April 14, 2005

The Yankees lost to the Red Sox in the playoffs. Ten words I was sure I would never write in my life.

The Yankees lost to the Red Sox in the playoffs after being up, 3-0. Much, much worse than that first sentence.

The Yankees lost to the Red Sox in the playoffs after being up, 3-0, including back-to-back blown saves by Mariano Rivera. Luckily I don’t live too close to any bridges.

After barely making it through last October’s ultimate baseball catastrophe, I spent this past offseason vowing I would never recover or feel the same way about baseball again. The stress of Games 4 and 5 literally destroyed me emotionally and physically for months, and coming to work every day in a place where you are constantly surrounded by baseball made the whole situation 637 times worse.

No matter what happens in the future, even if the Yankees win 14 straight World Series and the Sox go 17-145 every year, I’ll never be able to fully recover from last October.

The thought of even trying to start up this column again has been weighing on me for months. How can I write a presumably humorous column on baseball and other random stuff, when the Red Sox beat the Yankees? I normally need to be in a semi-pleasant mood to be able to pump out my weekly 1,000-1,500 words about my fantasy failures, and at this point the task is rather daunting. But, I figured I might as well try.?

For those of you who haven’t come across this column in the past four years, its main purpose is to make you all feel better about your own fantasy woes. Whenever your second baseman goes 0-for-6 in a 19-18 game, or your starter allows eight runs in the first inning, odds are my guy went 0-for-7 and my starter blew out his elbow.

It has now been eight years since I last raised a fantasy championship banner, and the way things have gone the past few years, Miguel Cabrera will be Julio Franco’s age by the time I do so again. I’ve tried everything, from playing in five leagues in one year to playing in random ‘rookie level’ leagues, but nothing has worked.

This year I decided it was time to refine my draft strategy, so that when the big days arrived this spring, I’d be better prepared. Go for pitchers with extremely high K rates, don’t worry about drafting wins, make sure to get three closers, draft a team that projects to hit 300 HRs and steal 150 bases. I stuck to all those tactics and walked away from my three main drafts with a trio of teams I was quite proud about.

But a week into the new season, little has changed. I’m in dead last in the MLB.com office league and eighth in a league with my own family. Just when I had convinced myself that my days of embarrassment were over, I’ve gotten off to my worst start ever.

People keep telling me not to panic, that it’s only the first week of the season. Yeah, I know, but this is usually the only time of year I actually have a shot of being on top of the standings. All I want is the pleasure of seeing my team’s name (the Coleman 110ers in every league) in first place, even for a day. Am I asking too much just for the chance to strut around my office for one day while holding a printout of our league’s standings in my hand? Instead, I have to deal with people’s heads peaking into my cube, making snide remarks about how the three rookies in our league are doing better than I am at this point.

Anyway, before I go on too long, here’s a look at this week’s batch of Klayman Katastrophe Award nominees:

Dmitri Young

On Opening Day morning, I spent an hour or so going through free agents in my various leagues. There were few useful players available, but Young was there for the taking in one league. I quickly added the Detroit slugger since I had an open roster spot (Dave Roberts on the DL) and needed a new utility player.

When I went to put Young in my lineup, the game informed me that it was too late to add him for that day, and that I could only insert him for the following day.

Twelve years after missing out on Juan Gonzalez’s two Opening Day homers (due to the speed of sending in lineups though the mail in 1993), Young one-upped Igor and decided to become the third player in history to blast three homers on the season’s first day.

Young’s Day 1 HR total equaled my team’s output for the rest of the week. It’s not often you can say your three-man bench hit as many homers as your 14 starters. Actually, if your last name is Klayman, then you are used to these sorts of things by now.

Javy Vazquez

His first two starts were so bad (15.43 ERA) that even Paula Abdul would have trouble finding anything positive to say about Vazquez. Actually, I take that back. Here’s a quick analysis of Vazquez’s performance thus far, American Idol-style:

Randy: Hey, Javy, how ya doing tonight? Yo dude, I’m just not feeling it this season, man. Your career started out good, you’ve had a lot of pitching problems since, and lately, it’s just not happening. Definitely not your best performance.

Paula: I think you are wonderful. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are a top Cy Young candidate by the end of the season. Actually, I’m going to vote for you right now for early induction into the Hall of Fame. People will soon be saying the name Javy Vazquez alongside the likes of Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.

Simon: Dreadful. Watching you pitch is about as pleasurable as seeing a half-eaten Zebra, bleeding to death on the plains of Botswana. Sorry.

Braden Looper, Francisco Cordero and Greg Aquino

My most common mistake on draft day is that I ignore drafting quality closers. Usually by the time the ninth or tenth round arrives, I have no relievers on my roster and I’m left picking from the 10-12 worst closers on the board. My mid-May, I’m almost always last in saves, and usually dump the category soon after. Winning a league when you dump a category never happens.

This year, I vowed I would secure one or two top notch closers, as well as a third arm that could add 30-35 saves. I thought I had succeeded by getting Cordero, Looper and Aquino, but so far, I have only three saves and am tied for 10th in my league. The low point came this past Monday.

The Mets rallied against Houston to take a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, and had Looper warming up to pitch the ninth. But with two outs, Jason Lane botched a popup to right field that led to three additional runs and an 8-4 New York lead. Looper came on in the ninth, closed the door, but failed to get his first save of the year (he blew the opener by allowing three ninth-inning runs to the Reds) because of the three insurance runs caused by the error.

Literally seven minutes later, Cordero allowed a leadoff ninth-inning HR to Darin Erstad, wiping out his third save of the young season. And, at the same exact time, Aquino was busy nursing his right elbow while figuring out how he was ever going to get his job back from Brandon Lyon.

Good times.

Oliver Perez

Perez’s early struggles were as predictable as Chris from The Apprentice getting arrested this past week. Why? Because I own him in EVERY league I am in.

All winter long, I’ve been reading about how Perez is going to be one of the game’s top pitchers for the next 15 years. Since his low win total (12) from 2004 causes him to drop past the first few rounds, he fell to me in every draft.

And just so I could experience every minute of Perez’s upcoming Cy Young season, I actually watched both of his starts the first week.

Great move on my part as I witnessed Perez allow 11 runs and 19 baserunners in nine innings, while going 0-2.

My apologies go out to former MLB.com marketing guru Lourdes Orive, the craziest Pirate fan I know, for jinxing the team’s only top-notch starter. I promise not to watch any more of his starts this season, since I apparently have given Perez my Greg Maddux jinx (Maddux is 305-175 lifetime, but something like 6-25 when I have watched him pitch on TV).

And Week 1’s katastrophe winner is?

Dmitri Young. I did pick up Tuffy Rhodes following his three-HR performance to open the 1994 season, just in time to enjoy the five homers he would hit the rest of the year.

Line of the Week

Jose Valentin: 0-1-0-2, also known as 0-for-0 with a run, two RBIs, four walks and a sac fly.

Never seen that one before, but pretty exciting to folks like me who stare at boxscores for six hours a day.

Name of the Week

Ray Liotta: Pitcher in Class A, a second-round pick of the White Sox (of course) in 2004. Hopes to one day bring Chicago its first title since the days of Shoeless Joe.

Random, unrelated thought of the week

I’ve always wondered what Spelling Bee champions do with their lives after their competitive careers are over. Does Bill Gates hire them to help expand the Thesaurus tool on Microsoft Word? Do equipment managers consult them when making new jerseys for guys like Doug Mientkiewicz and Mark Grudzielanek? Nope, I think I’ve finally figured it out. They work for Ticketmaster and help the ticketing giant come up with those words no one has ever heard that you are forced to type in when ordering. Cerasin? Ogdoad? Ethmoid? I was convinced these were all the names of new Star Wars characters before I actually looked them up on dictionary.com.

Embarrassing moment of the Week

I usually send my wife a quick and very cheesy IM every morning once I am logged on to my computer. The other day, shortly after checking my e-mail, I sent my standard "I love you sweetie" IM (why do I admit these things). After hitting send, I noticed that her IM icon had changed from a pug to a warrior from the Middle Ages. Odd, I thought, but it wasn’t until a few seconds later that I realized the person I had IMed was actually MLB.com regional editor Jim Banks, instead of Mrs. Katastrophe. I quickly sent a follow-up IM indicating that I had messed up, but it was too late. Banks replied "I didn’t realize you felt that way" as well as something about it being too early in the morning for that kind of talk. Luckily Mrs. K. wasn’t jealous when I recounted the incident later that day.

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