The season is whizzing by (no implied reference to Onterrio Smith there), and we've flipped another page on the calendar to unofficially begin the summer months. We've welcomed back some of our struggling sluggers and watched a couple of players mentioned in Hall of Fame discussions go through a revolving door back to the DL, reminding us that time doesn't stand still for anyone.
We watch in admiration as Derrek Lee and Alex Rodriguez strive to achieve baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967. At the same time, we wonder when, if and where Roger Clemens will be dealt if the Astros continue to struggle.
The questions still are plentiful as we enter June, but let's take a look at some things we do know. Here are the news and notes filling my dome as we finish this shortened work week.
In My Leagues
- One of my teams has begun to get healthy, as I welcomed both Sammy Sosa and Francisco Rodriguez back into the fold. I decided to sever ties with Luis Matos on that team and acquired AL Rookie of the Month Damon Hollins. I know, soon-to-be 31-year-old rookies aren't long-term solutions, but I'm not looking for a career. I'm looking for the continuation of this outstanding run of power, speed and average.
- I've held tight with my ownership of Victor Martinez, waiting for him to start showing us some semblance of his '04 self. Well, he only went 1-for-6 in Thursday's matinee, but he hit his third home run in four games. Martinez's batting average still is in the dumps, but it's good to see him putting a charge in the ball.
- I finally severed ties with Mike Lowell in one of my leagues, replacing him with Eric Hinske. Hinske has hit safely in nine of his past 11 games and is on pace to crush the totals of the previous two seasons.
- My Public League auto-pick team is sitting pretty except in stolen bases. Though he's not offering me much help in the other categories, I decided to pick up Willy Taveras of the Astros. Shawn Green was more or less the same player as the other outfielders in my lineup, and without much power thus far in '05 he was the odd man out in this move.
- And, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I'm glad I didn't wave the white flag and get low-balled on Rafael Furcal and Jose Reyes on two of my roto teams. After early struggles, they now at least are racking up steals.
The View from My Couch
- Looking at the Chicago Cubs' box scores for the past couple weeks, I can't help but think of a professional wrestler from the '80s. Derrek Lee has been a proverbial "One Man Gang" for Chicago, pounding out multi-hit games, launching bombs, driving in runs and stealing bases. He was the ninth 1B chosen on draft day this year (late seventh round on average) and looks more and more like a draft-day steal in spite of the piles of injuries impacting the Cubs. To put it in perspective, Aubrey Huff (he of two homers and 27 RBIs) was drafted three full rounds earlier than Lee.
- The most feared name to appear in any note of a player profile is that of Dr. James Andrews. Well, after battling recurring tendinitis for some time, A's reliever Octavio Dotel has elected to undergo elbow reconstruction surgery. From all the reports that I'd read, Dotel had been advised rest and the normal rehab efforts. Dotel decided that he didn't like pitching with pain and will instead miss the next 1-2 seasons. With no contract in place after '05, it seems a bit odd to me. Congratulations to those who nabbed Huston Street off the waiver wire when news of Dotel's injury was fuzzy.
- Which return from the disabled list was more pathetic, that of Frank Thomas or Juan Gonzalez? The former MVPs failed to inspire during their short returns from the disabled list. Gonzalez lasted all of one at-bat before re-injuring himself. At least Thomas drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk before his exit.
- I didn't need to see Jim Thome get the heave-ho with two runners on in Wednesday's game against San Francisco. It's bad enough that he's hitting a weak .209 with two homers, but frustration now is setting in. As a Thome owner, I'm a bit nervous right now.
- My respect for Ivan Rodriguez continues to grow. Yes, we're still wondering where the weight went, but any guy that simply adds padding to his glove to stay in the lineup after breaking his hand is all right by me. He gets the Jesse Ventura "I ain't got time to bleed" award.
News and Notes
- There was another casualty of bad bunting form on Wednesday night when Russell Branyan fractured the middle finger on his right hand. Jeff Cirillo and Wes Helms likely will split time in his absence. It's not that Branyan was lighting it up at the plate, but that's a tough way to lose a player in NL-only leagues.
- Cubs fans can rejoice somewhat based on positive reports on Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Wood threw his third pain-free bullpen session, and Mark Prior has seen dramatic improvement in his injured elbow after that freak incident last week. Both are eyeballing July returns.
- Brian Roberts of the Orioles is nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out of Thursday's game. It's the same injury that kept him out of two weeks of spring training games this year. I'm hoping this doesn't become a larger issue and derail his monster campaign.
- Owners finally have seen a little life out of the Kansas City bullpen, with Mike MacDougal picking up his fourth save of the year. If you're relying on production from this squad, get to the waiver wire to check the availability of Jeremy Affeldt. He's about finished with his rehab stint and will re-assume the closer role upon his return.
- Those looking for a boost to their rotation may find Woody Williams on the waiver wire. He's expected to return to the first-place Padres in the next week or two.
What "You" are Saying
- James from Rochester, Minn., speaks for volumes of owners when he writes – "I'm beginning to get frustrated with Lance Berkman's lack of power. Do I trade him to someone willing to take on this high-risk, high-reward player? Or do I hold out hope that he'll regain his power stroke?" Berkman finally seems to be getting his timing down, having hit safely in seven of his past eight games. He also stroked his second HR of the season on Wednesday night. Still, I'd dangle him in trade talks, banking that the Astros' offense won't suddenly explode.
- Andrew in Cincinnati asks about the prospects for an Eric Chavez turnaround: "Is he going to pick it up or should I take when I can get for him?" I'd be inclined to keep Chavez around. He's historically a stronger second-half player and the A's recently welcomed back Bobby Crosby. As his trade value is down right now, I'd hold off on dealing him to see how the early summer plays out.
- Carlo from Monroe, Conn., has a deal in the works involving two of the players I see boatloads of questions about each week: "I've been shopping around Jeff Kent and have found someone who will deal me Adrian Beltre straight up. Do you think Beltre will turn it around?" Beltre is one of the players most favored for a big rebound by Yahoo! Sports columnists Brandon Funston, Matt Romig and me. I don't bank on a return to his ridiculous '04 totals, but he's starting to see the ball better. He has hit safely in 10 of his past 11 games. I'd pull the trigger and acquire the 26-year-old star.
- Dave in Lausanne, Switzerland, leads the chorus of owners asking about a hot fantasy commodity: "Kevin Mench has been putting up big numbers and shown great knowledge of the strike zone. Do you think this will continue?" Entering the season, it appeared that Mench would be battling for at-bats in a crowded outfield. Instead, he has secured an every-day role with his 24 extra-base hits and 27 RBIs. I believe he'll continue to be a fantasy force, especially if he remains part of that potent Rangers lineup. They're just getting warmed up with the Texas heat. Take pride in acquiring Mench cheaply and reaping the rewards of his big bat.
Go Hard or Go Home
The mid-week series between the Royals and Yankees served as yet another reminder that anything can happen on any given day in Major League Baseball. The low-budget Royals defeated the high-priced trio of Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano to complete the sweep. I'm sure owners of all three hurlers were banking on Ws when they saw the then-13-37 Royals on the schedule.
The series marked some big moments for fantasy owners, with Zack Greinke finally getting into the win column after posting quality starts in five of his first 10 starts.
As I mentioned above, Mike MacDougal recorded saves in the first two games of the series and Ambiorix Burgos closed the door to complete the sweep. Emil Brown took the Big Unit deep for his sixth HR of the year on Wednesday and Ryan Jensen, fresh from Triple-A Omaha, took to the hill for the series finale. Matt Stairs hit his 200th career home run, becoming just the second Canadian to reach the mark according to the Associated Press (Larry Walker is the other). Everyone needs a beer league softball player in the lineup, don't they?
The Royals possessed the third-worst team ERA in the majors at 5.50 at the conclusion of Wednesday's games. In completing this improbable sweep, Kansas City's first of New York at home in 15 years, Royals pitchers held Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter to a combined 2-for-22 in the series.
Buddy Bell is 3-0 as the manager of the Royals. He had best enjoy it, because the walls of reality will close back in on him shortly. But, if only for a moment, this series reminds us to always expect the unexpected. It's one of the things that makes baseball America's pastime.