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.
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.
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.

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