I've got this new boss and, like lots of bosses these days, he's into team building. So a couple weeks ago he took us all go-kart racing. (You didn't think this column was my real job, did you? I'm just moonlighting. Because when my 1st grade teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn't exactly answer "Average Joe," you know?)
Anyway, I like to think of myself as highly evolved. Even though I'm a guy, I can enjoy a night out at an art gallery or the theatre. I even read a little poetry now and then. But when it comes to speed, I'm a man's man. So, naturally, I took go-kart racing way too seriously. I was quite impressive on the track that day, actually. I beat all the women, thank god, and quite a few of the men, too. Out of more than 20 racers, I finished the day fourth. Not too shabby. Best of all, I even learned a lesson or two that apply to fantasy baseball.
Over the last few weeks in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League, "Team Falzone" has been dropping like a rock tied to an even bigger rock. Meanwhile, "Team fantasyguru – pianow" has surged to the top of the heap and opened up a commanding lead. Now on the go-kart track, most races I got off the starting line in the middle of the pack. The thing is, if you want to catch the guy in first, you not only need to be good, you need to be better than him. That's easy to imagine when you're one car or one second behind the leader. Not so easy when you're four cars or – as I write this – four teams behind. not to mention by a whopping 40-plus points. Especially with one quarter of the season in the books already. Yikes …
When I find myself in this predicament, rather than just give up and wait for football season, one thing I like to do is look at my roster side-by-side with the teams above me in the standings and see if my team is actually weaker and in need of improvement, or just unluckier and due to heat up. What follows is how Pianowski's team stacks up against mine. I know I'm not just facing off against him. I've got plenty of other competition, too. But if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best, and right now, that's him.
Catcher: Johnny Estrada (Pianowski) vs. Brian McCann (Falzone)
I think McCann's the best backstop in baseball. Seriously. He's got more power than Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez, and he's a legit .300 hitter to boot. Estrada is no slouch, though, and he's outplayed McCann so far. But I like McCann to get it together and be an important part of my team.
1st base: David Ortiz (Pianowski) vs. Richie Sexson (Falzone)
This one is no contest. It's like one of those old Saturday morning wrestling matches. You know, like Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka vs. some guy they pulled out of the crowd. Come to think of it, Big Papi vs. Big Sexy might actually be a pretty fair fight in the ring. Not on the ball field, though.
2nd base: Brandon Phillips (Pianowski) vs. Jeff Kent (Falzone)
Kent's been good, but Phillips has been fantastic. Most of the expert opinion I read heading into this season pretty much disregarded Phillips' season last year as a fluke. They were wrong – he's the real deal.
3rd base: Mike Lowell (Pianowski) vs. Troy Glaus (Falzone)
Not only is Lowell outplaying Glaus, but I traded Bobby Abreu to get Glaus and he rewarded me by going 4 for his first 30. Lowell is also one of many guys who were readily available in the free agent pool, who I thought about grabbing, and then hesitated before an expert beat me to the punch. Still, by season's end, I expect Glaus to have better numbers. But maybe not by much.
CI: Jose Vidro (Pianowski) vs. Ryan Garko (Falzone)
Another win, although this slot has been troublesome for me. The Indians just sent Andy Marte down to the minors again, so Garko's everyday job looks safe. I expect The Pianow Man to upgrade at some point, though.
MI: J.J. Hardy (Pianowski) vs. Marcus Giles (Falzone)
Giles has been solid, but Hardy's been out of this world. Another savvy free agent grab by Pianowski. Unlike Lowell, I never considered grabbing Hardy at all. Oops.
OF: Grady Sizemore, Magglio Ordonez, Craig Monroe, and Kelly Johnson (Pianowski) vs. Alfonso Soriano, Torii Hunter, Eric Byrnes, and Jose Guillen (Falzone)
At first glance, I thought I had Pianowski beat here easily. Grady and Soriano are close, but Ordonez's numbers are even better than Hunter's, and Hunter's been awesome for me. Craig Monroe is average at best, though, and Johnson's really cooled off after a hot start. I'm also without Josh Hamilton until next week – if comes back and plays like he can, I might just have the best starting OF in the league.
U: Garrett Atkins (Pianowski) vs. Carlos Pena (Falzone)
Atkins has been awful so far. Except for Matt Holliday, I don't trust those Colorado guys, I just don't. I got a second chance at Pena when "Team Y! – Evans" inexplicably gave up on him after only a few days; I think he's legit. As a Yankee fan, it kills me that they let this guy languish in the minors all last year and then cut him loose right when they needed a new 1B most. Let me put it another way – know anybody with Doug Mientkiewicz on his fantasy squad? Exactly.
SP: Ben Sheets, Felix Hernandez, Chris Young, Ian Snell, and John Maine (Pianowski) vs. Curt Schilling, Eric Bedard, Tim Hudson, Bronson Arroyo, and Yovani Gallardo (Falzone)
My OF may be the best in the league, but my rotation is really hurting without Justin Verlander, who I dealt awhile back for Eric Byrnes. Both Hudson and Arroyo have been throwing batting practice lately, so what was once the strength of my team has gotten very ordinary, very fast. Pianowski's had to deal with the injury problems of Sheets and Felix – with those guys at full health, this is a complete blow out. To paraphrase Princess Leia, "Help me, Yovani Gallardo. You're my only hope."
RP: Todd Jones, Ryan Dempster, David Weathers, and Alan Embree (Pianowski) vs. Huston Street, Bob Wickman, Rafael Soriano, and Hideki Okajima (Falzone)
Pianowski's collected the kind of guys that are always counted out every spring, and yet every summer they're still rolling along, piling up the saves. Meanwhile, my relievers were throwing nothing but zeroes the first few weeks of the year, and now Street's out indefinitely, and I need to keep Soriano around because Wickman is only one corndog too many away from the DL once again.
Well, color me surprised. By my calculations Pianowski's got me beat in five positions, but I've got him beat in six. Excuse me, however, if I keep the Champale on ice. Even though he doesn't have many marquee names, he's getting lots of solid production and he's really got no holes at all. Meanwhile, I've got a few name guys, but also a few gaping wounds. I expect several of his players to slow down quite a bit, but he's built such a lead, even if that happens I probably still can't catch him. He's not going to make many mistakes, either, and I've no doubt got a few more boners up my sleeve.
So that's the first lesson I learned on the go-kart track: to catch the leader, not only do you need to get better, but he's got to get worse. The second lesson? Hmmm. Sorry. I think I'll keep that one to myself while there's still time to refuel and get back in the race.