September 2005

September 22, 2005

With a little over a week to go in the 2005 season, 13 MLB teams arecompeting for the final seven playoff spots, and hundreds of thousands
of fans probably still think they have a chance of winning their
fantasy leagues.

I am somehow one of those fans. I’m in a zillion leagues this year,
and I had the luxury of playing in my wife’s family league (it’s pretty
casual, to say the least).

But in an effort not to jinx my first shot at a title in eight
years — I’m trailing by two points as I’m typing this — let’s shift
the focus back to some of the negative things that went down this past
week in the fantasy world …

Tie goes to the other guy
Back in March, I joined a rookie-level head-to-head league to see of I
could actually win a fantasy title for once. While I felt guilty
competing against unseasoned fantasy players, my miserable track record
suggested that I probably belonged with this group anyway.

The draft was held online, and right away it was obvious that
most of the other nine people had no clue what they were doing. By the
end of the night my pitching staff included the likes of Johan Santana,
Jake Peavy, Ben Sheets, Oliver Perez, Chris Carpenter and Eric Gagne.
My lineup featured Miguel Tejada, Corey Patterson, Melvin More, Hideki
Matsui, Marcus Giles and Carlos Lee.

Winning a title in this league was virtually guaranteed — or so I thought.

While my team played well for most of the season, it didn’t
dominate. Gagne was lost for the season, Perez and Patterson completely
bombed, and Sheets missed time and didn’t pitch nearly as well as he
had in 2004. But with a ton of talent, I was able to secure the No. 3
seed in the four-team, four-week playoffs, which began on Sept. 5.

I was matched up against a team loaded on offense (Albert
Pujols, Derrek Lee, Carlos Delgado), but weak in pitching (Zack
Greinke, Bronson Arroyo, Jeff Weaver and Javy Vazquez all starting), so
I knew I’d have a decent chance if my offense could come up big.

The first week was a complete disaster, and I wound up losing
seven of the 10 standard fantasy categories to fall behind 7-3 heading
into the second week (you get a win or loss in each category). Since I
was the No. 3 seed playing the No. 2, my team would have to win eight
of 10 categories to reach the finals. (A 10-10 tie after two weeks
would have favored the better seed.)

And for once, things actually started to fall my way last week.
My offense exploded, and heading into the final day’s worth of games on
Sunday, I knew I had already clinched the Runs, HR, RBIs and AVG
categories, as well as Wins, Saves and K’s.

If I jumped my opponent in steals (I was trailing 7-6), WHIP (we were
almost dead even) or ERA (back 0.40), I’d be in the finals. With Chris
Carpenter and Chris Capuano set to pitch, I figured I was in good
shape.

But for the second time in the week, Carpenter didn’t look like a Cy
Young candidate (4 ER in 4 IP), and Capuano (who had a solid start
earlier in the week) fell flat on his face, allowing 10 baserunners and
four runs in five innings. My chances of winning ERA and WHIP had
vanished, but a Preston Wilson steal early in the Washington-San Diego
game moved me into a tie in steals, meaning that I should have finished
the week at 7-2-1 (10-9-1 overall) — good enough for a trip to the
championship round.

But since my opponent was ranked higher than I was, he was
given the nod by the computer in steals, putting us in a 10-10,
two-week tie, which he also won since he had a better regular-season
record.

Sure I understand that there must be one winner, and that he
deserves to win a 10-10 tie, but in reality, he went 9-10-1, and there
should be no tiebreaker at all. I thought of writing an e-mail,
protesting the way the winner was calculated, but knew that since the
rules detail how a winner is chosen, it would get me nowhere.

It’s too bad my opponent didn’t own …

Woody Williams and Matt Clement
There are probably hundreds of fantasy-title battlers who had their championship plans derailed by this gruesome twosome.

Clement got his rear-end kicked in by Oakland on Sunday, allowing seven
earned runs, eight hits and a walk in only 1.1 IP. Williams one-upped
Clement on Tuesday, when the last-place Rockies pounded the Padres
pitcher for nine hits and eight runs in 1.0 IP.

Anyone who had both guys pitching probably watched their ERA
rise 0.10 in the span of three days, after adding on 15 runs and only
two innings to their season totals.

Tough to get any worse than that, unless you also own …

Daunte Culpepper
Eight interceptions and no
touchdowns from a guy that went in the first round of many fantasy
drafts? That’s like picking Albert Pujols and then having him go
.083-0-1 in April. Some things in life aren’t supposed to happen,
including a first-round fantasy pick looking like the reincarnation of
Heath Shuler or Akili Smith.

Culpepper owners across the country are panicking right now,
and some have probably picked up guys like Trent Dilfer or Anthony
Wright to start in Week 3. While it is never a good idea to get
yourself too worked up after a couple of weeks, the void left by Randy
Moss and former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan means that
Culpepper will have a very tough time returning to anywhere near his
2004 form.

For those of you who start two quarterbacks in your leagues,
here’s hoping you didn’t start Culpepper and Joey Harrington (5 INT vs.
Chicago) last week.

September 15, 2005

Although there are still 18 days left in the 2005 fantasy baseball
season, the time has already come to induct this year’s newest member
of the Fantasy Hall of Pain. My sympathies go out to …

Carlos Pena

Pena earns a spot in the Fantasy HOP after receiving votes on 100
percent of all ballots cast (that would be one ballot in this case). He
joins the likes of Shawn Chacon, Joey Cora, Charles Nagy, Dave Fleming,
Pat Listach and Mark Wohlers on a long list of players who permanently
scarred my fantasy ego.

I drafted the Tigers first sacker in two leagues this year,
assuming he would build on his .241-27-82 and seven steals from 2004,
and become an above-average fantasy first baseman. Even if his average
was unlikely to eclipse the .250-.260 range, at least he would hit
30-40 homers — or at least that’s what I thought.

Instead, the following transpired…

League 1 (drafted Pena in Round 16)

I cut Pena on April 22 when he was hitting .167 with one homer,
eight ribbies and no steals. Since this particular league is a 10-team
mixed one, I never gave a thought to re-signing Pena, especially after
I picked up Dan Johnson to play first

League 2 (drafted Pena is Round 15)

I cut Pena on April 30 at .162-1-9, no steals. He then went 4-for-7
with two homers in his next two games, at which point I quickly grabbed
him off waivers. Pena responded by going .160-0-2 in his next 50
at-bats before getting sent down in real life by Detroit, where he
would spend almost three months in the Minors. I, of course, cut him at
this point.

Just when it looked like Carlos would finish his Major League
career ranked below former Yankee and Pirate pitcher Hipolito Pena on
the all-time Pena list, he reappeared on Aug. 19 and proceeded to hit
.452 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in the final nine games of August.

Despite his newfound success, I still wasn’t buying his
resurgence. Even though he was sitting on the waiver wire in every
league, I wasn’t going anywhere near him.

But Pena didn’t slow down, and began September by going
9-for-23 with two more homers. So this past Sunday, I decided to give
him one more shot in League 2, since Ben Broussard had gone 0-for-13
for me the previous six days.

And sure enough, Pena has gone 1-for-17 since I recalled him to
the "Coleman 110ers," while Broussard blasted two homers and drove in
five runs on Tuesday night.

The final numbers really say it all:

Pena (when owned): 20-for-135 (.148), 1 HR, 11 RBIs

Pena (when not owned): 27-for-63 (.429), 11 HR, 22 RBIs

To average a homer every 5.7 at-bats is unreal. The fact that his ratio
drops to one homer every 135.0 at-bats when I own him is just too
depressing to think about.

So here are some other random thoughts this week, before I go on too long about Pena…

NHL preseason scores

It’s that time of year again, so beware baseball and football
fans. There’s nothing that bothers me more than when NHL exhibition
scores find their way onto bottom-of-the-screen sports tickers — when
actual regular season games are going on in baseball and the NFL.

This Sunday, when you see that Chicago is beating Minnesota
3-0, remember that the Vikings and Bears aren’t playing and that it is
really the Blackhawks-Wild score. On Oct. 1, when New York is leading
Boston 4-1 in the third, make sure it is the Yankee-Red Sox score and
not the Rangers-Bruins before calling your friends in Boston to brag.

Willie Parker

While I continue to embarrass myself in fantasy baseball, I did
make one sort-of-shrewd move in all three of my football leagues. I
drafted Week 1 hero Willie Parker in two leagues, and picked him up off
the waiver wire in the other prior to opening weekend. When he
proceeded to tally 209 total yards and a TD last Sunday, people in all
three leagues thought I was some sort of fantasy genius (or at least
those who have never read this column thought so).

And while I’d like to claim I’m some sort of roto god, the
truth is I always draft as many Pittsburgh Steelers as possible. In
1992, I had Barry Foster on my team when he churned out 1690 yards on
the ground. Did I really know Foster was going to explode? Nope, but as
a Steelers fan it was much more fun to own him than a boring TD machine
like Derrick Fenner or Brad Baxter.

But for every Parker and Foster I’ve owned, there have also
been Pittsburgh running backs like Richard Huntley, George Jones, Leroy
Thompson and Amos Zereoue — all of whom did little in the fantasy
spectrum. I passed on sleepers such as Chris Warren, Napolean Kaufman
and Rudi Johnson, and instead wound up with backs who only played on
third downs.

The thing is, you can’t risk someone else in your league
grabbing a guy like Parker, and then having to sit through the entire
season listening to that person brag about how smart he or she is.
Something like that is enough to make me actually root against
Pittsburgh, just so I don’t have to listen to some showoff say things
like "I discovered Parker" all season long.

Longing for the past

Last week I touched briefly on the subject of pre-rehearsed
broadcasting, something that has infiltrated the sports world in recent
years. There has been an overabundance of TV and radio calls that sound
as if the announcer had written down what he or she was going to say a
week in advance. Genuine emotion has been replaced by planned, bland
calls, that often indirectly help promote the next broadcast.

Just image what the following classic moments would sound like if they took place today:

"Bobby Thomson at the plate, hit deep to left… Move over
Brooklyn, the Giants are the new kings in town. We’ll see you tomorrow
across the river in the Bronx."

"Gibson at the plate, Eckersley, the pitch … Drive to right field…
Dennis the Menace is no menace tonight, Kirk with one jerk ends it for
LA."

"Wilson hits a groundball, past Buckner into right field… The
Curse is alive and well. They’ll play one more — Game 7 — tomorrow
night.

The lack of spontaneity is just one of several reasons games in
the ’70s and ’80s seemed more exciting to watch on TV. Others include:

1) Great intros. NBC used to do a fantastic job with the MLB
Game of the Week. The instrumental music, the clips of baseball’s
greatest moments and the dramatic voiceover got you pumped up for any
game, even if you were about to watch Zane Smith pitch against Floyd
Youmans.

2) For some reason it seemed like you could hear the crowds
better in the ’70s and ’80s. Announcers often had to scream to be
heard, thus sounding much more excited than they do today. When an
announcer told you how loud it was, you probably couldn’t even hear
what they were saying. It made you feel like you were actually at the
game. Now, everything is so crisp and clear, that you often feel like
you are at home.

3) This never applied in baseball, but the bouncing game clocks in the
bottom corner of TV screens were the best. The more the crowd got into
it, the more the clock would go off-center. You knew a game was great
by how crooked the clock looked on your screen in the final minute.
With computer-generated clocks for almost every game, that feeling is
pretty much gone.

4) There weren’t a million pregame/postgame/highlight shows.
Nowadays you get so spoiled with the mass amount of TV programming and
online resources, that the actual games lose a little luster. Twenty
years ago all you got with the NFL was a short pregame show, the game
itself and maybe 45 seconds of highlights on the local news if you were
lucky. If you were an out-of-market fan living in New York, you prayed
the 4 p.m. Jets game would end early so NBC might switch over to
another game. Nothing was better than hearing Bob Costas say, "Now,
let’s go live to Oakland, where Charlie Jones and Merlin Olsen bring
you the conclusion of the Chiefs-Raiders game."

Now, you can access anything you want, at any moment. There are NFL
preview shows on every day of the week, and with DirectTV (although
living in New York City, I don’t get it), every game is on, every week.
Not that I’m complaining, but anything in life seems more exciting when
you don’t have so much of it all the time.

September 8, 2005

Just as I did four years ago, following 9/11, I’m going to change the
tune of this column for a week. With all the devastation that has
happened down south, it seems pretty insensitive to call anything
related to sports a "Catastrophe."

So here’s a look at three players who make it fun to be a
baseball fan on a daily basis, as well as some other random thoughts on
the world of sports ?

Dontrelle Willis’ 20th win

So many people passed him over in fantasy this year (including
me), following his 10-11 record and 4.02 ERA in 2004. Guys like Zack
Greinke and Eric Milton were actually getting picked before the 2003
National League Rookie of the Year this past March at just about every
draft I attended. Everyone just assumed that Willis was going to be the
pitcher he was in 2004, not 2003.

Instead, the big lefty has gotten even with all of his fantasy
doubters this year, winning his 20th game on Wednesday night to go
along with his super 2.52 ERA. He is one of the most affable players in
all of baseball, and at the young age of 23, it looks like he’ll be one
of the sport’s biggest stars for years to come.

David Ortiz hits another game-winning HR

I never thought I’d say this about a Red Sox player, but I
really like Big Papi. Even though I was raised to never root for any
player in a Boston uniform, how can I not respect a guy as clutch as
Ortiz?

On Tuesday night, he hit his sixth career walk-off home run in Fenway
Park, giving the Red Sox a huge win over the Angels. After the game,
John Henry and Larry Lucchino presented him with a large plaque that
said: "The Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox,
David Ortiz, #34."

Pretty amazing for a guy who hasn’t even been on the team for
three full seasons, but more than deserved considering what he’s done
over that span.

Roger Clemens continues his season-long hot streak

Just like with Willis, many fantasy owners shied away from the Rocket
this spring. At 42 (on Opening Day), people assumed he had to break
down at some point this season. That almost happened after a strained
hamstring forced him from his most recent start, but he appears to be
OK and is slated to take the hill on Friday.

For those who passed on Clemens and instead wound up with Carl Pavano or Oliver Perez, here’s what you’ve missed out on so far:

? A 1.57 ERA after 28 starts
?  Five earned runs in 87 road innings (a 0.52 ERA)
?  An ERA of less than 2.00 in each month of the season
?  124 hits allowed in 189.1 IP
?  Only 8 HR allowed all season
?  Amazing consistency (he’s allowed two or less runs in 25 of 28 starts)

The future first-ballot Hall of Famer is having one of the
greatest seasons in the history of the game, putting up Sandy
Koufax-esque numbers in an era that favors hitters. Hopefully the fact
that he only has 11 wins to date (since the Astros refuse to score runs
for him) won’t stop him from winning an unprecedented eighth Cy Young
Award.

Andre Agassi-James Blake quarterfinal match

One of the best tennis matches ever, right behind the Borg-McEnroe 1980
Wimbledon, the Connors-Krickstein 1991 US Open and the time Pete
Sampras was puking all over the court.

Agassi looked done after dropping the first two sets, 6-3, 6-3,
but somehow rallied to force a fifth set. After being broken, Agassi
was able to break back, and eventually the fifth set went to a
tiebreaker. Blake took a 3-0 lead, but Agassi battled from behind again
to go up, 6-5, before Blake saved match point with one of his many
fearsome forehands. At 6-6, the two traded blows for what seemed like
minutes, until Agassi finally hit a winner past Blake to go up, 7-6,
before prevailing on the next point.

The fans in attendance were going ballistic. People were
jumping out if their chairs and hugging one another — at 1:15 in the
morning — at a tennis match. I was so fired up, I couldn’t get to
sleep for over an hour after it was all over. The only downside was
that most of America was probably asleep and missed the ending of what
is sure to be the year’s best match.

And that’s the beauty of sports, any sport — it’s authentic,
true and unscripted (except for wrestling, of course). In my mind,
nothing can compare to the excitement of real, live drama where the
impossible all of a sudden becomes possible.

Since I’m still so pumped over last night’s amazing match, here’s a
quick list (for no reason at all, except for the fact that I like
making random sports lists) of what I consider to be the most
improbable sports moments and events that I have ever watched live —
whether in person or on TV:

USA-USSR Hockey, 1980 Olympics
Since I was five when this
happened, all I really remember is my dad jumping up and putting his
fist through my grandfather’s overhead lamp. It’s unlikely any sporting
event will ever mean as much to a whole nation as this one did 25 years
ago.

Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe, 1980 Wimbledon finals
The match that
got me and many others hooked on tennis. Five sets, 18-16 tiebreaker in
the fourth, amazing volleys and tons of emotion. Probably the first
time in my life I was ever glued to a television set for an entire
event.

NC State over Houston, 1983 NCAA Finals
For months after the Wolfpack pulled off one of college basketball’s
all-time upsets, I would set my stopwatch to about five seconds, stand
10 feet away from my plastic Nerf hoop and throw myself alley-oops
while trying to dunk before the beeper on my watch went off. These are
the types of things you do when you’re an only child that only cares
about sports.

Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary vs Miami, Nov. 23, 1984
I know I
watched the game, though I actually have no memory of it. Still, no
play, outside of maybe Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988
World Series, gives me greater chills than this one. While Brent
Musberger’s call of the play is superb, in order to get the full chill
effect, you need to watch it with Boston College’s radio guys dubbed
in. Nothing is better than raw announcer emotion, which is extremely
rare in today’s age of pre-rehearsed broadcasting (I’ll discuss this
more in an upcoming column).

Mets-Red Sox, 1986 World Series, Game 6
I was sitting down
the first-base line at Shea when Mookie Wilson’s weak grounder rolled
through Bill Buckner’s legs, staring at the ball and wondering why
Buckner wasn’t chasing after it. I didn’t realize that Ray Knight was
already around third base and that the game was over. Probably the only
time in my life I ever rooted for the Red Sox, so at the moment it
happened, I was pretty miserable. Yet, rewatching the moment produces
guaranteed goosebumps every time, despite remembering how nauseating it
was to listen to all my bandwagon-jumping friends brag about the Mets
for months after that series.

Kirk Gibson’s HR, 1988 World Series
If I were ranking this
list in order, Gibson’s no-legged home run might take the top spot.
After seeing it 1,487 times in my life now, I still get overpowering
chills every time the ball flies over Jose Canseco’s head and into the
right-field stands.

Buster Douglas knocks out Mike Tyson, 1990
Vince Coleman had
a better chance of leading the Majors in home runs in 1990 than Douglas
did of knocking out Tyson that night in Tokyo. I’m still convinced I
imagined the whole thing.

Jimmy Connors-Aaron Krickstein, 1991 US Open, Fourth round
I
watched the 39-year-old Connors win this epic five-set, four-hour,
41-minute match on a five-inch, black and white portable TV in the
parking lot prior to the Giants-49ers Monday night opener. The match
was so unbelievable that by the time we got to our seats for kickoff,
the rematch of the heart-pounding 1990 NFC Championship Game seemed
rather boring.

Christian Laettner’s shot, 1992 NCAA Elite Eight
The only
time I ever had a chance to win an NCAA bracket pool ended when
Laettner sunk the Wildcats at the buzzer. Like with the Mets, a true
sign of a great moment is when the team you were rooting for loses, yet
you get major chills every time you watch the highlights years later.

Aaron Boone’s HR, 2003 ALCS, Game 7
Growing up, my biggest dream was to be at a game where a Yankee homered
to win the pennant or World Series. Since I was two when Chris
Chambliss did it against KC in ’76, I missed out on what I thought
would be my only opportunity. Not only did Boone homer in the 11th
inning of Game 7, but it came against the Red Sox. I proclaimed after
the game that if the Yankees never won another playoff series for the
rest of my life, I’d be content. That claim was quickly wiped out after
last year’s ALCS loss, something I’ve yet to recover from.

August 25, 2005

Despite winning seven of their last nine games, three Mets easily tie for this week’s Klayman Katastrophe award.

Kris Benson earned himself an unflattering berth when he allowed eight
hits and six earned runs in 0.2 innings last Sunday. Making matters
worse was that the shellacking came at the hands of weak-hitting
Washington, a team that is ranked last in the Majors in AVG and runs
scored. While most people were hoping for something like 7-4-1-1-0-8
against the Nationals, they got stuck with an 81.00 ERA for the day.

Then last night, Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd caused equal misery
when they managed to go a combined 0-for-7 in the Mets’ 18-4 win over
Arizona. Not often do a team’s No. 3 and 4 hitters both fail to get a
hit when scoring 18 runs on 20 base hits. The previous night, the two
outfielders did only slightly better when they went 2-for-8 with one
RBI during a 14-1 trouncing of the D-Backs. Anyone who owns the
undynamic duo probably considered quitting fantasy baseball for good
after checking the box score this morning.

Time to shift the focus to fantasy football, since most people
will be drafting their teams in the next week or two, and I’m too
depressed to write too much about another embarrassing week for my
baseball teams.

On Monday night, I had my annual NFL draft, which as usual did
not go as well as I had hoped. I took notes over the course of the
evening and put together a sort-of-quick list of mistakes to avoid when
drafting a fantasy team in any sport. Here they are…

Panic picking

You have 90 seconds to pick, 97 seconds have passed and everyone
in the room is screaming at you to go already. Your eyes are quickly
looking up and down your lists, yet you are so nervous about making a
foolish pick that you can’t read a thing. The yells get louder, the guy
whose wife is five months pregnant shouts out something about missing
the birth of his kid and suddenly you’ve picked Adam Vinatieri in the
fourth round.

If you come into the draft organized and with a strategy, this
should never happen. If you need a wide receiver in Round 4, you should
be looking at your rankings and taking the top guy left on the board,
not scrambling through magazines to read up on guys.

This happened the other night to me in Round 2, when Clinton
Portis and Ahman Green were both still on the board at pick 21, and yet
I couldn’t decide if I should take one of them (I picked Edge in Round
1), or Chad Johnson. After about two minutes of sweating like Bam
Morris at a border patrol station, I shouted out "Tony Gonzalez." Sure
he’s the top tight end, but no one ever picks TEs until at least the
fourth round, so I probably could have waited. Instead I missed out on
getting a solid second back and now am stuck hoping that Tatum Bell,
Travis Henry or Duce Staley actually starts this season.

Following a run on a position

Whether it’s baseball or football, most of us are familiar with
how runs work at drafts. When Antonio Gates and Jason Witten were
drafted the other night, all of a sudden people were picking Todd Heap,
Alge Crumpler and Randy McMichael while there were still starting
running backs left on the board. In baseball this often happens with
closers, where someone like a Danys Baez gets taken in the eighth round
because six straight firemen were just picked. Meanwhile guys like
Carlos Lee are just sitting around waiting to get drafted.

Fear of the old guy

Sure Curtis Martin and Tiki Barber are a combined 937 years old,
but they also tallied 3,215 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns in 2004.
Yet every year there are people who pass on them and instead opt for
unproven players. Last year, Lee Suggs and Quentin Griffin were both
taken before Martin at our draft.

The same thing has held true the past couple of years with Roger
Clemens, as people have actually picked guys like Bronson Arroyo and
Zack Greinke ahead of the Rocket. If a guy has not started to show
signs of a decline, don’t worry too much about his age. There is no
reason to consider taking Mark Clayton or Michael Jenkins before
consistent performers like Isaac Bruce, Rod Smith and Jimmy Smith.

Bringing too many magazines, sheets with you

At almost any draft you will find the one person who arrives
with six magazines, a few hundred lists and absolutely no clue what
he/she is going to do as far as strategy. This person probably forgot
that the draft was even happening until that day, ran out to the
bookstore to buy as many magazines as he/she could afford and then
spent the last few hours printing out as many ranking sheets as he/she
could find online.

There are really no excuses for this. You’ve had 7-8 months to
prepare, which no matter how busy you think your life is on a
day-to-day basis, is plenty of time to find a few hours to get yourself
in order.

This person will waste everyone’s time when it is their turn to
pick, and will usually draft 2-3 players that have been picked earlier
in the draft (someone did this the other night when they tried to draft
Derrick Mason in Round 16, even though he had already been taken in
Round 6). The chances of this person finishing at or above .500 are
next to impossible.

Picking unproven players too early, just so you can brag about your pick later if it actually pans out

The example from Monday night was my friend Pat, who decided to
draft Lamont Jordan with the ninth overall pick in the draft, while
Randy Moss, Domanick Davis, Bryan Westbrook, Marvin Harrison, Tiki
Barber, Ahman Green, Clinton Portis and about 15 other top guys were
still on the board. There is no reason to think Jordan won’t be
successful in Oakland, but the guy has never been a featured back in
his life and has never had to carry the ball 300 times in a season (93
carries in 2004).

Why do people like Pat draft guys like Jordan so early? Simple. If he
actually has a huge season, Pat can go around bragging to all of his
friends about how he knew Jordan would be that great and that’s why he
took him so early.

Problem is, no one really cares about your team or what you did
at your draft. Ninety-six percent of people just care about their own
teams, and although they may act excited when you tell them about your
great moves, they couldn’t care less.

Fake injury claims

Always do your homework heading into your draft, so that you
know which players are banged up. This is very important because there
will usually be one or two people at every draft who spend most of the
night yelling out things like "Is his hamstring feeling better?" or
"How long does it take to come back from a shoulder separation?"

The last thing you want to do is pass up Chad Johnson for
Ashlie Lelie because someone had you believe that Johnson has been
limping around training camp the last few weeks with plantar fasciitis.

Picking with your heart

My biggest problem every year. This year I vowed not to take
Hines Ward in the second round and not to make Big Ben my top QB. And I
actually stuck to it. Unfortunately I followed my heart in 2003 and
wound up with Tommy Maddox as my starting QB and Amos Zereoue as my
second RB.

If you are a huge Chicago Bears fan, it does not mean that you
should be taking Justin Gage and Kyle Orton over the likes of Eric
Moulds and Carson Palmer. Distance yourself from your favorite team for
a few hours, and stick to taking the best names on the board.

And as hard as it might be, it’s also OK to take guys you can’t
stand to root for. Just because you don’t like T.O., Randy Moss or
Jeremy Shockey doesn’t mean that if they are hanging around later than
expected, you should avoid them. Owens lasted to the third round the
other night, and people actually passed over him to get guys like Nate
Burleson and Steve Smith. The controversial wide out might be hard to
cheer for, but passing up one of the top players in the game is never a
smart idea.

Drinking too much early on

Last year we had one person wind up with Emmitt Smith and Eddie
George as their running backs. This year a few folks were picking
backup QBs before they had filled out their starting receiving core.
Save the partying for the end of the night and make sure you are fully
alert as long as you still have starters left to draft. Pretty simple.

Keeping track of what other people need

So important. If everyone else has their starting QB in the
sixth round except you, and you are deciding between Aaron Brooks and
picking your third starting wide receiver, go with the WR. Even if
someone else decides to pick a backup QB, odds are 10-12 good receivers
will be gone by the time you pick again — if you don’t take a receiver
now.

If you fail to track what other people might be drafting,
you’ll wind up picking a Brooks or Chad Pennington four rounds earlier
than you probably could have drafted one of them.

Since this fantasy baseball season has been too depressing,
Klayman’s Katastrophes is taking a week off and will return in two
weeks at its regularly scheduled time.

 

August 18, 2005

11 1/3 innings.

34 hits.

27 earned runs.

21.44 ERA

3.18 WHIP

Everyone (myself included) who owned Jeff Francis, Javy Vazquez and Ben
Sheets the past week knows what those numbers mean. The tumultuous trio
managed to destroy quite a few people’s ERAs and WHIPs, as well as my
only shot at a title in 2005.

It all began last Thursday, minutes after I filed my last column.
Francis, whom I had picked up for the second time this season for a
spot start, was facing the Pirates at home. Unlike the rest of the free
world, Francis actually had pitched well at Coors this season. With the
exception of one start (July 10, the only day I previously owned him),
he was 8-1 with a 2.83 ERA in Colorado prior to last week’s start. Plus
he was going up against a Pirates team that ranked 28th in average,
29th in runs and 25th in homers. Combine all of this info, and he
seemed like a pretty good pickup for the day (although I managed to
ignore the fact that his last loss had come against the Pirates on July
21).

But after years of failure, embarrassment and humiliation, I
should know that no matter how much research I actually do, something
is bound to go wrong.

Francis not only pitched poorly, he somehow managed to allow an
unfathomable 13 hits in only 3 1/3 innings. That’s not an easy thing to
do. Normally if you hit double-digits before the fourth inning, you are
rinsing off in the showers. But not in this case.

On top of his gaudy hit total, Francis gave up nine runs (eight
earned) before exiting in the fourth inning. The one saving grace in
this game would have been if my three Pirates (in my other league),
Humberto Cota. Rob Mackowiak and Chris Duffy, had big days at the
plate. Yet, all three managed to find themselves watching as their team
demolished Francis and the Rockies. Only Mackowiak even got up, and he
struck out in a pinch-hit appearance in the seventh.

While Francis’ meltdown hurt a lot, it wasn’t enough to completely
derail my team. That would come three days later when Javy Vazquez did
his best to equal Francis.

The former Expo and Yankee allowed two runs to the Braves in
the first, then completely unraveled in the third when he yielded seven
runs without recording a single out. If Bob Melvin had not come out to
rescue Vazquez, he could have easily matched Francis’ hit total by the
end of the third.

But the next day someone did reach unlucky 13. Sure, it took
him six innings to get there, but Ben Sheets also managed to top
Francis and Vazquez in the earned runs department, giving up 10 to the
Rockies in an 11-2 loss. The most amazing part was that Sheets actually
came back out to start the bottom of the seventh, despite the fact he
had just given up five runs in the sixth and his team was trailing 8-2.
Can anyone explain how that’s possible? Even in the late 1800s, when
guys used to throw 40 complete games a year, a manager probably would
have pulled his pitcher in this situation.

The total damage was catastrophic to my pitching totals for the year.
While the three pitchers did somehow manage to strikeout 11 hitters in
the 11 1/3 innings, the 27 earned runs over that span raised my ERA
from 3.49 to 3.70 — in mid-August! I had no idea that it was even
possible to do that so late in the season. My WHIP jumped from 1.20 to
1.23 — which might not look like much, but was enough to drop me from
third to seventh in the category.

Overall, the three outings cost me seven points in the standings, and
instead of being a point and a half clear of the pack, I’m sitting in
second, 5 1/2 points away from capturing my first title since 1997.

Some other quick notes and thoughts from the past week:

? Anyone who says there is no such thing as clutch (all those
"Moneyball" worshipers out there) has never watched David Ortiz play
baseball.

? How come no one cares about Ken Griffey Jr. anymore? He’s
hitting .290 with 28 homers and 83 RBIs, yet it seems like he no longer
exists. Part of it probably has to do with the fact he plays for a
last-place team, and that people expect him to get injured every time
he takes a step, but this guy was the best hitter of the 1990s and is a
guaranteed Hall of Famer. He could easily finish the season at
.300-40-115, yet you’d think he was putting up Sammy Sosa-esque numbers
this year.

? Why do managers ever intentionally walk the bases loaded in the
bottom of the ninth (or extra innings) when there is an unreliable
pitcher on the mound? It seems like a few times every week a game ends
on a walk-off walk. Is there any worse situation to put a young,
untrusty pitcher in than this? If you eliminate the Riveras, Hoffmans
and Lidges of the world, I’d like to know what percent of the time a
pitcher walks in the winning run after he is told to intentionally walk
the bases loaded. Guaranteed it is high enough to prove that this is a
dumb strategy most of the time.

? Back in March, a bunch of us here at MLB.com sent around our
bold predictions for the year. While I missed pretty badly when I
predicted that Justin Morneau would lead the AL in homers in 2005,
nothing can be as bad as this prognostication:

Zack Greinke will win 20 games

OK, now I’m getting a little carried away because he is only 21, but
if Greinke doesn’t reach 20 wins this year, he should many times in the
very near future. With superb command, a tremendous ability to change
speeds on his pitches and a fresh arm (he didn’t start pitching
regularly until his final year of high school), Greinke has the stuff
to win a ton of games in his career. He pitches in a division with only
a handful of above-average pitchers, and shouldn’t have to deal with
too many tough matchups over the course of the season.

For those of you not aware, Greinke was 3-14 with a 6.02 ERA entering Thursday.