MLB Clubs Undermine Own Chances at Title

by Moonlight Graham

In 2003, in an attempt to regenerate fan interest just a year after a lack of available pitchers forced MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to declare the All Star Game a tie, Baseball’s hierarchy decreed that the Mid-Summer Classic would now determine home field advantage in the World Series. It wasn’t already bad enough that the rosters were watered down by the requirement that each team, no matter how bad, must be represented; now, a player from a second division club could have a hand in deciding the outcome of the sport’s premier event months in advance.

While the move was and is opposed by many, I never really had a problem with it.  Not because I agree with the concept; it’s completely ridiculous to think I’m staying up that late to watch Garrett Jones of the Pittsburgh Pirates face Kansas City Royals’ closer Joakim Soria because I’d like the Mets to have home field if they get that far.  However, because the old system of alternating the privilege was also completely without merit, I figured, “Who cares?”  Until I realized that the new policy actually gives mindless fans the opportunity to hurt their team’s shot at a championship; often at the prompting of it’s own front office. We’ve all been to the ballpark in the early part of the season and heard the huge pitch to vote for the hometown boys.  Actually, you don’t even have to attend a game anymore, as on-line balloting has given everyone a voice.  “Send Joe Blow to Los Angeles for the All Star Game”, blare the ads.  “Forget the stats, vote for our guys!”  On the surface, a nice marketing strategy, but one that could prove fatal to a championship run.  Continue reading »

by Moonlight Graham

No position has undergone more change over the last decade than the Middle Infield. Long a collection of slap hitting, base stealers and the occasional power guy, it saw drastic change with the emergence of big guns like Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Jeff Kent and Barry Larkin.  Even marginal, late round options like Jose Valentin were good for better than 20 HR.

However, retirement, injury and position change have all been factors in depleting the ranks of the Middle Infielders that’ll give you a boost in the power department.  While some do remain, (Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley will cost you a first rounder), for the most part, many Fantasy Baseball owners will settle for the mid-round options that produce low, double-digit HR’s, a solid BA and a decent number of SB.  The trick is, to find that one player who could break the mold and give you a top tier performance for a second tier price.

Fantasy Stars

-  Unless you’ve got one of the first two picks, you can forget Hanley Ramirez.  After that, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes top the Shortstop list but neither is a sure thing. Tulo comes off a terrific season but Fantasy Baseball owners still bear the burn marks from his disastrous ’08 season.  New York Mets’ star, Reyes, is not only coming off of a campaign lost to injury but was just cleared to play after a thyroid condition sidelined him for most of camp.  Don’t reach for either.  On the other side of the bag, Utley and Ian KInsler are the cream of the crop but Cincinnati Reds’ second sacker, Brandon Phillips, may be the best value.  He’s a guaranteed 20-20 from a position where that’s rare and he bats cleanup.  Going with that theory, we’d also have to add Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, as he’s been moved to the five hole of that very potent lineup. Continue reading »

As the Steroid Era has evolved in Major League Baseball, many have tried to find a common thread among the cheats fieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyhin order to identify those that have yet to be revealed.  This little hobby has picked up momentum this season as The New York Times continues to disclose the names of those that tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs during MLB’s testing in 2003.  What seems to be the most widely accepted red flag, significant statistical improvement by players in the later years of their career, may not actually be the only tie that binds these cheaters.  Instead, according to a list published by DominicanosHoy.com which the newspaper believes to be the actual roll call of those that tested positive in 2003, it is more likely that the Disabled List of each Major League squad holds the answers.

A common opinion among baseball fans is that players who have a hard time staying on the field because of injury woes are probably not using performance enhancing drugs.  “How could they?” goes the theory, “they’re always hurt.”  Yankees hurler Andy Pettitte was among a few players who gave credibility to the idea when he claimed that he used the drugs only to hasten his recovery from various injuries.  As it turns out, however, the PED’s may have been the cause of his physical problems and not the solution.

Over the course of the last few seasons, strained obliques and torn labrums; injuries that didn’t seem all that common during my lifetime of following baseball, have become all the rage, sending players to the DL for up to a month at a time.  Is that to say that every problem with an oblique or labrum is a confirmation of steroid use?  Absolutely not.  Chase Utley had a labrum repaired in his hip last winter and is not listed.  However, there are a number of men on the list who have suffered these maladies, Carlos Delgado and Alex Rodriguez among them.  Maybe we should start categorizing certain physical problems as “Steroid Injuries”.

In perusing the list, it is impossible not to immediately notice how many have been unable to stay in the lineup.  If these are actually the players that tested positive, and that has yet to be confirmed, the injuries suffered range from chronic to requiring surgery and continue all the way up to career threatening.  A microcosm of these is located at numbers seventy-four through seventy-seven, where the starting rotation of the 2003 Chicago Cubs is found. Carlos Zambrano has made numerous trips to the DL, Kerry Wood’s physical woes sent him to the bullpen while both Mark Prior and Matt Clement were forced out of baseball by their injuries.  Players like Moises Alou, Eric Chavez and Richie Sexson spent most of their final seasons injured before deciding to retire while others, like Mike Hampton, Freddy Garcia, Troy Glaus and Jason Schmidt have lost multiple seasons to the Disabled List.

One other little nugget to be gleaned from the list is, if accurate, it blows up the credibility of the Mitchell Report.  Its author, John Mitchell, was criticized at the time of its release because, while a part-owner of the Red Sox, he found no evidence of steroid use among Boston players. The first eight names on the list, as well as last year’s arrest of two Sox clubhouse attendants that were distributing steroids, make Mitchell’s claims laughable and bring us back to the most incredible fact of this whole era.  Through all of the denials, cover-ups and outright lies, there has been but one truthful voice; that of Jose Canseco.  How about that?

The Alleged List of 103 As Published in Dominicanoshoy.com :

1.Nomar Garciaparra
2.Manny Ramirez
3.Johnny Damon
4.Trot Nixon
5.David Ortiz
6.Shea Hillenbrand
7.Derek Lowe
8.Pedro Martinez
9.Brian Roberts
10.Jay Gibbons
11.Melvin Mora
12.Jerry Hairston
13.Jason Giambi
14.Alfonso Soriano
15.Raul Mondesi
16. Aaron Boone
17.Andy Pettitte
18.Jose Contreras
19.Roger Clemens
20.Carlos Delgado
21.Vernon Wells
22.Frank Catalanotto
23.Kenny Rogers
24.Magglio Ordonez
25.Sandy Alomar
26.Bartolo Colon
27.Brent Abernathy
28.Jose Lima
29.Milton Bradley
30.Casey Blake
31.Danys Baez
32.Craig Monroe
33.Dmitri Young
34.Alex Sanchez
35.Eric Chavez
36.Miguel Tejada
37.Eric Byrnes
38.Jose Guillen
39.Keith Foulke
40.Ricardo Rincon
41.Bret Boone
42.Mike Cameron
43.Randy Winn
44.Ryan Franklin
45.Freddy Garcia
46.Rafael Soriano
47.Scott Spiezio
48.Troy Glaus
49.Francisco Rodriguez
50.Ben Weber
51.Alex Rodriguez
52.Juan Gonzalez
53.Rafael Palmeiro
54.Carl Everett
55.Javy Lopez
56.Gary Sheffield
57.Mike Hampton
58.Ivan Rodriguez
59.Derrek Lee
60.Bobby Abreu
61.Terry Adams
62.Fernando Tatis
63.Livan Hernandez
64.Hector Almonte
65.Tony Armas
66.Dan Smith
67.Roberto Alomar
68.Cliff Floyd
69.Roger Cedeno
70.Jeromy Burnitz
71.Moises Alou
72.Sammy Sosa
73.Corey Patterson
74.Carlos Zambrano
75.Mark Prior
76.Kerry Wood
77.Matt Clement
78.Antonio Alfonseca
79.Juan Cruz
80.Aramis Ramirez
81.Craig Wilson
82.Kris Benson
83.Richie Sexson
84.Geoff Jenkins
85.Valerio de los Santos
86.Benito Santiago
87.Rich Aurilia
88.Barry Bonds
89.Andres Galarraga
90.Jason Schmidt
91.Felix Rodriguez
92.Jason Christiansen
93.Matt Herges
94.Paul Lo Duca
95.Shawn Green
96.Oliver Perez
97.Adrian Beltre
98.Eric Gagne
99.Guillermo Mota
100.Luis Gonzalez
101.Todd Helton
102.Ryan Klesko
103.Gary Matthews

It may have been a sad year for Mets fans but it wasn’t necessarily so for fantasy owners of the team’s two stars, 3B David Wright and OF Carlos Beltran, each of whom turned in terrific season for their Fantasy owners.  Those late season collapses that the Amazin’s seem to have perfected don’t seem to leave as many scars in the Roto world, especially when your guys are still producing.  Here then, is a list of NL stars who kept Fantasy players smiling throughout the season.

Catcher-Brian McCann noses out Geovany Soto for the nod as top backstop in the NL.   Despite an Atlanta lineup that had difficulty staying healthy and then lost Mark Teixeira, McCann stayed consistent all year.  His .301 BA, 23 HR and 87 RBI solidified his spot on top of the fantasy rankings headed into the 2009.

First Base-While Ryan Howard’s 46 HR and 148 RBI carried the Phils into the post season, it was Albert Pujols’ overall excellence that garners him the nod here. Albert posted an amazing .357 BA while smashing his usual 37 HR and 116 RBI.  That he did it all with an elbow that needed surgery is even more amazing.

Second Base-Philly’s Chase Utley seemed to lock up this honor by Memorial Day.  However, his slump during the middle months brought him back to the pack before his late season surge put him on top for good.  Look to grab his .292 BA, 33 HR and 104 RBI in the first round of next year’s draft.

Shortstop-Hanley Ramirez may have been the most productive Fantasy player across the board in the Major Leagues.  If only the Marlins would drop him from the leadoff spot and let him get 100 RBI.  As it was,  his .301 BA, 33 HR 125 R and 35 SB warrant the first pick of 2009.

Third Base-Wright.  The Mets’ third sacker has established a model of consistency that has almost become boring.  Even though his SB were down somewhat this year, he is still a top five pick in any league.

Outfield-Fresh off his being robbed of last year’s MVP award, the Rockies’ Matt Holliday set about raising his game.  While his 25 HR and 88 RBI were lower than expected because of a month lost to injury, his 28 SB and .321 BA made him one of the elite.  The subject of off season trade rumors, he’s a keeper no matter where he plays next season.  Carlos Beltran quietly provided another 25 HR 25 SB season while also knocking in 112 RBI and scoring 116 R.  Houston’s Lance Berkman split his time between 1B and OF and gains recognition here for his overall excellence.  On top of his .312 BA, 29 HR and 106 RBI he also posted 18 SB.

Starting Pitcher-If you were fortunate enough to draft Tim Lincecum, hang on to the youngster for as long as you can.  He had 18 W for a team that won only 70 and led the league in K by a wide margin; ringing up 265 batters.  Can’t wait to see his W totals as the Giants improve.

Relief Pitcher-Brad Lidge is an easy choice with 41 S in 41 chances while posting 92 K out of the bullpen.

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