I'm trying to be opened-minded about the (lack of) conclusion to HBO's "The Sopranos" on Sunday night. I've been riding this mob train since Episode 1 and admittedly was giddy to know how the whole family affair would be wrapped up. But instead of an ending, we were left with a door slamming in our face as we watched Tony, Carmela, A.J. and Meadow settling in for a meal at a family restaurant before abrupt blackness inexplicably enveloped my TV screen – it had me convinced that I accidentally stepped on my remote control at the worst possible moment. Apparently, life will go on for the Sopranos, but without us. At least you can take comfort in knowing that fantasy baseball will always be there for you. And in this show, there's always an ending, one that you have at least some control over. One that doesn't leave the emotionally-invested hanging in limbo. Let's take a look at the weekend drama on the diamond:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Speaking of highly-anticipated events, Roger Clemens picked up a win in his '07 debut on Saturday, allowing three runs to Pittsburgh in six innings. He also struck out seven Pirates and walked two in his 108-pitch effort. He was only able to dial his fastball up to the 89-91 mph range and he struggled to locate his pitches at times, but he did show a pretty nasty splitter that he was able to disguise like his fastball before the bottom dropped out of it at the plate (Ryan Doumit can attest to the nastiness of the splitter). He was also staked to a 6-3 lead when he was pulled after six innings, the kind of run support he was rarely afforded in Houston the past couple years. In fact, the Yankees have gone 9-2 in their past 11 games with the offense averaging nearly eight runs during that span. Bobby Abreu is in the midst of rebounding from a May slump and leads the league with 19 June hits, Melky Cabrera has found regular playing time with Jason Giambi out and holds a .378 batting average over the course of 10 June games, and Alex Rodriguez is back on the long ball express, matching his May home run total (5) with five home runs (and 18 RBI) in his past eight games. If the Yankees keep realizing their potential at the plate, Clemens is going to win a lot of games in the next three-plus months, especially after he eliminates the rust from a long offseason.
- Albert Pujols and Alfonso Soriano were consensus top five picks on draft day, but for the majority of the first two months of the season, they were the cause of much consternation for their fantasy owners. Soriano hit three home runs on Friday before closing out the weekend on a 0-for-7 slide. In his past nine games, though, Soriano has added six home runs to his season tally, which now sits at 10. Finally his season pace projections (.316, 28 HR, 62 RBI, 113 R, 23 SB) are much closer to expectations. As for Pujols, he's tied with Soriano for the most HRs in June (6) – he's also fourth for the month in RBI (12). Suddenly he's the 35th-ranked player in the Yahoo! game and a potential fourth-straight season of .330, 40 HR, and 115 RBI is back in play.
- Notable Notes: It was a tough week on the injury front for several name-brand players. While Mark Teixeira (quad) was the only one to land on the DL, B.J. Upton (quad), Tim Hudson (shin), John Smoltz (shoulder), Carlos Guillen (hamstring), Aramis Ramirez (knee), Magglio Ordonez (knee) and Hunter Pence (hip) were among those who missed time over the weekend with aches and/or pains … For the first time since '04, Travis Hafner is first base-eligible in Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues. He picked up his qualifying fifth start at first base on Friday in the first game of an inter-league series with Cincinnati. Playing in an NL park without benefit of the DH option, Hafner also started at first on Saturday before settling for pinch-hitting duties on Sunday. While fantasy owners certainly will love the added flexibility that Hafner now comes with, they can't be at all pleased with his current production at the plate – he' hitting .188 with no home runs in June and in his past 42 games, he's produced just 5 HRs and a .212 BA … The other big eligibility development from the weekend was Upton getting his fifth start in the outfield on Friday. Unfortunately, he had to leave the game after straining his quad and didn't play in the final two games of the series with Florida. He may not get back into the Devil Rays' lineup until Wednesday or Thursday of this week, but when he does, fantasy owners will have the option to use him at second base, third base and, now, outfield.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Tadahito Iguchi, ChW, 2B
Since I dropped him in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League, Iguchi has hit in 14 of the following 15 games. His current 12-game hitting streak includes 1 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 3 SB, and a 36-point boost in batting average (up to .257). Iguchi is still available in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues and, if you were an owner who counted on him earlier in the season only to lose patience like myself, see if he's still available for a second chance. He's established himself as a .280, 15/15 guy and now that we're seeing his numbers start to normalize he's likely to deliver as originally expected the rest of the way.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Adam Jones, Sea, OF (ETA – All-Star break)
There isn't an opening for Jones in Seattle yet, but he's proving to be Major League ready, perhaps forcing the Mariners to make some kind of decision on their five-tooled star in the coming weeks. Jones is among the top seven in the Triple-A PCL in home runs (13), RBI (49) and Runs (44). He's also stolen three bases and holds a .970 OPS. Unfortunately, he's fanned at a prolific rate (58 K in 57 games), but that's not too discouraging when you consider he's shown a much-improved ability to draw walks. His 23 free passes are only five fewer than the 28 he induced in 96 games last season. It'll be interesting to see how the Mariners decide to handle this situation but, whatever they do, be sure you're paying attention. Jones picked up 32 games of big league seasoning last season and, when he finally lands an every-day gig in Seattle, he's got the type of athleticism that plays well in the fantasy realm.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Juan Encarnacion, StL, OF – During his current 11-game hitting streak, Encarnacion has batted .317 with 4 HR, 8 RBI and 13 R. The former near-20/20 club member still hasn't attempted a stolen base this season, however.
Brendan Harris, TB, SS – Harris homered and drove in five runs on Sunday, and in his past nine games he's hit .361 with 3 HR, 14 RBI, 8 R and 1 SB.
Cristian Guzman, Was, SS – Guzman is tied for the June lead with 19 hits, good for a .475 batting average this month.
Dmitri Young, Was, 1B – Guzman's teammate Young is equally as hot at the plate, raising his batting average over 100 points by collecting 39 hits in his past 22 games (3 HR, 19 RBI, 13 R).
Chone Figgins, LAA, 3/2/O, – Figgins is making up for an injury-plagued slow start to the year with a league-high 8 SB in June. In his past 10 games he's hitting .489 with 12 R and 10 SB.
Sammy Sosa, Tex, OF – During Sosa's current 17-game homerless streak, he's hit just .177 with 8 RBI.
Jeff Francoeur, Atl, OF – Francoeur has also suffered a power outage, going without a home run in his past 22 games. He's hit just .233 in June.
Yahoo! Sports Blog Funston League Update
I'm still slumming in the basement of the Blog League (ninth), but the standings remain tightly grouped and swings of five-plus points still occur regularly, just not often enough for my team. The Prince Fielder-fueled "bleach168" squad paces the league with 89 points, 31.5 points ahead of yours truly. The latest league additions include Ryan Doumit, Tadahito Iguchi, Freddy Sanchez, Jason Varitek and Heath Bell.
You can follow along with my Yahoo! Friends and Family experts league team here.