July 2005

July 7, 2005

A week after writing my first positive column in five years, it’s time to return to the standard format with these eight Klayman Katastrophe Award nominees:

Dan Johnson, Magglio Ordonez and Bill Mueller

On the verge of getting out of 11th place in the MLB.com office league, things fell apart on Tuesday night. First, Josh Beckett got lit up, then he left with his 329th career injury. Next I watched as Tony Womack (1-for-5, no runs, ribbies or steals) once again did little in a game in which the Yankees pounded out 12 runs on 17 hits.

But it wasn’t until I got home later in the evening that the true evil of the day really started to set in.

Earlier that morning, I reshuffled by lineup for the day, putting Womack, Trot Nixon and Larry Walker on my active roster, while sending Dan Johnson, Magglio Ordonez and Bill Mueller to the bench. Since Johnson hadn’t been playing every day, Ordonez had been struggling since his return and Mueller hadn’t gone deep since June 11, the decision was pretty easy to make.

So when I tuned into ESPN’s Baseball Tonight shortly after midnight, I had no idea of the horrific events soon to follow. First the Red Sox-Rangers highlights revealed that Mueller had decided to hit a rare homer, thanks to rookie Texas hurler Chris Young. Then it was Johnson’s turn to go yard, courtesy of Toronto’s Josh Towers. Finally, as if things couldn’t get any worse, I watched as Ordonez, who had been taking up a roster spot on my team all season, took Cleveland’s Jake Westbrook deep.

Three benched players, three home runs. Plus Aaron Boone, who I cut for the third time earlier in the week, added a home run for good measure.

The 14 players who did get a chance to play for me on Tuesday, combined to go 7-for-52 (.135) with two runs, no homers, no RBIs and one steal (way to go, Adam Everett). On top of it my pitchers added a 7.20 ERA and 2.00 WHIP.

Looks like 10th place is going to have to wait another day, week, or month.

Sean Casey for Rafael Furcal

I offered a guy in one of my other leagues Sean Casey for Rafael Furcal last week. Since I’m dead last in steals, and the guy I’m trying to trade with is way in front of everyone in speed (25-steal lead), but is last in AVG (.258), it seemed like a perfectly fair deal.

Yet, when I went to check my inbox the next day, I came across this lovely e-mail:

"Dude, what are you smoking? Get real."

Get real? Get real?

Furcal was batting .229 and Casey was at .320 when I proposed the deal (June 28). Last time I checked that was a 91-point difference in batting average. Sure Furcal has value for his speed alone, but the guy was hitting .229! That’s lower than Tony Womack. Casey is a .305 career hitter, whose power has been down, but has the ability to go .330-20-90.

With a 25-steal lead, any owner would be foolish not to try and deal a guy who is weighing down their batting average. Maybe you can get someone better than Casey, but please don’t make me feel like I am making an unreasonable offer when the guy I am willing to part with is batting nearly 100 points higher than your struggling middle infielder.

Dmitri Young

Think of all the people who raced to the waiver wires on Opening Day to grab Young, and then spent the rest of the night/week gloating to all their friends about how they scooped him up before anyone else. Odds are they’re not saying much right now if they’ve been holding onto the struggling 1B/DH ever since.

While Young did flourish in early April, batting .385 in his first 13 games, he’s batting .209 since April 18, including an .059 mark so far in July.

Sure he’s still a better pickup than Tuffy Rhodes was in 1994, but it doesn’t look like he is going to hit the 486 home runs he was on pace for back on April 4, especially now that he hasn’t been starting every day.

Corey Patterson

I was so proud of myself for grabbing Patterson at this year’s draft, considering our league’s elite owners (Cory Schwartz and Geoff Grant) were both targeting him heading into the evening.

Two months into the season, Patterson was batting a respectable .278 with 10 homers. Five weeks later and he’s at .232 with 11 homers. He batted .157 in June, followed that up with a .143 average in July, and found himself on the bench for two straight games earlier this week.

Schwartz, who has failed trying to trade a number of solid players to me for Patterson , is now offering me David Dellucci and Bill Hall, and I actually might take it. The problem is, if I take the deal, Patterson is sure to bat .325 with 20 homers the rest of the way.

Mike Morse

Another stellar pickup. Despite reading that Morse was playing way over his head last week, I decided to take a chance on the rookie shortstop when I picked him up on June 28. It was hard to ignore his .395 average (in 75 AB), nine RBIs and pair of steals when he was just sitting out there on the free agent wire.

Since my great acquisition, Morse is 1-for-18 with one run, no homers, no RBIs and no steals. With Willie Bloomquist starting at shortstop the past couple of games, looks like it’s time to cut bait on the 23-year-old.

Matt Belisle

I picked him up earlier in the week after he notched a save on Monday for Cincy. When I saw that the Reds won 7-4 on Tuesday, I assumed that Belisle recorded his second straight save, and that I had made a rare genius pickup.

That, of course, was not the case. The Reds were leading 6-3 in the ninth, with Belisle warming up, when Ken Griffey Jr decided to tack on an unneeded insurance run to undo the potential save situation. Belisle entered in the ninth, gave up a run, and closed out the Reds victory two batters later.

Jarrod Washburn

My best spot-start pickup of the week shut out the Royals, 5-0, on Sunday. So why is he on the Katastrophe list? Because when I saw that he blanked KC, I assumed he pitched a nine-inning, complete-game shutout.

But of course, it didn’t happen that way since the game was rained out after five innings. Washburn’s gem was only a partial gem, and I wound up losing four shutout innings that I thought I had for two hours, before actually checking the box score.

July 4th fireworks TV coverage

It would seem that covering the July 4th fireworks celebration on TV would be a fairly easy task for a network. After all, the only thing you really need to shoot are the fireworks. How tough can that be?

Well NBC, in an effort to overproduce the entire event, spent the entire 30 minutes of the actual fireworks display switching between 67 different cameras, while half the time NOT showing the fireworks. Instead they opted for shots of grinning people, a full orchestra and closeups of the fireworks, where you couldn’t even tell what you were looking at.

Did we really need to see Donald Trump glaring up at the fireworks, over and over again? Was it necessary to keep showing the orchestra after the first few times?

It seems pretty simple to me. Show the fireworks, it’s what people are tuning in to see. You only need a few cameras, and for the most part you can probably stay on one camera for the entire 30 minutes. Then again, we live in a world where simplicity is too often ignored (deep thought of the week).

And this week’s winner is?
Ordonez. Despite my poor lineup moves on Tuesday, I still forgot to insert Ordonez on Wednesday and missed out on a 2-for-5, two run, two RBI night.

June 30, 2005

Sometimes even the most unlikely things happen. Whether it’s a 50-to-1 shot winning the Kentucky Derby, the Nationals leading the NL East by 3 1/2 games or meeting someone who actually finds the Baby Bob Quizno’s commercials funny, I’ve learned that anything is possible.
As those of you who have been reading this column the past five years know, I rarely, if ever, get the chance to actually write about something positive involving one of my fantasy teams. Sure, things sometimes go my way, but most of the time I end up leaving guys on my bench when they hit two home runs (Larry Walker on Wednesday night) or turning down trade offers for Carlos Lee at the end of April (for Oliver Perez, his 6.16 ERA and a laundry-cart broken big toe).

Plus, who wants to read about the success of someone else’s fantasy team? I learned long ago that no one cares if your team is doing well, they just care about their own team. People would much rather hear about someone else’s misfortune because it usually makes for a much more entertaining story.

Well, after years of complaining, it’s time to take a one-week break. For the first time all season, my pitiful 11th place fantasy team has shown signs of life. And for the first time in years, I actually made some moves that have worked out. Since I know my recent string of good luck won’t last past the July 4th weekend, here’s a look at this week’s anti-Klayman Katastrophe Award nominees…

Joe Blanton, Pedro Feliz and Justin Duchscherchersherechrerercher

This could go down as my new favorite fantasy moment, or at least the luckiest I’ve been since I was 15 and found a Joe Montana rookie card mixed into a 1981 49ers team set that I had just bought for $2.

I picked up Blanton last week for a spot start since he had been red-hot in June and would be facing the Bonds-less Giants. At around midnight East Coast time, I was flipping through games and came across Oakland-San Fran, where Blanton was pitching a shutout with two outs in the seventh inning.

Since I’d been burned by so many spot starters the past few weeks, it was nice to actually have a guy deliver for once. And despite the watch-my-starters-and-they-get-shelled jinx factor, I decided it was safe to stay on the channel until he finished the inning.

On a 1-1 pitch, Lance Niekro grounded a ball at the usually reliable Eric Chavez, who booted the ball to keep the inning alive. Michael Tucker followed with a single to center bringing up Pedro Feliz, who I had just traded for earlier in the week as part of a mega, 12-player deal (more on this later).

It’s always a tough rooting situation when you have one of your hitters going up against one of your pitchers in fantasy. Usually the safer bet is to pull for your pitcher, since one failed AB isn’t going to hurt your offense as much as a huge inning and losing a "W" will damage your pitching staff. But before I even had time to think about this, Feliz smacked Blanton’s first offering deep over the left-field wall (despite the announcer going nuts after thinking Eric Byrnes had made the catch, even though the ball was 12 feet over his head). The four-run lead was down to one, but since Chavez’s error had extended the inning, all three runs were unearned. Perfect.

Now if Blanton and the bullpen could just hold the lead for two more innings, I would get a win, a great start and a three-run homer from an opposing player. Can it get better than that? Yes it can.

Blanton pitched a scoreless eighth, and then on came Justin Duchscherer, who I also acquired last week in the same 12-player trade. If he could just get through the ninth unscathed, everything would be perfect. But things are never that easy, and with two outs, the Giants had runners on the corners and Feliz up once again at the plate.

No doubt I was pulling for Oakland now, with a win and save both on the line. Duchscherer fell behind 3-0, but rallied to strike out Feliz on a sick-looking breaking ball.
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A Win, Save, 9 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K and 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs. If moments like this happened every night, I would never have anything to write about in this column.

Joe Mays

I decided Mays was a safe spot pickup on Monday since he would be pitching at home against the weak-hitting Royals. Sure he hadn’t won a game in five weeks, but any time you’re facing a team that is 10-28 away from home, and had already dropped six straight games on its current road trip, you have a good chance to scoop up a win.

Through seven innings, he was throwing a shutout. Then with one out in the eighth, up stepped David DeJesus, who I had just picked up in another league as a fifth outfielder after hearing that he would be leading off for KC. DeJesus smacked a 1-2 pitch over the right-field wall for a HR, and Mays then settled down to finish the eighth, before Joe Nathan closed the door for a 3-1 victory.

Tim Wakefield

Despite the fact that Wakefield pitches for the Red Sox, I’ve picked him up twice (dropping him in between) in the last week, and he’s delivered with back-to-back wins, 15 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 6 BB and 9 K.

In Wednesday’s win over Cleveland, I decided to bench Aaron Boone and keep Victor Martinez in my starting lineup (OK, I have no other options at catcher). Boone failed to get a hit in four AB, while Martinez went 2-for-4 with a sixth-inning home run that put Cleveland ahead. At the time Martinez homered, I wasn’t thrilled because I knew Boston would have to score a couple of runs in the next inning or two for Wakefield to get the win. But sure enough, Boston came back with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to give it a 5-2 lead and the eventual win.

The huge, 12-player trade

In what went down as the biggest deal in five years of the MLB.com office league, I dealt Miguel Tejada, Francisco Cordero, Steve Finley, Rafael Palmeiro and John Patterson for Aramis Ramirez, Torii Hunter, John Smoltz, Mike Cameron, Pedro Feliz, Justin Duchscherer and C.C. Sabathia.
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In the nine days since this blockbuster became official (June 21), here’s how the numbers look for both ends of the trade:

New hitters: .278, 14 Runs, 6 HR, 22 RBIs, 3 SB
Old hitters:  .322, 5 Runs, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 0 SB
New pitchers: 2 Wins, 2 Saves, 28 IP, 0.96 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 21 K
Old pitchers: 0 Wins, 1 Save, 17 IP, 4.24 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 15 K

While my old players are still producing, the new guys have been almost twice as productive, with the exception of batting average and K-rate.

The biggest player in this deal was Tejada, whom I had been shopping around for a week trying to get a bunch of good players in return. He hasn’t homered since I traded him, and Ramirez, the top hitter I got back, has gone deep twice with nine RBIs.

Smoltz, who I haven’t owned since 1993, has responded with two straight complete game wins, while Patterson has had his usual trouble finding early run support in Washington.

Making things even better was the fact that Steve Finley landed on the DL right after the trade went through.. And since Finley played the night of June 20 (after the trade was initially agreed upon), I didn’t have to feel guilty for delivering damaged goods.

But here’s the thing, after what has by far been the best/luckiest fantasy week I’ve had since 1997, I’ve failed to move at all in the standings. I’m still in 11th place, haven’t cracked the 40-point barrier since May and know that as soon as my luck runs out, the one team below me will probably catch up.

Thus is the cruel world of fantasy baseball that we play in.