We've been looking for one more good arm in the bullpen, and I think we've found it."


Piniella even talked about wanting to hit a Notre Dame football game this fall.

Samardzija, however, did have some mixed results in his debut on Friday, giving up the tying run in the 7th inning before pitching a perfect 8th and the Marlins won the game in the 9th.

But with Kerry Wood on the disabled list with a blister and Carlos Marmol and Bobby Howry struggling, Piniella decided to give Samardzija the ball in a pressure situation, which doesn't seem to faze the 6-foot-5 righty who's hitting 97 on the radar gun.

Two spring trainings ago, I remember, Samardzija pitching an inning against the Giants when Barry Bonds came to the plate. Samardzija overpowered Bonds twice, before ripping a single.

Expect more of the same this year. He'll overpower most hitters, but the good ones will still figure him out, just like Hanley Ramirez did, smacking an 0-2 pitch on Friday and later scoring the tying run.

But just like K-Rod gave the Angels a shot in the arm in 2002 and Joba Chamberlain did with the Yanks last year, the Cubs have new star power coming out of the bullpen and the Wrigley faithful absolutely love it.

They even gave Samardzija as standing O after his first appearance, the first of many to come.

Fantasy spin: Samardzija (3.13 ERA, 40 Ks in 32 IP in AAA Iowa) won't likely get too many saves this year, but he should be considered heavily in all keeper leagues. The Cubs will probably revert him back to a starter long-term, but if Wood is out for longer than expected and Marmol's struggles continue, Samardzija is a dark horse to take over the closer's job this season.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is it time to sell off power?


It's as if you forgot to pay Duke power this month.

And last month, too.

For whatever reason, your guys collectively seem allergic to hitting home runs and driving in runs.

And you're running out of time. It's almost August, you tell yourself as you flip The Far Side calendar. ("Faster, Fifi, Faster!" ... man, that Gary Larson is warped).

So, what do you do?

You're last or second to last and the upward climb seems steeper than Mount Kilanmajaro.

You basically have two options. And they both involve trades.

1). Forget about your power stats altogether and start a fire sale, turning your Mark Teixeiras and Carlos Penas for speed guys, power arms, etc.

2). Figure out where you have any fat on your team, likely on the pitching side, and go get yourself another bat or two. 

But you have to act. Passivity is not an option to get out of this hole. If your power is lousy, your overall standings can't be much better.

The good news is that at this point in the year, savvy owners are looking to manage their categories and many will be willing to trade. If you want to punt HR/RBI, check out who has speed or average or pitching to spare and start sending out an e-mail or trade offers.

It might backfire, sure, but look at the alternative.

It's time to roll the dice and go down swinging. Not tomorrow, but today. Your season is slipping away.

And at this point, who cares if you come up snake-eyes?

Nobody remembers who finishes 9th.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Indians send Blake to L.A.

Casey Blake is going to Hollywood.

Now that's a sentence I thought I'd never type.

Hot off the presses, the Cleveland Indians have shipped 1B/3B/OF Casey Blake to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor leaguers.

Blake is a lot of things. He's dependable. He'll hit .270 with 20 HR. He'll come up with the big hit every now and then.

But Hollywood?

Not exactly. Blake is more the black coffee, Ford pickup type.

Still, the Dodgers, looking to replace slumping rookies Blake DeWitt and Andy LaRoche need some production from their hot corner and that Blake will deliver.

Just like he did last September, when he essentially knocked the Detroit Tigers out of the playoff race with an 11th-inning walkoff HR to put the Indians up 5 1/2 games with 12 to play.

Here's what Blake earned for his efforts:



Blake is enjoying one of his best seasons, average-speaking, hitting .289, including a sizzling .398 with runners in scoring position.

The Dodgers gave up promising Class A catcher Carlos Santana and AAA righty Jon Meloan, who has fanned 335 batters in 262 minor league innings pitched.

Fantasy advice: It goes without saying that Blake is an automatic pickup in an NL-only league, but in a mixed format, Blake's value is virtually unchanged. He goes from hitting in one of the worst AL lineups to one of the worst in the NL. And Dodgers Stadium is not typically hitter-friendly. If anything, facing the tough pitching in San Diego and Arizona may kick his value down a small notch.

As for Meloan, his ERA is a little balky (4.97), but he may be worth a flier in 5x5 AL-only formats if he gets called up in September. He may need a Cleveland injury to open up a starting spot, but at last look, Carmona was getting shelled in his first game back tonight, for whatever that's worth.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Minor league brawl turns ugly quick

Growing up, I spent many a nights, coming to watch the Peoria Chiefs after the 5th inning.

That's when you could get in free.

I saw plenty of Cubs prospects come through. Then Cardinals. Then back to Cubs.

I saw plenty of bad promotions. And foul balls come my way.

But I never seen anything like Thursday night.

The game was in Dayton, but it involved the Chiefs, specifically pitcher Julio Castillo who was arrested for throwing a ball that hit a fan during a brawl and charged with felonious assault.

Some 15 players were ejected, as well as the team's managers following a bench-clearing brawl that lasted about 10 minutes and delayed the game an hour.

Former Cubs 2B and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is the manager of the Chiefs, but was not in attendance this night as Carmelo Martinez, filling in for Sandberg, came out to talk to the umpires before the fireworks began.

Here's the footage and warning ... it contains some adult language, so cut the sound if kids are around.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Glove is all Alexei Ramirez needs

Alexei Ramirez, the kid with the unorthodox spelling of his first name, made an play so unorthodox Wednesday, it may be the highlight of the year.

For fantasy pundits, Alexei is almost a household name by now. Starting the season on the bench, and barely able to get a spot start from White Sox coach Ozzie Guillen, the Cuban infielder is ranked 45th in Yahoo! the past month with has been turning heads this past month with 4 HR, 4 SB, 14 runs, 14 RBI and a .349 average.

But in the field, he's making one Web Gem after another. Over the past month since taking over Jose Uribe's 2B gig, a buddy of mine from my hometown of Peoria, Ill., who has borderline unhealthy White Sox rooting interests, will email me several times a week about Alexei's latest spectacular fielding play.

A diving catch here. A miraculous turn of a DP there.

Almost always the term "unbelievable" is in the e-mail somewhere.

But the real irony is that the biggest reason Ozzie wouldn't give him the everyday job was because he was worried about his fielding. And now, he's just a steady stream of highlight reel fodder.

Nice one, Ozzie.

Check this filp out:




If by chance, Alexei is still available, it's time to hit the button. He's a 20-20 guy that could very well hit over .300. Those guys don't grow on fantasy trees. Especially at the 2B position.

And if he makes another fantastic play, don't bother emailing me the video.

My buddy has already sent it to my inbox.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Waiver wire: Add Tracy, Jones

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Chad Tracy, 1B/3B, Diamondbacks

With the news that Eric Byrnes is out for the year comes dramatic increase in playing time for Charlotte and East Carolina native Chad Tracy.

Tracy is starting almost every day now - when he's not spelled for Tony Clark - but the big news here is that he's hitting cleanup for the D'backs.

Arizona's lineup isn't filled with world beaters, no, but they have a ton of young bats that have life and Tracy has filled up the RBI column with 18 ribbies in the last month. To give some perspective, 18 RBI is tied for 27th best of all hitters and is the same number of runs driven in by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Ever heard of 'em?

Tracy has also hit .360 over the past 30 days and while he's only hit 5 HR in 42 games, he does have 25-HR potential over a full season and now that he's fully healthy, he's hitting plenty of gaps (3 doubles in last 5 games).


AMERICAN LEAGUE

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles

In spring training, I asked Jones how often he would be stealing bases and his response: "As much as I can."

Well, so much for that. . that hasn't exactly translated into fantasy relevance, with only 8 SB in almost four months, but the other numbers are all up to par.

Benefiting from a move to the 2nd slot in the batting order, Jones now hits between Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, so he's seeing plenty of fastballs.

With just 6 HR for the season, Jones has really poured it on in the past month, ranked 63rd by Yahoo!, posting 17 runs, 16 RBI and a .341 average.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shakeout of Wolf, Rauch trades

Well, Astros fan, at least it's something.

Trying to keep up with the Brewers (C.C. Sabathia) and the Cubs (Rich Harden), Houston made a small splash today, dealing for Padres lefty Randy Wolf.

And all Astros Nation just yawned and said...not bad.

Wolf may have been a distant third pitcher that was available but it's not the kind of pitcher that gets your blood moving. With a career ERA of 4.30 and average stuff, Wolf is no more than a No. 3, but more like a 4 or 5.

His 4.74 ERA and 1.42 WHIP this year shows how inconsistent Wolf can be, especially considering he pitches in one of the best pitcher's paradise in Petco.

The only thing giving Wolf fantasy value was his 105 Ks in 119 IP. Now, Wolf is pitching for a much better offense, but in a considerably worse park.

Bottom line: Don't go snagging him off the wire, thinking his value will skyrocket.

Although sometimes getting dealt gives a pitcher new life. Still, don't expect miracles here.

Wolf was traded for AAA prospect Chad Reineke.

Rauch dealt to Arizona

The Diamondbacks, perhaps nervous because of the recent meltdowns by Brandon Lyon, added Washington closer Jon Rauch, who sports quite a goofy mug.

This was a tall move, indeed. Rauch, who sports a 3.62 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, is 6-foot-11 and just looks like a closer, despite being unconventionally left-handed.

Joel Hanrahan, who is not as tall, but still 6-4, takes over the closer job as Chad Cordero is out for the season.

Pick up Hanrahan immediately if you need saves although Rauch's role in the desert has not yet been defined, so it's hard to say whether he's worth holding onto.

I see him closing by year's end, but he might not be worth the roster space right now.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wood, Contreras, Posada on DL


Three more down.

In a season that seems to have seen more players spend time on the disabled list than not, Kerry Wood, Jose Contreras and Jorge Posada are all headed to the DL, which means it's time to scramble to the wire for a replacement.


KERRY WOOD

The Cubs closer is dealing with a blister problem from the last week of June. Suspiciously, he had been given an extra day off here or there, but on July 5, a day after picking up the save against the Cardinals, Wood's blister popped as he blew the save in St. Louis.

This isn't the first case of blisteritis, as the Goatied Wonder fought through blisters in 2000-2002 seasons, but never anything too seriously.

The Cubs, who mysteriously kept this thing hush-hush for the past three weeks, were hoping taking the All-Star break off would cure him, but after warming up in Houston, the issue was stilling bubbling and so Wood heads to the DL, but can come off Saturday.

Replacement: Carlos Marmol, who has struggled lately, will get the first shot, but if he falters, look for Bobby Howry to step in. Marmol's worth a pickup, as the blister problem could linger longer than Saturday. And after all, this is Kerry Wood who seems very comfortable spending time on the list.



JOSE CONTRERAS

The White Sox righty couldn't throw his splitter or slider because of elbow tendinitis. Nice, huh? Even better, he didn't tell the training staff he was having issues, which you know sat well with Ozzie Guillen.

Yeah.

Anyway, for those of you who have suffered through the Ageless Hurler's 8.60 ERA in his last seven starts, I feel ya. He was probably long gone in most mixed leagues, but painfully, I suffered as Contreras was lit up like Times Square.

Replacements: Since he was probably only owned in AL-only formats, your options for pickup may be very limited. Consider Vincent Padilla (Texas) or R.A. Dickey (Seattle), who will take over for Erik Bedard's spot for a few weeks.


JORGE POSADA

What a difference a season makes. Last year, he's hitting .338 and making 144 appearances. This year, Posada is headed to the DL for the second time with a shoulder injury and he could be done for the year.

“It’s just really, really tough,” Posada said. “Right now, I’m going through tough times.”

Well, at least he got the fat contract last year. How tough can it be, right?

Replacements: Dioneer Navarro, who has come back to earth after a hot start, still hits in one of the better lineups in Tampa. Jeff Clement is starting to show signs of life in Seattle. Ramon Hernandez has 4 HR and 13 RBI the past month.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

K-Rod's 40th; Durham dealt; Tex next?


K-Rod turns 40. And it's only July 20.

Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez is keeping fantasy teams afloat in saves, single-handily, picking up his 40th save Sunday in a 5-3 win over Boston. 

So, just how many saves can K-Rod gobble up? I'm still thinking 60 and he's on target for even more.

How does K-Rod's pace compare to Bobby Thigpen's record-setting 57 save season? Thigpen mopped up 25 saves in August and September after just 32 through the end of July. 

Law of averages says that K-Rod won't get 25 saves in those final two months, but it's possible he could reach 65 or more, if the Angels keep winning these close games and his right arm stays attached.

Seems like a perfect sell-high.

Holliday, Teixeira auditioning?

Matt Holliday hit his 16th home run, his 22nd double and drove in two runs in a win over Pittsburgh. Mark Teixeira hit two home runs, his 18th and 19th, in a lopsided loss to Washington.

Both sluggers are increasing their trade value as the trade deadline inches closer. Teixeira seems more probable to be traded, but Holliday's name has been linked to several rumors, including one with the Mets that involved Carlos Beltran.

If Teixeira is dealt to the Red Sox or Yankees, his two likeliest suitors, look for a boost in value as the Braves lineup has been disappointing at best this season.

Trading Holliday seems like a tall task, as his Coors Field batting average splits are slanted so severely (.362..277) toward Denver, not to mention he's hit twice as many HRs (80-39) in the thin air, that other GMs are leary to dole out high-level prospects.

If Holliday is dealt, look for a dropoff in production.

Just something to keep in mind if you're considering trading for either in the next two weeks.

Durham traded to Milwaukee

Must have been a bizarre day for Giants 2B Ray Durham, who was dealt to the Brewers for  two prospects, however Durham was in Milwaukee playing the Brewers and simply stayed in town and will travel with the team to St. Louis.

Durham had to sign off on the deal.

Quietly, the 36-year-old Charlotte native is having a successful season, hitting .293, albeit with only 3 HR, 32 RBI, 42 runs and 6 SB. His value all but drops off the table so long as Rickie Weeks is still healthy. Look for spot starts and pinch hits for the switch hitter.
 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Liriano conspiracy theory heating up

Francisco Liriano's agent just might have a point.

Why is Liriano still pitching in Rochester and not Minneapolis?

Over the last nine starts, Liriano is 7-0 with a 2.73 ERA.

Yet, somehow he can't crack a staff that has Livan Hernandez, who somehow has 9 wins despite awful ERA (5.44) and WHIP (1.62) numbers.

Greg Genske, Liriano's agent has asked the players' union to investigate the situation, implying that the Twins are keeping him in AAA to delay his arbitration clock. A player with three years of service time is eligible for arbitration. Liriano has two years and 45 days.

The Twins have had better-than-expected results from four young arms, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey. All four deserve rotation spots.

But Hernandez? They claim his veteran leadership is invaluable. But in six of his last 10 starts, Hernandez has given up at least 6 runs, failing to get out of the fifth inning three times.

The Twins are one of the hottest teams in baseball since June 1 and GM Bill Smith says that “When the major league team is playing well, that affects all the players in the minor leagues.”

Still, as much as I hate to side with agents, I can definitely see credence in Genske's complaint.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, however, does not, countering that "no one is going to tell us who to put on our team."

It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out, but in the meantime, if Liriano's still hanging around your wire, it's probably a good time to snatch him up, even if you have to plug him into a live spot.

We'll likely see him back in the big leagues before the end of the month, and with 102 Ks in 110 innings (including 31 Ks in his last 28 IP), it's clear that Liriano has command back with his devastating slider. Especially valuable in 5x5 leagues, Liriano won't touch his numbers from 2006, but a 3.50 ERA and a K an inning is very possible.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Blanton to Phills; Gio getting call?

The A's fire sale continued Thursday night with Joe Blanton being shipped to Philadelphia for a trio of prospects.

The questions are plentiful.

1). Why is Oakland, at just 6 games out, trading away its top two pitchers (Blanton and Rich Harden)?

2). What are the A's going to do with a million prospects?

3). Who is left for Oakland fans to cheer for?

4). Does A's GM Billy Beane get a bonus for every trade he makes?

5). Who will get Joe Blanton's spot in the rotation?

Of all the questions surrounding this trade, only the last one is relevant and we'll get to that in a minute.

First, Blanton goes to a much smaller park and already was sporting a 4.96 ERA, his value probably takes a small dip, as he should get more run support and more wins but will also be pitching in a richer offensive division.

Now, to the A's rotation sweepstakes, which is especially critical in AL-only formats where every starter is scrutinized with a white glove.

The consensus from the Oakland media points to Gio Gonzalez, who came over from the White Sox organization in the Nick Swisher trade, who has a 7-6 record with a 4.34 ERA in 110 IP, but also has struck out 117 Pacific Coast League batters.

Off the subject, did you know that according to milb.com, there are 79 minor league prospects with the last name of Gonzalez, including five with the name Miguel and four Carlos. I haven't checked, but Gonzalez may be the most popular name in the minors.

Back to Gio, who is worth a pickup in very deep mixed leagues that count K's as well as probably all AL-only formats. He was the main piece of the three players swapped for Swisher and has great upside, despite his average ERA.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Can All-Star catastrophe be avoided?

If you happened to still be awake, near 2 a.m. Wednesday, you saw perhaps the biggest celebration from an All-Star manager, as Justin Morneau lumbered home and squeezed into home plate, inches in front of Corey Hart's two-hop throw.

Terry Francona looked like a kid coming down the steps on Christmas morning.

Sure, he was excited about the American League winning - and the home field advantage that comes with it.

But Francona was visibly elated because he wouldn't have to decide whether or not to use Scott Kazmir for a second inning.

The Rays management had already asked Francona not to use Kazmir, because he threw 108 pitches on Sunday and has had recent arm problems. But Francona was out of bullets, so after using George Sherill for 2 1/3 innings, he took a deep breath and went to the lefty.

Some may say that Francona mismanaged his pitching staff. That using Francisco Rodriguez for 1/3 of an inning in the 9th, then bringing in Mariano Rivera was a waste.

That's debatable.

But managers have a tough job, trying to manage all these high-priced arms, while at the same time trying to get everyone into the game.

Here's the solution: Pitcher at least the first three guys two innings each. Clint Hurdle did so, partly because Tim Lincecum was in the hospital with flu-like symptoms. But he knew Brandon Webb didn't want to pitch and he had more arms at the end.

Although even Hurdle was on his last guy, Brad Lidge, who could've gone another inning or two.

What would have happened if Michael Young's sacrifice fly wasn't quite as deep and Morneau got thrown out?

We probably would've seen either J.D. Drew or Evan Longoria come in.

And on the N.L. side? I hear CF Nate McLouth has a stifling 81-mph fastball.

At least we would've seen a lot of runs scored. But talk about a bad way to end things.

This isn't Little League. And every player should be content enough to just be on the team.

Who cares if you have three or four guys left at the end of your bullpen when the game ends. To me, if there's going to be something like home-field advantage attached, managers should manage like it means something.

Otherwise, let's strip the "meaning" from the game and call it what it is: Just another exhibition.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Waiver Wired: Saito DL'd; add Broxton


NATIONAL LEAGUE


JONATHAN BROXTON, SP, DODGERS

Mr. Broxton, welcome to the 9th inning.

Current closer Takashi Saito is out until at least late August with a strained elbow ligament, which is never a good thing.

Broxton is one of the top setup guys in the league and has been waiting for a year and a half for this moment. That doesn't mean he'll succeed for sure, but he's got closer stuff and despite being more hittable this year, he still has over a K an inning (46 in 39 2/3 IP) and a 3.40 ERA.


AMERICAN LEAGUE

JOHNNY PERALTA, SS, INDIANS

One of the biggest enigmas in fantasy in recent memory, Peralta (16 HR, 48 RBI, .261) brings brute strength to the table, but not much else. His career .265 average will likely be a small drain, but his bat has 25-HR pop, which is a rare fine at SS.

Over the past month, Peralta is the fourth ranked SS behind Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy and Jose Reyes. Yet, he's probably still sitting out there in more than half of mixed-league formats because of a horrendous start.

His 4 HR and 12 RBI the week before the break may be signs that the good Peralta is heating up. And with Grady Sizemore and Ben Francisco hitting ahead of him, there should be plenty of RBI opps, even hitting in a struggling Indians lineup.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Fantasy All-Star team

We all could pick apart certain All-Star selection.

Jason Varitek? Ha.

Carlos Marmol? Yeah, he's been struggling a lot lately. Maybe his arm is about to fall off from overuse (thanks alot, Lou).

But the All-Star selection system is what it is. So, based on pure fantasy output, who would you pick to start this year's Midsummer Classic? Based on offensive results alone, here's how it should have looked:

National League

SP: Dan Haren, Diamondbacks: Second behind Jake Peavy with a 2.72 ERA, his 0.95 ERA is closer-esque and is exactly why the Diamondbacks gave up a truck-full of prospects.

RP: Brad Lidge, Phillies: Still waiting for that Albert Pujols HR to fall from the 2006 playoffs, Lidge has conqured his deamons with a change of scenary. His 55 Ks and 1.19 ERA in 40 innings is stunning, but 20 for 20 in save chances is downright remarkable. Especially for a guy who had seemingly lost his stuff.

C: Brian McCann, Braves: 18 HR, 53 RBI and a .302 average. But it's hard to argue with Geovany Soto.

1B: Lance Berkman, Astros: The No. 1 player in Yahoo!, his statline is a solid year for most 1B: 79 runs, 22 HR, 73 RBI, 15 SB, .347.

2B: Chase Utley, Phillies: 25 HR, 69 RBI and 10 SB from a 2B? Was hitting one out every day for most of April/May before slowing down. Dan Uggla (23 HR) picked a bad year for a breakout.

SS: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: 80 runs, 23 HR, 23 SB, .311. Hard to imagine any player with a better fantasy future. Jose Reyes is quietly right on Hanley's tail.

3B: Chipper Jones, Braves: Despite a run at .400, Jones barely edges David Wright, mainly because he missed a dozen games. And if you take out the batting average edge (.376-.282), Wright is far more valuable, especially in RBI and SB.

OF: Nate McLouth, Pirates: His 19 HR, 65 RBI and 11 SB makes him the Waiver Wire pickup of the Year in most leagues.

OF: Carlos Beltran, Mets: His 8 HR and 24 RBI the past month made amends for a slow start and gives him a remarkably steady 67-15-66-15 line.

OF: Carlos Lee, Astros: An RBI machine, Lee's 76 RBI is 2nd in the NL and his 21 HR and .302 average are well above career splits.

OF Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun, Ryan Ludwick and Matt Holliday are all just a notch below and would make suitable substitutes.


AMERICAN LEAGUE

SP: Roy Halladay, Blue Jays: A 2.71 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, 121 Ks ... how does he do it? One word: Volume. The master of the complete game, Halladay has thrown 146 1/3 innings and makes it look easy. Out of nowhere, Oakland's Justin Duchscherer is somehow just a notch behind.

RP: Mariano Rivera, Yankees: How does a guy like Francisco Rodriguez and his 38 saves not make this list? Enter Sandman. With a 1.06 ERA, a 0.64 WHIP, 50 Ks and 23 saves in 42 1/3 innings, the future Hall of Famer Rivera, 38, is pitching better than ever. (Still, I like K-Rod to set the saves record).

C: Joe Mauer, Twins: Only 5 HR, but 58 runs, 41 RBI and a .322 average sets Mauer way ahead from the rest of the pathetic AL pile, especially after Victor Martinez was injured.

1B: Justin Morneau, Twins: The Home Run Derby champ has been quiet in the power department (14 HR), but his RBI (68) and average (.323) give him the edge over the overachieving Kevin Youkilis (56-15-63-.314).

2B: Ian Kinsler, Rangers: If you saw this type of a season coming, raise your hand. You're all liars. Kinsler is the second most valuable fantasy player with ridiculous numbers: 84 runs, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 23 SB, .337. The once-slumping Dustin Pedroia surged at the finish line to take runner-up honors.

SS: Michael Young, Rangers: Power and speed aren't his thing (7 and 6), but 63 runs, 52 RBI and a .302 average make him slightly better than surprising Johnny Peralta in what may be tabbed as the year the American League fantasy shortstop died.

3B: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Despite missing three weeks with a quad strain plus all the Madonna rumors and off-the-field distractions, is the top hot corner option with a line of (53-19-53-13-.312)

OF: Josh Hamilton, Rangers: Quick question. Where was Hamilton taken in your draft? No, please don't start cursing. It's OK to cry. Most drafts Hamilton was taken in the double digit rounds, unthinkable after racking up 21 HR, 95 RBI and a .310 average. That's right, 95 ribbies. I don't think he'll catch Hack Wilson, but it's OK to be hacked off about completely missing on Hamilton this year.

OF: Grady Sizemore, Indians: Can a leadoff guy lead the league in home runs? Right now, that's the case with Sizemore's 23 HR pacing the A.L. His 80 runs and 23 SB, along with a .311 average make him the lone fantasy bright spot in Cleveland.

OF: Carlos Quentin, White Sox: TCQ, as he's known in Chicago, is the American League version of Nate McLouth as he was undrafted in virtually every league outside of the South Side. His 21 HR, 76 RBI and .302 average have more owners than just Jerry Reinsdorf smiling.

OF Honorable Mention: Jermaine Dye, Milton Bradley are J.D. Drew are all mid-round surprises and are rewarding owners handsomely.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Josh's 28 HR adds to Yankee legend

Sure, it's the house that Ruth built.

But on Monday night, Josh Hamilton effectively closed out Yankees Stadium in style. The Stadium will be tore down at the end of this year with a new one opening across the street in 2009.

Hitting off of Clay Council, 71, and a volunteer coach with the Cary American Legion team over in the Triangle, Hamilton set the one-round Home Run Derby record with 28 long balls in the first round, passing Bobby Abreu's unthinkable 24 jacks in the first round of 2005.

How dialed in was Hamilton?

He launched shots of 518, 504 and 502 feet, deep into the majestic night, high above the Stadium. The lefty at one point connected on 13 consecutive balls off of Council's steady diet of meat pitches.

Here's his 502-foot rocket:




The Yankee faithful quickly were sold on Hamilton, something ARod hasn't fully accomplished. When they weren't cheering wildly for each new bomb, they were chanting "Hamilton."

But as much fun as Hamilton was having Monday night, you could tell Council was having the time of his life.

Hamilton promised years ago that if he ever made it to the Home Run Derby, that Council would be the person he'd want to throw to him.

Monday night, Hamilton proved good on his word. And that his first half (21 HR) was no fluke.

Possibly burying the lead, Minnesota's Justin Morneau actually beat Hamilton in the finals, which wiped the slate clean. Mourneau won 5-3 over Hamilton, who was clearly fatigued.

Fantasy spin: I'm not going to raise the red flag here, but Hamilton was already showing signs of fatigue right before the All-Star break, going 75 at-bats between HRs at one point. But just because Abreu had a power outage after the 2005 HR Derby, doesn't mean Hamilton will. He's young and is in impeccable shape. If you were having doubts about Hamitlon's second half production, now might be the perfect sell-high time, as he simply can't keep up his 160-RBI pace. If he stumbles out of the gate for the first week or two, his trade value may take a significant hit.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is HR Derby fantasy kiss of death?

The event is made for spectators but just occasionally spectacular.

It's the Home Run Derby, MLB's answer to NBA's slam dunk contest, which jumped the shark so long ago, Happy Days is almost off the hook.

But today's post is not about the relevance of the home run contest, per se. On its surface, it's a fine idea. There's nothing quite like the home run in baseball. And the long, majestic shots command attention even from the borderline sports fan.

What I'm not sold on the format, how the event seems to last longer than entire baseball games, not withstanding those where Steve Trachsel took on the mound.

More than once, it seems this contest has an adverse effect on a player's second-half output, and if you owned Bobby Abreu in 2005, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Abreu owned Detroit's Comerica Park, one of the longest parks in baseball, by hitting 41 HRs that night. No other players have hit more than 27 in a contest. 

But Abreu left his swing in Detroit and while he it 18 HR in the first half, only 6 HRs after the All-Star break had speculation rampant that the derby messed up his swing and he's really never quite been the same power hitter since. 

For all you Josh Hamilton owners out there, fear not. My crack staff did a little research back to 1999 and while there is a few instances, there's really no pattern of the Home Run Derby winner having a second-half power outage. Here's what I found.

2007: Vladimir Guerrero, Angels, 14 first half; 13 second half.
2006: Ryan Howard, Phillies, 28-30
2005: Bobby Abreu, Phillies, 18-6
2004: Miguel Tejada, Orioles, 15-18
2003: Garret Anderson, Angels, 22-7
2002: Jason Giambi,  Yankees, 21-19
2001: Luis Gonzalez, Diamondbacks, 37-20
2000: Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 23-27
1999: Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners, 29-19

Only Abreu, Anderson and Gonzalez showed a significant decline, while three hit more home runs and two were almost identical.

So if you happen to have a Berkman, Braun, Uggla, Utley, Hamilton, Longoria, Morneau or Sizemore - and I suspect that's about 80 percent of you - it's not the kiss of death for your guy to catch fire Monday night at Yankees Stadium.

But just in case ... a first-round fizzle might be what you really want.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lugo out 4-6; Oswalt a mystery


News and notes as we turn the corner to the All-Star break...

Julio Lugo owners, and I know there have to be a few of you still out there, the news is not good. Lugo suffered a severe quad tear Friday night and will reportedly miss 4 to 6 weeks. Only in AL-only leagues is he even worth keeping on the DL. Jed Lowrie's the pickup here and if he rocks, Lugo's fantasy value is near the equator.

Roy Oswalt owners, the news is not much better. After doing his best Mark Mulder impersonation, pitching just one inning, Oswalt, the Astros ace who had already been struggling with a minor hip injury, left the game with a left hip strain and went on the record saying he doesn't know when he'll pitch again. After a 4.54 ERA this season, your owners are almost relieved of that news.

Alex Rodriguez passed Mickey Mantle in 13th place with his 537th HR Saturday. Suddenly, his 19 HR, 54 RBI numbers don't look half bad, considering he missed three weeks earlier. But in the light of last year's 30-86 numbers at the break, you have to almost need a search warrant to find a happy ARod owner this year. Hey, at least he has 13 SB and he ran more the second half last year, so there's an outside chance he can swipe 30, which would redeem himself to at least a few investors.

Rich Harden threw 96 mostly-brilliant pitches, striking out 10 and giving up 5 hits over 5 2/3 shutout innings. Wrigley, obviously, sent him off with a rousing standing O as the Cubs led 7-0. Somehow, the Giants rallied off Carlos Marmol with 5 runs in the 9th and Harden gets the dreaded ND. Still, owners have to be thrilled and look for lots of Ws, so long as Harden's shoulder stays attached.

If you can't take the gory scenes from Grey's Anatomy (and don't act like you've never seen an episode), stop reading now. Arizona's Mr. Hustle Eric Byrnes said yesterday that his hamstring is tore two-thirds off the bone. Byrnes ballparks the tear at 98 percent. Somehow, he's not ruling out returning this year, but let's be honest here. Basically, this means no platooning for Mark Reynolds, Chad Tracy and Connor Jackson, so all three just got a small uptick in value.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kendrick back on the radar


Had to be one of the most bizarre games of the year.

Even though the wind was blowing in 14 mph to start, the game-time tempurature at Arlington Ballpark was a sweltering 94 degrees and the ball was still flying everywhere.

John Lackey, who entere the game with a 1.93 ERA, gave up a franchise-tying 15 hits and 6 runs in 5 2/3 innings, but the Angles were able to figure out a way to win, 11-10 in 11 innings.

And Howie Kendrick announced to the fantasy world: I'm back.

Howie who?

Yes, Kendrick's been sidelined most of the season with bum hammys, but it appears he's healthy again, raising his average to .328 with a 3-for-5 night, including 2 HR and 3 RBI.

If Kendrick, and admittedly it's a huge if, can stay healthy, you could be looking at a top-10 second baseman in the second half, still clearly behind Utley, Upton, Kinsler, Phillips, Roberts, Uggla, Pedroia and maybe even teammate Figgins, if he ever gets his wheels greased up again.

But considering Kendrick is a career .360 hitters in the minors (over 1,540 at-bats), there's definitely .325 MLB potential in his timber and if the hammys hold up, you may get a dozen steals and at least a handful of HRs in the second half.

Usually, you can put guys in either a sell-high or buy-low category, but Kendrick defies those odds, as the risk could really pay off, but if his owner has held tight all season, he's probably not about to pry loose, especially after last night's 2-bomb affair.

But if he's still hanging around your mixed-league waiver, and there's probably a 1-in-3 chance he is, scoop him up and see how long he stays off the DL. The injuries last year were hand and finger variety, so

As a co-worker always tells me, Kendrick is a batting champion in the making.

If he can only make it through 162 unscathed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Longoria, Hart in; Sexson out

So, whose decision was it to start Evan Longoria in Durham this year?


Possibly the biggest Opening Day roster joke in some time, Longoria somehow couldn't crack the 25-man roster to start the season, only to be called up 10 days into the season when Willy Aybar went on the DL.

Willy who?

Yeah, exactly.

From starting the season with the Durham Bulls to the All-Star game, Longoria on the strength of 16 HR, 53 RBI and a rocket of an arm at 3B, won the MLB Internet voting, with 9 million votes. Jermaine Dye finished second, followed by Jason Giambi third, despite a moderately funny moustache campaign in New York .

On the NL side, Corey Hart with some 8 million votes will be spending his All-Star break at Yankee Stadium as the Milwaukee fan base boosted him past David Wright, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Carlos Lee, who was giving away a free hat for any fan who can prove the vote 25 times (actually a beer company he works with will buy the hat). Lee finished last. Might wanna get a new campaign manager.

Hart has 14 HR, 56 RBI, 13 SB and a .293 average. 

Both Longoria, 22, and Hart, 26, represent the future of baseball and both are outstanding candidates to build a keeper team around. If you find yourself out of contention, try to find a way to trade some of your older stars for either future fantasy superstar. Both have power and speed (Longoria has 6 steals) and are players fans have quickly connected with. 

And it doesn't hurt that the both the Rays and Brewers are right in the thick of their division races. 

Still, the Internet voting thing seems a little odd to decide a player's All-Star fate. With all the hackers and programmers in this virtual world, it's hard to know how legit this honor is. Then again, it's hard to imagine Jason Varitek as an All-Star if the system was completely fair. "Tek," as the cool Boston folks like to call him, will earn a cool $50,000 for this honor. Check out who will get the biggest All-Star bonuses.

Richie Sexson waived: Mired in a season-long slump with bat speed that is almost as slow as Sexson trying for a triple, the Mariners first baseman was released in a surprise move Thursday. 

Surprising, because Seattle had to eat $6,120,219 of his $14 million contract this year.  Not that surprising because Sexson was hitting .218. The HR numbers weren't awful (11) but the RBI production was beyond hideous for a hitter of Sexson's price tag (30).

Some very desperate team might give Sexson another shot, but even still, he's probably not worth keeping around. Even in AL-only leagues. Just wash your hands, if you're still clinging to that 45-HR glory days of 2003. 

Interesting option for AL-only leagues is Sexson's minor league replacement, Tug Hulett, who had 11 HR and 20 SB in Sacramento last year and was hitting .302 with 9 HR and 5 SB this year. Can't see Miguel Cairo getting that many at-bats on a team that is in rebuild mode, so Hulett, who came over from Texas in the Ben Broussard trade, might get five or more starts a week, so keep an eye on the M's box scores.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Jenks, McGowan added to growing DL


Seems like ever pitcher is banged up.

Or maybe folks just want an extended All-Star break.

Doubtful.

But look at the list of hurlers who are either nicked or have hit the DL since your head last hit the pillow.

Bobby Jenks, RP, White Sox: After last throwing on July 29, Jenks tweaked the left side of his back and while improving, still isn't quite right. Conveniently, he can come back right after the All-Star break. Scott Linebrink is the best bet to get a few cheap saves.

Dustin McGowan, SP, Blue Jays: After throwing 66 pitches Tuesday night, McGowan (4.37 ERA) left with soreness and is being diagnosed with an injured right shoulder. MRI scheduled today. First, Shawn Marcum goes on the DL Jesse Litsch is getting lit up. A.J. Burnett is on the trading block. So much for that murderer's row of power arms north of the border.

Aaron Harang, SP, Reds: Well, something just isn't right with Harang, most evident by the seven walks he gave up in Wrigley on Tuesday. He's scheduled to have an MRI on his forearm. Prepare for the worst, Harang owners, all 14 of you left.

Erik Bedard, SP, Mariners: Missing yet another start Saturday, Bedard will be shut down until after the All-Star break. Manager Riggleman is calling it tightness in his arm. Riggs is a straight-shooter. I'm guessing DL time....(newsflash)...this just in, Bedard heading to the DL, retroactive July 5. Probably the best part of that sentence for Bedard owners was the term retro. Kinda has a cool ring. Sorry, owners. This may be pitching's biggest bust in 2008.

Mark Mulder, SP, Cardinals: One positive note is the return of Cards lefty Mulder, looking for his first win in over two years. Expectations have to be about as low as the limbo bar at a snake family reunion. Only deeper NL leagues should even think about thinking about adding Mulder. (Update: Mulder left tonight's game after 16 pitches....yet nobody is surprised).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Harden dealt to Cubs; Francoeur debacle


Knight takes pawn.
Check.

Queen takes bishop.

The chess match that is the National League Central just took things up a notch.

The Cubs just pulled off a six-player deal, landing Rich Harden of Oakland and Chad Gaudin.

Chicago gave up pitcher Sean Gallagher, outfielders Matt Murton and Eric Patterson and minor leaguer John Donaldson.

Risky move for the Cubs? You betcha.

Harden seems to be hurt every year. He's already spent one stint on the DL this year, but he is 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts.

And most importantly, with the Brewers landing C.C. Sabathia, the Cubs absolutely needed to do something, especially with the uncertainty that is Rich Hill, the instability of Sean Marshall and the annual second-half demise of Jason Marquis.

Not to mention, Carlos Zambrano just came off a DL stint.

The Cubs gave up Gallagher, who was cruising up until two starts ago, when the wind was blowing out 21 mph against the White Sox. Still, he's an above-average prospect, as is Patterson, although with Corey's flameout, you wonder if Eric would ever get a fair shake at Wrigley. They look too much alike.

As for all you AL-only Harden owners, I tried to warn you yesterday, but obviously that didn't buy you a lot of time. I'm personally one of them, and as a Cubs fan, you can imagine the bittersweet taste.

Someone once joked, "It's like your mother-in-law, driving off a cliff...in your brand new BMW." I personally, would never say that. I adore mine. Plus, she's a Cubs fan.

Gallagher makes a good add in AL-only and deep mixed leagues. He'll likely land in the rotation and that Coliseum they play in is very cavernous in foul territory.

Harden would appear to gain value here, but Wrigley is no pitcher's paradise. The K's will likely tick up as should the wins.


THE FRANCOEUR DEBACLE

Jeff Francoeur has company.

Every one of his owners who released Francoeur within hours of the news that he was demoted to AA Mississippi last week - and on Yahoo! that number was about 1,000 per hour -- were undoubtedly stunned when he was recalled.

After all, he only spent a weekend - three days - going 7 for 13, including a 4-for-5 performance on Sunday, which the Braves brass said was a factor in his quick recall.

That and Omar Infante hit with an injury.

Personally, I think the outrage from not just Francoeur fans, but ultimately the shock from many of the Braves players, played a factor. Infante wasn't an outfielder. And how can one game change a GM's mind?

As someone who released Francoeur and wasn't the first to the news of his callup (you can't be online all the time), I am definitely miffed at how all this went down.

But if you happened to be the beneficiary, take a close look at what Francoeur does in the next few weeks. It's likely a sign of whether or not he's snapped out of his .234 funk.

And if nobody has jumped at him, the upside is too great to let him sit out there on the wire. Find a room for him somewhere.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sabathia traded; Harden next?

The biggest news yesterday was not the annual snub of deserving All-Stars. We'll deal with that topic tomorrow.

Rather, a rare pre-All-Star break deal as the Indians raised the white flag, dealing C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers for power hitting OF/1B Matt Laporta, who was merely hitting .288 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs over 84 games for Double-A Huntsville.

The Indians were also given some pitching prospects in the deal, but it was LaPorta who was the key piece.

And all of the National League Central took notice. The Cubs and Cardinals, cruising in the top 2 spots most of the season, now have a very real third wheel to contend with.

Sabathia, who had an awful April (7.76 ERA), has cruised since, dropping his ERA to 3.83 with 123 Ks in 122 1/3 innings.

Now it's time for the Cubs and Cards to counter. Some of the names floating have been Oakland's Rich Harden, San Diego's Randy Wolff and Greg Maddux (again?).

A healthy Harden would be the biggest chip any team could land, but Billy Beane is surely asking a hefty ransom and it's not like the A's are out of the running.

If you happen to be an AL-only Harden owner, there's no time better than now to cash out. It's not a sure thing he'll get dealt to the NL, but the Cubs have been heavily rumored and after the Sabathia trade, they almost have to make a splash.

Fantasy spin: For those of you Sabathia owners in AL leagues, the news simply couldn't be worse. You probably thought this was coming, but not until late July. The uncertainty now is whether or not to claim Laporta, who may or may not play with the Indians right away. You would think with the Indians season awash, he would get a few cups of coffee by the end of the year.

As for Sabathia's value, it's likely headed true north, so long as he stays away from the cheese curds in his new home state. Facing the NL usually will help a pitcher's ERA/WHIP and Ks, getting to face the opposing pitcher 2-3 times a game. And his added run support should give him 3-4 more wins in the second half.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Where did the speed go?

You're hurting in steals.


Bad.

So, you conjure up an offer. Counter-offer. Back and forth. 

Finally, you pry Jacoby Ellsbury from the palms of his owner, although it cost you Jermaine Dye. 

And what happens?

Nothing. 

A couple weeks ago, there were chat rooms buzzing about Ellsbury possibly swiping 100.

After all, the Red Sox, whom Jonathan Papelbon introduced on FOX yesterday as "Speedy Gonzalez" stole six games on May 30 and May 31 at Baltimore. He stole four more on June 14 and 15 in Cincy's Great American Ballpark. 

Now, you've had him for two weeks and what? One lousy steal and four caught stealing? Ah yes, the dreaded CS.

Has Ellsbury slowed? Is he hurt? All questions you try to Google, but to no avail.

Or maybe you had your eye on Carlos Gomez at the draft and just missed getting him late. Then, in agony, you watched him swipe 17 bases by May 11. 

You unload the kitchen sink for him. Evan Longoria? Man, you hate to, but you need the speed.

Then, in almost two months since, Gomez registers only 4 steals, caught 6 times.

And you throw up your hands in fantasy despair.

But what can you do?

Pretty much, absolutely nothing. Speed is one category that seems predictable, but can be deceiving. So many factors come into play.

Does the manager encourage running? Does the player have the green light? Is he getting on base? Who's hitting behind him? Is he hitting a lot of doubles and triples? Does he have a tweak in his quad or hammy? Are pitchers paying closer attention and holding him tighter? Does his team play in a lot of blowout games?

Could be any and all of the above.

That's why you should subscribe to the rule, only break the bank for a guy who has proven he'll run consistently. 

Whether that's Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford, Chone Figgins, Juan Pierre, these are guys who have shown they'll be running year after year. 

Sure, a leg injury could throw off their SB totals. 

But taking a chance on a Michael Bourn or a Gomez or Ellsbury is just that: A chance.

If these guys keep running, you probably get them for under retail. If not, you look like a sucker.

But don't worry. There's probably someone else still willing to take this guy off your hands.

Start shopping now.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tulowitzki DL'd; Damon on the fence

News and notes around the fantasy globe...

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies: One of the big disappointments so far, Tulo is back on the DL, slamming a bat into the ground after he was taken out of Friday night's improbably 18-17 Rockies' come-from-behind win over the Marlins.

The bat splintered off and sliced his palm, requiring stitches. Tulo (hitting .166 with 3 HR and 17 RBI) spent two months on the DL earlier this year with a left quad strain. For those of you who snatched him up in the 4th round, this can't feel good.

But if anyone is going to get injured, now's the perfect time, nine days before the All-Star break, which means he'll only miss 12 games, instead of 15. Still, if there's still a J.J. Hardy or Christian Guzman on your wire, it's probably time to cut your losses.


Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: In one of the most bizarre plays since the advent of instant replay, Damon's smash into the wall, bouncing the ball out of his glove and onto the top of the fence three times. Kevin Youkilis ends up with a triple instead of a HR. Youkilis owners are ticked, even though Youks has played way over his head this year. And Damon leaves with an injured shoulder.

Here's the play, in case you missed it:



Damon has never spent time on the DL in his 14 seasons, but with a sprained and bruised shoulder, leading to pain pills Friday night, you have to wonder if Damon won't get 15 days off.

Either way, he'll miss some time, which is bad news for owners who have been riding a surprising .319 average, not to mention moderate power numbers (6 HR, 37 RBI) and 13 swipes.

Sounds like a decision will be made soon, but start thinking Plan B, as the Yanks appear to be leaning toward shelving Damon, as they can't afford to go short-handed.

Brett Gardner is Damon's replacement in left field and is the hot pickup in AL-only leagues with little bang in his bat, but 35-SB upside. Gardner batted leadoff today.


BOBBY JENKS, RP, WHITE SOX: He's not been available since Tuesday after developing a twinge in the left side of his back. Gotta hate the twinge. But it's usually slightly better than a tweak.

Chicago is saying all the right things, that Jenks is recovering well and he might be available before Monday's off day. Still, with the All-Star break a stone's throw away, if Jenks can't return by Tuesday, the ChiSox won't mess around.

But as of presstime, and barring a setback, Jenks should be back on the bump soon. Keep setup guru Scott Linebrink on speed dial, just in case.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Francoeur fumed after demotion to AA


Three years ago, almost to the day, the Atlanta Braves brought up Jeff Francoeur.

And for three seasons, he's been a fixture in right field.

Every single day.

He even had the active Major League record for most consecutive games played at 370 broken earlier this year in the twilight game of a doubleheader.

But Thursday night, after his batting average had dipped to .234, the Braves called him into a private meeting and delivered the news.

You're going to Pearl, Mississippi, son.

Francoeur was sent down to the Braves AA franchise, just outside of Jackson, Miss., so he could work on his swing. The news was received about as well as a question to ARod about Lenny Kravitz's upcoming album.

"This has really put a damper on my relationship with the Atlanta Braves," Francoeur told the AJC.

Reportedly, Francoeur had been putting many extra hours of batting practice working on his swing and you could notice him trying different things in the box.

"I do not agree with this, but I have to do what I have to do," he said. "I'm disappointed with the decision and how the whole process went down."

Unless Bobby Cox can pull off some magic in fence-mending, you may be looking at Francoeur in another uniform next year. He's passed up signing long-term deals with the Braves, settling for year-by-year contracts the past two seasons.

It's not too often you see a regular of Francoeur's stature sent down like this, but the right-handed power hitter is only 24.

Fantasy spin: After Clayton Kershaw's demotion yesterday, I thought my team couldn't get hit any harder, then this. But this isn't about my team. It's about yours. It's simple if you have a bench spot to stash Francoeur, as he's relevant in almost all formats, as soon as he gets back up.

But without bench spots, you are in a tight spot. If you're power numbers are hurting, it's probably time to just cut him loose, as we could be looking at two, three or four weeks until he figures things out.

In deep mixed or NL-only leagues, you're probably better off just riding this out, but let the quality of your wire be your guide.