June 2005

June 23, 2005

Although I still haven’t fully recovered from Evander Holyfield’s dismissal on "Dancing with the Stars" and Georgia’s last-second loss in the Arena Bowl, I’ve managed to pull myself together and assemble this list of 10 Klayman Katastrophe Award nominees…

Aubrey Huff

In perhaps what could easily qualify as the year’s worst 0-fer, Huff’s 4-1-0-0 line on Tuesday night was downright painful to any owner who went to check his name in the New York-Tampa Bay box score.

As most of you are probably aware, the Yankees and Devil Rays combined for 31 runs on 41 hits in what turned out to be an epic 20-11 New York comeback victory. Twelve players had multi-hit games, seven had multi-RBI games and nine home runs were hit between the two teams.

Yet, Huff wanted no part of all the action, scoring a single run while being the only nine-inning player to wind up hitless.

Travis Harper

Ok, I’m sure almost no one owns Harper outside of his immediate family or those who play in AL East-only leagues, but for those unfortunate few who for some reason had Harper in their starting lineup on Tuesday night, it is safe to say that your ERA and WHIP will never, ever recover. Harper, who was left out on the mound to get pounded during a 13-run eighth inning, allowed nine baserunners and nine earned runs in just 0.2 IP.

Let’s say your pitching staff had thrown 600 innings and had an ERA of 3.99 heading into Tuesday. After Harper’s appearance, your ERA would have risen to 4.12 on the season. That’s a 0.13 increase — 11 weeks into the 2005 season! Pretty unfathomable stuff.

Humberto Cota

I really dislike this guy. Not as a person or as a baseball player, but as a fantasy catcher who just refuses to produce when he is on my roster.

Since Brian Schneider didn’t pan out as my No. 2 catcher (we have to start two in our league), I’ve spent the past month searching for a decent second option behind the plate. Catcher waiver wires are about as barren as NHL arenas this time of year.

I picked up Cota on May 31, following a 15-game span in which he drove in 14 runs, hit a pair of homers and batted .313. In the 11 days I owned him, he batted .227 (5-for-22) with no homers or RBIs.

So on June 10, after doing little to impress, I sent him back to waiverland. He, of course, responded by hitting .318 with a homer and three RBIs in his next five starts. After welcoming him back on June 19, he’s gone 0-for-8 in four games. I would have been better off picking up former Tar Heels point guard Ed Cota than the Pittsburgh backstop.

Nook Logan and Hee Seop Choi

Looking for some power and speed, I scooped up this dynamic duo last week. From June 16-21, the two combined to go 0-for-27 for my fledgling team. For those of you who were wondering, that’s not very good.

Fed up with Logan, I sent him packing Wednesday morning, just in time to miss a 2-for-4, one-run night. I kept Choi one more day and got an extra 0-for-2 out of him before waiving him this morning. As usual, look for Choi to light up Brian Lawrence in San Diego tonight.

Eric Milton

I don’t own him in any league, but Milton deserves a mention simply for the fact that he has allowed 25 homers in 81.2 innings. The all-time record for homers allowed in a season is 50, set by Bert Blyleven in 1986. Blyleven, however, threw 271.2 innings that season. If Milton stayed at his current HR rate (one HR every 3.2 IP), he would be on pace to allow 84 homers if he pitched as many innings as Blyleven did 19 years ago. Odds are he’s not going to throw 190 more innings this year (or even 90 innings), but you get the point (if there is one).

Adam Dunn

MLB.com’s Geoff Grant decided that he was going to bench Dunn on Wednesday, since the powerful lefty was batting .146 against southpaw pitchers in 2005. Any time you have a guy with 50-HR potential on your roster, it’s probably a good idea to keep him active, no matter what the circumstances. Dunn, apparently deeply upset with Grant’s lack of trust in his bat, took Mark Mulder deep in his first two ABs to increase his homer total to 20. Since Grant is sitting in fourth place, and I’ve been in 11th for three weeks now, I feel as bad for him as I do for Terrell Owens being underpaid by the Eagles.

Juan Pierre

Can you cut a guy with the potential to steal 50 bases? Tough call, but when you are rostering a .246 hitter with one homer and 15 RBIs, the 16 steals Pierre has almost aren’t worth it. This past week he added to many owners’ miseries by going 2-for-23 with one steal, and of course no power to speak of.

Carlos Zambrano

What’s happened to Zambrano this month? Did he and Victor secretly swap places at the start of June?

Heading into his June 11 start, Carlos was 4-3 with a 2.94 ERA. He pitched decently against Boston that day (5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 8 K), started falling apart against the Yankees last weekend (6.1 IP, 9 H, 6 H, 6 BB, 3 K) and completely bottomed out in Milwaukee last night (1.2 IP, 7 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 2 K). His ERA has risen all the way up to 4.27, and with only four wins in 15 starts, he has been a pretty big disappointment, outside of his 88 Ks in 92.2 IP.

Victor, on the other hand, has pitched eight straight games in which he has gone at least five innings — without giving up more than three runs. His ERA has fallen from 5.81 in April to 3.97 after Wednesday’s start in Philly. He’s only walked 10 batters in 27 innings, compared to Carlos, who has issued 14 free passes in only 20 frames.

Rounding down

In the building where I work we have the greatest Thai restaurant of all time (OK, slight exaggeration, but I have eaten there roughly 417 times in five years, so it must be good). To make a long and rather pointless story short, the dish I always order (Pad See Ew) costs $8.51 with tax. So every time I go to pay, I wind up getting back 49 cents in change.

This could be the most annoying thing of all time.

For years I’ve tried to explain to the folks behind the registers that giving people back 50 cents makes more sense. After all, they are constantly forced to go out to the bank, get a bunch of penny rolls, and every 10-20 minutes, unwrap a new batch of 50 pennies, so that they can give people back exact change. This process ends up backing up the line (which would be long to begin with) to the point where people lose patience and leave. If more than one out of every 851 customers leaves because of this, it is worth it for them to lose one penny on every transaction, just to avoid delaying the line and losing customers.

But every day, I leave with a quarter, two dimes and four pennies in my pocket, then go upstairs to the soda machines, where everything, of course, costs 50 cents.

And before I go on too long about this, the Klayman Katastrophe Award winner for the week is…

Milton. Can you imagine what his Strat-O-Matic card will look like next year? I’m thinking two full home runs at 4-7 and 5-7. Apologies to those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, which is usually most people reading this column.

June 16, 2005

Quick story this week, since I am getting way too depressed every time I have to think about fantasy baseball at this point …

On Tuesday morning I went online to pick up my nightly spot starter. Since I’m desperately trying to catch up in Ks and wins, and am far below my league’s innings-pitched limit, I’ve been doing this for two weeks now — with little success, of course.

I had three options on Tuesday, none of whom stood out much, but could all potentially help for a night. Here’s what I was faced with:

Sergio Mitre

Mitre was coming off an impressive start against Toronto in which he allowed two hits and a walk over seven shutout innings. He would be facing Florida Tuesday, which wasn’t bad since the Marlins were ranked 19th in runs scored coming into the game — and he’d be pitching at home. Plus he has a cool sounding name, although someone informed me it is actually pronounced MEE-TRAY instead of MY-TER.

El Duque Hernandez

He’d won his last two starts since I had dropped him, and only had one horrific appearance all season (May 16). He’d be facing Arizona at home, with a good offense supporting him. Plus, he’s always the type of guy you want pitching for you in big games — or when you need to get out of the cellar in fantasy.

Tomo Ohka

Had been pitching really well up until his June 4, 3.1 IP, 7 H performance against Florida. Liked the fact that he would be facing Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but realized at best he would probably only strike out three hitters.

So after thinking about it for 10 minutes, I decided to go with Mitre. But sure enough, MLB.com ticketing guru Mark Plutzer managed to beat me to him, and Mitre was already gone when I went to go grab him.

Down to Duque and Ohka, I chose the former Yankee postseason ace, simply because I would rather watch him pitch than sit through an entire Devil Rays-Brewers game. Making decisions based off emotions is never a good idea if you actually want to compete in your fantasy baseball league.

Sure enough, the trio of pitching lines Tuesday night were as follows:

Ohka: Win, 9 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Mitre: Win, 9 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

Duque: Loss, 4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

El Duque made it through three shutout innings before he started to unravel. After a homer to Troy Glaus to start the fourth inning, the D-Backs had two on with two out, and the .227-hitting Royce Clayton up at the plate, who of course doubled in both runs. Three more runs in the fifth and El Duque was kaput. Once again I would have been better off never touching my fantasy team.

Nights like this are enough to make you want to go back to the prefantasy days, when you could actually enjoy baseball if your favorite team won that day (which the Yankees did on Tuesday).

To top off this wonderful day, my only ace, Josh Beckett, got beat up in the Mitre game, allowing six hits and four runs in 5.1 innings. The only hitter I owned in the game, Corey Patterson, managed to go 0-for-4 despite his team scoring 14 runs on 18 hits. And my second catcher, Chris Snyder, whom I had just picked up after a solid week, decided to go 0-for-5 for Arizona in its 10-4 win over El Duque.

The following day, Kyle Davies and spot-starter-of-the-night Kyle Lohse combined to lose two games, allowing 18 hits, four walks and 10 earned runs over 9.1 innings.

So on Thursday afternoon, right before writing this column, I dropped them both, picked up Woody Williams and Brandon Claussen (both starting on Thursday), then realized rosters had already frozen for the day, and I had just picked up two guys I couldn’t even use.

Seventy-four days into the season and I have exactly half the amount of points in my league (37). Eleventh place out of 12 against a combination of savy owners and clueless novices is pretty sad. I can only imagine how much worse it would all look if I didn’t have Miguel Tejada supporting my team on his own.

June 10, 2005

Tom Glavine entered Thursday night with 266 career wins, none ever coming as a member of any of my fantasy teams. The fact that my fantasy career started at about the same time as Glavine’s big league days, and I’ve never once owned him, seems impossible.

So on Thursday morning, sitting in last place in wins in the MLB.com office league, I decided to pick up a spot starter for the night. Glavine was sitting on our waiver wire, despite going 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his last five starts. Since he was slated to face Houston, a team that is 6-23 on the road and scores less than any other team in baseball, he seemed like the best possible choice.

The problem with this decision is that it meant I had to sort of root for the Mets, something that goes against my upbringing, religion and everything else I’ve known as a baseball fan since 1977.

Here’s a not-so-quick account of the whole experience …

Tom Seaver and Dave O’Brien are calling tonight’s game and inform us that Houston’s starting nine is 12-for-83 (.145) against Glavine lifetime. Seaver then adds that Glavine is definitely going to have a really good night and mentions how terrific he has looked in his last five starts. Since I am a big believer in jinxes, I consider just shutting off the game now.

The .206-hitting Chris Burke falls behind 1-2, but then shoots Glavine’s next pitch right up the middle, breaking up his second no-hitter in two days.

Up next is the .185-hitting Eric Bruntlett, who runs the count to 3-2 before Burke falls asleep and gets picked off first. Nice break for Glavine. Can’t believe I just wrote that. In fact I think I’m now rooting against the Mets tonight since I am in ninth place and 52.5 points behind the top team, meaning none of this really matters anyway since I’m not winning this year.

Ball four to Bruntlett. Should be first and second with no outs if not for bad baserunning.

Jose Vizcaino (.243-0-6) is batting third? Wow, if Glavine doesn’t pitch a shutout tonight, something is very wrong. You know things are going bad on the Major League level when your No. 3 hitter wouldn’t start for a deep, NL-only fantasy team.

Seaver says "6 and 23" three straight times, asking how is that possible. When the top of your lineup is Burke-Bruntlett-Vizcaino, and you lost Bagwell (injury), Beltran and Kent, that’s how.

Vizcaino singles to right. Three straight runners have reached to the surprise of everyone but me. Glavine’s 9.00 WHIP is not looking good right now.

Here comes the .235-3-11 Berkman, who hasn’t been very good since returning from his knee injury in early May. He singles to left; 1-0 Astros. The announcers point out that Glavine hasn’t been sharp so far. Thanks.

Morgan Ensberg apparently flies out, although the camera misses most of the pitch. Maybe Glavine can only get guys out if no one actually sees him pitch. Ensberg, by the way, almost has as many homers (12) as the rest of tonight’s Astros lineup combined (16).

Jason "I batted .118 in May" Lane grounds out weakly and somehow Glavine only gives up one run despite allowing the first four runners to reach base.

I decide that I’m now rooting for a 2-1 Mets win — both runs coming off a pair of four-base errors — and Andy Pettitte pitching an Andy Hawkins-esque no-hitter.

After Jose Reyes whiffs to lead off, Mike Cameron steps up to the plate, at which point we are told that his .467 average against lefties would lead the NL if he had enough ABs to qualify. I look it up — 30 ABs. Doesn’t seem very statistically significant to me.

Carlos Bel-TRON, as the announcer calls him, lines a single into center. Phil Garner looks slightly jealous of Randolph right now.

Quick question: How has Willie Randolph failed to age in the past 30 years? The guy is going to be 51, yet looks like he should still be playing second for the Yanks. He is the anti-Otis Nixon or anti-Jim Wohlford.

Cliff Floyd weakly grounds out, inning over. Astros lead 1-0.

The .243-hitting Adam Everett leads off and flys out. Next up is Brad Ausmus, who apparently is 1-for-34 career against Glavine. Make that 1-for-35. Glad he is playing tonight instead of Alan Ashby or Tony Eusubio.

Pettitte grounds out to Glavine. Easy inning, feeling better. Actually should you be allowed to say you feel good after going 1-2-3 against Everett-Ausmus-Pettitte?

David Wright leads off and quickly ties the game with his 10th homer of the year — liner right off the screen of the left field pole. After Chris Woodward flies out and Ramon Castro walks, Kaz Matsui hits into an easy double play and then gets booed for the 372nd time this season. Have to imagine he wishes he was back home or at least out of New York by this point. Anyone who picked him in the middle rounds this year, ahead of Brian Roberts, has felt this way since April.

Let’s see if Glavine can have better success this time against the top of the Astros’ fearsome lineup. Burke grounds out. Bruntlett singles, but Vizcaino and Berkman both ground out as well, making it a much easier inning than the first, outside of having to listen to Seaver talk about his 12 or 13 career homers as a hitter for four minutes

Mrs. Klayman asks what else is on — I quickly scan the guide and luckily she nixes the debut of "The Cut." Are people really going to watch a reality show about folks trying to make it in fashion? The appeal of "Survivor," "The Apprentice," The Amazing Race," and "American Idol" is that most people can either imagine themselves on those shows, or at least one of their friends. How many people would even want to be on "The Cut," nonetheless watch other people compete for a job no one could possibly care about?

I come across a listing for "Home Alone 4." Huh? They even made 3? I’ll have to check on this later once it starts.

Glavine fans, Reyes weakly grounds out and Cameron flies to center in the bottom of the third. The announcers tell us that "both of these veteran lefties are starting to get into a groove." Who are they kidding? Seaver himself could probably come out of the booth right now and throw a few shutout innings.

In the top of the fourth, we are told that Lane has been compared by some to Berkman. Who made this comparison, the same guy from the "Revenge of the Sith" newspaper ad who supposedly said "It’s Better than the Original ‘Star Wars’?" You know the actual quote was probably something like "Only a ***** would think it’s Better than the Original ‘Star Wars,’" and someone conveniently edited out the first five words.

"Jason Lane is similar to Lance Berkman, except for the fact that he doesn’t have as much power and will never hit even close to .300."

The Astros go very quietly in the top of the fourth, and Glavine even decides to strike out his first two batters of the game. Since starting out 0-3-1-1-1-0, Glavine has now improved his line to 4-4-1-1-1-2. Ever since I decided I couldn’t root for the Mets, he’s been pretty lights out, of course.

Is there anything more annoying than having to hear Angelina Jolie say "Who’s you daddy now?" while kicking Brad Pitt in the "Mr. And Mrs. Smith" TV ad, 17 times in one night? Is this supposed to make me want to go see the movie? Looks like it is going to be "War of the Roses" except with guns. Think I’ll pass.

Bel-TRON doubles to lead off. Perfect. One more run, a 2-1 win. I can live with it. Hopefully my dad just didn’t read this.

I just realize that Bel-TRON only has one steal the whole season, and has been caught twice. This is from a guy who has gone 13-for-13, 31-for-32, 41-for-45 and 42-for-45 in steals during his career, and yet he is pace to join the 5-5 club instead of the 40-40 like many people predicted.

Floyd flies out, but Wright delivers again and puts the Mets up 2-1.

Maybe I’ll just rotate in whoever is pitching against the Astros the rest of the year. They have scored the fewest runs in baseball (206 in 57 games heading into this game) and with few dependable bats, this will probably continue the rest of the season. This would mean I pick up Ted Lilly after tonight’s game since he is slated to pitch against Houston and the pitcher with the wimpiest sounding name ever, Wandy Rodriguez, on Friday. I check Lilly’s numbers and see that he is 3-6 with a 7.41 ERA. OK, maybe it’s not such a good idea.

Woodward, by the way, has been up for at least six minutes and has a 2-2 count. Turns out we are on pitch 11, plus four pickoff throws. Exhilarating baseball going on right now, so I decide to check on "Home Alone 4."

The made-for-TV movie stars French Stewart and Mike Weinberg (as Macauley Culkin’s character) for those of you wondering. According to IMDB.com, Stewart has starred in other memorable shows/movies such as "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" and was Business Man 2 in "Leaving Las Vegas." 633 IMDB users give this movie 2.6 stars out of 10, which after watching it for 17 seconds seems very generous, and surprising that 633 people would actually take the time to rate this movie.

When I remember to flip back to the Mets, someone named Lolita Lopez is reporting from behind the first base camera, telling us how sore Doug Mientkiewicz is feeling. Do we really need a sideline reporter in baseball? Couldn’t the normal announcers have just told us the same thing? It’s not like Randolph just came up with this knowledge and rushed to tell the sideline person. Being a baseball sideline reporter could be the easiest job ever, by the way, outside of being a weatherman.

Ausmus goes to 1-for-36 against Glavine. Pettitte hands Glavine his third K of the game, yet somehow manages to make Glavine throw 10 pitches to him. Glavine then fans Burke, and with 79 pitches thrown through five, he’ll be lucky to get through seven.

Just found out that Clint Barmes really got injured when he slipped carrying a slab of deer meat. Now I know I have no right to ever make fun of anyone else’s freak injury, considering I once missed school because I blinded myself with an English Muffin crumb. But this has to qualify as the early candidate for this year’s Glenallen Hill bizarre injury award. Plus he was carrying my team in my family league, so I’m a little bitter right now.

The Mets go 1-2-3 in the fifth, which I completely miss because I’m still surfing around on IMDB.com. When I turn back to the Mets, the announcers for some reason start questioning the Royals’ hiring of Buddy Bell, saying he isn’t the right person to shake up an organization. They somehow ignore the small fact that he is 6-3 so far as manager with a team that was 13-37 before he got there.

Glavine throws only nine pitches and retires the order. Pettitte then breezes through the bottom of the sixth and all of a sudden the game is flying.

Glavine opens the seventh with his fifth K and is rolling. The announcer mentions that he has retired 12 in a row, at which point Lane promptly hits one in the gap, and after Bel-TRON fumbles the ball, Lane is standing on third with only one out. I can feel my much-needed win slipping away.

Everett smashes a shot at the drawn-in infield, but Reyes goes airborne and snags the ball out of the air. I’m so happy with Reyes’ great play that I decide to finally forgive him for being injured all of last year and messing up my SB total in two leagues.

One more out to go before Glavine finishes off a rather solid night holding the lead. And who better to be up than the 1-for-36 Ausmus? The announcers remind us for the 56th time that Ausmus can’t hit Glavine, at which point Ausmus socks a double into right to tie up the game. There goes the "W."

Craig Biggio finally appears for the first time tonight, pinch-hitting for Pettitte. We find out that he is only a .231 hitter against Glavine two seconds before he lines a shot off Glavine’s leg. The ball flies up in the air, lands near no one and Ausmus scores to give Houston the lead.

One pitch away from going 7-5-1-1-1-5 and being in line for the win, Glavine finishes 7-7-3-3-1-5 and is trailing 3-2. Looks like I’m going to be stuck on 21 wins for another day.

With one final shot to give Glavine the win, Wright, Woodward and Castro make Chad Qualls look like Brad Lidge, and Glavine can only lose or get a no-decision at this point.

Time to change the channel.

Let’s see how my other starter Josh Beckett is doing tonight against Seattle (somehow I haven’t seen the score all night since I have been so focused on trying to type — and eat — while watching the Mets game).

Super, 8-0 Mariners, just in time to see Ron Villone retire Juan Encarnacion for the final out. Beckett: 6-10-8-7-1-6. Brutal. Plus Eddie Guardado doesn’t even get a chance to pick up a save for my team.

How ’bout checking to see if my other closer, Francisco Cordero, is somehow pitching? Alright, he is! Too bad Texas is losing by six runs.

Well, maybe, Wily Mo Pena, whom I picked up today in another league is doing some good stuff since Cincy is up 14-5. Nope: 5-0-1-1 with 6 LOB, pretty disappointing in a 14-run game.

Back to the Mets. Super, now it’s 3-3 and the 57-year-old Roberto Hernandez can steal the win away from Glavine.

Time to go out for ice cream. I’ve had enough.

(The Astros wound up winning in 11 innings, so the night was not a complete disaster.)

June 1, 2005

Two months into 2005, and I’m easily having the worst season in my 16 or so unofficial years of playing fantasy baseball. You know things are not going well when names like Peyton, Priest and Portis are on your mind on June 1.

Despite my annual string of unequaled bad luck, my biggest mistake this season was failing to draft pitchers who can actually win games. When you target arms who play for teams such as Kansas City and Pittsburgh, you need to make sure that your other starters are going to win you 15 or so games. Since wins are the most unpredictable of all pitching stats, this is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are the King of Katastrophes.

Heading into Tuesday night, my MLB.com office team (the team I care most about) was sitting in 10th place, and was dead last in wins with 18. Eighteen wins through eight weeks of baseball is downright pathetic. Only the Royals and Rockies have fewer wins, and they don’t have the luxury of throwing up to nine different pitchers every night like a fantasy owner does.

Three of my starters were scheduled to pitch on Tuesday — the infamous Oliver Perez, the just-healed John Patterson and the winless Zack Greinke. On top of that, Jake Peavy, Freddy Garcia and Greinke were all slated to appear for another team that only has 21 wins on the season (the league in which my wife is ahead of me right now, so I’m on a major mission to at least finish ahead of her).

Since Greinke had failed to win a game all season, and would be facing the Yankees (who of course I can never root against), I figured it was time to sit him down for the first time this season — in both leagues. The other four pitchers I left in, hoping to at least pick up a win in each league.

And while I planned on flipping from game to game last night, I wound up spending two hours watching "Survivor: Season 2" DVDs until I drifted off to sleep on my couch. The only baseball score I even saw before passing out was that the Yanks were beating the Royals 2-1 in the second inning.

So when I woke up Wednesday morning, I quickly flipped on ESPN to see how my night turned out.

One-by-one the scores appeared on the bottom of the screen…

WAS 5, ATL 4

All right, Patterson won in his return from the DL…

W — Ayala (3-3)

You’ve got to be kidding

PIT 5, FLA 4

Oliver finally gets back to .500…

W — Meadows (1-0)

Figures

SD 8, MIL 4

OK, no way Peavy didn’t get the win in this one…

W — D Reyes (3-0)

C’mon already

CWS 5, LAA 4

Can Garcia break the jinx that’s going on right now…

W — Politte (2-0)

Well at least Greinke probably didn’t get a win vs. the Yanks…

KC 5, NYY 3

Please tell me KC won this thing late…

W — Greinke (1-6)

This must have been a cruel joke.

On top of all of this, I decided to bench Victor Martinez last weekend in favor of A.J. Pierzynski, and of course, Martinez went deep for the second straight game. But on a brighter note, LA beat San Antonio in the WNBA last night, so my anger and disgust was quickly wiped away.

Some other thoughts from this past week…

I  ventured up to Cooperstown last Sunday with a few friends so that they could all experience the Hall of Fame. I’d been there three times before (1986, 1996 and 2003), and every time had taken the same lame photo in front of Vince Coleman’s cleats from his rookie season of 1985 (110 SBs — still the rookie record).

When I reached the records room, where the cleats can usually be found, they’d been replaced by Juan Samuel’s cleats from 1984 (Samuel had set the record with 72 steals a year before Coleman). I wound up posing next to Coleman’s name on a list of all-time SB leaders. Not quite the same impact, although there really isn’t much impact to this story to begin with.

I finally saw "Star Wars" last weekend and absolutely loved it, despite some shaky acting early on in the movie (led by the one and only Hayden Christensen, who to his credit, was better than last time). After leaving the theatre, I reverted back to being a three-year-old for the next 24 hours, buying 12 new figures, taking out my 80 or so ones from the 70s and 80s and watching the first three movies on DVD. Luckily for me, I’ve actually convinced my wife that this is normal behavior for a guy in his 30s.

My favorite part of any of the "Star Wars" movies comes right at the end of "Return of the Jedi," when Luke sees Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin’s ghosts, and everything is finally OK since the Empire has been defeated. This gets me choked up every time I watch it, almost as much as when Rudy sacks the Georgia Tech QB or Daniel LaRusso successfully uses the crane technique to defeat Johnny Lawrence.

However, since this was the first time I was watching the re-released version of "Jedi" on DVD, I was completely unprepared for the surprise that was waiting at the end of the film. Instead of Sebastian Shaw (the guy who played Anakin in the original version) appearing next to Yoda and Alec Guinness, Lucas dubbed in Christensen’s ghost, to help with the consistency of all six movies.

Having one of my least favorite actors ever appear in my favorite film moment of all time would be like having Jason Giambi show up on the 2000 Yankees World Series DVD,
spraying champagne all over Joe Torre.

Since I couldn’t end things this way, I quickly found the VHS re-release version, popped it in my VCR and rewatched the last five minutes, three times, until the thought of a grinning Christensen had vanished from my mind.

May 27, 2005

First quarter awards

The biggest Katastrophe of the past week is not the fact I’m sitting in 11th place in both office leagues, or that it took me an extra day to file this column. It’s that I have yet to see Revenge of the Sith, eight days after it was released.

Considering I’ve gone to Star Wars opening day in 1983 (Jedi), 1999 (Phantom Menace) and 2002 (Clones), it’s just downright sad that I haven’t made it to the theater yet. Making matters worse is that both my mom and mother-in-law have seen it, and have both called to discuss the movie, naturally assuming I’d already seen it four times. I even bought a ticket last week when I was in LA, but a bunch of work came up at the last second and I wasn’t able to go.

Three years ago, right before Attack of the Clones came out, I wrote a Star Wars-themed column. Since I am still 59 percent braindead from taking a red-eye back from California earlier this week, I decided to use the same idea and hand out Star Wars awards for the first quarter of the season. Nothing like ripping off your own ideas from the past.

The Jar Jar Binks award
To the player who has performed so poorly that he is unbearable to watch — or have on your fantasy team:

Carlos Pena: Anyone who has owned Pena this season certainly has trouble turning on a Tigers game or checking Detroit’s box scores at this point. A .177 average with three homers (none since May 2), 14 RBIs and only two hits in the past two weeks is enough to make any owner wish they could edit out his stats from this season — making their overall 2005 numbers look much better.

The R5-D4 award
To a player or droid who seemed worthy of first selection, but broke down before ever really getting to perform:

Curt Schilling: Went high at every draft this season, yet made it through only three starts (1-2, 8.15 ERA) before his ankle sidelined him for at least three months.

The Anakin Skywalker award
To a prospect who turned to the dark side rather fast:

Joe Blanton: Many thought he was going to be the next Rich Harden, instead has turned out to be the next Joe Slusarski (think early 90s A’s). It’s hard to do much worse than 0-5 with a 6.55 ERA, 20 walks and only 13 K’s in 44.0 innings.

The Emperor award
To an old guy that keeps hurting you until you finally dump him:

Al Leiter: He’ll turn 40 this year, but unlike fellow aging hurlers Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson, Leiter appears to be on the way out after posting a 2-5 record with a 6.91 ERA in nine starts so far this season.

The Rancor Monster award
To an extreme personality who had everything come crashing down on him pretty fast:

Jose Lima: Just when people were starting to trust him after a solid 2004 (13-5, 4.07), Lima has returned to his 2000-2002 days when he posted a combined ERA of 6.40. In his first 11starts of 2005, the fiery righty has gone 0-4 with a nauseating 8.13 ERA.

The Stormtrooper award
To a player who gets injured if anything touches him, including Ewoks:

Nomar Garciaparra and Juan Gonzalez (tie): After playing in only 81 games a year ago, Nomar made it two weeks this season before tearing his groin. Igor (has anyone called Gonzalez that this decade?) on the other hand would easily win this award, but at this point I’m not even sure he really exists anymore. He hasn’t played in more than 82 games since 2001, although he is supposedly ready to return from his latest
hamstring injury. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Kevin Mitchell will be receiving a lifetime achievement award in this category next year. During his playing days, Mitchell injured himself while eating a cupcake and once strained a muscle while vomiting.

The IG-88 award
To the tallest starting pitcher (or bounty hunter) who failed to produce anything noteworthy (Vader sent IG-88 along with five other bounty hunters after Han and Luke, but only Boba Fett was successful in hunting them down):

Paul Wilson: The 6-foot-5 righty is 1-5 with a 7.77 ERA, including an 0.0 IP, 8 ER start three weeks ago. He’s been removed from Cincy’s rotation, and hopefully permanently from every fantasy lineup.

The C3PO on Endor award
To a player who everyone (including Ewoks) thought was a god, but in reality wasn’t:

Adrian Beltre: A year after leading the Majors in homers (48) and batting .334, Beltre has returned to his old ways. His average has dropped nearly 100 points (.239), and he’s on pace to hit only 18 home runs.

The Han Solo in Carbonite Award
To a player who used to be smooth and slick, but now appears to be completely frozen:

Vernon Wells: Wasn’t this guy supposed to go .300-35-110, 10-15 SB for the next 10 years? While he does have eight home runs, his .225 average and two steals can’t make anyone very happy.

The Han Solo ‘Trust Me’ Award
To a closer who gets the job done, despite everyone’s growing lack of confidence in him.

Keith Foulke edges out favorite Jose Mesa, thanks to 11 saves in 13 attempts, despite a disgusting 6.95 ERA and six homers allowed in 22 innings.

The Yoda Award
To a veteran who should be past his prime, yet is kicking some major butt:

Roger Clemens: No explanation needed when a 42-year-old has a 1.19 ERA after 10 starts.

The Millennium Falcon Award
To a player who performs well when healthy, but always seems to require some maintenance work:

El Duque: Made it through five weeks of the season at 5-1, 2.91, before breaking down in his last start and landing on the DL for the 47th time in the past five years.

May 18, 2005

After vowing never to employ Eric Hinske again, I gave in earlier this week and picked up the former Rookie of the Year. I was completely desperate for help at first base, and my choice of waiver-wire stars included Jason Giambi, Carlos Pena, Ken Harvey and the other usual suspects you can always find on the waiver wire.

I had drafted Brad Wilkerson back in March, but traded him a couple of weeks ago for Eddie Guardado, so Rafael Palmeiro had been manning first since then. Having a 40-year-old who’s barely hitting over .200 in your starting lineup is usually a sign that your fantasy team is pathetic and mired near the bottom of the pack.

  Rafael Palmeiro  /   1B
Born: 09/24/64
Height: 6’0"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

In my 15 years of playing Rotisserie, I’m pretty sure that I’ve never once owned Palmeiro prior to this year. While he’s had a Hall of Fame career, he’s just plain boring to own. I’m not really sure why, but a lot of it probably has to do with his ’80s mustache and the annual assumption that he is going to deteriorate due to age.

Last year, Raffy’s numbers started slipping a bit, as he failed to drive in 100 runs for the first time in a full season since 1992. But when he was still sitting around in the later rounds of the MLB.com office draft, I figured it was worth giving him a shot.

I played him sporadically the first month, and eventually moved him to full-time at the start of May when I sent Wilkerson packing. From May 1-13, he batted .147 (5-for-34), hitting a pair of homers with only three runs and two RBIs. When I finally had time to sit down last weekend and make a change, the only decent available option was Hinske.

Two years ago, Hinske was the guy that I decided to draft in every fantasy league I played in (Oliver Perez is that guy this year). He was coming off a stellar rookie season (.279-24-84, 13 SB), and I was convinced he would blossom much more in 2003.

That never happened. I held on to Hinske the entire season in just about every league, and suffered through his .243 average, 12 homers and 63 RBIs. In 2004, I gave him another chance on a few teams, but his numbers remained basically the same.

So clicking ‘Pick Up’ on Saturday was quite painful, but I’d had enough of Palmeiro and needed to do something different to try and get my team out of ninth place.

In two games since adding him to my roster, Hinske is 0-for-6 with four strikeouts, dropping his average from .279 to .266.

Palmeiro, apparently seeking revenge against me for getting benched, responded Tuesday night by going 4-for-5 with five RBIs and a steal. He only had 10 RBIs all season and yet managed to increase his total by 50 percent in one night, as well as double his steals total for the season.

So of course, I had to put him back in my lineup today and bench Hinske.

Translation: Pick up Hinske (at least for tonight) and trade Palmeiro while he has any value, even if it’s for Orlando Palmeiro.

Sean Casey, Marcus Giles, Rafael Furcal and Mike Lowell

One of my semi-good friends is playing in an NL-only league. He’s the typical guy who, after his draft every year, tells you how great his team is, yet usually fails to mention that there are only six teams in his league, and that the other five managers were on autopilot and forgot to pre-rank their players online before the draft

  Sean Casey  /   1B
Born: 07/02/74
Height: 6’4"
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

In March, he called me up to tell me that he drafted an infield of Casey, Giles, Furcal and Lowell. He also repeatedly reminded me that he was playing in an NL-only league, in which sometimes you get stuck starting guys like Royce Clayton and Rob Mackowiak.

After acting like I thought he was the best manager ever, and feeding his ego for 10 minutes, I hung up and didn’t think about his team again until this morning when I received a quick e-mail from him asking for trade advice. His team was sitting in last place, and he needed to add some bats to help his pitiful offense.

So I went online to check some stats, came across some pretty interesting numbers, and sent him back this obnoxious e-mail.

How ’bout Casey, Giles, Furcal and Lowell for Morgan Ensberg.

Last 7 Days:

Ensberg: 11-for-18, 7 R, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 1 SB

Your Fab 4: 10-for-87, 5 R, 0 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 SB

Actually that might not be fair, you better throw in Noah Lowry, since he has been so good for you so far this year (1-5, 6.45).

While my e-mail was probably uncalled for, he deserved it for all the bragging he did back before Opening Day and subsequently jinxing his team.

Speaking of jinxing, how come the reverse jinx theory never works for me? All I’ve done for five years is write about how bad my teams have been, and yet, they just keep getting worse. If gloating leads to failure, shouldn’t pouting trigger success at some point?

Baseball etiquette

Every time I go to a game, some fan ends up annoying me so much that I wind up missing a good portion of the action. When you have 50,000 people in a stadium, one or two knuckleheads can ruin a game for people who actually care. Here are three rules that I would enforce immediately if I was commissioner.

1) No cell phone calls allowed during innings.

If you really need to talk to someone, do it between innings when the only people you are going to annoy are those watching the dot/train/mascot races on the Jumbotron. Fifteen years ago you had to wait on line at a pay phone to get in touch with someone. If you were trying to locate friends at a game, you were pretty much out of luck unless you randomly ran into them.

Waiting until the inning ends is easy. Do it.

2) Learn how to get up and sit down

Why do people always insist on going in and out of the aisle during pitches? Is it really that hard to wait an extra five seconds? It amazes me that people have no clue that they are blocking everyone’s view of a pitch while they are trying to climb back to their seat. It is very easy. Just follow this basic sequence:

Pitch, ump calls strike, you say excuse me, you walk to your seat, you sit down (right away), next pitch happens, everyone in your row and behind you is happy.

Sounds simple to me.

3) Limit the drinking

I’ve complained about this in the past, but why would any true baseball fan ever get drunk at a game? When you have 6-7 beers, the following things happen:

? You stop paying attention to the game.

? You probably start talking way too loud, and about something no one cares about.

? Other people in your area start hating you.

? You spend 57 percent of the game either on line in the bathroom or ordering beer.

? Your odds of running onto the field or getting into a fight increase by 834 percent, meaning that your odds on going to jail instead of home after the game also increase substantially.

I just don’t get people sometimes.

Here’s hoping Revenge of the Sith doesn’t qualify as a Katastrophe in next week’s column