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