Any man marked with a wedding band will tell you marriage is all about sacrifice.
Whether trading in your muscle car for a Caravan, poker nights for "Sex and the City" or weekends of testosterone excess for thrilling excursions to Bed, Bath and Beyond, blissful matrimony cannot be achieved without compromise – no matter how grueling the female-driven concessions might be.
Though curtain-shopping is torturous, nothing compares to the agony of making the ultimate sacrifice – retiring your horse to the stable.
After five-plus years of legally-binding relations, a mortgage and two wonderful children, the Noise submitted to his wife's wishes last week, committing the unthinkable: sperm genocide.
There's nothing that can prepare you mentally for manhood annulment. Similar to combat, you're not quite sure how you'll react until thrust into the situation. Fear and panic are typical emotions. When an uncovered tray with several unidentifiable, sharp-edged medical instruments stare you in the face, flashbacks to the climactic scene in "Braveheart" are unavoidable. In hindsight, permanently rostering Dice-K seemed like a kinder fate.
This year's MVD has been fantasy sterile for much of the season. However, his recent production surge, newfound PT and potential change of address arrows to increased potency.
Still, upon exiting the hospital, the Noise found it difficult to suppress the thought of forever leaving behind his manliness in a medical waste receptacle …
Over the first two-plus months of the season, the once proud consistency king has worn a tarnished crown. Based on his repulsive line – .223 BA, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 23 R – he ranks 78th among eligible corner infielders in the Yahoo! game alongside roster cornerstones Ryan Raburn(notes), Travis Ishikawa(notes) and Josh Fields(notes). Due to his severe downturn, he's played sparingly, conceding at-bats to erratic bomber Ian Stewart(notes).
But despite his prolonged droughts, eye-sore numbers and questionable playing time, the 62 percent-owned Atkins is worth plucking off the clearance rack. Roughly 36 percent of Roto Arcade readers would agree.
His superficial numbers may show he's grossly underperformed, but peeling back the skin, he actually hasn't. Yes, his line-drive rate has dipped significantly (Career: 22.3, '09: 16.6), but his remaining peripherals have paralleled historical marks (i.e. CT%), or, in the case of his walks percentage, improved ('08: 6.1, '09: 9.7).
Equally as important, his dramatic statistical reversal and subsequent demotion haven't crushed the third basemen's confidence:
"I'm trying to relax, have fun and make it hard for him [Tracy] to not write my name in the lineup. I've been successful in this league before and I'll be successful in this league again."
Rockies manager Jim Tracy has also maintained faith in the former UCLA standout:
"He has been a complete professional. And I really believe if I'm looking at this correctly, from some of the types of at-bats I've seen him take as of late, he's real interested in making a statement, 'I'm still the Garrett Atkins that drove in over 100 runs three out of the last four years.' If he continues to force the issue that way, then obviously he will force our hand to do something very positive for the Colorado Rockies."
His unyielding swagger and continued focus is the reason why the 29-year-old, like the Rocktober revival his team is currently undergoing, has quietly reemerged in recent weeks. Since June 1, he's collected a .327 BA with three homers, eight RBIs and five runs. Over that span, he's also compiled a more characteristic 21.7 line-drive percentage. More importantly, his resurgence has indeed pushed Tracy to elevate him back into the catbird seat at third.
Obviously with Stewart five years his junior and ageless wonder Todd Helton(notes) entrenched across the diamond, Atkins and his $7.05 million salary will likely find a new address in the very near future. The Mets and Braves are rumored to be the most interested suitors. However, surging Seattle, who will be without Adrian Beltre(notes) for at least the next six weeks, could also jump into the sweepstakes. Due to Mike Lowell's(notes) ailing hip, Boston could make a pitch too.
Some insiders believe his June resurrection is an anomaly. Others, including former teammate Matt Holliday(notes), think otherwise. Regardless what side you're on, it's safe to assume a change of scenery would substantially increase the veteran's deflated value – unless he continues to rake in purple and black. Remember, when he experienced similar early-season destitution in '07 (.259 BA Pre-ASB), he tallied a .349-12-58-40 line after the break. Swapped this week for Ken Griffey Jr.(notes), Chris Coghlan(notes) and Chris Davis(notes) in one-for-one Y! Plus league deals, Atkins should be immediately pursued in deeper mixed leagues.
This year's MVD (Most Vienna Dog) is arguably the first half's biggest wiener, but he's clearly showing signs of regaining his mojo.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 295 at-bats, .298 BA, 11 HR, 48 RBI, 44 R, 1 SB
In honor of Nathan's annual frankfurter fracas and Fourth of July barbeques everywhere, here are the other Little Smokies on the Noise's Fourth Annual All-Weiner team:
C: Russell Martin(notes); 1B: Chris Davis; 2B: Howie Kendrick(notes); SS: Jimmy Rollins(notes); CI: David Ortiz(notes); MI: Rafael Furcal(notes); 3B: Garrett Atkins; OF: Matt Holliday, Magglio Ordonez(notes), Alfonso Soriano(notes); Util: Milton Bradley(notes)
Here are this week's flames, lames and stars of video games:
|Market Value: Strong Trade Buy (12-team mixed, AL-only)|
|Lowdown: The Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy outfielders, Rivera has been sneaky good this season. The soft-spoken Angel has thrived in an everyday role, ranking one spot behind perennial early-rounder Matt Holliday in Y! leagues. Over the past two weeks, the steady yielder has clubbed five homers, driven in 13 and scored 10 runs. Per skipper Mike Scioscia, Rivera's lightning-quick hands, general well-roundedness and consistency are the reasons for his stratospheric launch. On pace for 29 homers and 98 RBIs, his magnificent 88.7 contact rate, 1.29 GB/FB ratio and 10.0 strikeout percentage are strong indicators his BA will continue to hover at or just above .300. Still grossly underappreciated, he was acquired this week for Orlando Hudson(notes), Joey Votto(notes) and John Smoltz(notes) in one-for-one Plus league deals.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 295 at-bats, .301 BA, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 40 R, 0 SB
|Market Value: Strong BA Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)|
|Lowdown: Commanding the attention of his cohorts and deep leaguers, Schierholtz, along with "The Kegerator" Pablo Sandoval(notes), has jumpstarted San Fran's fledgling offense. Since June 23, he's compiled five multi-hit games with two homers, three RBIs and seven runs. Not provided with an everyday opportunity previously, the 25-year-old hook has taken advantage of extended playing time. According to Bruce Bochy, he's earned every at-bat. He'll occasionally concede time to Fred Lewis(notes) and Andres Torres(notes), but, as long as he rakes, he'll remain a fixture in right firld. Based on his chiseled physique, minor-league production and aggressive approach (19.0 K%, 3.8 BB%), he has a power hitter's mentality. Still, his 1.30 GB/FB and strong BA background labels him the Billy Butler(notes) of the West Coast. Owners searching for BA and adequate pop should employ his services immediately.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 240 at-bats, .289 BA, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 31 R, 4 SB
|Market Value: Strong Power Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)|
|Lowdown: Though the acquisition of Juan Pierre(notes) clone Nyjer Morgan(notes) clouds Willingham's playing time, the minimally-owned master blaster is worth plucking off the wire in deeper formats. Since the tragic death of his younger brother, the former Marlin has channeled the sadness through his bat, collecting 13 hits, five RBIs and nine runs in his past 26 box steps. His statistical upwelling has garnered attention from possible trade suitors, especially the Cincinnati Reds. Although Cincy GM Walt Jockety has expressed minor interest in Matt Holliday, Willingham's comparatively smallish salary is a better fit. If shipped to the Queen City, he would supplant Laynce Nix(notes) in left, earning everyday at-bats. He could also wind up being a DH staple for an American League team. Because he's posted a fly-ball heavy 0.78 GB/FB ratio and a HR/FB percentage equal to Jayson Werth(notes) (16.7), an expanded role in The Great American Bandbox (or elsewhere) would significantly bolster his power production. Deep-thinking owners seeking a lumber boost should stash the corner outfielder on reserve.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 230 at-bats, .274 BA, 12 HR, 41 RBI, 36 R, 1 SB
|Market Value: Moderate All-Around Buy (14-team mixed, AL-only)|
|Lowdown: Shades of Mike Cameron(notes) in Mariners gray, Gutierrez has quietly been a superb across-the-board producer in recent weeks. Since June 16, he's accumulated a .370 BA with four homers, nine RBIs, 10 runs and two steals. Even Gutierrez himself has been astonished by his newly discovered power. He may not be a household name, but the toolsy 26-year-old is on pace for a very serviceable 15-60-71-10 campaign. Last year in Cleveland, he was fantasy viable in bursts, but because of his rising GB/FB ('08: 1.04, '09: 1.27) and more discerning eye (6.3 BB%, 9.2) he's creeping closer to maturation. Keep in mind, a few years back many scouts anticipated he would develop into a trustworthy 20-20 player. Managers with suspect options at utility in deeper mixed formats should fish for the Mariner.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 240 at-bats, .271 BA, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 34 R, 7 SB
|Martin Prado(notes)||ATL||1B, 2B, 3B||731||9|
|Market Value: Moderate BA/R Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)|
|Lowdown: Finally, Kelly Johnson(notes) has been put out of his misery. Announced after Tuesday's victory over Philadelphia, Bobby Cox has officially removed the heaping pile of O-fer excrement (Note: The Noise owns Johnson in an NL-only league) in favor of Prado, citing the versatile infielder's scorching stick as "too hot to take out unless his groin flares up." Totaling a .359 BA with two homers, six RBIs and eight runs in 64 June at-bats, the four-year vet is a prototypical contact hitter (91.9 CT%) with minimal pop and speed. Despite his statistical shortcomings, he's expected to log numerous at-bats in the two-hole, which should yield favorable runs over the next several weeks. Shallow leaguers will understandably give Prado the cold shoulder, but owners in challenging formats will greatly appreciate his BA/R returns.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 230 at-bats, .296 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 37 R, 2 SB
|Market Value: Moderate Sell (all non-keeper leagues)|
|Lowdown: Glancing at his surface numbers, the Optimus Prime of rookie pitchers has been a dominating force. As Terry Francona learned, not even a virulent flu strain can stop him. Unfortunately, the law of averages can. Despite his outstanding initial achievements, Hanson's underlying numbers suggest an unsettling transformation could be near. Several peripherals predict an epic ERA meltdown – 1.06 K/BB, 87.6 LOB%, 5.11 FIP, 0.71 GB/FB, .248 BABIP. His nasty mixture of mid-90s fastballs and off-speed junk has occasionally baffled opponents, but not nearly with the flair most expected. Because his superficial numbers are sparkling, it's sage to auction him off to the highest bidder in non-keeper leagues. An adjustment probably won't occur in his next start (at Washington), but a road encounter with the red-hot Rockies late next week could begin the process. Also keep in mind, the Braves will likely entertain thoughts of preserving his arm come September.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 68 IP, 3 W, 4.95 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 47 K
|Market Value: Moderate Buy (12-team mixed), Moderate Sell (deeper mixed, NL-only)|
|Lowdown: The "ace" on the worst pitching staff in baseball, the Nationals southpaw was the 24th-best pitcher in the Y! game in June, tallying three wins, a 2.19 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Lannan claims that consistency has been the centerpiece to his success, but in truth, good fortune (.268 BABIP, 4.97 FIP) and his ability to coax abundant ground-ball outs (1.68 GB/FB) are the real keys. Despite a marginal K/9 and an unfavorable BABIP last season, he was able to deceive Lady Luck. This year, with his strikeout totals well below 5.00 and his HR/9 uncomfortably above 1.00, one would surmise an ERA fallout is imminent. However, Lannan might just have a Joe Saunders(notes) aura around him. Stream him against Atlanta on the Fourth, but long-term investors should consider maximizing profit.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 93 IP, 5 W, 4.67 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 48 K
|Chad Gaudin(notes)||SD||SP, RP||864||22|
|Market Value: Moderate Buy (14-team mixed, NL-only)|
|Lowdown: In prestigious company with fantasy deity Hanley Ramirez(notes), Gaudin was named Co-NL Player of the Week after setting a Rangers Ballpark record for fewest hits allowed by a visiting pitcher in eight-plus innings. Continuously getting ahead of hitters and keeping the ball down in the zone, Gaudin has suddenly morphed into Jake Peavy(notes). Over his past three outings, he's totaled two wins, a 2.14 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and an obscene 11.99 K/9. His stellar stretch, though likely unrepeatable, isn't completely eccentric. Overall, he's consistently induced an appreciable amount of grounders (1.15 GB/FB) and missed several bats (76.4 CT%). Unless the Pads promote the entire Single-A Storm roster, run support will be elusive. However, with an upward-trending profile and Petco's friendly atmosphere, he's a very interesting add in moderately deep mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 95 IP, 5 W, 3.89 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 89 K
|Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)|
|Lowdown: The Noise's accurate overrated projection for J-Roll has been prophetic, but no one could've anticipated that the former NL MVP would suffer this badly. The Philly shortstop's 0-for-27 slide is the latest downturn in one of the most disastrous injury-free seasons in recent fantasy history. Insiders claim confidence isn't the issue, but, as the Piano Man noted last week, several alarming peripheral mutations are. In short, he's netted fewer walks (5.2 BB%), tallied more harmless pop-ups (14.2 IFFB%) and slowed down on the basepaths. Still, Charlie Manuel remains confident his prized infielder will turn things around. Reinserted back into his customary leadoff spot Tuesday, he will be given every opportunity to right the ship. But until he starts making harder contact (16.2 LD%, career: 21.5), the torturous efforts will likely continue. Because of his storied history and the general lack of depth at shortstop, he's obviously the definitive buy-low candidate. However, shelling out sizable bucks for his employment isn't recommended. This week, Rollins attracted David Ortiz, Joe Nathan(notes), Brandon Inge(notes) and Ricky Nolasco(notes) in one-for-one Plus league deals.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 320 at-bats, .258 BA, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 43 R, 13 SB
|Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)|
|Lowdown: Mired in an abysmal 9-for-44 slump (.204 BA), the Caribbean Cruz has slammed into a mid-season sandbar. Looking noticeably fatigued according to Ron Washington, the object of the Noise's fantasy desires was awarded extended R&R over the weekend. Apparently, the siesta worked. Since returning to the lineup, Cruz has gone 4-for-9 with four runs, a homer, two RBIs and two stolen bases. Still, the super-streaky outfielder was due for a downturn. Based on his wretched 69.2 contact percentage and fly-ball happy ways (0.81 GB/FB), he profiles as more of a .270 hitter rather than a .290 hitter. His discounted rate has probably expired, but based on the names he was dealt for in one-for-one Plus league deals this week – Nate McLouth(notes), Brad Hawpe(notes) and Chone Figgins(notes) – he's still someone who should be inquired about, assuming his current back ailment doesn't prove serious. Overall, expect more numbers-in-bunches episodes from March's biggest bargain.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 285 at-bats, .275 BA, 20 HR, 54 RBI, 48 R, 10 SB
|Mark DeRosa(notes)||STL||2B, 3B, OF||90||97|
|Market Value: Hold (all leagues)|
|Lowdown: Though Andy Behrens' favorite Chicago Cub of all-time is back in a familiar division, owners shouldn't assume his numbers will suddenly jettison to Planet Pujols. His versatility in fantasy and reality makes him very valuable, but the move from St. Lois to Cleveland, in statistical speak, is lateral. In fact, if his uncharacteristic 17.7 line-drive rate doesn't improve, a slight drop-off could occur. Currently wallowing in a frigid 5-for-38 cold spell (0-for-9 with the Cards), he hasn't posted a multi-hit game since June 17. More worrisome, he felt "a little tweak" whiffing on a Randy Johnson(notes) changeup Tuesday, saying afterwards "it didn't feel right." The injury, diagnosed as a strained tendon, is expected to sideline him for the next 3-4 days. Given the nature of the setback, the effects could linger. Obviously, because of the injury concern, his market value at present is indeterminable. But he should be shopped once reactivated. Prior to the injury and just after the address change, he attracted an inflated return in one-for-one Plus league swaps – Michael Bourn(notes), Ryan Zimmerman(notes) and Matt Cain(notes).
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 275 at-bats, .270 BA, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 43 R, 1 SB
|Market Value: Speed Hold (12-team mixed, NL-only)|
|Lowdown: The return of baseball's circus sideshow, Manny Ramirez(notes), crushes Pierre's value. When the 50-gamer was levied on Man-Ram in May, owners knew the speedy outfielder was merely a two-month rental. But Pierre exceeded expectation, totaling a line – .317 BA, 0 HR, 21 RBI, 32 R, 21 SB – that ranked 19th among hitters per Baseball Monster. Barring a major injury or unlikely trade, he will only net roughly 2-3 starts per week. But before owners contemplate cutting him outright, comfort level in steals should be gauged. He's still incredibly useful in streaming situations. If you have the bench space and are starving for speed, pounce when the inevitable mass-drop occurs.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 202 at-bats, .306 BA, 0 HR, 16 RBI, 25 R, 18 SB
|Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)|
|Lowdown: Somewhat fruitful power numbers aside, Jacobs has wandered around aimlessly at the dish. Stabbing weakly at outside pitches and often overpowered on the inner-half of the plate, the one-bagger has notched an abhorrent 30.7 strikeout percentage this season. Currently in a 16-for-77 nose-dive, the worst slump of his career, he's reached the bleachers just once since June 1, driving in a scant three runs. Toying with a new batting stance, he's hoping to salvage the year. Despite the massive downturn, he's remained a fixture in the cleanup spot, but his days could be numbered. Trade rumors surrounding him and teammate Jose Guillen(notes) have swirled for weeks and, with Kila Ka'aihue(notes) performing admirably at Triple-A (248 at-bats, .270-12-33-51), he's become expendable. Deep-leaguers clinging to hopes of a renaissance should kick Jacobs to the curb.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 255 at-bats, .248 BA, 11 HR, 33 RBI, 30 R, 0 SB
|Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)|
|Lowdown: Forget Jeff Suppan(notes). The pitcher who most deserves a sales ad on eBay might be Cueto. But unlike the struggling Brewers hurler, he should be tagged with a rather hefty reserve price. Blasted at Toronto June 25 (6 IP, 5 ER), Cueto acquired a chink in his seemingly invincible armor. Despite a nice rebound effort Wednesday (6 IP, W, 0 ER, 1 H, 8:4 K:BB vs. Ari), expect more dents. His surface numbers are spectacular – 8 W, 2.69 ERA and 1.12 WHIP – but his underlying tallies tell a disturbing tale. Though he's trimmed the walks and coaxed more grounders, his downward-moving K/9, unappealing .251 BABIP and 4.08 FIP are ominous signs an ERA adjustment is just around the bend. Couple that with his continued proneness to the long-ball (1.04 HR/9) and the tendon-dissolving powers of Dusty Baker, and Cueto could experience a second-half swoon similar to Edinson Volquez's(notes) a year ago. It's time to seek a profit. This week he was traded for Jay Bruce(notes), Andre Ethier(notes) and Justin Upton(notes) in one-for-one Plus league transactions.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 98 IP, 5 W, 4.74 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 77 K
|Market Value: Moderate Buy (all leagues)|
|Lowdown: With his sinker not biting and his control loosening, Lowe has been wildly inconsistent in recent weeks. Including Tuesday's quality start, he's surrendered 18 earned runs and posted a hideous 5.23 BB/9 in his past 17.2 innings. Due to his recent underperformance, many pundits, including esteemed colleague Scott Pianowski, aren't confident he'll be a signature starter again this year. But in actuality, this is a terrific time to buy. Though his GB/FB has diminished from last season, his gravity ball has still induced abundant groundball outs (54.5 GB%). Also, his 3.72 FIP suggests an ERA diet is on the horizon. Studying film and attempting to iron out the kinks in side sessions, the maligned starter is working hard to recapture his command. Because of his strong history, ability to draw weak contact and work ethic, he should cast away the demons of misfortune soon.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 101 IP, 8 W, 3.68 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 60 K
|Market Value: Strong Trade Buy (all leagues)|
|Lowdown: Routinely missing spots and taxed mentally by a lack of run support, Cincinnati's Lurch has performed sluggishly of late. Rocky in his past six starts, Harang hasn't earned a win and has posted an unsightly 5.15 ERA and 1.57 WHIP. But outside of his unsteadiness, the Reds righty is an underappreciated producer with a crackerjack profile. Hampered by Lady Luck, his .342 BABIP implies better days are ahead. Add that to his sensational 3.81 K/BB, and his 3.95 ERA is likely to trim further. However, the Cincy offense needs to be more supportive (3.95 RS/9) for the hurler to manufacture appreciable wins. Swapped this week for Nyjer Morgan, Matt Capps(notes) and Jorge Posada(notes) in one-for-one Plus league moves, the undervalued innings eater is in line for a banner second-half.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 112 IP, 8 W, 3.81 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 99 K
To remind colleagues Jeff Passan and Mark Pesavento of the $50 donation they'll be contributing to the Noise's import beer fund, Nelson Cruz's long-ball tally will be noted each week. Remember, the original bet was over/under 25 homers.
Caribbean Cruz connections since last week: 1
Season total: 19
Moonshots to the money: 7