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.

 

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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

 

 

The Usual Rotisserie Suspects

fantasyillo-ricig

With the original “Rotisserie League Baseball” book having been published in 1984, some of us are coming up on our 35th year of auction drafts in the Spring of 2018. Almost everything has changed for the Fantasy player since those days of the analytic pioneers, but one trait has remained constant. My attendance at over 70 of these soirees indicates that while the people around the table have changed, the personalities haven’t.

 

As with “Dragnet”, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, but you should recognize some of these types from your own league.

 

> “The Hypester” – Not to be confused with a “hipster”, this guy automatically buys into all the hype he reads about minor league prospects, rookies, refugees and players from the Pacific Rim. If you told him confidentially to look for a Korean phenom named Sum Yung Guy, he’d probably bid on him. This guy drafted Candy Maldonado in the 80’s, Kevin Maas in the 90’s and Domonic Brown a few years ago. He also owns a Joe Charboneau baseball card.

 

> “The Limited” – Not to be confused with a train, this player is literally stuck at the station. He’s created some guidelines for the bidding process and doesn’t have the courage to go beyond his set values. Invariably, he’s the next-to-last bidder on numerous players and ends up leaving money on the table. In poker, this guy is defined as “tight passive” and can be bluffed out of the hand.

 

> “The Smart Ass” – This smirking fellow has figured out that the game is supposed to be entertainment and his goal is to bring out a player obscure enough to be unknown to half the league…and the other half doesn’t even want to bid. It doesn’t matter because he relishes the moment when people are scrambling through their paperwork to locate the bum. We once had an opposing player turn to his partner and say, “Keep bidding until I find the guy”. The Smart Ass is willing to have a nobody on his roster in order to bask in the glory of that remark.

 

> “We Are Family” – This team owner “becomes as one” with the players he drafts. As soon as a player is rostered on his squad, he no longer refers to them by their last name. During the season, he talks about “Von”, “Glenn” & “Rick” as if they’re all foster children who have been taken into his home. Their injuries impact him on an emotional level and approaching him about a trade is a waste of time.

 

> “The Pencil Breaker” – This is the well-organized, methodical man who has worked diligently on his plan. The issue at the table is that everyone’s strategy is usually blown-up in the first half-hour and the words “flexible” and “spontaneous” aren’t in his vocabulary. So, he allocated $18 for any one of three Shortstops and after they all go to other teams for over $20, he can be seen breaking pencils in frustration.

 

> “The Paper Pusher” – In the early days of this pastime before magazines & websites gave us player projections, this player was too lazy to do any real homework and would come to the table with a small piece of paper that had three or four names. His goal was to draft those players, no matter the cost. He could always be seen during the last three hours of the proceedings looking through the Baseball Register trying to find warm bodies to fill those eight $1 spots left on his roster. He never contended, but he would always ruin everyone else’s strategy. This is the twin brother of the gambler who hits 17 at the Blackjack table and makes sure the dealer doesn’t bust.

 

> “The Homer” – In a league based in Southern California, you can assume there will be a certain inflation factor for Dodger & Angel players due to the constant barrage of information. This fellow, however, is a fan of a particular team and has never been able to separate himself from that connection. His opponents know that they can always get an extra dollar of his budget spent on that player from the Red Sox or (insert the team of your choice). In addition, his level of interest in that team assures the fact that he’s reading about them in March and he becomes a mini-version of the “Hypester”.

 

> “The Enforcer” – Not to be confused with “Dirty Harry” Callahan, this is the person who feels a moral obligation to make sure no other team gets a bargain. If they sense a lull in the bidding for a decent player, they will jump in with a bid at the last moment even if that player isn’t a good fit on their team. This type of strategy will almost never succeed, but is guaranteed to always aggravate. The first cousin of the guy who plays every hand at the poker game.

 

> “The Math Minor” – Managing your money at the table is a necessity. Budgeting certain amounts for positions and/or categories gives you the best chance to win. This guy, however, essentially has no plan and just bids by the seat-of-his pants. An example would be having only one pitching spot left open and getting into a bidding war over a rotation ace when his team has no offense. This is the team that might spend 50% of their budget on pitching and then wonder why they ended up with so many back-up outfielders.

 

> “The Know-It-All” – This fellow may be a good player, but he is only tolerated by the other members of the league. They’re not concerned with his success, only with his attitude. He has no patience for anyone who doesn’t know that Josh Bell had only 16 appearances at OF and, therefore, only qualifies as a 1B. When opponents are slow to nominate player’s names late in the day, he shows his frustration, as if he has somewhere important to go. The truth is, he has nowhere to go because he doesn’t have any friends.

 

> “The Vacillator” – If you’ve played in the same league for a succession of years, you certainly understand that thinking you can contend every year is a fool’s game. If your keeper list is weak a season following a championship, then rebuilding might be part of your thought process. This player knows all that, but gets caught up in the exhilaration of the Draft and starts rostering players that don’t fit his strategy. For example, if you’re in a NL or AL only league, maybe he shouldn’t be taking players who will be free agents next year. This also applies to rebuilding teams who find themselves in the first division in May and change course (and make trades) because they’re fooled by stats that represent only 30% of the season. Usually, by the All-Star break, reality has bitten them in the posterior and they no longer have those young building blocks they acquired at the table.

 

We’ll call our league the “Keyser Soze” Invitational and there you have 11 examples of the kind of opponents you might encounter. If you’re the 12th team, there’s a name of you too…”The Winner”.

 

 

 

 

You Just Might Be A Fantasy Baseball Player

Hedley

As Hedley Lamarr (or maybe Chase Headley) once said, “My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.” So, with Spring Training upon us, and with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy –

 

> If the sign in the supermarket said “Rotisserie Chicken” and it caused you to not spend that extra dollar on groceries, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your Pitchers have allowed so many home runs that you’ve installed a humidor in your house, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’ve ever gone joy-riding with Yasmany Tomas, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your elbow was fine but you decided to have Tommy John Surgery to see how long the rehab takes, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If life is confusing because your pill box starts with Sunday but line-up changes are due on Monday, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If the fact that only Sandy Koufax could help your pitching stats causes you to always use 32-second intervals warming food in the microwave, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that the Nationals have a minor-league Pitcher named Joan Baez, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your neighbor brags about his 4×4 and you reply by saying you prefer 5×5, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your stat service keeps channeling Faye Dunaway by saying, “He’s a Pitcher, He’s a Hitter, Pitcher, Hitter, Pitcher and a Hitter”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’re acquainted with “Lenny The Legend”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know the whereabouts of Austin Adams, Lane Adams & Matt Adams, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you panicked in December because someone on ESPN reported that Trai Turner had a concussion, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Dee Gordon led the NL in SB the year before and the year after he was suspended, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Ahchoo was a man in tights and Shin-Soo Choo is a man in stirrups, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’ve ever purchased an illegal substance from Esteban Loaiza, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know it’s d’Arnaud and not D’Arnaud, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that the Brewers have a prospect who has a first name of “Brett” and a middle name of “Maverick”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you are aware that Arismendy, Raul, Sandy & Victor are all named Alcantara, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If Yonder Alonso is helping you with the launch angle of your 5-iron, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know the difference between Cristhian Adames & Willy Adames, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’re walking through the woods when someone yells “Snake” and you yell back “I prefer Auction”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If the Dodgers skip a spot in the rotation and you think it should be called “Walker Buehler’s Day Off”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know not to touch Adrian Beltre’s head, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you told your fiancé that you’re willing to marry her but that you want an opt-out after two years, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If, like Miguel Sano, you arrived at Spring Training with a “generous carriage”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your religious commitment is limited to drafting Jesus Aguiler, Noah Syndergaard, Adam Eaton & John Moses, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If someone refers to a girl as a “Keeper” and you ask if she qualifies at more than one position, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Mookie Betts bowled a perfect 300 game during the off-season, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Triston McKenzie & McKenzie Mills each had 12 Wins in the minors last season, you just might a Fantasy player.

 

> If the team names “Okrent Fenokees”, “Sklar Gazers”, “Cary Nations” & “Pollet Burros” are familiar to you, you just might be a long-time Fantasy player.

 

> If you’ve gone dirt-bike riding with Madison Bumgarner, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think the best thing about the Super Bowl is that it’s the last Football game of the season, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If someone asked you for a scouting report on Reds Catching prospect Chris Okey and you opined that he was “OK”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think that Homer Bailey has the worst first name for a Pitcher, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Chad Green had an ERA under 2.00, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know the whereabouts of Kyle Crick, Kyle Elfrink, Kyle Blanks, Kyle Gibson, Kyle Hendricks and Kyle Kendrick, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’ve ever used the word “Eh” in a conversation with Tim McLeod, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you watch a movie that stars Ben Kingsley and you’re motivated to check Trace Wood’s Long Gandhi website, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think the Mayo Clinic is where Jonathan spends the off-season looking at minor-league video, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know Bruce Rondon & Hector Rondon have a combined weight of over 500 pounds, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think “Black Magic Woman” is only a song by the wrong Carlos Santana, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that a Barcalounger is a chair and a Barraclough is a set-up guy, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your podiatrist diagnoses you with a callous and it causes you to wonder if Jim has finished the top 100 prospect list yet, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’ve signed a petition to have Bill James’ countenance added to Mt. Rushmore, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you believe that Randal Grichuk will love Canada, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If the term “Pleskoff Prospect” is meaningful to you, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you realize that Wily Peralta’s name is not pronounced the same as Wile E. Coyote’s name, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you see graffiti that says “Jesus Is The Answer” and you wonder if the question is, “Who Is Matty & Felipe’s Brother?”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Schoop is pronounced “Scope”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you adopted the Bartolo Colon diet regimen during the holidays, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you feel that having a pastry with Tyler Danish makes you a prospect expert, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you believe that Wilin, Welington, Dioner and Yasmani are all spelled correctly, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Rookie Davis still has rookie eligibility, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you ordered a Delmonico Steak for dinner just because you’re a White Sox fan, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think Sean Doolittle’s nickname should be “Doctor”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you are secure in the fact that Lord Zola is not a character created by J.R.R. Tolkien, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think Brad Hand could be the next Rollie Fingers, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you understand that Yadier is the slimmest & fastest Molina, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’re more impressed with Jimmy Nelson & Raisel Iglesias than you are with Willie Nelson & Julio Iglesias, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If it is no surprise to you that Kris Davis hit as many Home Runs at his home park as Chris Davis hit all season, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Joe is “Mauer” and Brandon is “Maurer”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think that Kevin Quackenbush should pitch for the Long Island Ducks, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If none of your friends would even consider tuning in to “Mad Dog” Russo, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know the difference between Hunter Dozier, Hunter Renfroe, Brian Dozier, Bryan Morris & Hunter Morris, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you drafted Justin Verlander just to keep Kate Upton happy, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’re aware that on nickname weekend, the back of Kyle Seager’s uniform said “COREY’S BROTHER”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that there have been two major league players named Boog Powell, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Starlin, Alcides, Adeiny & Asdrubal are all spelled correctly, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If  your luck got better when you changed your name from Carlos to Yolmer, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know how to spell Benintendi, Foltynewicz, Tropeano, Scheppers, Tepesch, Pierzynski, Nieuwenhuis & Samardzija, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If a conversation with Jason Collette would be more interesting than one with Toni Collette, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If someone you know named their son Andrelton and you didn’t find it unusual, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If the kids are watching “Kung Fu Panda” and you think the lead character should lose weight, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Bo Bichette is Dante’s son and was named after Bo Jackson, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you believe that the new “Rotoman” Superhero action movie will be in 3-D, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you went to a restaurant and ordered a Szczur Salad, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you wonder why the Mexican restaurants in Kansas City never served Moose Tacos, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think that meeting Billy Beane would be more exciting than meeting Brad Pitt, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know the difference between Ryan Wheeler, Tim Wheeler, Zelous Wheeler, Jason Wheeler & Zach Wheeler, you’re definitely a Fantasy player.

 

> If your annual literary schedule includes the publications written by Robert B. Parker, Lee Child, Jonathan Kellerman and Ron Shandler, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you wish Derek Jeter would become an owner in your league, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If the song “Camptown Ladies” makes you think of Lucas Duda, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Jesse is Winker and Dan is Winkler, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your mind wanders back to the days of phonebooks and you realize Tony Zych would be the final listing, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know the difference between Jarred Cosart, Kaleb Cowart and Zack Cozart, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your wife isn’t concerned about you visiting Asian websites because she knows you’re scouting baseball prospects, you are obviously a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’re not sure Justin Upton is worth $106 Million, but you’re pretty sure he’s worth at least $23, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Yovani, Aroldis, Ubaldo, Jhoulys, Odrisamer & Anibal are all spelled correctly, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you see the movie “Platoon” and immediately start thinking about Nick Williams & Aaron Altherr, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know the Rhys Hoskins was the only major leaguer with an OPS of over 1.000 against both RH & LH pitching, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you got an 80-game suspension for too many carbohydrates in your system , you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know more quotes from Dylan Bundy than from Al Bundy, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If the total bill every time you shop at Costco is $260, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If the Devo song “Whip It” comes on the radio and you think about walks, hits and innings pitched, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you sent Scott Boros a calculator so he can tell the difference between $200 Million and $110 Million, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If the names Leonys, Taijuan, Kolten, Rymer & Xander are familiar to you, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your only link to opera is that you once saw Alfredo Figaro pitch, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think Steve Moyer has better velocity than Jamie Moyer, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think the movie “Ender’s Game” is a documentary about Inciarte getting an extension from the Braves, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Stolmy, Josmil, Mauricio, Yorvit & Koyie are all spelled correctly, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your Zen Master plays a guitar, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’re sure that Barbato is a Pitcher and not a Caribbean island, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If running out of 2B options caused you to Panik, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you absolutely hate it when Managers decide to give their Closers some work in non-save situations, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you drive all the way to Las Vegas in March to see Greg Ambrosius, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think that Ben is Lively but Ryan is Dull, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think Brett Gardner could be related to Steve Gardner, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Brian Kenny is the smartest guy on MLB Network, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> On a related note, if Harold Reynolds drives you bonkers, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think Perry is a better Capt. Hook than Christopher Walken or Dustin Hoffman, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Ryan Mountcastle is not a character from a British movie, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you understand that Marquez is named German but Max Kepler is German, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you are perfectly clear on the fact that “DeSclafani” is not tonight’s special at that upscale Italian restaurant, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you plan on drafting both Taijuan Walker & Jameson Taillon so your squad has a “Taijuan Taillon Rotation”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you have zero interest in the members of the Rockies starting rotation, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you go to a seafood restaurant and wonder if Mike Trout, Tim Salmon, Kevin Bass, Mike Carp, Catfish Hunter and Bobby Sturgeon knew that there a major league player in the 1930’s named George Gill, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If someone you know names their son Rajai and you assume the kid will be fast, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think that Doug Dennis is funnier than most stand-up comics on HBO, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you wonder how a prospect with the name Carter Kieboom could only hit 9 Home Runs, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If a politician brings up the topic of inflation and you wonder why he isn’t also concerned with position scarcity, you just might be a keeper-league Fantasy player.

 

> If you’ve never forgiven Barbara Hershey for shooting Roy Hobbs, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your interest in camping caused you to draft Austin Meadows,  Josh Fields & Kyle Freeland, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If Brian Feldman has ever been your auctioneer, you just might be an expert-level Fantasy player.

 

> If you have only a passing interest in middle relievers, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you were confused and tried to roster Bubba Starling Marte, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Joe Montana was a football player but also know that Steve Nebraska was a baseball player, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you suffer a personal injury and call Rick Wilton for a diagnoses, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think that Tyler Flowers could be related to Ray Flowers, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think that the term “Elvis Has Left the Building” means the Rangers Shortstop hit a Home Run, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know that Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, Dayan Viciedo & Didi Gregorious are not females, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you and your wife exchanged dollar figures but still ended up going to arbitration, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If Jeff Erickson is your favorite radio personality, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’ve ever sent an e-mail to Brian Walton asking about the #30 prospect in the Cardinals organization, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you are aware that Ben Gamel is the younger Brother of Mat Gamel and you’ve owned them both, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you know the true identities of CarGo, LoMo, J-Up & V-Mart, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you’ve ever tried to buy something with “Patton Dollars”, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you offered your girlfriend a qualifying offer but she still opted for free agency, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If someone uses the term “Wise Guy” and you think of Gene McCaffrey instead of Joe Pesci, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If your grocery list includes Ketel Corn, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If Jeff Winick represented you in salary arbitration, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> If you think a “Sale Price” is getting Chris for less than $25, you just might be a Fantasy player.

 

> And, finally, if Draft Day is your favorite day of the year, you have become a true Fantasy player.

 

The Best Hitters Of 2018

Trout Auto

50+ years ago, if a baseball fan was asked who the best hitters were, the only significant resource would have been the sports section of the Sunday newspaper. Somewhere in the back pages, there was a long, slender list in very small type showing all current major league players. And those players were ranked by their BA (Batting Average) because that had historically been the benchmark for position players.

 

Looking back at 1966, we find that the top five BA’s belonged to Matty Alou (.342), Manny Mota (.332), Felipe Alou (.327), Rico Carty (.326) & Dick Allen (.317). Fine players all, but were they the five best hitters in baseball? Not when you consider that the two MVP winners (Roberto Clemente and Frank Robinson) finished 6th & 7th. Matty Alou, for example, had 2 HR’s & 27 RBI’s in 535 AB’s. Even OBP (On-Base Percentage) would have been a better gauge, as the top five were Ron Santo (.412), Joe Morgan (.410), Robinson (.410), Allen (.396) & Al Kaline (.392).

 

As modern baseball analytics have evolved, one of the most accepted statistics has become OPS (On-Base % + Slugging %). Not only does it prioritize getting on base, it also adds the concept of moving more runners around the bases. After all, Slugging Percentage is defined as Total Bases /At Bats. Old school fans might question the veracity of the stat but baseball history tells the tale. The five highest lifetime OPS numbers belong to Babe Ruth (1.16), Ted Williams (1.12), Lou Gehrig (1.08), Barry Bonds (1.05) & Jimmie Foxx (1.04). There are only two other hitters with a number over 1.00… Hank Greenberg and Rogers Hornsby.

 

With Spring Training around the corner, here’s one Duck’s opinion on the top (baker’s) dozen hitters for 2018 based on their projected OPS from a highly respected Fantasy website…

 

1) Mike Trout, Angels OF, 1.025 OPS – 20 years from now, people will be describing his career as “once in a generation”. His consistency and still youthful age (26) makes him the consensus #1 hitter in Fantasy drafts. His 2017 figure was the best in the game at 1.071

 

 

2) Joey Votto, Reds 1B, 1.009 OPS – Still gets criticized for his plate discipline and will probably lead all of baseball in Walks (100+). Like Ted Williams, he won’t expand the strike zone to satisfy writers and broadcasters. Even at 34, he shows no signs of slowing down as he led the NL last season at 1.032

 

3) Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees OF, .985 OPS – A healthy season fulfilled the expectations with 59 HR’s and a 1.007 OPS. Still in his 20’s, the Bronx Bombers will love him.

 

4) Bryce Harper, Nationals OF, .962 OPS – Was on his way to a spectacular season in ’17 when he got injured. In 111 games, he had 29 HR’s, 87 RBI’s and a 1.008 OPS. He’s 25 and will be a free agent next year.

 

5) J.D. Martinez, Red Sox OF, .958 OPS – Tough to go out on a limb for someone who has only played more than 123 games once, but his 1.066 number in ’17 shows the potential.

 

6) Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B, .955 OPS – His age 27 season in 2017 produced a career-high .989 OPS, so it appears that his performance has reached another level.

 

7) Charlie Blackmon, Rockies OF, .947 OPS – Finished at 1.000 last season and led the NL in Hits, Triples, Runs & Total Bases.

 

8) Paul Goldschmidt, D’Backs 1B, .944 OPS – Incredibly consistent performer in the batter’s box and won his 3rd Gold Glove in 2017. Oh, by the way, he also swiped a total of over 70 bases the last three seasons. New action movie…”Goldy vs. the Humidor”.

 

9) Nolan Arenado, Rockies 3B, .942 OPS – Yes, some of the stats are fueled by altitude, but he won’t turn 27 until after opening day and had a .886 OPS on the road last season.

 

10) Aaron Judge, Yankees OF, .927 OPS – Can he repeat the breakout season? Hit 33 of his 52 HR’s at Yankee Stadium and led the AL in both Strikeouts & Walks.

 

11) Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays 3B, .926 OPS – Even geniuses like Billy Beane sometimes make mistakes…33 HR’s in 113 Games

 

 

12) Kris Bryant, Cubs 3B, .918 OPS – Rookie of the Year in ’15, MVP in ’16 and some thought ’17 was a disappointment. His OPS the last three years? .858, .939 & .946

 

13) Jose Altuve, Astros 2B, .908 OPS – The AL MVP had his best season. He has four consecutive 200 Hit campaigns and doesn’t turn 28 until May.

 

Did your favorite player get left off the list? The next five are all over .885…Wilson Contreras, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rizzo, Christian Yelich & Nelson Cruz.  Or maybe some youngsters take the next step? We’ll all be watching.