From coast-to-coast, the incredible, versatile backyard treat will undergo more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert. Whether your sausage is smothered in chili, sauerkraut, neon green relish or just mustard (ketchup on a dog should be deemed a criminal offense), biting into a juicy Oscar Meyer always satisfies the taste buds. No contract dispute with Major League Eating should ever sway a carnivorous male, especially a five-time Nathan's champ, from indulging in disgustingly high volumes of franks on Independence Day. They're unsettlingly fantastic.
Though initially believed to be the perfect grill-side meal, all red hots are comprised of puzzling ingredients "Jungle" educated consumers don't want to know the origin of (Seriously, what exactly are extractives of paprika? Insects crawling on bell peppers that accidentally fell into the grinder?). Discussions about its potential long-term effects on general health are purposely ignored.
Widely considered preseason winners, midseason's wieners possess similar qualities. Iron-stomached owners who invested heavy coin in the Way-Rods of the world have felt queasy. Bigmouths have choked. Vegetarianism has increased.
Those who've stuck to their buns have wallowed in mediocrity...
Here are the Little Smokies (underachievers least impacted by injury) on the Fifth Annual All-Wiener team:
C: Joe Mauer(notes), Min
Overall Rank (Preseason, Current): 13, 170
Mauer's lack of muscle, discussed in length two weeks ago, is shocking only to those who stupidly invested a first-round pick in his services. Though the AL's leading All-Star vote getter may disagree, the power redux is very real. His 1.67 GB/FB, decreased success on fastballs and spacious Target Field surroundings will continue to keep his Killebrewian side hidden – and his value behind Miguel Olivo(notes). He's still a keen-eyed hitter who's invaluable in OBP formats, but in conventional circles, he'll be an above average producer, relative to position, in BA, runs and RBI.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 296 at-bats, .316 BA, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 39 R, 1 SB
1B: Pablo Sandoval(notes), SF
Overall Rank (Preseason, Current): 30, 268
The Ling Ling of corner infielders has consumed plenty of bamboo, but not pitches in the first half. Sandoval's ultra-aggressive "see the white thing and swing at it" mentality has been problematic, particularly against lefties. His comical baserunning and ruinous efforts with runners in scoring position have even fostered boos from once-adoring home crowds. Despite the precipitous numbers decline, Panda's batted ball profile is nearly identical to last season's, which inspires hope for a BA turnaround. However, his struggles against fastballs and previous lackluster minor league power record indicate last year's 25-bomb breakthrough was an anomaly.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 312 at-bats, .301 BA, 8 HR, 44 RBI, 39 R, 1 SB
2B: Gordon Beckham(notes), ChW
Overall Rank (Preseason, Current): 134, 730
The subject behind several Ozzie expletive rants, Beckham has experienced the definitive sophomore slump. His widened gap between walks/strikeouts, sharp rise in groundballs and affinity for chasing balls outside the zone with minor success have torpedoed his BA into Rusty Kuntz territory. The Sox second baseman claims he's starting to figure out his swing, but unless he has a mammoth second half, it is virtually impossible he will recoup his draft day price, especially batting ninth in the order. Still, because of his versatility and pedigree, he's worth employing in deep mixed leagues with MI requirements. Exercise patience.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): .272 BA, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 33 R, 4 SB
SS: Yunel Escobar(notes), Atl
Overall Rank (Preseason, Current): 313, 695
Escobar has had little to do with the Braves' titanic surge over the past month-plus. Sidelined for two weeks in early May with a strained groin, he's failed to recapture last year's consistent form. Widely considered a mid-round "value pick" preseason, the shortstop has yet to reach the bleachers and is on pace for the same number of RBIs as, get this, Wilson Valdez(notes). Rumored to be involved in trade negotiations, possibly to Kansas City for David DeJesus(notes), he could be reinvigorated with a move to the AL. Based on his precise eye (1.17 BB/K) and excellent contact numbers, a rebound seems imminent. Buy low.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 279 at-bats, .288 BA, 6 HR, 37 RBI, 40 R, 5 SB
3B: Aramis Ramirez(notes), ChC
Overall Rank (Preseason, Current): 50, 791
Dinged assets are normally ineligible for AWT nominations, but, when healthy, Ramirez, indisputably, has been a kielbasa. Bothered by a tender thumb, he's been mired in an epic slump. An incredible spike in strikeout percentage ('09: 14.1, '10: 23.9) combined with a severe case of the dips (0.43 HR/FB) explains why the cold corner has enjoyed beach walks at sunset with Mr. Mendoza. Finally close to full strength, he's starting to show signs of a turnaround. Since returning from the DL on June 25, he's hit safely in five of six games. With his value still wading in the septic tank, his strong historical track-record post-break (.290 BA, HR per 17.9 at-bats) is reason enough to invest at a bargain basement price.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 288 at-bats, .284 BA, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 42 R, 1 SB
OF: Adam Lind(notes), Tor
Overall Rank (Preseason, Current): 59, 585
In terms of overall production, the outfielder has channeled another light-hitting Lind, Chico, this season. Well below where he was at this point during his monstrous breakthrough campaign a season ago, the lefty has suddenly transformed into a Kingman-like free swinger. That coupled with a more defined uppercut swing and low success rate on outside offerings has sunk his BA to a ghastly .203. Surprisingly, his slow start has not soured his confidence. When recently asked by Cito Gaston to move down in the order, Lind believed hitting behind Vernon Wells(notes) would lead him to "start raking." Just 4-for-23 in the fifth spot, his owners are still waiting for the explosion. His power return has saved some value, but until he sports a sharper eye, he will continue to be a BA vampire.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 319 at-bats, .246 BA, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 33 R, 1 SB
SP: Wandy Rodriguez(notes), Hou
Overall Rank (Preseason, Current): 79, 727
This year's MVD (Most Vienna Dog) has the highest preseason-to-current ranking discrepancy among non-injured players. Routinely cooked at meat-charring temperatures, the southpaw has logged just seven quality starts in 16 turns. The reason for Rodriguez's downfall boils down to poor control and a slight decrease in velocity. As a result, his BB/9 (3.67) and line-drive rate (22.5) have risen significantly. Houston's absent offense also hasn't done him any favors. Despite the negatives, the magic Wandy could prove spellbinding down the stretch. His FIP (4.39) and superb 1.73 GB/FB project several fruitful outings. Allowing just one earned in his past 13 innings, the revival may already be underway. Steal him.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 97.0 IP, 6 W, 3.87 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 71 K
RP: Chad Qualls(notes), Ari
Overall Rank (Preseason, Current): 180, 672
Every time Qualls takes the mound, somewhere in Fantasyland a saves desperate owner begins to hyperventilate. One of last year's surprise bullpen sensations, the rocky righty has blown four saves in 12 chances. In low leverage situations he's been equally deplorable, indicative in his 8.23 ERA. His .452 BABIP, 4.16 FIP and 2.17 GB/FB imply a resurgent second half, but his wild ways (3.95 BB/9) don't exactly lend much confidence. Honestly, the only reason why he's still employed: no one in the D'Backs bullpen can get outs. If he can keep the ball down in critical situations and find the zone consistently, there's a slight chance for a post-ASB revival. But Arizona's fractured tourism economy may have better odds for a quick recovery.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 32 IP, 2 W, 7 S, 4.65 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 27 K
C: Matt Wieters(notes); 1B: Derrek Lee(notes); 2B: Aaron Hill(notes), SS: Alexei Ramirez(notes); 3B: Jose Lopez(notes); OF: Nick Markakis(notes), Raul Ibanez(notes); SP: John Lackey(notes), Carlos Zambrano(notes), Rick Porcello(notes), Scott Baker(notes); RP: Frank Francisco(notes), Trevor Hoffman(notes)
*Preseason ranks are from Yahoo! leagues, current from Baseball Monster
Image courtesy of Getty