The Color Of Baseball

'55 Robinson 5.5

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball celebrated the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Each year, that remembrance takes me back to my youth and thoughts about prejudice, intolerance and the innocence of childhood.

 

As a kid growing up in Boston, the Red Sox and Ted Williams were my passion. I knew every player, their stats and their uniform numbers. One of the things I didn’t really notice was that all the members of the team were white. Once my parents gifted me with a transistor radio and I was able to pick up the Dodger broadcasts from Brooklyn, it was easy for the “Bums” to become my favorite National League team. It also opened my thoughts to the society around me because the Dodgers had numerous players of color who had followed Robinson to Brooklyn. The Red Sox were the last team to roster a Black player (Elijah Jerry “Pumpsie” Green) and it happened in 1959, a full 12 years after Robinson’s debut. Tom Yawkey owned the team from 1933 until his passing in 1976 and even today, his legacy is tainted by this lack of inclusion by the franchise.

 

It was my first real understanding of bigotry and Jackie Robinson’s #42 being worn by all Major Leaguers every April 15th sparks my love of that Dodger team.

 

In the late 1950’s, a Brooklyn Dodger fan was asked, “If you were in a room with Hitler, Stalin and Walter O’Malley and there were only two bullets in your gun, who would you shoot”? He replied, “I’d shoot O’Malley twice”. Such was the passion of the post-World War II Dodger faithful and the hatred they felt for the man who took their team away.

 

As immortalized in Roger Kahn’s 1972 book, “The Boys of Summer” and chronicled in the 2007 HBO documentary, “The Ghosts of Flatbush”, the Brooklyn Dodgers of 1947-57 created the modern template of how fans feel about their team. Joy, disappointment, loyalty, reverence, sorrow and elation are just some of the emotions that a true fan feels about baseball and we can never quite explain it properly to someone who has never had the experience.

 

This visit will combine baseball cards and SABRmetrics, as we’ll find the rookie cards of the legendary members of the Dodgers and also review each one’s contribution to the team through the use of “Wins Above Replacement” (WAR), the statistic developed to determine the true value of a player. The card values are based on cardboard in “Excellent” (EX 5) condition.

 

> 1B Gil Hodges, 1949 Bowman #100 ($110) – Played his first full season in 1948 and was an All-Star every year from 1949-1955…even had a couple of productive seasons in the late 50’s after the team moved to Los Angeles…his lifetime WAR of 45 isn’t quite Hall of Famer caliber, but he was one of the most beloved players on the team.

 

> 2B Jackie Robinson, 1948 Leaf #79 ($5,000) – He was already 28 years old by the time he joined the Dodgers and still played ten magical seasons at Ebbets Field, which included six NL pennants. Accumulated an impressive WAR of 61.4 in his relatively short career. As a side note, he was already retired when Pumpsie Green was first in the Red Sox line-up.

 

> 3B Billy Cox, 1949 Bowman #73 ($25) – The interesting back-story is that Cox was traded to the Dodgers from the Pirates after the ’47 season in a deal that sent Dixie Walker to the Bucs…Walker was one of the players from the South who made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t happy about having a Black teammate…Cox played with the club for eight seasons and retired after the ’55 Championship campaign with a lifetime WAR of 10.

 

> SS Harold “Pee Wee’ Reese, 1941 Play Ball #54 ($375) – Played for the Dodgers in the early 1940’s before spending three years in the military during the war…came back to be the Captain of the legendary team and was an All-Star for nine consecutive seasons beginning in ’46…inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984, he had an impressive lifetime WAR of 66.2.

 

> OF Jim “Junior” Gilliam, 1953 Topps #258 ($135) – Primarily a 2B, Robinson moved to the OF to accommodate Gilliam’s Rookie of the Year arrival…at Dodger Stadium, his number 19 is retired along with numerous Hall of Famers…a fixture in the line-up for 14 seasons, his lifetime WAR is 40.9.

 

> OF Duke Snider, 1949 Bowman #226 ($425) – Patrolled centerfield and was invariably compared to his contemporaries Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays…was on every All-Star team for the first 7 years of the 50’s and played for 18 seasons…inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980, his lifetime WAR is 66.5.

 

> OF Carl Furillo, 1949 Bowman #70 ($55) – While not considered a star compared to some teammates, he was an integral part of the team during the 50’s and led the NL in ’53 with a batting average of .344…has a lifetime WAR of 35.

 

> C Roy Campanella, 1949 Bowman #84 ($300) – “Campy” was the child of an Italian Father and Black Mother, who arrived in the majors the year after Robinson…played only ten seasons before being paralyzed in an off-season automobile accident in 1958, he  won 3 NL MVP awards in the 50’s…elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, he accumulated a WAR of 34.2 in his relatively short career.

 

> P Don Newcombe, 1950 Bowman #23 ($90) – Another star of the Negro Leagues, he broke in with the Dodgers in 1949 and proceeded to win 56 games in his first three seasons…after two years in the military during the Korean War, he came back to win 56 more the next three campaigns and won the MVP & Cy Young awards in ’56…his WAR was 29.5 in ten seasons.

 

> P Preacher Roe, 1949 Bowman #162 ($65) – Also acquired in the 1948 Dixie Walker trade, he was a mainstay of the Brooklyn rotation from 1948-53 and made four All-Star teams…his 12 seasons produced a lifetime WAR of 35.1.

 

> P Carl Erskine, 1951 Bowman #260 ($50) – Helped the “Bums” to five pennants during his eight seasons in the rotation including a 20-6 record in ’53…his lifetime WAR is 16.6.

 

Those 11 cards would sure look nice on a shelf in your den, wouldn’t they? Of course, we’ve saved you some money because even though Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale joined the team while it was still in Brooklyn, their stardom materialized after the move to L.A. Was one of your favorites left off the list? Maybe Andy Pafko, Sandy Amoros, Don Zimmer, Clem Labine, Don Hoak or Ralph Branca? In that case, you’re a real fan.

 

One of my favorite stops for lunch is salad/soup/sandwich place where you order at the counter, take a spot at a numbered table and wait for a member of the staff to bring your food. I always choose table number 42.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Littlefield Effect – 2018

Littlefield

John Littlefield is now 64 years of age, but his name still resonates with baseball card collectors and Rotisserie League Baseball team owners. He only spent two seasons in the major leagues but what wouldn’t the rest of us give to always be known as “a former big league Pitcher”?

 

The baseball card connection is easy to explain, as Littlefield played in the early 80’s when the card industry exploded with new manufacturers. The Topps company had a virtual monopoly on baseball cards from 1956 – 1980 but in 1981, licenses were given to both Donruss & Fleer and despite the competition, all three companies were guilty of less-than acceptable quality control of their products. There were numerous examples all through the 1980’s of mistakes, misprints, corrections and embarrassments. The most infamous incident involved the now legendary 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken card that was distributed with a picture of the player holding a bat that had an obscenity written on the bottom of the barrel. Fleer tried to correct the card quickly but never really got it right, producing a total of five different variations.

 

Littlefield’s card legacy was early in the cycle, as his 1982 Fleer card was originally distributed with a reverse negative of the picture, turning the 27 year-old right-hander into a southpaw. Fleer corrected the card, thus making the original a very scarce item. Even today, the corrected version is a “common” card worth about a nickel, while the difficult-to-find “error” card will set you back about $30.

 

Littlefield’s enduring legacy to Fantasy Baseball comes from the original 1984 “Rotisserie League Baseball” book that started this amazing hobby played by millions of fans. As the founding fathers of the game had actually started playing a form of the game in 1981, they shared many stories of the fun, camaraderie and strategy they had experienced in those early years. A segment of the book talked about “The Littlefield Effect”, an interesting factor that impacted the value of players at their first few Drafts. While the early 80’s isn’t really that long ago, it was long before the digital age of affordable PC’s, the Internet and instant information. The Roto inventors decided that the best time to have the player Draft was on the weekend following opening day in order to have reasonably valid information about the official MLB 25-man rosters. After all, stats were only published weekly in the USA Today and league standings were always at least a week behind the actual games.

 

The timing of the Draft, however, led to 4-5 games being played prior to the auction / player selection and box scores were readily available in daily newspapers. Could a few games really have a major impact on the value of a player in a 162 game season? John Littlefield answered that question in 1981. In 1980, he had a very productive rookie campaign with the Cardinals, appearing in 52 games with a 3.14 ERA, 5 Wins & 9 Saves. In December, the Cards made an 11-player trade with the Padres and Littlefield headed west. To say that the ’81 Padres were terrible would be a compliment. In the strike-interrupted 110 game season, they went 41-69 and the entire team only hit 32 home runs. Ozzie Smith was the Shortstop and despite leading the NL in At-Bats, he hit .222 with 0 HR’s & 22 RBI’s.

 

The Padres opened the year in San Francisco and Littlefield saved the 4-1, 12-inning win. The next day, he registered another Save in a 4-2 victory. So, by the time the Rotisserie owners showed up for the Draft, it seemed logical that the Padres had anointed him as their Closer. With Saves being one of only four statistical pitching categories in the standings, his auction price ended up being $34, equal to 13% of the total 23-player budget of the winning bidder. As you might guess, the remainder of the 1981 season was very forgettable for Littlefield, as he suffered 2 losses and a blown Save later in April and was replaced as the Closer by a Pitcher named Gary Lucas. He pitched in 14 games at AAA Syracuse in 1982 with an ERA of 7.49 and his career was over at age 28.

 

For those of us who still play “old-school” Rotisserie Baseball and draft our teams on the Saturday following opening day, we also have memorable “effects” of our own. One of the classics was in 1994, when a Cubs outfielder named Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes hit 3 Home Runs on opening day. Even though he had never played more than 50 games in any major-league season, his price on Draft day was $22. He ended up with 8 HR’s for the season and never hit another one in his MLB career.

 

This past weekend, we gathered for the 35th annual Draft of our original Rotisserie league from 1984 and the Littlefield effect was still floating around the room with even more influence than normal. Why? With MLB changing their opening day schedule, we actually had nine days of box scores influencing our bids. Using projections from a highly-respected Fantasy site, let’s see how things played out at the table. As this is a keeper league, we’ll assume that there could be an inflation factor of 20% added to the 4 x 4 projections.

 

> The most obvious example for 2018 was starting pitching. Despite the fact that most of the top-tier SP’s were available, there were no bargains. One or two outings from these guys don’t change the prices but with inflation a definite factor, they all went for big bucks…Clayton Kershaw $38, Max Scherzer $38, Jacob DeGrom $34 & Stephen Strasburg $33. None of these were unexpected and within a reasonable range of their projections. The best of the next tier was Hendricks and his $23 price was close to projection while right behind him you’ll find Madison Bumgarner at a $17 price on the DL (right at projection). The next group of SP’s were overpriced and in some cases it was due to early season performance. The most blatant example was Patrick Corbin of the D’Backs whose two stellar outings raised his price from a projection of $8-$10 to an actual auction price of $25! Carlos Martinez also went for $25 even though his projection was around $17 and a number of others came in higher than expected such as Jon Lester & Johnny Cueto ($19), Jose Quintana & Kenta Maeda ($18) and Tanner Roark ($17).

 

> Closers are always inflated in a 4×4 format, but early-season results created even higher prices. The prime example is Brad Boxberger, who was named Closer late in the Spring and then picked up three Saves before the Draft. The result? He went for $27. Kenley Jensen’s early struggles brought his price down to $31 (well below projected value), less than Rasiel Iglesias at $33.

 

> Injuries also factor into this equation, as the sore back that caused JT Realmoto to miss the start of the season lowered his price to $11 instead of the $17 projection. Another example is Daniel Murphy going for $16 instead of $20+.

 

> Hot starts are always the key to this phenomenon costing teams more money. Examples include Colin Moran’s 4-hit, 3-RBI game the night before the Draft essentially doubling his price from around $10 to $20, Michael Conforto’s good health ramping him up to $26 instead of $19-$20 and Scott Kingery’s new contract resulting in a $23 Roto price.

 

> The Littlefield effect also rears its ugly head in the end game as owners are looking for bargains and stats. Would Nick Pivetta have been a $3 player if he hadn’t recorded 9 K’s and a Win two days before the Draft? How about Trevor Williams and his 2 Wins costing $7?  Or Tyler Mahle’s debut bringing up his value to $9?

 

> While “newbies” to the Roto game might think that we are dinosaurs, don’t forget that the timing also allows us to know who has the job on opening day. And the teams that were influenced by box scores may have to deal with the consequences as the seasons rolls on. However, if MLB keeps the same schedule for 2019, we’ll have the auction two days after opening day and John Littlefield may become even more obscure.

 

The good news for all of us is that whenever you hold your Draft, it’s your favorite day of the year.

The Heritage Of Topps – 2018

'18 McMahon

Everyone you know probably considers themselves an expert at something, but Fantasy Baseball players are at the top of the food chain. Even though we play the game for money and bragging rights, the real truth is that we actually think we’re smarter than MLB GM’s & Managers. After all, would Derek Holland be in your rotation? Or would Fernando Rodney be your Closer? Or would you take on $8 Million in salary to have Carlos Gonzalez take away AB’s from your top prospects? Or would you pay Yasmany Tomas over $10 Million to play in Reno? Or would you wait until opening day to decide that Luke Gregerson & Dominic Leone weren’t the answer in your bullpen? The Old Duck participates in a 15-team Fantasy Baseball “experts” league where it is abundantly clear that each owner considers himself to be smarter than the other 14, but none of them would make those moves. It isn’t arrogance, only knowledge gained from experience.

 

Avid baseball card collectors are no different in their approach to the hobby. After watching card manufacturers flail away at each other in the 80’s and overproduce products in the 90’s to the detriment of the industry, it’s easy to criticize almost any product offering. Card enthusiasts are quick to complain about too few autograph cards, but also aren’t happy when the autographs are on stickers applied to the cards because they want the authenticity of “on-card” signatures. They also don’t like redemption cards (when players have not yet had the opportunity to sign), but also whine when the better players aren’t included in a product. It is the nature of the consumer to always want more for less and consider themselves smarter than the folks in charge.

 

In an attempt to remove myself from this category (even temporarily), I’m willing to admit that the people at The Topps Company are brilliant!

 

In 2001, Topps was celebrating the 50th anniversary of their entry into the baseball card business. They utilized the framework of their historical 1952 set to develop a new product. Topps Heritage came into the marketplace with current players pictured on cards that had the format of the iconic 1952 set. The detail of the set and the photography took collectors back to the time when packs were a nickel and included a stick of gum. The set was designed for card enthusiasts to build it completely by opening packs and sorting through the cards. It even had some of the quirks of the original like short-printed cards, checklist cards and even bubble gum…even though the gum was enclosed in a plastic wrapper. To all of this, Topps also added some autograph & relic cards to make the set even more attractive. The real draw, however, was the 1952 look and the opportunity for kids of the 50’s to build a new set of cards for the 2000’s.

 

Topps Heritage has been a consistent top-selling product at a mid-range price (around $3+ per pack) ever since. Each year, the cards mirror the old design of the appropriate Topps set with new players and this year’s release (which just hit stores last month), uses the 1969 card as its platform. If you collected cards in the 50’s & 60’s, this is the product for you.

 

In the last few years, Topps has added a few more twists with short printed cards that have variations of throwback uniforms or an action image. They even tugged at old-timers’ heartstrings by randomly adding a section of white on some of the card backs emulating how they would have looked had a dusty piece of gum been sitting against the card…very cool!

 

The Old Duck purchases a few boxes each year and builds the set from scratch. Of course, you never really know what might appear inside the packs and the first couple of boxes this year yielded Chrome insert cards of George Springer & Zack Greinke, a Chrome Rookie Card of Victor Robles and Deckle Edge replica cards of Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw & Giancarlo Stanton. And, the best hit of all, a beautiful red ink autograph card of Ryan McMahon with a print run limited to only 69.

 

In honor of this year’s release, let’s look back at that beautiful 1969 set of 664 cards, which includes over 25 Hall of Famers. The card values are based on “Near Mint” (NM 7) condition.

 

> #50 Roberto Clemente, $65 – Even late in his career, there is still a high demand for this legendary player.

 

> #95 Johnny Bench, $95 – Even though his RC was from the ’68 set, this is his first card with an individual image.

 

> #100 Hank Aaron, $65 – Hit 44 HR’s and led the NL in Total Bases…at age 35!

 

> #190 Willie Mays, $80 – He won the Gold Glove in ’68…at age 37!

 

> #260 Reggie Jackson, $400 – The Rookie Card of “Mr. October” on his way to 563 career HR’s.

 

> #480 Tom Seaver, $65 – Won the first of his three Cy Young Awards in 69 with a 25-7 record.

 

> #500 Mickey Mantle, $350 – The final card of “The Mick”, as he retired after the ’68 season with three MVP’s and 536 career HR’s.

 

> #533 Nolan Ryan, $200 – The 2nd year card of “The Express”, he was still finding his way as a 22 year-old coming off a record of 6-9 in ’68.

 

In addition to these big tickets items, you’ll also find Rookie Cards of Rollie Fingers, Bobby Bonds, Graig Nettles & Al Oliver. Thinking about a complete set in NM condition? Set aside about $10,000.

 

The “Heritage” will continue next year with memories of the 1970 set…

 

 

 

Same Time Next Year

Brad Ballpark 17

In 1978, there was a movie titled “Same Time Next Year” starring Alan Alda & Ellen Burstyn. It wasn’t a classic film but was certainly entertaining, which is confirmed by its 7.2 rating on imdb.com. The plot was about two people, both married to others, who meet by chance at a romantic inn and end up sharing a night together. The next morning, they are wondering how this could have happened but decide to an agreement. They will meet each year on the same weekend at the same place and renew their relationship. Originally a stage play, the story takes the audience through the years with the same couple in the same room. The episodes take us from the early 1950’s to the mid 1970’s, as the changes in the world and their lives impact their relationship.

 

As I sat behind home plate at Surprise Stadium for 30+ games this February & March, the title of that movie popped out of my aging grey matter and wrapped itself around this wonderful annual experience. The girl I love each year is named Spring…it just so happens that her last name is Training. With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Of course, it was Sonnet 43, so she probably had a Dennis Eckersley jersey.

 

> The weather in Arizona this time of year is absolutely beautiful. Azure blue skies and emerald green grass greet you everyday at the ballpark.

 

> The ballpark is the most comfortable and fan-friendly of all the Cactus League facilities. Even though it opened in 2003, the newer parks with all the whistles and bells can’t compare with the sightlines and intimacy of this gem. It has a single concourse, allowing easy access for all fans. The concessions are on the concourse, so you don’t miss any game action while feeding your appetite or quenching your thirst. There are small upper-decks above 1B & 3B that hang out over the lower seats and add another viewing  perspective to the game. And, a local group of over 500 volunteers called the Sundancers are always there to assist you with everything from parking to charity raffles to wheelchair access for disabled fans to being at the top of every aisle helping fans find their seat.

 

> What isn’t apparent to most fans is that the ballpark has a second name…Billy Parker Field. When Billy Parker made his major league debut with a game-winning home run for the Angels on September 8, 1971, you probably could have completed the census of Surprise by yourself over a weekend. After his baseball career ended, Billy worked with youth programs for the city and was much beloved for his volunteerism before he passed away in 2003. Today, he would be proud to see the thousands of Little League players who attended youth day at the ballpark last Saturday. The city’s current population is over 115,000.

 

> One of the first things you see when entering the leftfield gate for a game is a small tent hosted by Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins and his charity foundation. Almost everyday, you will find great ballplayers from the past signing autographs in exchange for a donation to the foundation. This Spring, you would have seen Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry, Bert Campanaris, Willie Wilson, George Foster and many others greeting fans and talking baseball with them.

 

> Speaking of autographs, these games obviously offer fans greater access to ballplayers and many hope to get signatures from their heroes. Some players sign a limited amount, some don’t sign at all but the nicest memory is the generosity of Josh Hamilton during his first go-round with the Rangers (2008-12). Typically, the regulars come out of a Spring Training game around the 5th inning and head down the foul line toward the clubhouse. Fans congregate in the area hoping that players might stop and sign, but most just take a circuitous route to avoid the inconvenience. For those five years he spent with the club, Josh stopped every day and signed autographs for as long as he could, even standing in foul territory while the game proceeded just to accommodate the fans. We’ve all had someone in our life who has battled addiction and can clearly understand how difficult it can be to overcome. This is a guy we should all admire because he understands what the game is all about.

 

> The National Anthem is a traditional moment at every baseball game and we’re privileged to have talented people perform at the Stadium each day during February & March. From a retired Naval officer with a booming voice to young girls hitting high notes we could never even dream about to an older gentleman doing a saxophone solo, it is sure to give you chills.  Then, as the home team takes the field, John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” pipes in over the loudspeakers and we’re ready to “Play Ball”.

 

> The other people in the ballpark also make the experience memorable. For me, it never gets old to engage long-time friends and new acquaintances in baseball conversation. My closest friend and his beautiful wife have had seats in the first row behind the 3rd base dugout since the ballpark opened. Sometimes I go down and join them for a couple of innings but even when we’re at a distance we’re still close. Each day, when he arrives at the park, we catch each other’s eye and say “hi” by flashing baseball signs to each other. My season seats are right behind home plate and even though they are about eight rows up from the field, they are on the railing above the tunnel used by visiting teams. The result is that there is no one in front of me to block the view…the best seats in the house! “Duke” is my wingman for about 2/3 of the games and we talk baseball for hours each day before reaching our pitch count and heading home for a nap (me) or “honey do’s” (him). For the other 10 games, the adjacent seat is occupied by golfing buddies, out-of-town guests or an occasional pretty girl who hasn’t figured out how old I am. The last three years have been even more special, as my Son has made the trek from SoCal to join me for a game. Right across the aisle is a dear friend who makes an 11,000 mile round trip from the south coast of England each March to watch baseball. After many years of making the journey, the Customs agents at the Phoenix airport refer to him as the “British Baseball Guy”. This same section is also where the scouts sit with their notepads and radar guns. This allows me the opportunity to visit and talk baseball with really smart guys like Deric McKamey, Kimball Crossley, Jason Grey & John Cox .

 

> As most of the seats around mine are not season tickets, each day also brings new opportunities to talk baseball. Of course, there are always lots of Royals & Rangers fans in for a long weekend or extended visit.  We talk baseball for the whole game, agree that people who are bored by baseball just aren’t very intelligent and pledge to see each other again next year. And naturally, each visiting team is also represented by folks with jerseys from the Giants, Dodgers, Angels and others. Unlike pro football, there is never any animosity regarding loyalty. Everyone in the park is there for a good time enjoying the national pastime.

 

> Encounters also bring about numerous “small world” stories. While having lunch at a local eatery before a game, a conversation took place with a gentleman and his Son who were also attending the game that day. The usual baseball conversation got around to favorite teams and I said, “Red Sox”, the Father responded, “Me too”. It turns out that he lived north of Boston as a kid at the same time I lived west of the city. We are both huge fans of Ted Williams and remember taking that nickel street-car ride to Fenway Park in the 50’s. Think of it…he and I were certainly in the ballpark on the same day many times as youngsters and now, 60 years later, we’re sitting in Arizona reminiscing about those days.

 

> Cactus League facilities have standard food menus and a few more upscale items, but this ballpark has two choices worth trying. There are two kiosks on the concourse called the Diamond Grill that serve a freshly grilled Italian Sausage on a soft bun with grilled onions & peppers. And, on the 3rd base concourse is a food truck that arrives every year direct from Iowa and offers both a pork tenderloin sandwich and chicken tenders. If you’re not already salivating, both items come with waffle fries.  When the e-mail invitations are sent in February to my once-a-year guests, they seem more excited about the prospect of consuming one of these culinary delicacies than they are about the ballgame itself.

 

> As a Fantasy player, the games themselves are always exciting, interesting and informational. You can read all the scouting reports you want on the Internet, but the personal stories make the game a joy. Two years ago, a former #1 pick from 2004 was attempting a comeback after battling alcoholism and serving a jail sentence for drunk driving. He hadn’t played since 2011 and was originally a Shortstop, but now he’s a Pitcher and over the last two seasons, 31 year-old Matt Bush had a 10-6 record with 11 Saves and a 3.08 ERA for the Rangers. You can’t make this stuff up.

 

> There is also the occasional sad moment. Just last weekend, Rangers coach and former All-Star player Howard Johnson was hit in the face by a check-swing foul ball while he was in the dugout. The game was delayed and he was eventually carted off the field and taken to a local hospital. The initial report is that there are facial fractures involved but surgery will not be necessary.

 

> And, of course, there are always a few enthusiastic fans applauding for an unknown prospect wearing #87 with no name on the uniform. You realize quickly that they’re members of his family and just hope he doesn’t strike out or give up a 3-run homer.

 

> Even the most ardent fans can’t know about every player, so Spring surprises like Daniel Vogelbach, Jose Pirela & Cheslor Cuthbert remind us that we’re not quite as smart as we think we are.

 

The Old Duck has only been in love a few times over the years, but the relationship with this girl I call Spring is the most enduring. She is beautiful, loyal, consistent and always in a good mood. I will miss her very much over the next 11 months, but knowing that she’ll be there “same time next year” makes it easier to bear.

 

Charming The Snake Once A Year

Donald Duck Snake

If you’re even an occasional reader of this column, you know that the Old Duck is a 30+ year veteran of Rotisserie Style Auction Keeper Leagues. With about 30 championships in 80 Drafts, it is what I relish and look forward to each year. However, once a year, the dreaded Snake Draft enters my life for one very good reason. The young man who hosts the league (on ESPN.com) is like a son to me and if he asked me to join a Camel Race Fantasy League hosted by Al Jazeera, I’d probably say yes.

 

Even though I know a beautiful girl who once had a pet Boa Constrictor named “Julius Squeezer”, I hate snakes…both in person and of the Fantasy variety. To me, having 10 or 15 or 20 players go off the board without the opportunity to bid, just penalizes me for doing solid research. And, if one of the Roto combatants forgets to show up on-line, you can bet the “auto-draft” spot will be right in front of me.

 

This time of year, if you follow Fantasy Baseball at all, it is impossible to avoid Snake Draft advice. It comes at you from everywhere…newspapers, websites, magazines, Satellite Radio and friends. The number of strategies are mind-boggling and include…

 

> Memorizing the average draft position (ADP) of every player in the universe.

 

> The “Don’t Take Pitchers early” philosophy.

 

> The “Take Clayton Kershaw now” philosophy.

 

> The “Don’t Take Closers Until Later” philosophy.

 

> Prioritizing position scarcity

 

> Getting 50 HR’s & 50 SB’s from your first two picks (50/50 Plan).

 

> Getting 75 HR’s & 75 SB’s from your first three picks (75/75 Plan).

 

> Picking two stud starting pitchers early, also known as the “Dual Aces” plan.

 

> Drafting players for their future instead of their past, also known as the “Upside” plan.

 

> And this year’s favorite, “Get One Of The Big Four”…meaning Kershaw, Scherzer, Sale or Kluber.

 

In order to avoid having my brain explode, I’ve used none of those strategies and still managed a championship, one 2nd place finish and one 3rd place finish in the seven year history of the league. In 2017, the Ducks finished a disappointing 9th and injuries could be blamed to some extent with 1st round pick Bryce Harper going down and Dustin Pedroira being hobbled. In addition, Jonathan Villar became a shell of his 2016 self, so solid seasons from Eric Hosmer, Ryon Healy & Jose Ramirez couldn’t make up the difference while pitching choices like Johnny Cueto, Tanner Roark & Jameson Taillon delivered mediocre results.

 

Part of my occasional past success is from a fairly good knowledge of the player pool, as I’m boning up for NL & AL only Drafts that take place in late March and early April. Logically, however, it seems that the overall approach of the last 30 years still works and it is a mind-set of “balance”. So, while the Long Island Ducks (we all incorporate the name of a minor league team) do have a tendency to wait on pitching, it is more about balancing the roster to leave flexibility as the Draft progresses. I also pay little or no attention to ADP (Average Draft Position) because I’m more concerned about my opinion of players than that of the “crowd”. This will be quite obvious when you see how many of my choices seem to be a “reach” compared to ADP.  Ideally, after ten rounds, the roster should include at least one player at each position (C, 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, OF, SP & Closer) along with a 2nd OF & 2nd SP. After that foundation is established, looking for value is the priority. If you’ve already read columns from multiple sources about the players they drafted, this might be a cure for insomnia. With that disclaimer, my hope is that the strategies and player choices will be of value to you in your upcoming draft.

 

 

This is a 15-team mixed league with 22-man rosters (1 Catcher) and three reserve picks. On the day of the Draft, I sat at a Spring Training game and told my seat-mate that for 2018, the worst spot in a snake would be 3rd because Mike Trout & Jose Altuve would go first and then it would be a crapshoot. A spot near the end of the 1st round would be more advantageous, as there wee 23 players worth over $30 in this format and you would be guaranteed to roster two of them. Naturally, the random order one hour prior to the Draft gave the Ducks the 3rd pick, which is why I didn’t buy a lottery ticket on the way home from the ballpark. As we work our way through the results, you’ll see the ADP for each player as a point of reference. The ADP rankings are as of the date of the Draft (3/18).

 

Fantasy players are always interested in the first round, so here’s how this league shook out…1) Mike Trout…2) Nolan Arenado…3) Jose Altuve…4) Mookie Betts…5) Trea Turner…6) Bryce Harper…7) Charlie Blackmon…8) Paul Goldschmidt…9) Carlos Correa…10) Manny Machado…11) Giancarlo Stanton…12) Gary Sanchez…13) Clayton Kershaw…14) Max Scherzer…15) Chris Sale

 

Here’s the Ducks roster for 2018…

 

Round 1, Pick 3 – Jose Altuve, 2B (ADP 2)

 

I had already queued up Trea Turner’s name when the team ahead of me chose Arenado, so Jose became the choice. Arenado is a great player but Altuve’s projected value is higher.

 

 

Round 2, Pick 28 – Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF (ADP 25)

 

Power was the priority here and all the other “boppers’ were taken earlier in the round…including Aaron Judge right

in front of me at #27.

 

Round 3, Pick 33 – Jacob deGrom, P (ADP 35)

 

As expected, the SP run started early…Kershaw, Scherzer & Sale in Round1 –  James Paxton, Kluber & Stephen Strasburg in Round 2. In Round 3, when Noah Syndergaard went two spots ahead of me at #31,  I couldn’t wait any longer for an ace. Carlos Carrasco & Justin Verlander were gone in the next eight picks.

 

Round 4, Pick 58 – Willson Contreras, C (ADP 51)

 

Sanchez went in Round 1 and this was the next best Catcher on the board, just ahead of Buster Posey (who went in Round 5).

 

 

Round 5, Pick 63 – Kris Davis, OF (ADP 68)

 

My first OF, he’s a 40 HR player.

 

Round 6, Pick 88 – Ender Inciarte, OF (ADP121)

 

The team’s first significant “reach” compared to ADP, but a top-of-the- lineup guy with speed was a good fit.

 

Round 7, Pick 93 – Brad Hand, P (ADP 108)

 

The Closer run had begun early with Kenley Jansen & Craig Kimbrel going in Round 3, then Aroldis Chapman in Round 5. At the start of Round 6, Roberto Osuna, Corey Knebel & Felipe Rivero went back-to-back-to-back. Hand has the job and a contract, so we’ll root for lots of close games at Petco Park.

 

Round 8, Pick 118 – Kyle Hendricks, P (ADP 116)

 

Another SP was added in this spot. He had a good second half in ’17 and the Cubs will lend lots of offense support.

 

Round 9, Pick 123 – Kyle Seager, 3B (ADP 140)

 

The hot corner was the next priority and I liked Seager better than Beltre, Lamb, Healy or Longoria.

 

 

Round 10, Pick 148 – Addison Russell, SS (ADP 264)

 

An over-the-top reach but he’s only 24 and the potential is still there. Another factor was the timing, as we needed a SS and Didi Gregorious & Tim Beckham went in Round 9, while Jose Peraza, Marwin Gonzalez & Javier Baez went earlier in Round 10.

 

At this point, the original strategy was in place…the Ducks had a 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, C, 2 OF, 2 SP & 1 Closer.

 

Round 11, Pick 153 – Ronald Acuna, OF (ADP 112)

 

I saw this kid play in the Arizona Fall League and he was spectacular. Even if the Braves send him down for a few weeks to delay the arbitration clock, he’ll be the LF soon.

 

Round 12, Pick 178 – Taijuan Walker, P (ADP 206)

 

Has a great arm and a first NL season under his belt.

 

Round 13, Pick 183 – Hector Neris, P (ADP 143)

 

A second Closer at a good value.

 

Round 14, Pick 208 – Cesar Hernandez, 2B (ADP 259)

 

Drafters must be scared of Scott Kingery in the wings, but this guy will have a regular job somewhere.

 

Round 15, Pick 213 – Brandon Belt (ADP 303)

 

If healthy, he’ll be in the middle of a much-improved line-up.

 

Round 16, Pick 238 – Randall Grichuk, OF (ADP 291)

 

A hunch that he’ll like Toronto.

 

Round 17, Pick 243 – Patrick Corbin, P  (ADP 231)

 

Two D’Back SP’s…I’m going to add a humidor to my house.

 

Round 18, Pick 268 – Dustin Fowler, OF (ADP 365)

 

Told you that I didn’t look at ADP’s.

 

 

Round 19, Pick 273 – Tyler Chatwood, P  (ADP 263)

5th Starters are what you get at this point.

 

Round 20, Pick 298 – Ivan Nova, P (ADP 350)

 

Innings and some Wins

 

Round 21, Pick 303 – Lewis Brinson, OF (ADP 296)

 

The Marlins have nothing to lose by putting him in the line-up

 

Round 22, Pick 328 – Chad Kuhl, P (ADP 389)

 

Another Pirate SP…better find out what Ray Searage drinks.

 

Round 23, Pick 333 – Russell Martin, C (ADP 315)

 

The first of three reserve spots, it’s good to have an everyday Catcher on your bench.

 

Round 24, Pick 358 – Jack Flaherty (ADP 358)

 

That’s not a typo, as almost every year I manage to pick a player at the exact spot determined by thousands of other leagues…the crowd bows down to the Duck.

 

 

Round 25, Pick 363 – Nick Senzel, 3B (ADP 352)

 

Playing SS in the Spring and Suarez just got an extension…maybe he’s in Cincinnati by May 1st.

 

Starting next week, our squads get to play on the field instead of on paper. The really good news is that I don’t have to do this for another year. Best of luck in your Draft.

Baseball’s Worst Trades

Mathewson

In our community, we have a very active and enthusiastic sports interest group. Headed up by a retired New York City schoolteacher, who is also the world’s biggest Giants fan, we’ve been fortunate enough to have visits from Fergie Jenkins, Josh Hamilton, Matt Williams, John D’Acquisto, Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Roland Hemond and dozens of other sports luminaries. Each Spring, as our homage to Spring Training and the new baseball season, we host a baseball panel discussion on a particular topic. In the past, we’ve reviewed the “Golden Age of Baseball” (the 50’s & 60’s), debated the Hall of Fame, previewed the upcoming season, rated the top ten players at each position, reviewed the ten greatest teams of all time and discussed All-Star teams by decade. Last year, we looked into the future to see what major league baseball would look like in the year 2025. So, for 2018, the topic is the worst trades in the history of the game.

 

Earlier this week in front of an enthusiastic audience, the panel reviewed famous trades from the last 100+ years that involved members of the Hall of Fame. While there have been hundreds of lousy trades in baseball, giving up on a future Cooperstown inductee is a category all its own. Here are my notes from the presentation…

 

MOST CASUAL FANS WOULD IMMEDIATELY THINK OF BABE RUTH WHEN THE TOPIC OF BAD TRADES IN BASEBALL IS ADDRESSED. WE’LL DISCUSS 16 DEALS TODAY BUT BABE’S NAME WON’T BE INCLUDED. WHY? BECAUSE RUTH WASN’T TRADED! IF YOU LOOK UP THE OFFICIAL TRANSACTION FROM DECEMBER OF 1919, IT SAYS “PURCHASED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES FROM THE BOSTON RED SOX FOR $100,000”. THAT MONEY ALLOWED RED SOX OWNER HARRY FRAZEE TO INVEST IN A BROADWAY SHOW CALLED “NO NO NANETTE”. IN FACT, HE HAD REPORTEDLY TURNED DOWN AN OFFER FROM THE WHITE SOX THAT INLCUDED JOE JACKSON & $60,000. SO, UNTIL SOMEONE SHOWS US NANETTE’S LIFETIME STATS, IT WASN’T ANY MORE OF A TRADE THAN THE PIRATES GETTING ROBERTO CLEMENTE FROM THE DODGERS IN THE 1954 RULE 5 DRAFT.

 

#1 – JOE JACKSON FOR BRIS LORD (1910)

 

* THE FIRST TRADE ON OUR LIST DOESN’T TECHNICALLY INCLUDE A HALL-OF-FAMER, BUT HE WOULD HAVE BEEN IF NOT FOR THE 1919 BLACK SOX SCANDEL. DURING THE 1910 SEASON, THE PHILADELPHIA ATHLETICS TRADED A 22 YEAR-OLD UNPROVEN OUTFIELDER NAMED JOE JACKSON TO THE CLEVELAND NAPS FOR BRIS LORD. JACKSON’S FIRST FULL SEASON IN 1911 PRODUCED A .408 BA WITH A LEAGUE-LEADING .468 OBP. “SHOELESS JOE” WENT ON TO BECOME ONE OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS OF THE ERA, WITH A LIFETIME BA OF .356. IN HIS FINAL SEASON BEFORE BEING SUSPENDED (1920), HE HIT .382 AND LED THE LEAGUE WITH 20 TRIPLES. ON THE OTHER HAND, BRIS LORD PLAYED THREE SEASONS WITH THE A’S BEFORE RETIRING WITH A LIFETIME BA OF .256.

 

# 2 – JOHN SMOLTZ FOR DOYLE ALEXANDER (1987)

 

* THE TIGERS WERE FIGHTING FOR THE AL EAST CROWN AND NEEDED TO BOLSTER THEIR PITCHING STAFF, SO THEY TRADED AN UNKNOWN MINOR-LEAGUER TO THE BRAVES FOR 36 YEAR-OLD DOYLE ALEXANDER. ALEXANDER RESPONDED BY GOING 9-0 OVER THE SECOND HALF AND HELPED THE BENGALS GET TO THE PLAYOFFS. HE PITCHED TWO MORE SEASONS FOR DETROIT (GOING 20-29) BEFORE RETIRNG. THE UNKNOWN PITCHER IN THE DEAL WAS JOHN SMOLTZ, WHO SENT ON TO ACCUMULATE 213 WINS & 154 SAVES ON HIS WAY TO THE HALL-OF-FAME.

 

#3 – JOE MORGAN FOR LEE MAY (1971)

 

* LEE MAY WAS AN ALL-STAR 1B FOR THE REDS IN 1971, BUT IN AN EFFORT TO IMPROVE THEIR OVERALL LINE-UP, CINCINNATI SWAPPED HIM TO THE ASTROS FOR A YOUNG 2B NAMED JOE MORGAN. MAY WENT ON TO HAVE A PRODUCTIVE CAREER WITH 354 LIFETIME HR’S BUT MORGAN BECAME THE HEART OF THE “BIG RED MACHINE” WINNING TWO MVP’S AND FIVE GOLD GLOVES. HE HAD A LIFETIME “WAR’ (WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT) OF OVER 100 AND WAS INDUCTED INTO COOPERSTOWN IN 1990.

 

#4 – TOM SEAVER FOR 4 PLAYERS (1977)

 

* BY 1977, FREE AGENCY WAS PART OF THE BASEBALL LANDSCAPE AND TOM SEAVER WAS ONE OF THE BEST PITCHERS IN THE GAME. HE HAD CAPTURED THREE CY YOUNG AWARDS AND WAS STILL AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME AT AGE 32. SEAVER WANTED TO BE COMPENSATED IN A SIMILAR MANNER TO OTHER TOP PITCHERS OF THE TIME BUT THE METS WEREN’T BUDGING, SO IN MID-SEASON, THEY TRADED “TOM TERRIFIC” TO THE REDS FOR DOUG FLYNN, STEVE HENDERSON, DAN NORMAN & PAT ZACHRY. SEAVER FINISHED ’77 WITH A 21-6 RECORD AND BY 1978, THE METS WERE ONE OF THE WORST TEAMS IN BASEBALL.

 

#5 – DENNIS ECKERSLEY FOR PROSPECTS ( 1987)

 

* IN 1986, DENNIS ECKERSLEY WAS A STARTING PITCHER FOR THE CUBS AND POSTED A RECORD OF 6-11 AT AGE 31. THE CUBBIES TRADED HIM JUST PRIOR TO THE ’87 SEASON TO THE ATHLETICS FOR BRIAN GUINN, MARK LEONETTE & DAVE WILDER. THE A’S CONVERTED HIM TO A CLOSER AND HE SAVED 387 GAMES OVER THE NEXT 12 SEASONS ON HIS WAY TO THE HALL OF FAME. NONE OF THE THREE PROSPECTS EVER APPEARED IN A MAJOR-LEAGUE GAME.

 

# 6 – LOU BROCK FOR ERNIE BROGLIO (1964)

 

* AFTER 2+ SEASONS, THE CUBS GAVE UP ON OUTFIELDER LOU BROCK AND TRADED HIM TO THE CARDINALS FOR PITCHER ERNIE BROGLIO. BROCK HIT .348 FOR THE REST OF THAT SEASON AND LED THE REDBIRDS TO THREE PENNANTS AND TWO WORLD SERIES DURING HIS CAREER. HE IS 2ND ON THE ALL-TIME SB LIST WITH 938. BROGLIO PLAYED 2+ SEASONS WITH THE CUBS AND COMPILED A 7-19 RECORD.

 

#7 – RYNE SANDBERG FOR IVAN DEJESUS (1982)

 

* BEFORE THE 1982 SEASON, THE PHILLIES SWAPPED SS LARRY BOWA AND A 3B PROSPECT NAMED RYNE SANDBERG TO THE CUBS FOR SS IVAN DE JESUS. CHICAGO MOVED SANDBERG TO 2B WHERE HE WON NINE GOLD GLOVES, HIT 282 HR’S AND BECAME A HALL OF FAME PLAYER. DE JESUS WAS THE PHILS SS FOR THREE SEASONS AND NEVER BATTED HIGHER THAN .257.

 

# 8 – GAYLORD PERRY FOR SAM MCDOWELL (1971)

 

* AFTER THE 1971 SEASON, THE INDIANS WERE SHOPPING THEIR BEST PITCHER, SAM MCDOWELL. THEY FINALLY DECIDED TO MAKE A DEAL WITH THE GIANTS FOR GAYLORD PERRY. BOTH HURLERS WERE OUTSTANDING TOP-OF-THE-ROTATION GUYS BUT MCDOWELL WAS THREE YEARS YOUNGER. THE OUTCOME WAS THAT PERRY WENT 24-16 FOR THE TRIBE AND WON THE AL CY YOUNG AWARD. HE WENT ON TO WIN 314 GAMES IN HIS CAREER AND ENTERED COOPERSTOWN IN 1991. MCDOWELL POSTED A RECORD OF 10-8 FOR SAN FRANCISCO IN ’72 AND WAS OUT OF BASEBALL THREE YEARS LATER.

 

#9 – CHRISTY MATHEWSON FOR AMOS RUSIE (1900)

 

* AMOS RUSIE MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE BEST PITCHER OF THE 1890’S, WINNING 246 GAMES BETWEEN 1889-1898. ARM TROUBLE KEPT HIM OFF THE MOUND IN 1899 & 1900 AND THEN THE GIANTS TRADED HIM TO THE REDS PRIOR TO THE 1901 SEASON FOR AN UNKNOWN 19 YEAR-OLD NAMED CHRISTY MATHEWSON. RUSIE PITCHED ONLY THREE GAMES FOR THE REDS BEFORE RETIRING WHILE MATHEWSON WON 30 OR MORE GAMES FOUR TIMES AND HAD 373 VICTORIES IN HIS CAREER BECOMING PART OF THE FIRST HALL OF FAME CLASS IN 1936.

 

#10 – NOLAN RYAN FOR JIM FREGOSI (1971)

 

* FORMER ALL-STAR SHORTSTOP JIM FREGOSI LASTED LESS THAN TWO SEASONS WITH THE METS AFTER BEING ACQUIRED FOR NOLAN RYAN FROM THE ANGELS. OF COURSE, RYAN BECAME A LEGENDARY PITCHER, PLAYING 27 SEASONS, WINNING 324 GAMES, STRIKING OUT 5,714 BATTERS AND PITCHED SEVEN NO-HITTERS.

 

#11 – PEDRO MARTINEZ FOR DELINO DESHIELDS (1993)

 

* THE DODGERS FELT THAT PEDRO MARTINEZ WAS TOO SMALL TO HAVE A PRODUCTIVE CAREER AS A STARTING PITCHER, SO THEY SENT HIM TO THE EXPOS FOR DELINO DESHIELDS. MARTINEZ WON THREE CY YOUNG AWARDS, WAS AN EIGHT-TIME ALL STAR AND HAD THE HIGHEST WINNING PERCENTAGE OF ANY 200-GAME WINNER IN MODERN BASEBALL HISTORY.

 

#12 – STEVE CARLTON FOR RICK WISE (1972)

 

* STEVE CARLSTON WAS A 20-GAME WINNER FOT THE CARDINALS IN 1971 AT AGE 26. DESPITE THAT PERFORMANCE, THEY TRADED HIM TO THE PHILLIES FOR RICK WISE PRIOR TO THE 1972 SEASON. IN ’72, CARLTON HAD ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS SEASONS AS HE WON 27 GAMES FOR THE LAST-PLACE PHILS, WINNING A RECORD 45% OF THE TEAM’S TOTAL VICTORIES. IT WON HIM THE FIRST OF HIS FOUR CY YOUNG AWARDS ON THE WAY TO 329 CAREER WINS. WISE WON 16 GAMES EACH OF THE NEXT TWO YEARS FOR THE CARDINALS AND HAD A PRODUCTIVE CAREER WITH 188 WINS, BUT HE WAS NEVER IN THE CATEGORY OF “LEFTY”.

 

#13 – ORLANDO CEPEDA FOR RAY SADECKI (1966)

 

ORLANDO CEPEDA WAS THE 1958 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AND HAD SEVEN OUTSTANDING SEASONS WITH THE GIANTS. IN 1965, HOWEVER HE MISSED MOST OF THE SEASON AND THE GIANTS WON 91 GAMES WITH WILLIE MCCOVEY AT 1B. NOT HAVING ROOM FOR BOTH PLAYERS, THEY SWAPPED CEPEDA TO THE CARDINALS IN EARLY ’66 FOR PITCHER RAY SADECKI. CEPEDA CONTINUED HIS EXCELLENT CAREER INCLUDING A WORLD SERIES TITLE IN 1967 WHEN HE WON THE NL MVP AWARD, LEADING THE LEAGUE WITH 111 RBI’S. SADECKI WAS 29-32 OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS IN SAN FRANCISCO AND HIS CAREER WENT DOWNHILL QUICKLY.

 

#14 – JEFF BAGWELL FOR LARRY ANDERSON (1990)

 

* IN A TRADE THAT CLOSELY PARALLELS THE SMOLTZ-ALEXANDER DEAL, THE RED SOX NEEDED PITCHING HELP DOWN THE STRETCH OF THE 1990 SEASON AND ACQUIRED LARRY ANDERSEN FROM THE ASTROS FOR A MINOR-LEAGUE PROSPECT. ANDERSEN WAS 37 AT THE TIME AND WAS ABOUT TO BECOME A FREE AGENT, BUT HE APPEARED IN 15 GAMES FOR THE BOSOX AND HELPED THEM WIN THE AL EAST. THE PROSPECT TURNED OUT TO BE JEFF BAGWELL, WHO WON THE 1991 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AND THE 1994 MVP AWARD ON HIS WAY TO 449 CAREER HR’S AND A SPOT IN COOPERSTOWN.

 

#15 – RANDY JOHNSON FOR MARK LANGSTON (1989)

 

* IN MAY OF 1989, THE EXPOS GAVE UP ON AN ERRATIC LEFT-HANDED PITCHER WHO HAD COMPILED A RECORD OF 7-17 OVER THE PREVIOUS SEASON+. THEY WERE ABLE TO GET A QUALITY PITCHER IN RETURN BUT ONLY BECAUSE MARK LANGSTON WAS GOING TO BE A FREE AGENT AFTER THE SEASON. THE PLAYER THEY GAVE UP TO THE MARINERS WAS RANDY JOHNSON, WHO WON FIVE CY YOUNG AWARDS IN HIS HALL OF FAME CAREER.

 

#16 – FRANK ROBINSON FOR MILT PAPPAS (1965)

 

* FRANK ROBINSON WON THE NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IN 1958 AND HAD TEN GREAT SEASONS WITH THE REDS INCLUDING A MVP AWARD IN ’61. MAYBE THE REDS WERE USING THE OLD ADAGE OF TRADING A PLAYER A YEAR TOO SOON INSTEAD OF A YEAR TOO LATE, BUT IT DIDN’T WORK OUT FOR THE FRANCHISE. HE WAS TRADED TO THE ORIOLES PRIOR TO THE ’66 SEASON, WHERE HE WON THE AL MVP AND LED THE BIRDS TO THE WORLD SERIES TITLE. MILT PAPPAS WAS THE PITCHER IN THE DEAL AND EVEN THOUGH HE WON 209 GAMES IN HIS CAREER, HE WAS NEVER AN ALL-STAR AFTER THE TRADE.

 

OF COURSE, EVERY FAN OF AN INDIVIDUAL TEAM CAN LOOK BACK AND REMEMBER AN AWFUL TRADE MADE BY THE “MUDVILLE NINE”. HOW ABOUT SOME OF THESE…

 

> MARK MCGWIRE TO THE CARDINALS FOR THREE MINOR-LRAGUE PITCHERS

 

* GEORGE FOSTER TO THE REDS FOR FRAN DUFFY & VERN GEISHERT

 

* SPARKY LYLE TO THE YANKEES FOR DANNY CATER

 

* DEREK LOWE & JASON VARITEK TO THE RED SOX FOR HEATHCLIFFE SLOCUMB

 

* ROGER MARIS TO THE YANKEES FOR DON LARSEN, NORM SIEBERN & HANK BAUER

 

* KENNY LOFTON TO THE INDIANS FOR EDDIE TAUBENSEE

 

* NORM CASH TO THE TIGERS FOR STEVE DEMETER

 

* PAUL KONERKO TO THE WHITE SOX FOR MIKE CAMERON

 

FEEL FREE TO ADD MORE OF YOUR OWN

 

 

 

Legal Supplements

xfllogo

How would you like to be invited to participate in the most unique Fantasy Baseball league in the industry? Looking back to 2002, the Old Duck was thrilled to be part of the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), the vision of Ron Shandler and the first industry keeper league. Some of the most respected pundits and players of the game were kind enough to invite three “challengers” to be included as part of the 12-team group. As one of these home-league players, I was nervous and excited to sit down at the draft table that November and test my skills against the best.

 

As we enter our 16th season, it has been a great ride for this lifetime baseball fan. We’ve expanded to 15 teams and the camaraderie established over the years has led to genuine friendships with a great group of guys. And, to my surprise, the Quacker has turned out to be a decent player with championships in 2005, 2009, 2011 & 2012.

 

The XFL is a 5×5 keeper league (with OBP instead of BA) that has an auction budget of $260 for 23 players. We conduct the draft only a month after the baseball season ends and no research (or computers) are allowed at the table. Utilizing just MLB depth charts handed out prior to the first player being nominated, it is a test of your player-pool knowledge and prognostication. There is a significantly high inflation factor because many of the players on the keeper lists have salaries much lower than their projected values. Here’s the roster of Donald’s Dux (“K” for keepers, “D” for drafted) following the November draft…

 

C – Willson Contreras $7 (K)

C – Jason Castro $1 (D)

1B – Anthony Rizzo $33 (K)

3B – Eduardo Nunez $18 (D)

1/3 – Jose Abreu $13 (K)

2B – Yoan Moncada $4 (K)

SS – Didi Gregorious $6 (K)

2/S – Jonathan Scoop $11 (K)

OF – Yasiel Puig $16 (K)

OF – Shin-Soo Choo $12 (D)

OF – Odubel Herrera $16 (D)

OF – Domingo Santana $16 (K)

OF – Michael Taylor $9 (D)

U – Randal Grichuk $3 (D)

P – Kenley Jansen $23 (D)

P – Patrick Corbin $3 (D)

P – Julio Urias $4 (K)

P – Jeff Samardzija $17 (D)

P – Michael Wacha $10 (D)

P – Julio Teheran $10 (D)

P – Gio Gonzalez $12 (K)

P – Kelvin Herrera $6 (K)

P – Luis Gohara $8 (D)

FARM – Willy Adames (K)

FARM – Gleyber Torres (K)

FARM – Kolby Allard (K)

FARM – Alex Verdugo (K)

 

To lend some insight into the keeper salaries, players drafted in the auction have their salary increase $5 each season. So, for example, Santana was drafted for $11 the previous year. Any player who qualifies as a rookie has his salary increase only $3 each season. So, because the Dux drafted Puig in 2013 before he appeared in an actual major league game, he is entering his 6th year on the roster. The league plays the season with 40-man rosters (23 active each week), so at the end of March there is a supplemental, on-line, snake draft to fill the remaining slots. These legal supplements can have a huge influence on the success of your team because so much can happen between November & March. For the teams who drafted (or kept) Danny Salazar, Zack Britton, Eduardo Rodriguez, Julio Urias, Jimmy Nelson, Ervin Santana, Jose De Leon, Brent Honeywell & others, the first few rounds of this supplemental phase are critical to their team’s ability to contend.

 

As the result of finishing 5th in 2017, the Dux had the 4th pick in this supplemental phase as the first of 13 players to be added to the roster. As always, it becomes a lesson in strategy as to the utilization of scarce resources from a pool where over 350 players were already rostered. The current projections for the 23-man rosters have the Dux in a respectable 5th place, but the weakness is in starting pitching and the injury to Gohara exacerbates that problem. The first question regarding strategy was whether or not an available SP was worth the 4th pick, as compared to the best player (or prospect). Research indicated that the SP pool only had names like JA Happ, Mike Tomlin, Joe Musgrove, Hyun-Jin Ryu, & Tyler Chatwood. That made it clear that the value of the 4th choice needed to yield a prospect who might be a long-term keeper.

 

 

Now, a word about prospects. Due to deep rosters, teams are not shy when it comes to rostering young players low in the minors and holding them until they’re ready. This is one of the key elements to a “dynasty” format and the owners in this league know everything about projectable minor leaguers, college players and even an occasional high-school star. In any given year, you could take a top-20 prospect list from your favorite publication or website and about 18 of them are already on one of the XFL teams. The real gems in the 1st round of the supplemental draft are players who have rookie status and a major league job like Jose Abreu, who the Dux selected with the first pick in 2014. No player in that category emerged for 2018, so minor-league prospects were the priority.

 

Interestingly, the best available youngsters were all Shortstops…Fernando Tatis Jr., Bo Bichette & Royce Lewis. While SS isn’t a great fit for my roster with Torres & Adames already on the Farm, you can’t have too many good players at a scarce position. So, unless they went 1-2-3 ahead of me, one of them would be the choice. If you might wonder why a young pitching prospect wouldn’t be a priority, it is because the fragility of those players isn’t worth rolling the dice in the first round…Honeywell was taken with the 9th pick last year.  A major-league starting pitcher would be targeted in Round 2, then major league back-ups for 3B, SS & C with an eye for players who might be able to be kept for two seasons ($1 this year and $6 next year).

 

Teams have very difficult choices in the initial rounds, as they need to balance filling holes on their roster with also acquiring some long-term talent. This year, as we gathered at our computers, the wheels were turning for 15 separate owners and here are the 1st Round results…

 

> 1.01 Fernando Tatis Jr. – Arguably the best prospect on the board.

 

> 1.02 Brandon Morrow – One of a handful of Closers available, he could rack up the Saves in Chicago if his health holds up.

 

> 1.03 Bo Bichette – Dante’s Son and named after Bo Jackson, he’s only 19.

 

> 1.04 Royce Lewis – As predicted, one of the three SS fell to me at this spot…he’s not that far behind the first two and at age 18, the future is bright.

 

> 1.05 MacKenzie Gore – This 18 year-old Padre LH was one of the highest rated pitching prospects on the board.

 

> 1.06 Dustin Fowler – Seems to be recovering well from a horrific 2017 injury and could be the starter in CF for the A’s.

 

> 1.07 Forrest Whitley – Along with Gore, the Astro RH brings great promise.

 

> 1.08 Cal Quantrill – Another big talent in the Padres system, this RH is the Son of Paul Quantrill, who pitched 14 years in the majors.

 

> 1.09 Luis Urias – Not your typical young hitter, he has strike-zone judgment and puts the ball in play…he had 68 Walks and only 65 K’s at AA last season.

 

> 1.10 Anthony Alford – The highest-rated OF on my cheat sheet, this Toronto prospect has a bright future.

 

> 1.11 Austin Riley – Maybe the Braves shied away from signing Mike Moustakas because this kid is waiting in the wings?

 

> 1.12 Jonathan Villar – Fantasy experts love a player with skills coming off a disappointing season…only hit .241 last year but led the NL with 62 SB’s in 2016.

 

> 1.13  Issac Parades – There’s always one player taken in the 1st round who is a stranger to me…this is a 19 year-old infielder in the Tigers organization who hasn’t played above A ball yet.

 

> 1.14- Sixto Sanchez – Slots right in with Gore, Whitley & Quantrill as a potential ace…this Phillie phenom is 19.

 

> 1.15 Kyle Wright – This Braves RH makes it five SP’s in the first round.

 

Additional picks for the Dux roster…

 

> 2.12, Steven Matz – Was targeting Chatwood in this spot but he went at 2.08…Matz has talent, but not durability.

 

> 3.04, Colin Moran – Nunez was the only 3B on the squad, so getting a back-up was important…the Pirates wouldn’t have made the trade if they didn’t think he could do the job.

 

> 4.12, Vincent Velasquez – Trying to accumulate pitching depth…in 46 major-league starts, he has a 9.7 K rate.

 

> 5.4, Kurt Suzuki – Wanted Mitch Garver in this spot because he’s going to back-up Castro, but he surprisingly went off the board in Round 3…Suzuki was the best option at this point

 

> 6.12, Addison Reed – Didn’t really need another Closer, but this was low-hanging fruit at this point in the draft. Two good reasons for the pick…1) trading the best Closer in baseball (Jansen) in mid-season could bring help in other categories and 2) Reed signed a two-year with the Twins and a successful season gives the Dux a $6 Closer for 2019. Fernando Rodney would only scare me if I owned him.

 

> 7.4, Brandon Crawford – Needed a back-up for Gregorius and Crawford will play everyday due to his Gold Glove defense.

 

> 8.12, Kevin Pillar – Another one who’ll play because of his defense, he’s a back-up OF with a little speed…has averaged 18 SB’s over the last three years.

 

> 9.4, Jesus Sanchez – With all the back-up spots covered, it was time for another prospect…he’s an OF with the Rays who played A ball in 2017 at age 19 and produced a .305 BA with 15 HR’s & 82 RBI’s.

 

> 10.12, Leonys Martin – He broke my heart last year, but I’m all about forgiveness…had 15 HR’s & 24 SB’s for the Mariners in 2016.

 

> 11.4, Michel Baez – The Padres system is loaded and this Cuban RH had a 13-4 record last season with a 2.50 ERA and a 12.6 K rate.

 

> 12.12, Ben Zobrist – Probably doesn’t have much left in the tank, but multi-position eligibility is nice to have on your bench.

 

> 13.4, Chad Kuhl – Not asking for much, just another Pirates make-over from Ray Searage.

 

All in all, a fairly productive draft. The three extra SP’s give some flexibility for match-ups and streaming until Gohara gets back. Moran could be a sleeper, while the other back-ups seem solid. Seven minor-leaguers also give hope for the future.

 

If you consider yourself a baseball expert, consider that the following players were taken in this draft…Tetsuto Yamada, Yusei Kikuchi (Gesundheit), Wander Javier, Ian Anderson (why not draft Jethro Tull?), Triston Casas, Luis Alexander Basabe, Travis Swaggerty and Colton Welker (taken in the 2106 amateur draft out of Stoneman-Douglas HS in Parkland, Florida).

 

More information and the league history can be found at fantasyxperts.com