Posted on: August 8, 2008 7:56 pm
Edited on: August 8, 2008 7:57 pm

Veto, I forbid

Imagine you have a need on your Fantasy Baseball team. You know the exact need and exactly how much you need it. You've tried to meet the need by making a trade, but you've proposed offer after offer to just about every member of the league only to meet with rejection. You can't quite find the right formula.

Then, out of nowhere, an owner responds with a counterproposal. He doesn't like your exact offer, but he says he can talk if need be.

Suddenly, you have hope. You call the other owner and the two of you swap ideas ... and swap ideas and swap ideas for over an hour, but you can't quite come to terms. Finally, you both decide a deal just won't work between you two, but just before you hang up, one of you shouts, "Wai, wai, wait a minute!" and caves.

Eureka. You have a deal.

Your diligence paid off. Sure, you wasted a Saturday afternoon, but if you win a Fantasy title because of it, you won't care.

You don't have to worry anymore. You don't have to come up with another long list of proposals that you more than halfway expect the other teams to reject. That one gaping hole in your lineup that's taunted you from the outset is officially filled. All you have to do is wait for the two-day review period to --

What's this? Four owners have already objected? No! Your league has five-objection policy. One more "nay" and you have to start from square one. Surely, this can't happen. The two of you talked it out. You both had reservations. If either person had set down the receiver a little quicker, this trade wouldn't have even existed.

It can't happen, you keep telling yourself as you lay your head down for the night. It can't. It won't. Maybe all the hotheads already voted. Maybe the more rational members of your league will recognize the logic of the deal for both sides and give it their approval.

Maybe everyone will suddenly go on vacation and forget Fantasy Baseball for the next two days.

But you can't help but worry. You think about it as you try to fall asleep. You wake up in the morning and check the league first thing. So far, so good. Maybe everyone had a change of heart. Maybe a night's rest put the deal in perspective and made them realize it won't tear the league apart at its core. Maybe this deal can survive another 36 hours.

So you repeat the process. You check the league again before you go to bed. You worry about it all night. You check the league upon waking up. So far, so good. You take a shower. You go to work (because it's Monday by now). You go home. You check again -- fine. You eat dinner. You watch TV. You check again -- still nothing.

You almost can't believe it. Your trade teetered on the edge of disaster for almost 48 hours and nobody put it out of its misery. Now, it has new life -- a second chance. The world suddenly seems right again, like a bright and cheery place. You have newfound confidence in your friends, your league and the system. "I love this game!" you think.

Then, you hit refresh ...

And you wonder why it always hits you so hard?

Dear Fantasy writer,

I am in a keeper league this year (can protect 10 major-leaguers and four minor-leaguers) where a few trades have gotten overturned. Earlier this year I traded Evan Longoria, Willy Taveras, Brad Lidge and Ben Sheets for Nick Markakis and Jake Peavy. People thought I was ripping the other guy off, but given Longoria's performance and Peavy's (actually, the Padres') shortcomings, it is not so clear.

I am wondering how you deal with objections, if even allowed? There have been numerous trades that I believe people overturn because at that moment in time people think one team is getting a better deal. It has created real problems. I view objections as a method of preventing collusion, cheating and bad faith transactions. Am I right, or is it up to the rest of the league to determine the "fairness" of a trade? A little article on the purpose and intent of the objection might be nice.

-- Howard Lightle

How do I deal with objections? I cry. I scream. I write venomous e-mails and throw little tantrums.

I don't know what else to do other than giving your opponents such a headache they don't want to risk having to endure it again. And even that plan might backfire. They might just decide they don't want you in the league anymore.

I hate to tell you, Howard, but having a brilliant trade overturned makes you feel helpless for a reason. There's nothing you can do. That's why I feel the need to address the subject so often. Someone with some voice of authority -- as misplaced as it might be -- has to speak up on the matter.

I think most people who read that opening anecdote can understand your frustration. (I hope, anyway. That was its intent.) They wouldn't want to suffer through the same experience with one of their trades, yet they were probably first in line to veto yours.

Why? Well, they saw someone getting something good and wished they could have it instead. That's the truth. They might claim altruism, saying they didn't want you to have an unfair advantage, but that's bold-faced lie. Why would anyone make a trade if it didn't improve his team?

By instituting a trade rejection policy and running it in such a way, your league is basically saying, "Some people in this league don't know much about Fantasy Baseball, so we need to hold their hand and correct any mistakes they make. Oh, like that one. No, don't worry about that. It's a practice trade. We'll call that a practice trade. See? All better."

It's kind of insulting, in a way.

Really, the number of trades overturned in a league reflects the maturity of that league. The more people play Fantasy, the more they realize the need for an unrestricted marketplace, even if it means letting a bad trade slide every once in a while. Why do you think so many trades get overturned in public leagues?

I used to play in a keeper league where every trade caused a massive uproar, half of them getting rejected, half of them mine. And whenever it'd happen, I'd throw all the little tantrums and write all the venomous e-mails I mentioned earlier.

Over the years, the number of overturned trades decreased to the point that we haven't had one in three years. And this year? Not even a single objection for any trade made.

Our leagues here in the office don't even have a trade review policy. We trust each other's knowledge, experience and motives enough to make it unnecessary. Does that mean none of us ever make terrible trades? Of course not. We do it all the time. But you can bet we do it in an honest effort to improve our teams, and that's justification enough.

So I know it stinks now, but try to relax. I'll keep doing what I can on my end. Once you and your leaguemates learn to trust each other and realize you all have an equal stake in winning, you won't have so much of a problem.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 7, 2008 8:53 pm
Edited on: August 7, 2008 8:59 pm

Why Karstens deserves a look

His numbers looked OK, but nothing to get particularly excited about.

Sure, he threw six shutout innings against the first-place Cubs in his first start of the season, but the start didn't scream dominance otherwise. He allowed nine baserunners, four on walks, and recorded only one strikeout.

Then, Jeff Karstens threw a two-hit shutout at Arizona.


This one you can't write off so easily. This one deserves some attention.

Because this one suggests a few things the first one didn't. It suggests Karstens didn't just take advantage of a team unfamiliar with him following a league switch. It suggests he didn't ride an excess of adrenaline to better-than-expected numbers in his first start of the season. It suggests he has the ability to throw consistent strikes because he walked only one batter in the nine innings.

It suggests he deserves a look in Fantasy.

How much of a look? I still don't see Karstens having more upside than, say, Dave Bush, who also looks good enough every now and then to throw a two-hit shutout. After all, the 25-year-old couldn't manage better than a 3.80 ERA at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, and you have to think the Yankees would have tried them in their rotation if they thought he had any real potential.

Then again, it wouldn't be the first time an organization overlooked a solution right under its nose.

If I have a roster spot to play with, and I don't have to release another fringe player who has also shown signs of a breakthrough -- someone like Paul Maholm or Kevin Slowey -- I might as well pick up Karstens. What do I have to lose?

And I'd do the same for Ian Kennedy, who hasn't returned to the bigs yet but clearly has a higher ceiling and better supporting cast than Karstens. He might look just as bad as he did in his first stint, when he posted a 7.41 ERA, but I can always cut him if he does. No harm done.

The idea here is to pick up a player just a little before you know for sure you want him. And now is the time for Karstens. If in his next start, he gives up two runs in seven innings, you'll have to compete with half your league for him.

It's a measure designed to help you control your luck instead of letting your luck control you. Because if anyone in your league grabs Karstens or Kennedy now and either of them becomes a consistent Fantasy performer down the stretch, that Fantasy owner got lucky -- plain and simple. He might feed you some garbage about how he read 8,000 scouting reports on the guy or saw him pitch once in a minor-league game and "just knew," but you know as well as I do he just happened to pick up the right guy at the right time -- someone with potential who happened to have his breakthrough, which different players have at different times in their careers, right after he picked him up.

So don't give him that opportunity. If anyone gets lucky, make sure you get lucky.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 6, 2008 4:13 am

Pitch the pitchers; keep the hitters

Some of the Dear Mr. Fantasy entries inspire such lengthy responses that I just have to transfer them to my blog. I just have to, Kenny. I'm sorry.

I know it's still early, but I'm looking to next year for my keeper league. I'm in first place now. I get to keep three players. I can't decide between David Wright, Grady Sizemore, Ian Kinsler, Brian McCann, Roy Halladay and Joe Saunders. Pitchers are obviously worth more.  Halladay has been stellar for me this year, but Wright, Kinsler, Sizemore, and McCann are the best at their positions this year and entering their prime. The scoring system is standard Head-to-Head. What do you recommend?
-- Kenneth Lazor

I recommend you rethink your premise that pitchers are obviously worth more. I have a pretty steadfast rule in this situation: Pitchers and keeper leagues don't mix.

If you could keep more than three or four players, maybe you could sway me, but in your case, not a chance. I've gotten burned too many times in my own keeper league -- Head-to-Head ones, at that -- to recommend keeping a pitcher -- first by Mark Prior, then by Jake Peavy, and just this year by Erik Bedard. What happens when I keep pitchers? They get injured, every time, without fail.

I don't plan to keep a pitcher ever again.

"But wait," you say. "Pitchers don't always get hurt. You just didn't keep the safe ones."

Oh, I didn't? Maybe I would have had better luck keeping pitchers without a history of injury -- guys like Roy Oswalt, Aaron Harang and Tim Hudson.

Yeah. Good call.

"W-well, you've just had bad luck. You got burned a few times, but it won't always happen."

OK, yeah, you could call a pitcher getting injured "bad luck." But these days, couldn't you just as accurately call a pitcher not getting injured good luck?

And the blunt truth is, in Fantasy, I don't want to rely on any sort of luck. Does getting lucky help? Yeah, it does. But I don't want to rely on it, and drafting a pitcher early -- the equivalent to keeping one -- puts me in a situation where I have to. If you want the one guideline to ensure that you finish near the top of your Fantasy league every season, this is it:

Don't leave yourself vulnerable to things you can't control.

I can't control injury, but by making a pitcher the centerpiece of my team, I leave myself vulnerable to it. So while I can think of situations where I'd consider doing it, in your case, where you have plenty of viable alternatives at other positions, why?

OK ... Wright is a first-round pick. No contest with him. Sizemore is nearing that point. I'd probably call him a second-round pick right now, but you obviously want to keep him.

Your final decision comes down to Kinsler and McCann -- two of the best options at two of the weakest positions. I generally don't like to invest much in catchers because even the best can't play 162 games in a season. The consistent off days required by the position have a way of depolarizing the position, making the elite options less of an improvement over the second-tier options than you'd see at other positions. In other words, I'd keep Kinsler over McCann.

So Wright, Sizemore and Kinsler -- and under no circumstances a pitcher. There you have it.

That's all for now.
Posted on: August 5, 2008 4:00 am
Edited on: August 5, 2008 4:22 am

Taking a timeout to pay tribute

I don't have tons of time today since my Sliders column consumes most of my Monday evenings (along with updates, of course). And as I struggle to think of a Fantasy Baseball topic worthy of discussion, I find myself distracted by ... other thoughts.

I'd like to take a timeout here to pay tribute to one of the important most baseball figures in my life -- really, maybe the most important, when I stop and think about it -- Skip Caray, who died Sunday.

As many of you know, I grew up watching the Braves religiously beginning around my 10th birthday. And watching them meant listening to Caray. He was the voice of the Atlanta Braves, as much a part of the team as Bobby Cox, with the difference being Caray was right there with me in my living room.

I never met him. He didn't know me. But I sure as heck knew him. How couldn't I? He broadcasted 162 games every year for all but the most recent portion of the 15 years I've cared. And in my younger days, before I started working full-time, I came dangerously close to watching all of them. That's a lot of time to spend with somebody, and apart from my immediate family and some of my closest friends, I can't think of anybody who had as regular presence in my life as Skip Caray.

He was a friend more than a broadcaster, somehow combining such a personal and casual style with a sharp wit and keen intellect. And as a kid who grew up as more of an intellectual than an athlete, I can't imagine anyone giving me a better introduction to the game. He shared with me one of my greatest passions during some of my most formative years.

I felt such a personal bond to him that when the cable network decided to pull him off the air and assign him strictly to radio, I wrote it an angry e-mail much like some of the ones people write me. I felt offended for him and resolved to swoop in and save him in whatever small way I could.

If his style of broadcasting didn't draw me to the Braves and to the game of baseball, his passion overflowing into me, would I be where I am today? Would I be doing anything close to what I do now? Hard to say.

But I do know he voiced some of the most influential moments in my life, and when I replay them in my head, I hear him.

He will be missed -- by many more than me.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 1, 2008 7:18 pm

League crossover shouldn't matter in Fantasy

I got Mark Teixeira.

I'm sorry, but it's true.

I got Mark Teixeira!

My hysteria just grew.

OK, you get it. I got Mark Teixeira -- the decorated slugger with a bat so imposing he inspired two students from Auburn University to write a song about him back when the Braves acquired him last trade deadline. And I can relate. Now that my AL-only team has acquired him following his trade from the Braves to the Angels, I want to break out in song myself.

So yes, I need say it once, but I just can't help myself. It feels so right. It feels oh so right.

I got Mark Teixeira.

And yet it also feels so wrong. Yes, I got Mark Teixeira -- bringer of home runs, deliverer of RBI -- but why? Did I really do anything to deserve him? Sure, I saved my FAAB money all season, foregoing call-ups like Bryan LaHair and Brian Buscher just for the off chance of landing a legitimate superstar, but should anyone really get that much of an advantage with so much time remaining in the season? At least acquisitions like LaHair and Buscher required some amount of foresight. They only got on waivers because they had no established value. Teixeira certainly does.

That's the problem with these AL- and NL-only leagues. When an established superstar like Teixeira can enter or exit the player pool overnight, especially in a deeper league format like this one, he has the potential to turn the standings upside-down, undoing months of progress for teams that succeeded through more legitimate means. And because I benefited from this glitch, I feel almost guilty, like I somehow cheated the system.

I don't like it. I'll keep saving my FAAB for the July 31 trade deadline in AL- and NL-only leagues because I want to win, but I feel like there has to be a better way to handle league crossover in Fantasy.

I know the simplest solution. Just ignore it. Open the season with a set pool of players and then close it immediately, not allowing a single player to enter or leave. So what if the Red Sox traded Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers? He began the Fantasy season in the AL-only player pool, and so in the AL-only player pool he shall remain. Teixeira, likewise, would remain out of the AL-only player pool. I wouldn't get the benefit of adding him midseason, but that benefit hardly seems fair.

I don't see why a player changing leagues in real life should matter in Fantasy. Why does any group of friends start an AL- or NL-only league anyway? So every team doesn't field a lineup of All-Stars, right? Isn't that the whole point? What does Teixeira going to the AL or Ramirez going to the AL have to do with any of that? I don't see why just because your league chose to narrow the player pool it should feel obligated to alter it.

But hey, until everyone gets together and decides to fix the program, I'll continue to exploit the glitch.

I got Mark Teixeira.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 31, 2008 5:59 pm

Toeing the deadline

Nothing turns an AL- or NL-only league upside-down faster than the July 31 trade deadline. And while this year's at first looked like it might pass by with nothing more than the exchange of middle relievers (Arthur Rhodes) and veterans on their last legs (Ken Griffey), the Dodgers swooped in with the coup de grace to send a number of notable names packing. In case you missed the two biggest trades, here they are:

Red Sox get Jason Bay
Dodgers get Manny Ramirez
Pirates get Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen and Bryan Morris

White Sox get Ken Griffey
Reds get Danny Richar and Nick Masset

From a Fantasy standpoint, here's my biggest winners and losers of the trade deadline, in no particular order:

Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pirates
You can bet the Pirates won't stifle LaRoche like the Dodgers did unless they have some unfounded infatuation with Jose A. Bautista. He becomes an immediate starter in NL-only leagues and, with his plate discipline, could emerge as viable in mixed leagues as well. Hey, playing with big brother Adam A. LaRoche can't hurt. And don't worry about his poor numbers in the majors so far. He hasn't gotten enough of a chance for them to mean anything.

Jason Bay, OF, Red Sox
Bay didn't exactly have chop suey around him in Pittsburgh, but the Pirates lineup obviously doesn't compare to the Boston lineup, even sans Manny Ramirez. Bay will have the opportunity to drive in more runs and score more runs, not to mention the opportunity to play in a better ballpark for right-handed hitters. Nothing but good news here unless you own Bay in an NL-only league. Sorry, Charlie.

Brandon Moss, OF, Pirates
The Red Sox never held Moss in particularly high esteem, but he has some power and OPS ability even if he strikes out too much. The Pirates will surely make him a starter unless they decide prospect Andrew McCutchen is ready -- and they didn't think so back when they traded Xavier Nady -- so pick him up in NL-only leagues.

J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox
No, Drew didn't go anywhere, but the departure of Ramirez gives the Red Sox an opportunity to reshape their lineup. And doing so can only help Drew's cause. The left-handed prodigy has worlds of talent, but he needs the protection of another player to make it stand out. How else do you explain 2004 in Atlanta, when he had Chipper Jones batting behind him, and earlier this year in Boston, when he had David Ortiz batting behind him? If the Red Sox opt to bat Drew third, Ortiz fourth and Bay fifth, watch out.

Craig Hansen, RP, Pirates
No telling how the Pirates will use him yet, but Hansen, still only 24, once projected as a future closer, and the Pirates currently have Tyler Yates occupying that role. I'm not saying pounce all over Hansen, especially since he now pitches for a non-contender like the Pirates, but this acquisition certainly gets me thinking.

Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
Hard to say just yet how the White Sox will shake up their lineup with the acquisition of Ken Griffey, but they presumably made the trade mainly because they got tired of waiting for Konerko to come around. Nick Swisher will likely take Konerko's place at first base, allowing Griffey to man center field. Swisher might also lose some at-bats with this deal, but not as many as Konerko. If you own Konerko in a mixed league, you might as well just cut him. Then again, this trade probably just relieved you of a year-long headache.

Ken Griffey, OF, White Sox
By moving to the White Sox, Griffey has to go back to playing center field, which again exposes him to the injury risk that moved him to right field in the first place. He also stands to lose at-bats whenever the White Sox want to put Konerko and Swisher in the lineup together. The team might also decide he doesn't have the range to play center anymore, leaving him without a place to play. Of course, if he can secure regular at-bats, the heat of a pennant race might invigorate him, allowing him to put up better numbers.

Juan Pierre / Andre Ethier / Andruw Jones, OF, Dodgers
What a mess. The Dodgers already had four outfielders for three spots. Now they have five. Matt Kemp surely has secured regular at-bats with his emerging power-speed potential and ability to play center field, but Pierre, Ethier and Jones will probably have to split at-bats in some form or fashion. My guess has Pierre playing most often since he can bat leadoff, followed by Ethier and the free-agent bust Jones.

Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox
Sure, Manny goes to a pitcher's park and a weak lineup, but he clearly wouldn't have played with maximum effort in Boston. Plus, a player of his ability transcends the usual necessity of lineup protection. He'll get his numbers one way or another. Some experts have claimed his talent made David Ortiz who he is, meaning his role as a protector will impact others more than a lack of protection will impact him. No worries here. Oh, and if you play in an NL-only league, you obviously want to invest every last FAAB dollar in him.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 29, 2008 7:19 pm

Big blow for LaRoche

So now Adam A. LaRoche has to go on the DL.

Great. As if enough current Braves hadn't gone on the DL, now a former Brave joins their wayward ranks.

True, Chipper Jones' injury upturns a few Fantasy leagues, and Tim Hudson's has the potential to derail his career. But for some reason, LaRoche's bothers me the most.

Because he had a good thing going. His numbers in July (.390 batting average, seven home runs) and since the All-Star break (.375 batting average, four home runs) echoed those from his breakout second half in 2006, when he hit .323 with 19 home runs.

And because he was owned in only 60 percent of leagues, Fantasy owners had a once-in-a-season opportunity to pick up a stud without losing anything in return.

I can't say that anymore. Yes, I know LaRoche only has a ribcage injury and probably won't miss more than a few weeks, but a few weeks of down time means everything for a streaky player like him. It could totally unravel his progress.

I won't tell you to cut LaRoche if you own him, especially if you have available DL slots, but I don't retain high hopes for him either.

In his honor, I want to point out a few known second-half players doing exactly what we should expect them to do in the second half. You probably can't get your hands on them as easily as you could LaRoche, but don't hesitate to target them in trades:

Conor Jackson
.447 (21-for-47), 4 HRs

Robinson Cano
.442 (19-for-33), 3 HRs

Howie Kendrick
.389 (14-for-36), 1 HR, 2 SBs

Troy Tulowitzki
.517 (15-for-29)

Mark Teixeira
.412 (14-for-34), 3 HRs

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 28, 2008 6:08 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2008 6:10 pm

How good is second place?

Over the last week, I've come to the painful realization that I might finish second in all of my expert leagues.

Some might call that a triumph considering everyone in an expert league expects to win. I, however, call it a travesty.

To invest half a year in pursuit of a goal only to finish one iota short -- that hurts. And when you do it across the board, you feel across-the-board hurt.

So why not do something about it? Why not make a trade to get my team over the hump instead of just submitting to the status quo? I want to. Really, I do -- inaction is the death of any Fantasy team -- but I have a conflict in timing.

Just because I know I have a problem doesn't mean the timing is right for a trade. I also have to know I can live without something and know someone else could use that something.

But I don't see that opportunity right now in most of my leagues, certainly not in my NL-only Rotisserie league. And while I'd normally have the luxury of waiting a week or two to see if the landscape changes, I don't anymore. The trade deadline is approaching. It's now or never.

In that NL-only league, I have an obvious need -- pitching -- but no excess to trade for it. Sure, I could try swapping one of my lesser hitters for an unappreciated middle-of-the-road starter like Jason Bergmann and hope for the best, but what good would that do? This is my last chance. I have to make it count, and to do that, to acquire somebody major without using excess, I have to trade somebody major -- somebody like Hanley Ramirez.

Of course, Hanley has played a critical role in me ranking so high offensively, making pitching my obvious need. Without him, who knows what would happen? I might rapidly lose ground in the hitting categories and, if my pitcher hits a slump, sustains an injury, or doesn't get any run support, not make up enough ground in the pitching categories to compensate.

In short, I face a fundamental dilemma: Would I rather finish second or shoot for first and risk finishing fifth or sixth?

I honestly don't know. If I decide to make a trade, I'll fill you in on it, but right now, I don't know what to do. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments section below.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or