Look at the calendar, folks, Memorial Day already is upon us. This weekend unofficially marks the beginning of the summer season. And that means the weather is going to warm up, and in theory the ball will start traveling. For those of you sitting on the usual standout sluggers like Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran and Rafael Palmeiro, I believe the warm weather will treat you kindly. Additionally, past 30-HR heroes Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez should return in the near future.
While we wait for some sweet heat, let's have a look at what is rattling around my dome this week.
In My Leagues
In my public league this week, I tried to play the match-up with two spot starts. I acquired Russ Ortiz prior to his May 18 start against Houston. He gave me a rough outing, with four earned runs and a WHIP of 2.25 in 5.1 innings of work. I got the win, but it didn't seem worth it.
I followed that up with the acquisition of Mike Maroth for his start against Tampa Bay on May 19. He allowed six earned runs and nine hits in six innings pitched. That ended my brief affair with day trading in that particular league.
I thought I made the pickup of the week after Danny Graves' little outburst this weekend by nabbing Ryan Wagner in two of my leagues (directly replacing Graves in one of them), but Dave Miley mocked me by sending in David Weathers for the save. Right now, it looks like another wonderful committee situation.
Ryan Freel perhaps has been the most bounced-around player of the past week. In two separate rotisserie leagues, he's been acquired and released three times. He's stolen five bases in the past eight games, so the ping-pong effect is somewhat curious. I stayed out of the activity, having already owned Freel at the start in two other leagues.
The thought of celebrating a three-single game from Jim Thome would have been ridiculous prior to the season, but with the number of injuries sustained by one of my squads, I have to take what I can get. He's only 4-for-17 (.235) since his return with four singles. I'm holding out hope that a power barrage is just around the corner, but I may just be fooling myself. I'll get a closer look at him when I make my first visit to Citizens Bank Park on June 4.
The View from My Couch
One man making the most of an opportunity is Damon Hollins of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He's had a couple cups of coffee at the big league level (in 1998 and 2004), but he now finds himself as one of the hottest hitters in the game. Hollins is hitting at a .348 clip and has homered in four of his past six games. I finally severed ties with Luis Matos in one league to ride out Hollins' hot streak.
Before the season, I really thought that the return to Florida was a good move for Al Leiter. I even drafted him in two leagues. Fortunately, I dropped him after his miserable April 21 start against the Mets. It's gotten even worse in May, with an ERA of 8.06 and WHIP of 1.88. I've always been a fan of Leiter, and it's painful to see it hit this point. He'll do well as an analyst once he hangs 'em up.
The season hasn't gone according to plan for the Seattle Mariners, but Ichiro has hit safely in 36 of 45 games and Richie Sexson is tied for second in the AL with 12 homers. The biggest disappointment for fans and fantasy owners this year has been the play of Adrian Beltre. Expectations were high after his 48-HR barrage in 2004. He's hit just five this season and holds a .215 average in May. I'd be fishing to find out just how desperate Beltre's owner in your league has become.
Willie Randolph can be held only partially responsible for the downturn in stolen bases among the Mets' speedy players this season. After all, you do need to get on base to get the green light. I receive a number of messages each week asking when Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Kazuo Matsui and company will get running. Beltran has a respectable .349 on-base percentage but now is on the verge of a trip to the DL with a quadriceps injury. Both Reyes and Matsui have OBPs worse than .300. If they get on base … they will run.
Dontrelle Willis and Jon Garland have certainly gotten their fair share of ink for their achievements over the season's first two months. Let's not forget that six pitchers entered Thursday's action with seven wins. Familiar names such as Roy Halladay and Mark Mulder make the list. They are joined by Chris Carpenter and Mark Buehrle and a couple of surprises in Livan Hernandez and Adam Eaton, who have gotten little or no credit for their early success. Eaton has won five straight starts – four at home.
News and Notes
Danger, Will Robinson! Brandon Lyon is seeking a second opinion on his injured elbow after the D-Backs team doctor reported "irregularities" in the ulnar collateral ligament. I'm hoping for the best out of this because a bad report on further review means Tommy John surgery. Since both Brian Bruney and Jose Valverde were scooped up on the waiver wire already, I'll be scuffling to find a new closer option.
Javy Lopez became the latest player to join the disabled list after breaking a bone in his hand when hit by a foul tip on Tuesday. He was scheduled for surgery on Thursday. Doctors will insert a metal plate and screws to help the healing process. Geronimo Gil will shoulder the load behind the plate for the O's for the next six weeks. Gil is far removed from his 12-HR, 45 RBI season in 2001. I'd look elsewhere for a replacement.
He clubbed 40 homers in the minors last year and allowed the Angels to part with Troy Glaus. Now, Dallas McPherson may find himself back at Triple-A to work out his swing. Through Wednesday's game, McPherson had struck out in a third of his at-bats.
Starting rotations took another bullet Thursday when the Orioles announced that Erik Bedard was being placed on the DL with a strained ligament in his knee. With five wins in his past six outings, that's a tough loss for the O's rotation and for fantasy owners who began to take the next W for granted.
We're still waiting on the Cleveland lineup to take off, but the Rangers have kicked it up a notch this week in the power department, led by Richard Hidalgo. He's hit four homers in his past four games with five RBIs and three multi-hit games. If you're in need of some pop in the outfield, look to him for the short term while he's got his stroke.
What "You" are Saying
Mark from Schaumburg, Ill., represents many owners when he asks: "What do I do with Joe Borowski? It looks like the Cubs are sticking with Dempster as the closer." With a season full of questions in the closer role around the league, none has been more enigmatic than the closer role for the Cubs. Dempster has been solid in the role, but if Borowski gains a comfort level in non-save situations and can put some velocity back on his fastball, he should get some save opportunities down the road. I'd hold him on reserve a little while longer to see how things play out.
Shamus in Scottsdale, Ariz., asks: "What is going on with Todd Helton? No one seems to be talking about how bad a year he's having." There are a couple of reasons that Helton's struggles have gone somewhat unnoticed. First, the Rockies are battling Kansas City for the title of worst Major League team. As such, the breakout of Clint Barmes among of sea of mediocrity takes the little headline space afforded to them. Finally, Helton is one of the few players who hasn't missed time due to injury. Just being able to stay in the lineup earns a free pass for now. The Rockies will begin a 13-game homestand after Memorial Day, so he'll have plenty of time at Coors to get things straightened out.
Jeff from Atlanta writes: "Right now I have Juan Pierre on my bench. He's hitting .260 with eight stolen bases and without those two stats, he's got virtually no value. Should I dump him, try and deal him or wait it out?" Well, dumping him is out of the question. Eight stolen bases isn't huge, but there's some team in your league that would pay for that category AND it still projects to about 30 for the season. Pierre has been dealt for closer help over the past week, with separate deals consummated for Keith Foulke, Tyler Walker and Jose Mesa.
John in Gravette, Ark., writes: "With Mark Loretta going to the DL and 2B being a weak position, who would be the best choice to fill his void?" Top players lurking on the waiver are Milwaukee's Bill Hall, who has knocked in seven runs this week with two steals. He also is hitting .299. It also is worth seeing if Craig Biggio is available. Even though the Astros aren't scoring in bunches, Biggio has done his part (.298, eight HRs, 23 RBIs).
Dwayne in Oak Park, Mich., speaks for many owners when he asks: "Eric Chavez is available on the waiver wire in my league. Is he worth picking up?" Absolutely. Chavez has been picking up his game over the past two weeks, hitting safely in eight of his past 10 games and driving in 10 runs. Nick Swisher is back for the A's with Bobby Crosby expected to return next week. Chavez has hit 26 or more home runs for five straight seasons. I expect for him to get locked in any time now.
Go Hard or Go Home
It's hard to believe, but the second month of the Major League season ends on Tuesday. To say that it's been a hard season to read thus far would be an understatement. Players seemingly are taking turns on the disabled list, with nearly a half-dozen players stamping their passport each and every night. As new ones plop on, most notably the big losses by both the Los Angeles Angels (Vladimir Guerrero and Francisco Rodriguez) and Baltimore Orioles (Erik Bedard and Javy Lopez), we're getting others back. Perennial sluggers Jim Thome and Sammy Sosa have returned to the field, but they've combined to hit less than half the number of home runs by Orioles breakout star Brian Roberts with one-thirteenth the number of stolen bases. Jason Schmidt of the Giants, as well as several other pitchers, has matched Thome's single dinger.
Fantasy owners still are questioning when we'll be able to escape the bizarro fantasy world and for things to get back on track. This week, I'm taking a step back to see what we've learned thus far and what the numbers are telling us.
I'm still not ready to concede that the steroid testing policy is the primary force in this phenomenon, but through two months, home runs are down .40 per game and runs are down almost .30 per game.
The Royals and Rockies are just bad. Normally you can find several players that are fantasy contributors from the bottom feeders. Here, not so much. Clint Barmes leads the Rockies in all five of the standard categories. Pitching is well, you know … As for the Royals, Mike Sweeney had a big streak and leads them in HRs, RBIs and batting average. Denny Bautista and Mike Wood lead with two wins and two saves, respectively. Those are two brutal rosters. Todd Helton, why have you forsaken us?
The Cubs now are monitoring the computer use of young hurler Carlos Zambrano. Has anyone seen "The Caine Mutiny" with Humphrey Bogart? It almost seems like a desperate act when you try to pin a pitcher's issues on his email habits. Buy the guy a web cam, will ya? Or can't they pay someone to type for him?
One victim of the Phillies' inability to score consistently has been Brett Myers. He's striking out better than one hitter per inning and has pitched six or more innings in nine of his 10 starts. He also has given up three or fewer earned runs in nine of his starts. He's battling John Smoltz and the Astros staff for hard-luck hurler of the year.
Finally, we've learned the hard lesson that one year does not a fantasy superstar make. Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner of Cleveland head the list of the players who have tortured us through the first two months of the season. Johan Santana even has been made to look mortal at times this season (he may not be pitching like the No. 7 overall pick, but he's still getting it done with some regularity).
It's a long season, for sure. I think that the trials and tribulations, the struggles in-between the white lines and piles of injuries teach us one valuable lesson. Fortunes in fantasy baseball change on a dime, and it's the anticipation of these changes that make for a glorious title run or a long summer.