I’d like to take a break from the world of real baseball right now to bring you the following presentation from the world of fantasy baseball. Recently, the Dansville Domination – a team owned by moi – clinched its first-ever NEF fantasy baseball champion, defeating a slew of competitors that included my low-life brother Jason (a 4-time champion). To mark the occassion, I made the following celebratory video. Enjoy . . .
- How do I get through the offseason? Preparing for fantasy baseball. It’s never too early to build a champion.
- At this point, there’s only one way the Jason Varitek saga can end: The Sox get him at a bargain-basement price. The Sox still want him back, but on their terms. And they have the captain over a barrel. With other teams signing catchers, his potential other options have all but dried up. Given that, he has zero negotiating leverage. Sure, the Sox could still go out and get a young catcher like Saltalamacchia or Montero, but if they don’t like the pricetags — which they don’t — they know they can just wait Tek out at this point. He’ll come calling. He’ll end up with a base salary around $2 or $3 million, with a bunch of incentives built in.
- I keep thinking about doing pre-Spring Training team predictions, but there are still so many impact free agents that it is impossible to do them. I’m surprised the Angels – weakened after losing Teixeira and K-Rod — haven’t been more proactive in pursuing a bat like Abreu, Dunn or even Manny (despite that they’ve said they’re not interested). I also keep waiting to see when the Rangers will pull the trigger on Ben Sheets, who could be a difference-maker in Arlington. If the Angels don’t improve themselves, with the A’s bringing in Holliday and the Rangers possibly snagging Sheets (and/or a power bat), the AL West could turn out to be surprisingly open. And — call me crazy — don’t be surprised if the Mariners have a big bounce back year; they could do it with Bedard and King Felix carrying their rotation, and if they sign one of these available bats . . . well, remember you heard here first.
- I love the Pirates, and would love to see a bounce-back year from Pedro in Pittsburgh. With talented young arms like Ian Snell and Tom Gorzellany hitting the age of 27, you could see the Pirates start moving in the right direction. (But, then again, I’ve been saying that for years.)
- Considering how the prices for free agents have been dropping, don’t be surprised if the Yankees make another move that drives fans crazy.
For fans of baseball, this is a great offseason. I mean, sure, as a Sox fan it is disappointing the Sox didn’t land Teixeira . . . and even more disappointing that the Yanks did. But as a fan of the game, offseason’s don’t get much better than this. Usually, most big free agents sign in a flurry between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And by New Year’s, we’re left to a long, eventless winter of waiting for pitchers and catchers.
But not this year. Here we are in early January, and we still have a number of big-name free agents out there — Manny, Abreu, Burrell, Griffey, Dunn, Sheets, Lowe — and it looks like a lot of these guys are still weeks away from signing. There’s every reason to expect important baseball moves to stretch out through this month, leaving us just two weeks shy of pitchers and catchers reporting.
And if that wasn’t good enough, we have the World Baseball Classic in March, meaning we’ll be able to watch meaningful baseball a month early. And, in the meantime, there’s always plenty of fantasy baseball prep to fill in the gaps.
Greatest . . . . offseason . . . . ever.
OTHER THOUGHTS: Beware of reports from baseball writers this time of year. For instance, Jon Heyman reports that “teams are lining up to sign Griffey.” But his source? Griffey’s agent. Heyman tends to do this a lot, and as a result he is often called a shill for Scott Boras. I never thought much of that until this offseason. But it seems Heyman (and he’s not the only reporter who does this) is too willing to just take what an agent says (a highly suspect source) and report it. And probably more often than not, that info turns out to be wrong. To me, Heyman loses a lot of credibility by letting himself be played by agents instead of doing some real digging and verifying. . . . . . . I’m excited by the launch of the MLB Network, and fully plan to waste much of my life watching it now. But I’m not too excited by the fact it is starting off by replaying the game’s of the 2008 World Series (YAWN!) over and over and over again. I’d like to see it broken up a bit, with more highlight shows, hot stove reports, old games, etc. I’m optimistic. . . . . . . Was that my brother who was blogging last week? I didn’t recognize his work because some of what he said made sense. I imagine we’ll next hear from him come prediction time in the spring, when he’ll be back to his more nonsensical form.
- I have tix for tomorrow night’s game against Kansas City. I originally thought we’d be seeing Jon Lester pitch, and I whined about it to everyone. I did not want to see him (even though he’s on my fantasy team). He is too frustrating: walks too many, doesn’t make it out of the fifth, we should’ve traded him, etc. . . . . . Oh how I now wish I’d seen Jon Lester pitch.
- How good a catcher is Jason Varitek? He’s now caught four no-hitters — more than any other catcher in history. It was with four different pitchers — Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, and the kids Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester. Not a Nolan Ryan in the bunch. And, consider the times Pedro and Schilling each took no-no’s into the ninth. The greatness of a catcher goes way beyond offensive numbers, and when ranking great catchers their whole game needs to be considered, including how good they are at managing a pitching staff and calling a game. Jason Varitek is a great catcher.
- You could just see the stress on Jon Lester’s face in the ninth inning.
- Back to Lester being on my fantasy team. Walks, hits, fat pitch counts. This guy has been a frustrating mess this season. I had him benched for two games recently. I even tried to trade him three days ago. If I had benched him tonight, I’d be playing in highway traffic right now. And my asking price for Lester just went way, way up. (Of course, his stock just went way up, and maybe this is the perfect time for me to trade him. Something to ponder.)
- I was so sweating that last out — with a man on third, a base hit could have robbed my fantasy team of a no-hitter, shutout and complete game. But it all worked out and I’m now right on the heels of my evil brother. I know my fantasy team shouldn’t matter so much . . . . but it does.
- You have to be at least a little concerned about the wear and tear on Lester’s arm tonight. So many times we’ve seen pitchers throw no-hitters, or near no-hitters, only to go on to struggle or hit the DL soon after. It can take a terrible toll on a pitcher’s arm, and with Lester throwing 130 pitches tonight, it is rather scary. But damn, how exciting.
- Seeing how excited everyone on the Sox were for Lester — especially Francona’s really nice embrace afterward — just has to make you really like this team. Does anybody get more excited about this stuff than Big Papi? It’s just a good team that you can really root for . . . a nice change from the Mike Lansings, Mike Greenwells, Jose Cansecos and Jose Offermans of the past.
- Why I love my wife: While watching a highlight of Jacoby Ellsbury’s no-no saving catch, my wife says “You make catches like that all the time, babe.” Sure, it’s for a beer-league co-ed softball team instead of the major leagues . . . just details.
- A week ago, I was heading to Fenway park, with the Sox enjoying a nice winning streak and the best record in the AL. That night, I thought nothing of it when they lost; I even went “cha-ching” to my brother when K-Rod saved the game for the Angels (he’s on my fantasy team). The Sox then dropped five straight, including a three game sweep at Tampa. That’s why you never take the success of your team for granted.
- Sometimes, I watch The Office and think, “Oh no, I’m Michael.”
- I’d be a hell of a lot happier with Lester’s performance last night if he hadn’t sucked so bad in his previous outings. Because of that, he was sitting his (a)rse on my fantasy team’s bench when he finally decided to be a real pitcher. Ninety-six pitches in eight innings? Usually he hits 96 pitches by the middle of the fourth. And he never goes deep into games. I actually was beginning to think he wasn’t so much a starting pitcher but more an early reliever.
- When I flipped it over to the C’s the other night (Why watch the entirety of a first-round game since they’ll crush Atlanta anyway?), they had a comfortable 10-point lead to start the fourth quarter. Now the series is tied 2-2. I want to watch tonight. But, for the good of the team, should I skip it?
- The Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse: My imaginary brother has posted two of the last three blog posts.
It was wonderful to be able to watch a regular season game last night and not have it end at 8am. Still, I was mortified to see the stands at 50% capacity in the 9th inning of a one-run ball game. Yes, the Nat’s aren’t supposed to be that good, but they do have some young, exciting bats. They were also we opening up a new ball park. What does it say about the baseball fans in our nation’s capitol if they aren’t willing to stick out a quality home-opener? The Nat’s won in the end. Their fans, though, got a loss.
Also – for my fantasy baseball team, which is in a keeper’s league, I decide against holding onto Ryan Zimmerman. After last night I’m wondering if I made a mistake.