July 21, 2005

After a week off for the All-Star break, Katastrophes is back with these six award nominees…

Aaron Hill and Mark Grudzielanek

What a joke. I picked Hill up on June 20 after he homered, stole a base, knocked in two runs and went 4-for-4 vs. Baltimore. I kept him in my lineup every day since then, watched his average dip from .382 to .333 and suffered as he failed to produce one home run or steal over that time frame.

So yesterday, a day after Hill posted an 0-for-4 in a 12-run, 17-hit thrashing of the Mariners pitching staff, I dropped him in favor of Mark Grudzielanek. I was sick of owning Blue Jays players this season who haven’t produced (Eric Hinske in June, Orlando Hudson in May), and needed to rid myself of my final Toronto hitter.

Then, of course, I’m watching ESPN late last night and sure enough good ol’ Aaron Hill decides to hit his first home run in exactly a month. Unbelievable how this stuff works.

The only saving grace would have been if Grudzielanek had a big night. Unfortunately for me and anyone else who owned him yesterday, he was on the bench, watching Abe Nunez start in his spot.

It’s always fun to pick up a guy and not have him play the first day, especially when he has 11 hits in his last five games and you thought you got a steal by plucking him off waivers.

Jeff Francis

After Francis put together three solid starts in a row (3 wins, 20.1 IP, 20 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 17 K), I decided to take a chance on a Rockies starter for the first time since Shawn Chacon in 2001.

I still haven’t recovered from Chacon’s 12-hit, 11-run outing on July 8, 2001, that knocked my team out of first place in the MLB.com office league for good. In fact, I have never reached the top of our league here since that day, and still blame Chacon for ruining my fantasy career. Prior to that outing, I’d finished in the top three of all my other leagues — every year from 1995-2000. Since 2001 (the debut of the MLB.com office league), I have only cracked the top three once, and finished eighth last year and will probably wind up 11th this season.

But exactly four years to the day after I dumped Chacon, I picked up Francis prior to his July 10 start at home against San Diego. It seemed like a good move since Francis had a 6-1 record at Coors Field with an ERA in the 3.00s.

Despite his recent track record, the move proved to be costly, as Francis was beaten up by San Diego (4 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, loss). His next start didn’t get much better as he allowed four runs and eight baserunners in five innings.

The good news is that I’m already stuck in 11th place, so I didn’t drop despite his two bad outings. The bad news is that I’m 17 points out of 10th and will have plenty of work to do to avoid finishing at the bottom of our league.

You can only imagine how much fun it is to be the Director of Fantasy Games for MLB.com, and have folks from marketing, design and tech all kicking your butt.

Daryle Ward

Needing power and ribbies (as well as pretty much everything else), I acquired Ward a couple weeks back as part of a five-player deal. I knew that he had struggled hitting homers in June (only one), but he still managed to bat .292 for the month and drive in 22 runs, so I figured he would at least help in the RBI department. Plus I enjoy seeing his name on the ESPN ticker when it says "PIT: Ward" because I always think it is Hines Ward for a brief second until I remember that football doesn’t start until September.

Since he landed on my roster on July 5, Ward is a stellar 3-for-45, including a current 0-for-30 streak. Even I had a better success rate (.033) at asking girls out in high school than Ward has had recently at the plate.

Ward hasn’t gone deep since June 7 and hasn’t even driven in a run since July 3. His last run scored was on July 8, and he hasn’t stolen a base since he victimized Kelly Stinnett for his only career steal — on August 19, 2002!

It is safe to say that Ward is sitting on most mixed-league waiver wires at this point, including mine after I finally turned him loose this morning.

Translation: It’s time to pick him back up.

All-Star Trivia

For the past five years I’ve hosted a live baseball trivia show from FanFest, the weekend of the All-Star Game. Since someone a long time back decided I was a baseball trivia guru, my job at FanFest is to try to answer hundreds of fans’ questions for two hours a day — and if I get them wrong, the fans win prizes.

While I normally do a lot better at this than I do in fantasy baseball, this year in Detroit I got bombarded with a bunch of impossible-to-answer questions. Some of the more ridiculous ones included:

1) Name the cemetery and cross streets where Norm Cash is buried. (I don’t remember what the answer was to this)

2) What year did the Rams move from Cleveland to LA? (the person said the answer was 1958, but I looked it up later and it was actually 1946. Close)

3) Who was the only NHL player to hit a home run in Tigers Stadium? (Gordie Howe apparently did this in some exhibition game)

4) Who was the Pirates’ 22nd round draft pick in 2002? (I forgot who the person said the answer was, and I don’t care to even look it up now)

5) Who is the only man ever to steal first base? (answer I’m told is Paul Noce of ’87 Cubs fame)

6) What former Tiger appeared in "The Natural"? (Phil Mankowski — of course)

7) What high school did former pitcher Steve Avery go to? (Obviously Kennedy in Taylor, Mich.)

8) Who did the Tigers trade to get Norm Cash in 1960? (Steve Demeter, who had 23 career ABs)

In addition to these simple questions, I had 21 different people ask me questions about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays — more than any other team besides the Tigers and Yankees. Remembering who got the first double in D-Rays history is not something that comes to mind right away.

The best part is when fans shout into the microphone the answer, and give me the "You think you’re so smart, you don’t know anything since you couldn’t answer my question" face. Sorry, knowing where Norm Cash is buried is not in my forte.

Local news in Detroit

One morning before I ventured over to my trivia show, I was watching the local news do a live report from FanFest. Two sports "experts" were standing near an autograph area, where Tigers legendary pitcher Mickey Lolich was signing for fans.

The report was pretty boring, until the following exchange took place between the two reporters (this is not even close to being word for word, since I didn’t have TiVO in the hotel room and couldn’t go back to write it down).

Guy 1: "Behind us you see Mickey Lolich on stage. What position did Lolich play?""

Guy 2: "Center field, I believe"

Guy 1: "Mickey Lolich, the great Tigers outfielder. Reporting live from FanFest, I’m…"

Doesn’t get much worse than not knowing the position of one of your city’s 10 greatest players of the past 50 years. And yet, these people get jobs that others would kill for.

ESPN in the Hotel Room

I’ve had this weird thing since I was about 10 year old where I need to have ESPN in my hotel room to feel fully comfortable. Since 99 percent of decent motels or hotels have ESPN, this hasn’t been a problem since the pre-Stuart Scott era.

But when I turned on the tube, ESPN was inexplicably frozen on the TV. I tried changing channels, then going back, but that didn’t work. I turned off the TV, then back on, but no luck. Finally I unplugged it from the wall for 10 minutes, plugged it back in, but still all I saw was a frozen Steve Berthiaume with a frozen Tim Brown graphic behind him — for the first 30 hours I was in Detroit. Finally, 30 hours later, Berthiaume unthawed and everything was back to normal.

I’m not even sure how it’s possible for a channel to freeze. Has this ever happened to anyone else?

And this week’s Klayman Katastrophe award winner is…

Ward. Failing to get a hit in 30 straight ABs is not an easy thing to accomplish, even if you are a pitcher.

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