Let’s Get It Started

My favorite time of the year is finally here.

As much as I love the real sport of baseball, there’s something about playing in a fantasy baseball league that really gets my juices flowing. Maybe it’s the spirit of competition, as ten team owners vie for the league title. Maybe it’s following every team in baseball, keeping track of “your” players, instead of just the ones on your favorite team. Or maybe it’s the six months of constant trash talking, or working out blockbuster deals with your family members over dinner. Perhaps it’s the chance for regular people to play General Manager, making trades, scouring the waiver wire, looking for the next hot player. For me, it’s all of those things.

So let’s get it started. These are a few questions I have going into the 2009 fantasy season.

  • Is A-Rod still worthy of a top-5 pick, or will the Un-Natural wilt under the extreme pressure of the steroid scandal?
  • Which round do you start looking at Manny Ramirez? If he had been signed a month ago, I would say 2nd or 3rd, but the longer these negotiations drag on, the more uninspired Manny will get. We all know how Manny reacts to being “disrespected.”
  • Will Big Papi rebound from his disappointing 2008 season?
  • Who will be the first pitcher drafted? Johan? Lincecum? CC?
  • Is Dan the #1 Rays Fan too scared to join our league?
  • Will Matt McLaughlin attempt to draft a team entirely of Red Sox and Twins players?
  • Can we finally put to rest the “I could’ve won if I hadn’t lost my password” excuse? (That means you, Boston badboys.)
  • Will anyone trade with Team Yankeehater?
  • Will Dylan attempt to draft Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount to add to his stable of shortstops?
  • Can the Love Boat Captains continue her impressive run, or has that ship sailed?
  • Will Dave McLaughlin finally acknowledge that he got lucky in the 2008 finals?
  • Is Dan Mc a closet Yankee fan? With a team name like Fran-comas, I’m starting to wonder.

So it begins, boys and girl. I don’t care which team you play for. I don’t care if you sucker-punched Coco Crisp last year or if you’re dating Madonna. This year I’m pulling out all the stops to grab the title of TheFoulLine.com Fantasy Baseball Champion.

Only three spots in the league remain. Sign up now!!!!

Start Me Up

Baseball season is finally back, and although the offseason for the Boston Red Sox didn’t go the way I’d hope it would, I’m still optimistic for a successful 2009 campaign.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Theo Epstein and Terry Francona don’t read thefoulline.com. If they had, we’d be watching Mark Texiera and Derek Lowe gearing up for the season in Fort Myers, while watching the enigmatic Julio Lugo and overrated Jason Varitek packing their bags to destination Anywhere But Boston.

But after my initial disappointment with the lack of big name signings, I’m starting to really like the additions of Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and especially future Hall of Famer John Smoltz. These guys are low cost, with potential huge rewards for Boston. Even though Smoltz won’t be ready until June, he could be the big addition to the lineup that usually takes place at the trade deadline. If Boston makes the postseason, a lineup with Josh Beckett and John Smoltz would be scary.

Before we can talk about the playoffs, there are a lot of questions about this team that could severely affect their post season chances. Will Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell rebound from their 2008 injury-plagued season? With Coco Crisp shipped off to Kansas City, is Jacoby Ellsbury ready to be the everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter? Can a full season of Jason Bay make up for the loss of Manny? Who will be the Red Sox catcher of the future?

To make matters worse, rivals Tampa Bay and New York revamped their already dangerous lineups. The Yankees decided to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on big-game choker CC Sabathia, the oft-injured A.J. Burnett, and current thefoulline.com public enemy #2 Mark Texiera. Will this high priced talent lead to a return to the postseason for the Bronx Bombers? Or will these guys wilt under the pressure of playing in the Big Apple like Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano? Let’s hope for the latter.

As for the Rays, I really like the additions of Pat Burrell and Matt Joyce to fill the right field and designated hitter spots. This is a big upgrade of the Gabe Gross/Cliff Floyd combo. I’m interested in seeing whether Evan Longoria can duplicate his rookie season, and if the Rays can repeat their success with their closer-by-committee bullpen.

The good news is baseball is back.
The competition  for the AL East crown promises to be fierce.
Let the games begin!

I Believe

364 days ago I wrote a post called “Keeping the Faith, Part 2.” At that time Boston was in a 3-1 hole to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series, and they were getting ready to face CC Sabathia in game 5. One year later, I find myself in a similar position, full of hope and optimism and sitting in front of my laptop. Can Boston make another comeback and crush the hopes and dreams of Rays fans everywhere? I not only hope so, but I’m going to give the reasons why.

  1. Scott Kazmir is pitching tonight. Why would Joe Maddon do this? He is either hoping that Kazmir rebounds from his last several poor performances and pulls out a win, or he’s that confident that “Big Game” James Shields will be money in game 6 at Tropicana Field to win it in front of the home crowd. Whatever the reason, I giggled a little when I saw Kazmir as tonight’s starting pitcher. This series is at least going back to St. Pete.
  2. The Red Sox have played horrible baseball. This the all-or-nothing, backs-to-the-wall scenario that shows a team’s character. Like Gene Hackman said in The Replacements, “winners want the ball.”  The Red Sox are the defending World Series Champions. Let’s start acting like it.
  3. 1986, down 3-1 to the California Angels in the ALCS. 2004, down 3-0 to the NY Yankees in the ALCS. 2007, down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. They’ve been here before and have won. They will do it again.
  4. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. There is no way in hell that these guys throw another crappy game like their last time out.
  5. Big Papi actually got an extra-base hit last game. The offensive flood gates are officially open.
  6. There is no way that the Rays can keep up with their 8 home runs a game pace. MLB is going to start charging them for lost baseballs.
  7. Dice K is a ninja. The Rays won’t know what hit them.
  8. Jason Varitek got the hole in his glove stitched up, so no more inning-extending passed balls.
  9. The Sox only have to win three measly games. A three game winning streak is nothing. They’ve done it 16 times this season.

So now you can see how obvious it is that Boston will rally back and win this series. I almost feel bad for the Rays…

Go Sox!

New York State of Mind

Don’t look now, but the New York Yankees have climbed to within three games of the AL East co-leaders Sox and Rays and are in Boston for a three-game set at Fenway Park that starts tonight. Like a bad case of athlete’s foot, New York refuses to go away. These guys have been decimated this season with injuries to Chien-Ming Wang, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Add to that the disappointing pitching from Ian Kennedy and Philip Hughes, plus the media circus of the A-Rod/Madonna/Cynthia Rodriguez/Lenny Kravitz Quadangle, and it is a miracle that these guys are still in contention. What is Hank Steinbrenner pumping through the air conditioning ducts to keep these guys motivated?

I’m not sure that the Yankees have enough pitching to make a long run at the playoffs, but you can be certain that Hank Steinbrenner will mortgage the future at next week’s trade deadline to at least make it interesting.

Objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.

Thefoulline.com Quick Hits

  • I don’t know what Joba Chamberlain’s problem with Kevin Youkilis is, but if he hits Youk again tonight, I hope he gets his face smashed in with a Louisville Slugger.
  • You can tell that autumn is here when the leaves change color, and you can tell it’s almost August when Manny Ramirez starts faking another injury. This season it’s his sore knee. It never fails.
  • The attendance at Tropicana Field for the last two games for the Rays was about 12,000 and 16,000. That equates to 30.1% and 40% of total capacity. I know that it’s not the temperature in Florida that’s keeping them away. It’s always fair-weathered in the dome.
  • Big Papi David Ortiz rejoins the Sox tonight after a long layoff. This might be the big move at the trade deadline that everyone has been hoping for.
  • Speaking of the trading deadline… I really hope that Boston deals Manny to the Mets for prospects, takes those prospects and adds a top-line Red Sox prospect to the mix, and makes a deal for Matt Holliday. He would make people forget about Manny pretty damn quick.
  • Playoff atmosphere at Fenway tonight, and there is no one better to have on the mound than the best big game pitcher in baseball, Josh Beckett.

Go Sox!

All Star

Baseball has some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in all of sports, but for some reason, when the fans have the chance to select the starters for the mid-summer classic, they have the tendency to pick with their hearts instead of their brains. As much as I like players like Jason Varitek and Ken Griffey Jr., they are not deserving of an All Star nod. With the All Star selections being announced at 2:00 p.m. today, I’m going to jump the gun and give you the players that have truly played like an All Star during the first half of the season.

Although I’d like to make the team entirely of Red Sox players, I’m going to try to be as impartial as possible, which means there may be a Ray or a Yankee on the team. Ugh!

American League

Catcher: Joe Mauer
Pencil him in for the next ten years.

First Base: Justin Morneau
This was a close race between Youkilis and Morneau. Both players have similar numbers. I just think Morneau is better.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
This guy is a great hitter and an under-appreciated defender. His defense gives him a slight edge over Ian Kinsler.

Third base: Alex Rodriguez
After a controversial week in the tabloids, this selection should soothe the Material Girl’s pain.

Shortstop: Michael Young
Sorry, Jeter. I know that this is the last year in Yankee Stadium, but Young is better than you.

Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore, Carlos Quinton
There have been some great performances by AL outfielders during the first half of the season. These three have been the best.

Designated Hitter: Milton Bradley
Even with one arm, I think Big Papi should be the DH. But I’m afraid that Bradley will hunt me down and beat me to a pulp if he’s not picked.

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee
11-1, 2.26 ERA. Lee has been the biggest pitching surprise in the league.

Reserves:
Dioner Navarro C
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Ian Kinsler 2B
Brian Roberts 2B
Evan Longoria 3B
Derek Jeter SS
B.J. Upton OF
Nick Markakis OF
Ichiro Suzuki OF
J.D. Drew OF
Roy Halladay SP
Ervin Santana SP
James Shields SP
Justin Duchscherer SP
Joe Saunders SP
Gavin Floyd SP
Jon Lester SP
Jonathan Papelbon RP
Francisco Rodriguez RP
Mariano Rivera RP

National League

Catcher: Russell Martin
Martin is in a class by himself. Easily the best catcher in baseball.

First Base: Lance Berkman
After an amazing first half, Berkman is the NL MVP.

Second Base: Chase Utley
24 ding-dongs on the season so far. He has carried the Phillies.

Third base: Larry Jones
Grown men shouldn’t be called Chipper, even when they hit close to .400.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez
This guy makes the game look easy. He’s a lock for the next ten years.

Designated Hitter: Ryan Howard
I like that this guy will either strikeout or go yard. There is no in-between.

Outfield: Nate McLouth, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Braun
These three aren’t the biggest names in the National League, but they’ve been carrying their respective teams.

Starting Pitcher: Tim Lincecum
This kid weighs 120 pounds and throws 98 MPH. The fact that he’s 10-1 and is the lone bright spot on the Giants also helps.

Reserves:
Geovany Soto C
Brian McCann C
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Derrek Lee 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
David Wright 3B
Jose Reyes SS
Miguel Tejada SS
Carlos Lee OF
Pat Burrell OF
Matt Holliday OF
Edinson Volquez SP
Brandon Webb SP
Dan Haren SP
Cole Hamels SP
Ben Sheets SP
Ryan Dempster SP
Kerry Wood RP
Jose Valverde RP
Brad Lidge RP

So there you have it, the official thefoulline.com 2008 All Star Team.

Nothing As It Seems

After watching the Red Sox this past week, I was under the impression that their offense was still stuck in Fort Myers. The dynamic duo of Ellsbury and Pedroia have looked lousy. Big Papi is a shell of his former self and has resorted to diving head first into first base in an attempt to get on, and Manny Ramirez has more stolen bases than extra base hits. I’m tired of the 2-1, or 3-0 games. I want the Sox offense to look more like a beer league softball team.

I can understand the Red Sox struggling against Roy Halladay or James Shields, these guys are good pitchers. What bothers me is when Boston’s potent offense is held in check by the likes of Edwin Jackson and Jon Garland.

But all my worrying was for naught. After doing a little research I found that Boston’s offense is right where it should be. Check out these numbers:

Batting Average: 1st in AL
Hits: 1st in AL
Runs: Tied for 2nd
RBIs: Tied for 2nd

The Red Sox also have Man-Ram leading the league in batting average and slugging % and in 2nd in homeruns and hits.

If Boston can only stay healthy for the rest of the year, they have the potential to put up some great numbers.

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • After the latest Roger Clemens scandal, it may be time for him to pick up Mike Tyson and O.J. Simpson and move to Siberia. America is officially sick of your crap. I can’t see how this guy could sink any lower.
  • Thefoulline.com staff would like to wish Alex Rodriguex and Jorge Posada a speedy recovery from their recent ailments. Fourth place in the division just isn’t the same without them.
  • Surprising no one, J.D. Drew is sitting out after nicking himself shaving. Or something.
  • Boston faces Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan tonight. McGowan has pitched really well against Boston in the past and has the best sideburns in the league.
  • Dustin Pedroia’s diving stop in the 9th inning of last night’s game reminded me of when he saved Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter last year. D-Ped does not get the recognition he deserves for his defense. He’ll make the All-Star team this year.
  • Has anyone else noticed that Jonathan Papelbon always gives a fist-bump to a Boston police officer when he enters the game? Anyhow, check out this article. It’s pretty cool.

Hey Man Nice Shot

Good teams find ways to win.

Sometimes it’s a pitcher throwing a complete game to give a tired bullpen the night off, or a great defensive play to keep your team in the lead. In the case of the Red Sox, it’s been back-to-back games with a game-winning home run in the 9th inning.

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • It already sucks to be a Cleveland Indians fan. It must suck even more when the Red Sox come to town and you know that your team is going to find a way to lose. The Indians have a ton of talent and should be running away with the division, but with a 5-9 record they are one game out of the Central Division cellar. Maybe they need some Lake Erie Midges swarming around their heads to get them back in the groove.
  • Did you see the lineup Terry Francona put out last night? Coco, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Lugo, and Cash. I thought they were mailing it in before another Yankees series. I guess even the Sox reserves can beat most teams.
  • It was great to see yet another Red Sox prospect live up to the hype. Two years ago it was Jonathan Papelbon. Last year it was Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Manny Delcarmen. After last night’s 3 RBI performance in his first Major League game, it may be time to add Jed Lowrie to the list of legitimate prospects.
  • Which reminds me, how are the over-hyped Yankees Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy working out for New York? Last time I checked, Hughes was was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, and Kennedy was 0-1 with an impressive 8.74 ERA. Do you think the Yankees are regretting not dealing these guys for Johan Santana?
  • Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano will make a combined $22,071,029 this season.
  • Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon will make a combined $4,775,000 this season.
  • To further reinforce how crazy the Steinbrenners are, these idiots actually dug up the “cursed” Ortiz jersey buried in Yankee stadium. News Flash, Hank! The shirt is not the reason your team stinks. It’s the lousy pitching pitching staff, over-hyped prospects, and $28 million cancer playing third base.
  • The Red Sox are in first place. Woo-hoo!

How Bizarre

Strange week for the World Champs. First, they received their second World Series ring in four years, and then they welcomed the biggest goat in their storied history back to Fenway Park. Meanwhile, the enigmatic J.D. Drew is crushing the ball, and Big Papi couldn’t hit a fastball if he were swinging a boat oar. Finally, their 2007 team M.V.P. went on the disabled list… and the team got better. Not to mention, the damn Yankees are in town for three games. Welcome back to the U.S.

Quick hits:

  • I can’t turn away from the television when Jonathan Papelbon is in the game. He’s always fun to watch. He reminds me of a mix between Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky and Nuke LaLoosh from Bull Durham.
  • Breaking News! Julian Tavarez sucks. I wish they had kept Kyle Snyder as their long reliever, and dumped Julian. But who would babysit Manny if he was gone?
  • Speaking of Man-Ram… 10 games into the season, and he’s already ignoring the third base coach and running through the stop sign. He was lucky to score this time. If he pulls this crap again, he should be benched.
  • Manny, please get a damn haircut.
  • Did you see the Sox fan that was building the new and improved Yankee Stadium and buried a Red Sox shirt in the concrete hoping to curse the Yankees? Take that, Hank Steinbrenner. Red Sox Nation is everywhere. Enjoy your new cursed stadium.
  • While I’m on the subject of the Yankees, New York struggled against the mighty Rays and the formidable Royals this week. Let’s see how they do against a real team.
  • I have a feeling Clay Buchholz will bring his A-game tonight. He seems to relish the big stage.

Enjoy the games this weekend.

Go Sox!

The Winner Takes It All, Week 1

Well boys and girl, we have the first week of the inaugural thefoulline.com fantasy baseball league in the books. The competition is fierce so far with several teams putting up some solid numbers. Since this is an off day for the Red Sox, here is a brief synopsis of what I saw from each of the fantasy teams this week. In no particular order:

  • My Best Efforts: This is a pretty well-rounded team from top to bottom. They had the best individual performance from any pitcher so far with Jake Peavy and his whopping 63.5 points. If they add a catcher that is actually in the major leagues, they could be a force this year.
  • Lessthanzero: An up-and-down week from our neighbor to the north. He had a big week from Derek Lee, Alex Gordon, and Corey “I wear my sunglasses at night” Hart. LTZ is going to need first-round fantasy pick Erik Bedard to rebound from his minor hip injury, and for Jose Reyes to play to his potential for this team to make a serious run.
  • SarasotaRedRays: Featuring Prince Fielder, David Ortiz, and Kenji Johjima, team SRR has probably the most out of shape team in the league. He was able to get good fantasy numbers from Carlos Zambrano and Bobby Jenks. Even with J.J. Putz missing time this week and a bench in need of some work, SarasotaRedRays still performed well enough to earn 316.83 points and a third place finish.
  • Bostonbad boys: This team may have the best pitching staff in the league featuring Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, and Dice K. Unfortunately, this team may stay unchanged all season because my dad forgot how to log in to the site. It’s tough getting old.
  • Boston Braves: This team had a mediocre week from its big three, Ryan Howard, Russell Martin, and Aramis Ramirez. This team’s saving grace was a good week from its closers. I expect a big week for these guys next week after a blockbuster trade with the YankeeHaters (pending league approval).
  • The Showstoppers: Theo Epstein’s prodigy Matt McLaughlin’s team is the league leader in points for the first week, with good numbers from every position. If he can upgrade his catcher, I don’t see anyone beating him any time soon.
  • Rogers Syringe: This team is in trouble. Although it may look good on paper to have seven shortstops, pitching is also important. Dylan threw caution to the wind this week, fielding only 13 out of a possible 16 positions. He’s either the most confidant G.M., or the craziest. This team needs to be blown up and reassembled. Does anyone need a shortstop?
  • Chickenheads: This team had the second most points this week and will be a serious contender if he keeps his team intact. With A-Rod and Pujols in the lineup, and an above-average pitching staff, this team won’t be laying any eggs anytime soon.
  • Yankeehaters: I like the look of my team. After a blockbuster trade with the Chickenheads, the additions of Fausto Carmona and Josh Hamilton paid immediate dividends. My impatience with my players and the desire to make at least one mega-deal a week may be my downfall. I may regret dealing Manny Ramirez.
  • Love Boat Captains: After a strong draft from our only woman in the league, Team LBC had an up-and-down week. Placido Polanco was a huge disappointment, going from 2007 All-Star to a two-point benchwarmer for week 2. It took a few games for stars Matt Holliday, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter to regain their stroke from last year. A solid 35.5 points from Pirate Ian Snell (who??) made this a respectable week for LBC. This is a good team that will play better in weeks to come.

What do you think of the season so far?

Games People Play

This fantasy baseball league is sucking the life out of me. I can’t focus at work. I’m ignoring my kids. I spend too much time making blockbuster trades in my mind. All with the hopes of winning the prestigious title of “Best GM on thefoulline.com.”

I’ve been scouring other teams’ lineups trying to figure out their secret formula for success. Is having seven shortstops a good thing? Can my team win without any Yankees on it? Should I have focused on pitchers? Did I over think, and put too much stock in some potential up-and-comers? Should I have just used the damned Auto Draft?

Please help me if you know the answers to any of these questions.

thefoulline.com quick hits

  • Last night Dice K lived up to his hype. Let’s hope he can do this all year.
  • Has anyone seen the greatest clutch hitter in baseball? He wears #34 and spits on his hands a lot. If found, please return him to the Red Sox ASAP.
  • Attention, Eric Gagne: I guess it wasn’t the city of Boston that caused your woes last year. It’s that you suck.
  • It took all of three games, but I am done with J.D. Drew and his candy-ass excuses for the rest of the year. The Sox should send him down to Pawtucket to “rehab” his back, and bring up someone with heart.
  • I’m not sure how to pronounce Cub’s right fielder Kosuke Fukudome’s name, but he might have the greatest name in Major League history since Rusty Kuntz.
  • Fantasy Baseball causes Attention Deficit Disorder.