July 28, 2005

While I could run off my usual list of awful moves this week (benching Grady Sizemore (HR, SB) on Tuesday in favor of Larry Walker (placed on the DL) ), let’s turn to a number of fan questions and stories that have little to do with anything relevant to fantasy baseball. ?

Q: Should I trade Rondell White for Magglio Ordonez? Seems like a good move with Ordonez starting to hit. — M. Benninghoven, NY

A: Simple answer. I don’t own White in any league and I have Ordonez on two of my fantasy teams. Assuming you’ve been reading my column (since you did e-mail me), this information should be enough to let you know this is probably not a wise decision on your part. Expect Ordonez to bat .182 with one homer in the next month, as long as he is in my lineup.

Q: In early July I traded Scott Rolen and Troy Percival for Morgan Ensberg and Derrick Turnbow. With Percival and Rolen both likely out for the year, this has to be the best trade I’ve ever made. I know you always complain about awful moves, but what is the best trade you’ve ever pulled off, if any? — Jeff from Minneapolis

A: Great question, but tough to answer since it has probably been a decade since I’ve made a trade that has really benefited my team.

The one that always stands out was when I dealt Barry Bonds in 1994, and got Paul O’Neill, Mo Vaughn and John Valentin in return. My team was lacking in the infield, so I gave up the No. 1 fantasy player for a trio of potentially good players in an early-season deal.

Bonds would up with awesome numbers (.312-37-81-29) in the strike-shortened season, but O’Neill (.359-21-83), Vaughn (.310-26-82) and Valentin (.316-9-49) all had great seasons. While I lost some steals, I was playing in a points league, so SBs didn’t really matter all that much anyway. If I’d held on to Bonds, I also would have suffered through a season of John Jaha and Joey Cora, so the deal really worked out (I finished second in the league, and may have won had the season not ended on Aug. 11).

However, my favorite trade of any sort happened in Strat-O-Matic Baseball in 1987, when I sent Lou Whitaker and Joe Carter to my friend Chad in exchange for Roger Clemens and Steve Sax. Chad was desperate for a slick-fielding second baseman, and decided he would trade Clemens (whose card was based on his 1986 season — 24-4, 2.48 ERA) to acquire one (Whitaker).

The addition of Clemens meant that I had Mike Scott and the Rocket in my three-man rotation (that was our rule), and that I’d be able to pitch them five of seven games in the World Series (while deciding between Mark Gubicza and Bruce Ruffin for Games 3 and 6). Needless to say, I easily won the World Series in five games (losing only Game 3 of course).

The best part is, our rules back then gave us rights to players for their entire careers, so if we ever decided to start our league back up (it’s been 11 years since we last played), I’d still have rights to Clemens today. I still get tons of pleasure pointing out to Chad how the trade still hurts him 18 years after it was executed.

Q: Is there anything that annoys you more than fantasy baseball? After reading your column the past three years, I can’t imagine anything can upset you more than finishing near the bottom year after year. –Darrell Williams, Pittsburgh

A: Darrell, I could easily list 691 things, but I’ll stick to the first nine that come to mind:

? Small people who put their seats back on airplanes, without at least checking to see who is sitting behind them. If you are 5-foot-2, and I am 6-foot-1, and we are going to be flying for the next five hours, don’t even think of crushing my legs. I actually bought a product a year ago called the knee defender than prevents people from putting their chairs back, but I’ve been too afraid to use it after reading articles about fights breaking out between passengers.

? People who claim they used to play professional sports, but are lying. This holds true about 92 percent of the time by the way. Next time someone tells you their dad played in the Phillies organization in the late ’60s, don’t believe them. Odds are their dad was on the Phillies in his local little league when he was 11.

? Waiting in line at a store/toll booth, and then watching the other lines move faster than the one you are on. This becomes much worse when you switch to a different line, and then the line you were originally on starts moving faster than the one you are on now.

? Anyone who blows cigarette smoke in my direction. Thanks for the cancer fumes.

? Anyone who talks loudly on cell phones at sporting events (or really anywhere). If I were in charge of things, I would automatically ban you from arenas until 2067.

? People who walk into movies as they start, act shocked that a theater could be full on a Friday night, then precede to ask folks in every row if seats are taken, right as the movie is starting. My friend Dmitry is the master of this, which is why the last movie we saw together was "Regarding Henry" in 1991.

? The lack of Boo Berry cereal in the N.Y. area. It is so hard to track down a box, that my friend Brett and I had a bet that lasted six months on who could find a box of Boo Berry first. He won when he found a store 100 miles outside of NYC that carried the impossible-to-locate cereal, and now I owe him dinner.

? Movie box office records. Possibly the dumbest stat in the world. I love hearing things like "’Million Dollar Baby’ made more money than ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Rocky’ combined, in its first weekend." Really? Maybe it’s because movies cost $10 now as opposed to $2 back then, and that there are a zillion theatres and more people living in the U.S. than there were 25-30 years ago. Hey you know what? The 2004 Expos also made more money on ticket sales than the 1927 Yankees. Wonder why?

? WNBA and preseason NHL scores appearing on TV sports tickers during NFL Sundays. I’ve complained about this several times before, but please find me one person who cares what the Nashville-Columbus exhibition score is at 3 p.m. on a Sunday in the early fall. When there are tens of millions of people worrying about their fantasy teams and other interests, why make people stare at the scores of games no one in the world could possibly care about.

And finally, the top sob story of the week:

Dr. Doom:

I am currently in ninth place in a 10-team, mixed, modified 5×5 (weighted categories). My season to date can be summarized in two examples.

1. I arguably get the steal of our initial draft with the best rookie in the league (Barmes) in the 21st round, and bench him in favor of the twitchy Mr. Hamm, who promptly gives me 51 ABs @ .157/0/4/6/0 and rips his leg apart. Now I must play Barmes, who promptly gets hurt. Barmes prior to his injury: 225 ABs @ .329/8/34/40/4. So I had the knowledge and luck to draft him, but was just stupid enough not to actually play him!?!?

2. I get what I believe to be a great deal with Godzilla for Abreu. Consistently annual five-cat stud that I’ve always wanted finally gets his due at the Derby. Phillies are playing better in what has been described as a "launching pad" of a home stadium. Godzilla goes 26 games without a dinger, falls and twists his ankle (just like the blondes in his Japanese movies), and ends up the DH on a sinking Yankee ship. Post-trade stats:

Abreu: 82 ABs @ .195/1/9/14/5.
Matsui: 87 ABs @ .333/8/19/21/0.

–K. Lee

Between Nomar’s 73rd injury in four years, Barmes’ problems carrying deer meet and Abreu apparently using up all of his stuff in the HR Derby – you’ve had a pretty tough run this season.

Unfortunately I can relate quite well.

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.

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.
<p>
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.
<p>
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.

June 23, 2005

Although I still haven’t fully recovered from Evander Holyfield’s dismissal on "Dancing with the Stars" and Georgia’s last-second loss in the Arena Bowl, I’ve managed to pull myself together and assemble this list of 10 Klayman Katastrophe Award nominees…

Aubrey Huff

In perhaps what could easily qualify as the year’s worst 0-fer, Huff’s 4-1-0-0 line on Tuesday night was downright painful to any owner who went to check his name in the New York-Tampa Bay box score.

As most of you are probably aware, the Yankees and Devil Rays combined for 31 runs on 41 hits in what turned out to be an epic 20-11 New York comeback victory. Twelve players had multi-hit games, seven had multi-RBI games and nine home runs were hit between the two teams.

Yet, Huff wanted no part of all the action, scoring a single run while being the only nine-inning player to wind up hitless.

Travis Harper

Ok, I’m sure almost no one owns Harper outside of his immediate family or those who play in AL East-only leagues, but for those unfortunate few who for some reason had Harper in their starting lineup on Tuesday night, it is safe to say that your ERA and WHIP will never, ever recover. Harper, who was left out on the mound to get pounded during a 13-run eighth inning, allowed nine baserunners and nine earned runs in just 0.2 IP.

Let’s say your pitching staff had thrown 600 innings and had an ERA of 3.99 heading into Tuesday. After Harper’s appearance, your ERA would have risen to 4.12 on the season. That’s a 0.13 increase — 11 weeks into the 2005 season! Pretty unfathomable stuff.

Humberto Cota

I really dislike this guy. Not as a person or as a baseball player, but as a fantasy catcher who just refuses to produce when he is on my roster.

Since Brian Schneider didn’t pan out as my No. 2 catcher (we have to start two in our league), I’ve spent the past month searching for a decent second option behind the plate. Catcher waiver wires are about as barren as NHL arenas this time of year.

I picked up Cota on May 31, following a 15-game span in which he drove in 14 runs, hit a pair of homers and batted .313. In the 11 days I owned him, he batted .227 (5-for-22) with no homers or RBIs.

So on June 10, after doing little to impress, I sent him back to waiverland. He, of course, responded by hitting .318 with a homer and three RBIs in his next five starts. After welcoming him back on June 19, he’s gone 0-for-8 in four games. I would have been better off picking up former Tar Heels point guard Ed Cota than the Pittsburgh backstop.

Nook Logan and Hee Seop Choi

Looking for some power and speed, I scooped up this dynamic duo last week. From June 16-21, the two combined to go 0-for-27 for my fledgling team. For those of you who were wondering, that’s not very good.

Fed up with Logan, I sent him packing Wednesday morning, just in time to miss a 2-for-4, one-run night. I kept Choi one more day and got an extra 0-for-2 out of him before waiving him this morning. As usual, look for Choi to light up Brian Lawrence in San Diego tonight.

Eric Milton

I don’t own him in any league, but Milton deserves a mention simply for the fact that he has allowed 25 homers in 81.2 innings. The all-time record for homers allowed in a season is 50, set by Bert Blyleven in 1986. Blyleven, however, threw 271.2 innings that season. If Milton stayed at his current HR rate (one HR every 3.2 IP), he would be on pace to allow 84 homers if he pitched as many innings as Blyleven did 19 years ago. Odds are he’s not going to throw 190 more innings this year (or even 90 innings), but you get the point (if there is one).

Adam Dunn

MLB.com’s Geoff Grant decided that he was going to bench Dunn on Wednesday, since the powerful lefty was batting .146 against southpaw pitchers in 2005. Any time you have a guy with 50-HR potential on your roster, it’s probably a good idea to keep him active, no matter what the circumstances. Dunn, apparently deeply upset with Grant’s lack of trust in his bat, took Mark Mulder deep in his first two ABs to increase his homer total to 20. Since Grant is sitting in fourth place, and I’ve been in 11th for three weeks now, I feel as bad for him as I do for Terrell Owens being underpaid by the Eagles.

Juan Pierre

Can you cut a guy with the potential to steal 50 bases? Tough call, but when you are rostering a .246 hitter with one homer and 15 RBIs, the 16 steals Pierre has almost aren’t worth it. This past week he added to many owners’ miseries by going 2-for-23 with one steal, and of course no power to speak of.

Carlos Zambrano

What’s happened to Zambrano this month? Did he and Victor secretly swap places at the start of June?

Heading into his June 11 start, Carlos was 4-3 with a 2.94 ERA. He pitched decently against Boston that day (5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 8 K), started falling apart against the Yankees last weekend (6.1 IP, 9 H, 6 H, 6 BB, 3 K) and completely bottomed out in Milwaukee last night (1.2 IP, 7 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 2 K). His ERA has risen all the way up to 4.27, and with only four wins in 15 starts, he has been a pretty big disappointment, outside of his 88 Ks in 92.2 IP.

Victor, on the other hand, has pitched eight straight games in which he has gone at least five innings — without giving up more than three runs. His ERA has fallen from 5.81 in April to 3.97 after Wednesday’s start in Philly. He’s only walked 10 batters in 27 innings, compared to Carlos, who has issued 14 free passes in only 20 frames.

Rounding down

In the building where I work we have the greatest Thai restaurant of all time (OK, slight exaggeration, but I have eaten there roughly 417 times in five years, so it must be good). To make a long and rather pointless story short, the dish I always order (Pad See Ew) costs $8.51 with tax. So every time I go to pay, I wind up getting back 49 cents in change.

This could be the most annoying thing of all time.

For years I’ve tried to explain to the folks behind the registers that giving people back 50 cents makes more sense. After all, they are constantly forced to go out to the bank, get a bunch of penny rolls, and every 10-20 minutes, unwrap a new batch of 50 pennies, so that they can give people back exact change. This process ends up backing up the line (which would be long to begin with) to the point where people lose patience and leave. If more than one out of every 851 customers leaves because of this, it is worth it for them to lose one penny on every transaction, just to avoid delaying the line and losing customers.

But every day, I leave with a quarter, two dimes and four pennies in my pocket, then go upstairs to the soda machines, where everything, of course, costs 50 cents.

And before I go on too long about this, the Klayman Katastrophe Award winner for the week is…

Milton. Can you imagine what his Strat-O-Matic card will look like next year? I’m thinking two full home runs at 4-7 and 5-7. Apologies to those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, which is usually most people reading this column.

June 16, 2005

Quick story this week, since I am getting way too depressed every time I have to think about fantasy baseball at this point …

On Tuesday morning I went online to pick up my nightly spot starter. Since I’m desperately trying to catch up in Ks and wins, and am far below my league’s innings-pitched limit, I’ve been doing this for two weeks now — with little success, of course.

I had three options on Tuesday, none of whom stood out much, but could all potentially help for a night. Here’s what I was faced with:

Sergio Mitre

Mitre was coming off an impressive start against Toronto in which he allowed two hits and a walk over seven shutout innings. He would be facing Florida Tuesday, which wasn’t bad since the Marlins were ranked 19th in runs scored coming into the game — and he’d be pitching at home. Plus he has a cool sounding name, although someone informed me it is actually pronounced MEE-TRAY instead of MY-TER.

El Duque Hernandez

He’d won his last two starts since I had dropped him, and only had one horrific appearance all season (May 16). He’d be facing Arizona at home, with a good offense supporting him. Plus, he’s always the type of guy you want pitching for you in big games — or when you need to get out of the cellar in fantasy.

Tomo Ohka

Had been pitching really well up until his June 4, 3.1 IP, 7 H performance against Florida. Liked the fact that he would be facing Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but realized at best he would probably only strike out three hitters.

So after thinking about it for 10 minutes, I decided to go with Mitre. But sure enough, MLB.com ticketing guru Mark Plutzer managed to beat me to him, and Mitre was already gone when I went to go grab him.

Down to Duque and Ohka, I chose the former Yankee postseason ace, simply because I would rather watch him pitch than sit through an entire Devil Rays-Brewers game. Making decisions based off emotions is never a good idea if you actually want to compete in your fantasy baseball league.

Sure enough, the trio of pitching lines Tuesday night were as follows:

Ohka: Win, 9 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Mitre: Win, 9 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

Duque: Loss, 4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

El Duque made it through three shutout innings before he started to unravel. After a homer to Troy Glaus to start the fourth inning, the D-Backs had two on with two out, and the .227-hitting Royce Clayton up at the plate, who of course doubled in both runs. Three more runs in the fifth and El Duque was kaput. Once again I would have been better off never touching my fantasy team.

Nights like this are enough to make you want to go back to the prefantasy days, when you could actually enjoy baseball if your favorite team won that day (which the Yankees did on Tuesday).

To top off this wonderful day, my only ace, Josh Beckett, got beat up in the Mitre game, allowing six hits and four runs in 5.1 innings. The only hitter I owned in the game, Corey Patterson, managed to go 0-for-4 despite his team scoring 14 runs on 18 hits. And my second catcher, Chris Snyder, whom I had just picked up after a solid week, decided to go 0-for-5 for Arizona in its 10-4 win over El Duque.

The following day, Kyle Davies and spot-starter-of-the-night Kyle Lohse combined to lose two games, allowing 18 hits, four walks and 10 earned runs over 9.1 innings.

So on Thursday afternoon, right before writing this column, I dropped them both, picked up Woody Williams and Brandon Claussen (both starting on Thursday), then realized rosters had already frozen for the day, and I had just picked up two guys I couldn’t even use.

Seventy-four days into the season and I have exactly half the amount of points in my league (37). Eleventh place out of 12 against a combination of savy owners and clueless novices is pretty sad. I can only imagine how much worse it would all look if I didn’t have Miguel Tejada supporting my team on his own.

June 10, 2005

Tom Glavine entered Thursday night with 266 career wins, none ever coming as a member of any of my fantasy teams. The fact that my fantasy career started at about the same time as Glavine’s big league days, and I’ve never once owned him, seems impossible.

So on Thursday morning, sitting in last place in wins in the MLB.com office league, I decided to pick up a spot starter for the night. Glavine was sitting on our waiver wire, despite going 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his last five starts. Since he was slated to face Houston, a team that is 6-23 on the road and scores less than any other team in baseball, he seemed like the best possible choice.

The problem with this decision is that it meant I had to sort of root for the Mets, something that goes against my upbringing, religion and everything else I’ve known as a baseball fan since 1977.

Here’s a not-so-quick account of the whole experience …

Tom Seaver and Dave O’Brien are calling tonight’s game and inform us that Houston’s starting nine is 12-for-83 (.145) against Glavine lifetime. Seaver then adds that Glavine is definitely going to have a really good night and mentions how terrific he has looked in his last five starts. Since I am a big believer in jinxes, I consider just shutting off the game now.

The .206-hitting Chris Burke falls behind 1-2, but then shoots Glavine’s next pitch right up the middle, breaking up his second no-hitter in two days.

Up next is the .185-hitting Eric Bruntlett, who runs the count to 3-2 before Burke falls asleep and gets picked off first. Nice break for Glavine. Can’t believe I just wrote that. In fact I think I’m now rooting against the Mets tonight since I am in ninth place and 52.5 points behind the top team, meaning none of this really matters anyway since I’m not winning this year.

Ball four to Bruntlett. Should be first and second with no outs if not for bad baserunning.

Jose Vizcaino (.243-0-6) is batting third? Wow, if Glavine doesn’t pitch a shutout tonight, something is very wrong. You know things are going bad on the Major League level when your No. 3 hitter wouldn’t start for a deep, NL-only fantasy team.

Seaver says "6 and 23" three straight times, asking how is that possible. When the top of your lineup is Burke-Bruntlett-Vizcaino, and you lost Bagwell (injury), Beltran and Kent, that’s how.

Vizcaino singles to right. Three straight runners have reached to the surprise of everyone but me. Glavine’s 9.00 WHIP is not looking good right now.

Here comes the .235-3-11 Berkman, who hasn’t been very good since returning from his knee injury in early May. He singles to left; 1-0 Astros. The announcers point out that Glavine hasn’t been sharp so far. Thanks.

Morgan Ensberg apparently flies out, although the camera misses most of the pitch. Maybe Glavine can only get guys out if no one actually sees him pitch. Ensberg, by the way, almost has as many homers (12) as the rest of tonight’s Astros lineup combined (16).

Jason "I batted .118 in May" Lane grounds out weakly and somehow Glavine only gives up one run despite allowing the first four runners to reach base.

I decide that I’m now rooting for a 2-1 Mets win — both runs coming off a pair of four-base errors — and Andy Pettitte pitching an Andy Hawkins-esque no-hitter.

After Jose Reyes whiffs to lead off, Mike Cameron steps up to the plate, at which point we are told that his .467 average against lefties would lead the NL if he had enough ABs to qualify. I look it up — 30 ABs. Doesn’t seem very statistically significant to me.

Carlos Bel-TRON, as the announcer calls him, lines a single into center. Phil Garner looks slightly jealous of Randolph right now.

Quick question: How has Willie Randolph failed to age in the past 30 years? The guy is going to be 51, yet looks like he should still be playing second for the Yanks. He is the anti-Otis Nixon or anti-Jim Wohlford.

Cliff Floyd weakly grounds out, inning over. Astros lead 1-0.

The .243-hitting Adam Everett leads off and flys out. Next up is Brad Ausmus, who apparently is 1-for-34 career against Glavine. Make that 1-for-35. Glad he is playing tonight instead of Alan Ashby or Tony Eusubio.

Pettitte grounds out to Glavine. Easy inning, feeling better. Actually should you be allowed to say you feel good after going 1-2-3 against Everett-Ausmus-Pettitte?

David Wright leads off and quickly ties the game with his 10th homer of the year — liner right off the screen of the left field pole. After Chris Woodward flies out and Ramon Castro walks, Kaz Matsui hits into an easy double play and then gets booed for the 372nd time this season. Have to imagine he wishes he was back home or at least out of New York by this point. Anyone who picked him in the middle rounds this year, ahead of Brian Roberts, has felt this way since April.

Let’s see if Glavine can have better success this time against the top of the Astros’ fearsome lineup. Burke grounds out. Bruntlett singles, but Vizcaino and Berkman both ground out as well, making it a much easier inning than the first, outside of having to listen to Seaver talk about his 12 or 13 career homers as a hitter for four minutes

Mrs. Klayman asks what else is on — I quickly scan the guide and luckily she nixes the debut of "The Cut." Are people really going to watch a reality show about folks trying to make it in fashion? The appeal of "Survivor," "The Apprentice," The Amazing Race," and "American Idol" is that most people can either imagine themselves on those shows, or at least one of their friends. How many people would even want to be on "The Cut," nonetheless watch other people compete for a job no one could possibly care about?

I come across a listing for "Home Alone 4." Huh? They even made 3? I’ll have to check on this later once it starts.

Glavine fans, Reyes weakly grounds out and Cameron flies to center in the bottom of the third. The announcers tell us that "both of these veteran lefties are starting to get into a groove." Who are they kidding? Seaver himself could probably come out of the booth right now and throw a few shutout innings.

In the top of the fourth, we are told that Lane has been compared by some to Berkman. Who made this comparison, the same guy from the "Revenge of the Sith" newspaper ad who supposedly said "It’s Better than the Original ‘Star Wars’?" You know the actual quote was probably something like "Only a ***** would think it’s Better than the Original ‘Star Wars,’" and someone conveniently edited out the first five words.

"Jason Lane is similar to Lance Berkman, except for the fact that he doesn’t have as much power and will never hit even close to .300."

The Astros go very quietly in the top of the fourth, and Glavine even decides to strike out his first two batters of the game. Since starting out 0-3-1-1-1-0, Glavine has now improved his line to 4-4-1-1-1-2. Ever since I decided I couldn’t root for the Mets, he’s been pretty lights out, of course.

Is there anything more annoying than having to hear Angelina Jolie say "Who’s you daddy now?" while kicking Brad Pitt in the "Mr. And Mrs. Smith" TV ad, 17 times in one night? Is this supposed to make me want to go see the movie? Looks like it is going to be "War of the Roses" except with guns. Think I’ll pass.

Bel-TRON doubles to lead off. Perfect. One more run, a 2-1 win. I can live with it. Hopefully my dad just didn’t read this.

I just realize that Bel-TRON only has one steal the whole season, and has been caught twice. This is from a guy who has gone 13-for-13, 31-for-32, 41-for-45 and 42-for-45 in steals during his career, and yet he is pace to join the 5-5 club instead of the 40-40 like many people predicted.

Floyd flies out, but Wright delivers again and puts the Mets up 2-1.

Maybe I’ll just rotate in whoever is pitching against the Astros the rest of the year. They have scored the fewest runs in baseball (206 in 57 games heading into this game) and with few dependable bats, this will probably continue the rest of the season. This would mean I pick up Ted Lilly after tonight’s game since he is slated to pitch against Houston and the pitcher with the wimpiest sounding name ever, Wandy Rodriguez, on Friday. I check Lilly’s numbers and see that he is 3-6 with a 7.41 ERA. OK, maybe it’s not such a good idea.

Woodward, by the way, has been up for at least six minutes and has a 2-2 count. Turns out we are on pitch 11, plus four pickoff throws. Exhilarating baseball going on right now, so I decide to check on "Home Alone 4."

The made-for-TV movie stars French Stewart and Mike Weinberg (as Macauley Culkin’s character) for those of you wondering. According to IMDB.com, Stewart has starred in other memorable shows/movies such as "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" and was Business Man 2 in "Leaving Las Vegas." 633 IMDB users give this movie 2.6 stars out of 10, which after watching it for 17 seconds seems very generous, and surprising that 633 people would actually take the time to rate this movie.

When I remember to flip back to the Mets, someone named Lolita Lopez is reporting from behind the first base camera, telling us how sore Doug Mientkiewicz is feeling. Do we really need a sideline reporter in baseball? Couldn’t the normal announcers have just told us the same thing? It’s not like Randolph just came up with this knowledge and rushed to tell the sideline person. Being a baseball sideline reporter could be the easiest job ever, by the way, outside of being a weatherman.

Ausmus goes to 1-for-36 against Glavine. Pettitte hands Glavine his third K of the game, yet somehow manages to make Glavine throw 10 pitches to him. Glavine then fans Burke, and with 79 pitches thrown through five, he’ll be lucky to get through seven.

Just found out that Clint Barmes really got injured when he slipped carrying a slab of deer meat. Now I know I have no right to ever make fun of anyone else’s freak injury, considering I once missed school because I blinded myself with an English Muffin crumb. But this has to qualify as the early candidate for this year’s Glenallen Hill bizarre injury award. Plus he was carrying my team in my family league, so I’m a little bitter right now.

The Mets go 1-2-3 in the fifth, which I completely miss because I’m still surfing around on IMDB.com. When I turn back to the Mets, the announcers for some reason start questioning the Royals’ hiring of Buddy Bell, saying he isn’t the right person to shake up an organization. They somehow ignore the small fact that he is 6-3 so far as manager with a team that was 13-37 before he got there.

Glavine throws only nine pitches and retires the order. Pettitte then breezes through the bottom of the sixth and all of a sudden the game is flying.

Glavine opens the seventh with his fifth K and is rolling. The announcer mentions that he has retired 12 in a row, at which point Lane promptly hits one in the gap, and after Bel-TRON fumbles the ball, Lane is standing on third with only one out. I can feel my much-needed win slipping away.

Everett smashes a shot at the drawn-in infield, but Reyes goes airborne and snags the ball out of the air. I’m so happy with Reyes’ great play that I decide to finally forgive him for being injured all of last year and messing up my SB total in two leagues.

One more out to go before Glavine finishes off a rather solid night holding the lead. And who better to be up than the 1-for-36 Ausmus? The announcers remind us for the 56th time that Ausmus can’t hit Glavine, at which point Ausmus socks a double into right to tie up the game. There goes the "W."

Craig Biggio finally appears for the first time tonight, pinch-hitting for Pettitte. We find out that he is only a .231 hitter against Glavine two seconds before he lines a shot off Glavine’s leg. The ball flies up in the air, lands near no one and Ausmus scores to give Houston the lead.

One pitch away from going 7-5-1-1-1-5 and being in line for the win, Glavine finishes 7-7-3-3-1-5 and is trailing 3-2. Looks like I’m going to be stuck on 21 wins for another day.

With one final shot to give Glavine the win, Wright, Woodward and Castro make Chad Qualls look like Brad Lidge, and Glavine can only lose or get a no-decision at this point.

Time to change the channel.

Let’s see how my other starter Josh Beckett is doing tonight against Seattle (somehow I haven’t seen the score all night since I have been so focused on trying to type — and eat — while watching the Mets game).

Super, 8-0 Mariners, just in time to see Ron Villone retire Juan Encarnacion for the final out. Beckett: 6-10-8-7-1-6. Brutal. Plus Eddie Guardado doesn’t even get a chance to pick up a save for my team.

How ’bout checking to see if my other closer, Francisco Cordero, is somehow pitching? Alright, he is! Too bad Texas is losing by six runs.

Well, maybe, Wily Mo Pena, whom I picked up today in another league is doing some good stuff since Cincy is up 14-5. Nope: 5-0-1-1 with 6 LOB, pretty disappointing in a 14-run game.

Back to the Mets. Super, now it’s 3-3 and the 57-year-old Roberto Hernandez can steal the win away from Glavine.

Time to go out for ice cream. I’ve had enough.

(The Astros wound up winning in 11 innings, so the night was not a complete disaster.)

June 1, 2005

Two months into 2005, and I’m easily having the worst season in my 16 or so unofficial years of playing fantasy baseball. You know things are not going well when names like Peyton, Priest and Portis are on your mind on June 1.

Despite my annual string of unequaled bad luck, my biggest mistake this season was failing to draft pitchers who can actually win games. When you target arms who play for teams such as Kansas City and Pittsburgh, you need to make sure that your other starters are going to win you 15 or so games. Since wins are the most unpredictable of all pitching stats, this is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are the King of Katastrophes.

Heading into Tuesday night, my MLB.com office team (the team I care most about) was sitting in 10th place, and was dead last in wins with 18. Eighteen wins through eight weeks of baseball is downright pathetic. Only the Royals and Rockies have fewer wins, and they don’t have the luxury of throwing up to nine different pitchers every night like a fantasy owner does.

Three of my starters were scheduled to pitch on Tuesday — the infamous Oliver Perez, the just-healed John Patterson and the winless Zack Greinke. On top of that, Jake Peavy, Freddy Garcia and Greinke were all slated to appear for another team that only has 21 wins on the season (the league in which my wife is ahead of me right now, so I’m on a major mission to at least finish ahead of her).

Since Greinke had failed to win a game all season, and would be facing the Yankees (who of course I can never root against), I figured it was time to sit him down for the first time this season — in both leagues. The other four pitchers I left in, hoping to at least pick up a win in each league.

And while I planned on flipping from game to game last night, I wound up spending two hours watching "Survivor: Season 2" DVDs until I drifted off to sleep on my couch. The only baseball score I even saw before passing out was that the Yanks were beating the Royals 2-1 in the second inning.

So when I woke up Wednesday morning, I quickly flipped on ESPN to see how my night turned out.

One-by-one the scores appeared on the bottom of the screen…

WAS 5, ATL 4

All right, Patterson won in his return from the DL…

W — Ayala (3-3)

You’ve got to be kidding

PIT 5, FLA 4

Oliver finally gets back to .500…

W — Meadows (1-0)

Figures

SD 8, MIL 4

OK, no way Peavy didn’t get the win in this one…

W — D Reyes (3-0)

C’mon already

CWS 5, LAA 4

Can Garcia break the jinx that’s going on right now…

W — Politte (2-0)

Well at least Greinke probably didn’t get a win vs. the Yanks…

KC 5, NYY 3

Please tell me KC won this thing late…

W — Greinke (1-6)

This must have been a cruel joke.

On top of all of this, I decided to bench Victor Martinez last weekend in favor of A.J. Pierzynski, and of course, Martinez went deep for the second straight game. But on a brighter note, LA beat San Antonio in the WNBA last night, so my anger and disgust was quickly wiped away.

Some other thoughts from this past week…

I  ventured up to Cooperstown last Sunday with a few friends so that they could all experience the Hall of Fame. I’d been there three times before (1986, 1996 and 2003), and every time had taken the same lame photo in front of Vince Coleman’s cleats from his rookie season of 1985 (110 SBs — still the rookie record).

When I reached the records room, where the cleats can usually be found, they’d been replaced by Juan Samuel’s cleats from 1984 (Samuel had set the record with 72 steals a year before Coleman). I wound up posing next to Coleman’s name on a list of all-time SB leaders. Not quite the same impact, although there really isn’t much impact to this story to begin with.

I finally saw "Star Wars" last weekend and absolutely loved it, despite some shaky acting early on in the movie (led by the one and only Hayden Christensen, who to his credit, was better than last time). After leaving the theatre, I reverted back to being a three-year-old for the next 24 hours, buying 12 new figures, taking out my 80 or so ones from the 70s and 80s and watching the first three movies on DVD. Luckily for me, I’ve actually convinced my wife that this is normal behavior for a guy in his 30s.

My favorite part of any of the "Star Wars" movies comes right at the end of "Return of the Jedi," when Luke sees Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin’s ghosts, and everything is finally OK since the Empire has been defeated. This gets me choked up every time I watch it, almost as much as when Rudy sacks the Georgia Tech QB or Daniel LaRusso successfully uses the crane technique to defeat Johnny Lawrence.

However, since this was the first time I was watching the re-released version of "Jedi" on DVD, I was completely unprepared for the surprise that was waiting at the end of the film. Instead of Sebastian Shaw (the guy who played Anakin in the original version) appearing next to Yoda and Alec Guinness, Lucas dubbed in Christensen’s ghost, to help with the consistency of all six movies.

Having one of my least favorite actors ever appear in my favorite film moment of all time would be like having Jason Giambi show up on the 2000 Yankees World Series DVD,
spraying champagne all over Joe Torre.

Since I couldn’t end things this way, I quickly found the VHS re-release version, popped it in my VCR and rewatched the last five minutes, three times, until the thought of a grinning Christensen had vanished from my mind.

May 27, 2005

First quarter awards

The biggest Katastrophe of the past week is not the fact I’m sitting in 11th place in both office leagues, or that it took me an extra day to file this column. It’s that I have yet to see Revenge of the Sith, eight days after it was released.

Considering I’ve gone to Star Wars opening day in 1983 (Jedi), 1999 (Phantom Menace) and 2002 (Clones), it’s just downright sad that I haven’t made it to the theater yet. Making matters worse is that both my mom and mother-in-law have seen it, and have both called to discuss the movie, naturally assuming I’d already seen it four times. I even bought a ticket last week when I was in LA, but a bunch of work came up at the last second and I wasn’t able to go.

Three years ago, right before Attack of the Clones came out, I wrote a Star Wars-themed column. Since I am still 59 percent braindead from taking a red-eye back from California earlier this week, I decided to use the same idea and hand out Star Wars awards for the first quarter of the season. Nothing like ripping off your own ideas from the past.

The Jar Jar Binks award
To the player who has performed so poorly that he is unbearable to watch — or have on your fantasy team:

Carlos Pena: Anyone who has owned Pena this season certainly has trouble turning on a Tigers game or checking Detroit’s box scores at this point. A .177 average with three homers (none since May 2), 14 RBIs and only two hits in the past two weeks is enough to make any owner wish they could edit out his stats from this season — making their overall 2005 numbers look much better.

The R5-D4 award
To a player or droid who seemed worthy of first selection, but broke down before ever really getting to perform:

Curt Schilling: Went high at every draft this season, yet made it through only three starts (1-2, 8.15 ERA) before his ankle sidelined him for at least three months.

The Anakin Skywalker award
To a prospect who turned to the dark side rather fast:

Joe Blanton: Many thought he was going to be the next Rich Harden, instead has turned out to be the next Joe Slusarski (think early 90s A’s). It’s hard to do much worse than 0-5 with a 6.55 ERA, 20 walks and only 13 K’s in 44.0 innings.

The Emperor award
To an old guy that keeps hurting you until you finally dump him:

Al Leiter: He’ll turn 40 this year, but unlike fellow aging hurlers Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson, Leiter appears to be on the way out after posting a 2-5 record with a 6.91 ERA in nine starts so far this season.

The Rancor Monster award
To an extreme personality who had everything come crashing down on him pretty fast:

Jose Lima: Just when people were starting to trust him after a solid 2004 (13-5, 4.07), Lima has returned to his 2000-2002 days when he posted a combined ERA of 6.40. In his first 11starts of 2005, the fiery righty has gone 0-4 with a nauseating 8.13 ERA.

The Stormtrooper award
To a player who gets injured if anything touches him, including Ewoks:

Nomar Garciaparra and Juan Gonzalez (tie): After playing in only 81 games a year ago, Nomar made it two weeks this season before tearing his groin. Igor (has anyone called Gonzalez that this decade?) on the other hand would easily win this award, but at this point I’m not even sure he really exists anymore. He hasn’t played in more than 82 games since 2001, although he is supposedly ready to return from his latest
hamstring injury. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Kevin Mitchell will be receiving a lifetime achievement award in this category next year. During his playing days, Mitchell injured himself while eating a cupcake and once strained a muscle while vomiting.

The IG-88 award
To the tallest starting pitcher (or bounty hunter) who failed to produce anything noteworthy (Vader sent IG-88 along with five other bounty hunters after Han and Luke, but only Boba Fett was successful in hunting them down):

Paul Wilson: The 6-foot-5 righty is 1-5 with a 7.77 ERA, including an 0.0 IP, 8 ER start three weeks ago. He’s been removed from Cincy’s rotation, and hopefully permanently from every fantasy lineup.

The C3PO on Endor award
To a player who everyone (including Ewoks) thought was a god, but in reality wasn’t:

Adrian Beltre: A year after leading the Majors in homers (48) and batting .334, Beltre has returned to his old ways. His average has dropped nearly 100 points (.239), and he’s on pace to hit only 18 home runs.

The Han Solo in Carbonite Award
To a player who used to be smooth and slick, but now appears to be completely frozen:

Vernon Wells: Wasn’t this guy supposed to go .300-35-110, 10-15 SB for the next 10 years? While he does have eight home runs, his .225 average and two steals can’t make anyone very happy.

The Han Solo ‘Trust Me’ Award
To a closer who gets the job done, despite everyone’s growing lack of confidence in him.

Keith Foulke edges out favorite Jose Mesa, thanks to 11 saves in 13 attempts, despite a disgusting 6.95 ERA and six homers allowed in 22 innings.

The Yoda Award
To a veteran who should be past his prime, yet is kicking some major butt:

Roger Clemens: No explanation needed when a 42-year-old has a 1.19 ERA after 10 starts.

The Millennium Falcon Award
To a player who performs well when healthy, but always seems to require some maintenance work:

El Duque: Made it through five weeks of the season at 5-1, 2.91, before breaking down in his last start and landing on the DL for the 47th time in the past five years.

May 18, 2005

After vowing never to employ Eric Hinske again, I gave in earlier this week and picked up the former Rookie of the Year. I was completely desperate for help at first base, and my choice of waiver-wire stars included Jason Giambi, Carlos Pena, Ken Harvey and the other usual suspects you can always find on the waiver wire.

I had drafted Brad Wilkerson back in March, but traded him a couple of weeks ago for Eddie Guardado, so Rafael Palmeiro had been manning first since then. Having a 40-year-old who’s barely hitting over .200 in your starting lineup is usually a sign that your fantasy team is pathetic and mired near the bottom of the pack.

  Rafael Palmeiro  /   1B
Born: 09/24/64
Height: 6’0"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

In my 15 years of playing Rotisserie, I’m pretty sure that I’ve never once owned Palmeiro prior to this year. While he’s had a Hall of Fame career, he’s just plain boring to own. I’m not really sure why, but a lot of it probably has to do with his ’80s mustache and the annual assumption that he is going to deteriorate due to age.

Last year, Raffy’s numbers started slipping a bit, as he failed to drive in 100 runs for the first time in a full season since 1992. But when he was still sitting around in the later rounds of the MLB.com office draft, I figured it was worth giving him a shot.

I played him sporadically the first month, and eventually moved him to full-time at the start of May when I sent Wilkerson packing. From May 1-13, he batted .147 (5-for-34), hitting a pair of homers with only three runs and two RBIs. When I finally had time to sit down last weekend and make a change, the only decent available option was Hinske.

Two years ago, Hinske was the guy that I decided to draft in every fantasy league I played in (Oliver Perez is that guy this year). He was coming off a stellar rookie season (.279-24-84, 13 SB), and I was convinced he would blossom much more in 2003.

That never happened. I held on to Hinske the entire season in just about every league, and suffered through his .243 average, 12 homers and 63 RBIs. In 2004, I gave him another chance on a few teams, but his numbers remained basically the same.

So clicking ‘Pick Up’ on Saturday was quite painful, but I’d had enough of Palmeiro and needed to do something different to try and get my team out of ninth place.

In two games since adding him to my roster, Hinske is 0-for-6 with four strikeouts, dropping his average from .279 to .266.

Palmeiro, apparently seeking revenge against me for getting benched, responded Tuesday night by going 4-for-5 with five RBIs and a steal. He only had 10 RBIs all season and yet managed to increase his total by 50 percent in one night, as well as double his steals total for the season.

So of course, I had to put him back in my lineup today and bench Hinske.

Translation: Pick up Hinske (at least for tonight) and trade Palmeiro while he has any value, even if it’s for Orlando Palmeiro.

Sean Casey, Marcus Giles, Rafael Furcal and Mike Lowell

One of my semi-good friends is playing in an NL-only league. He’s the typical guy who, after his draft every year, tells you how great his team is, yet usually fails to mention that there are only six teams in his league, and that the other five managers were on autopilot and forgot to pre-rank their players online before the draft

  Sean Casey  /   1B
Born: 07/02/74
Height: 6’4"
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

In March, he called me up to tell me that he drafted an infield of Casey, Giles, Furcal and Lowell. He also repeatedly reminded me that he was playing in an NL-only league, in which sometimes you get stuck starting guys like Royce Clayton and Rob Mackowiak.

After acting like I thought he was the best manager ever, and feeding his ego for 10 minutes, I hung up and didn’t think about his team again until this morning when I received a quick e-mail from him asking for trade advice. His team was sitting in last place, and he needed to add some bats to help his pitiful offense.

So I went online to check some stats, came across some pretty interesting numbers, and sent him back this obnoxious e-mail.

How ’bout Casey, Giles, Furcal and Lowell for Morgan Ensberg.

Last 7 Days:

Ensberg: 11-for-18, 7 R, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 1 SB

Your Fab 4: 10-for-87, 5 R, 0 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 SB

Actually that might not be fair, you better throw in Noah Lowry, since he has been so good for you so far this year (1-5, 6.45).

While my e-mail was probably uncalled for, he deserved it for all the bragging he did back before Opening Day and subsequently jinxing his team.

Speaking of jinxing, how come the reverse jinx theory never works for me? All I’ve done for five years is write about how bad my teams have been, and yet, they just keep getting worse. If gloating leads to failure, shouldn’t pouting trigger success at some point?

Baseball etiquette

Every time I go to a game, some fan ends up annoying me so much that I wind up missing a good portion of the action. When you have 50,000 people in a stadium, one or two knuckleheads can ruin a game for people who actually care. Here are three rules that I would enforce immediately if I was commissioner.

1) No cell phone calls allowed during innings.

If you really need to talk to someone, do it between innings when the only people you are going to annoy are those watching the dot/train/mascot races on the Jumbotron. Fifteen years ago you had to wait on line at a pay phone to get in touch with someone. If you were trying to locate friends at a game, you were pretty much out of luck unless you randomly ran into them.

Waiting until the inning ends is easy. Do it.

2) Learn how to get up and sit down

Why do people always insist on going in and out of the aisle during pitches? Is it really that hard to wait an extra five seconds? It amazes me that people have no clue that they are blocking everyone’s view of a pitch while they are trying to climb back to their seat. It is very easy. Just follow this basic sequence:

Pitch, ump calls strike, you say excuse me, you walk to your seat, you sit down (right away), next pitch happens, everyone in your row and behind you is happy.

Sounds simple to me.

3) Limit the drinking

I’ve complained about this in the past, but why would any true baseball fan ever get drunk at a game? When you have 6-7 beers, the following things happen:

? You stop paying attention to the game.

? You probably start talking way too loud, and about something no one cares about.

? Other people in your area start hating you.

? You spend 57 percent of the game either on line in the bathroom or ordering beer.

? Your odds of running onto the field or getting into a fight increase by 834 percent, meaning that your odds on going to jail instead of home after the game also increase substantially.

I just don’t get people sometimes.

Here’s hoping Revenge of the Sith doesn’t qualify as a Katastrophe in next week’s column