Time to Get Fantastic   

Updated: March 5, 2008

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Yeah, I play some fantasy baseball. Surprised? Don't be. I do a lot of stuff that would surprise you.

Leading up to the new baseball season, I'm going to school you on some fantasy business so you can have a better year than you did last season when you lost to the guy in your league who let his slow-learner 13-year-old pick his team for him. Today I'm going to throw some player names at you and let you know how I feel about them for your team. Take notes, students (or lose; your choice).

Alex Rodriguez

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Scores of talk radio shouters can't be wrong, can they? Knock A-Rod down a few dozen spots to be safe.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (3B): I've always liked A-Rod just fine. One time he held a door open for me. He probably doesn't remember that but I do, and that makes him aces in my book. Still, that was before he signed that big contract with Texas, so maybe he's changed. Yankees fans and writers and radio shouters sure don't seem to like him, and they're the ones paying the most attention, so there must be something to it. You probably don't want to leave him off your want-list entirely. Just drop him a few dozen slots and hope for the best. If he's available and you get him, he won't kill you. If you don't, let some other rube worry about him.

David Eckstein, Toronto Blue Jays (SS): I'm going to hit you with some logic here, so hold on to your brain (you'll thank me later). Smart fans know that a player like Eckstein helps a team just by wearing the uniform. Seeing him work hard is worth four to five games a year because he's inspiring everyone on the team with his hustle even if he's having an off year. Problem: This effect does not carry over to fantasy baseball!!! Don't get me wrong. I love the guy, but you can't inspire teammates in the fantasy world because they're not really teammates, right? If I'm starting a real team, Eckstein is on it. Fantasy? Just a maybe, as I have him just a slot or two ahead of A-Rod on my draft list.

Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds (OF): You have to pay attention on this one. Track his progress during spring training. If he's following new skipper Dusty Baker's sage advice and getting more aggressive at the plate, then grab him. If not, kick him to the gutter.

Aaron Rowand, San Francisco Giants (OF): Hey, don't get me wrong. I love a guy who hustles. But here's the problem: What does running into a fence at full speed do for me, Joe Fantasy Team Owner? Yeah, it makes the highlight reels and earns the respect of the local fans, but now I'm out two weeks' worth of stats. Remember, owners: Players who don't hustle on defense don't cost you a damn thing.

J.D. Drew, Boston Red Sox (OF): Winners -- you can't have enough of them. Sure, the guy had a bad year. I get that. But he was on the Series winner! That counts for a lot. There will be carryover … and the carryover will carry your team.

Johan Santana

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Welcome to New York, Johan. Meet the big city media grind.

Johan Santana, New York Mets (SP): You'd be crazy not to make this guy your No. 1 pitching priority, right? Not so fast, hotshot. There is more pressure on this guy than a miner in a cave-in. He walks in and they hand the pennant to the Mets, right? What's that going to do to his head? Last time I checked, Minneapolis and St. Paul are not exactly New and York. Those rural Minnesota newspapers never drove anybody to distraction, but the New York press should be interrogating terror suspects the way they go after millionaire pitchers who don't throw shutouts every five days. It might take a year or two for Santana to adjust, so don't go looking for any 21 and 5. Probably more like 11 and 14.

C.C. Sabathia, Cleveland Indians (SP): I like fat guys. Fat guys are fun. When you're hanging out with fat guys, they don't try to grab a look at themselves in the mirror, you know? If I was starting a bowling team today, I'd go find four fat guys 'cuz they're always up for eating or drinking anything and don't start whining about cholesterol when you order a pizza with lobsters on it. Not so sure about fat guys on my fantasy teams, though. Two ways to look at it, I guess: Fat guys who are young haven't had the accumulated wear and tear of being fat for a long time. On the other hand, older fat guys have shown they can carry the weight or maybe they just got fat recently. Your call, but I'm betting on the guy who can see his baseball shoes.

Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (C): You probably noticed there aren't a lot of catchers out there worth having on your team. This leads me to something that's always bugged me about fantasy baseball: How come you have to worry about positions? Why do you have to have a "lineup"? It's not like defense counts, right? So why can't you draft a team of guys who can hit and not worry about where they play? It's fantasy baseball, people, not reality baseball. If you're in one of those leagues in which you have to submit a lineup every week, you should just be able to hand in a list of the nine guys you think are going to hit the best and not worry if there are six first basemen on there. Go ahead: Try and argue with that logic.

Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (3B): Taint. It's a word with a lot of meanings. In this case, I'm using it to mean watch out for players on bad teams, even the better players, because they've got the "taint" of mediocrity all around them, and it rubs off. You don't want that taint on your team.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (SS): Here's a point I try to make whenever the topic of fantasy sports comes up: You don't want real stuff impacting your fantasy stuff negatively. I can't say this enough. Take Jeter: He's team captain, right? That comes with responsibility, and that can bring added pressure and that can bring down his game. Why should you have to pay good money for a player who is doing double duty for a team you don't own? You see what I'm saying here? When you're drafting your team, you don't need a captain. So think of that C on his chest like a scarlet A.

Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies (OF): Funny story: Around August 1 last year, the leader in my fantasy league up and died. Guy had a big lead, too. Anyway, we decided to have a supplemental draft to part out his roster, and yours truly got Holliday, who proceeded to have a great second half. I also got Jim Thome from him, and the two of them almost carried me into the money. We cashed out the guy's entry fee and bought some flowers for his funeral with the money, so it was win-win all around.

So there's your start, owner. There are a lot of other players to consider, so you'll want to ask your boss for a leave of absence so you can concentrate on your draft. I'll do what I can for you on this end, but if you want to excel, it's up to you to get your priorities straight.

Art Garfamudis invented fantasy baseball in his tree house in 1961, but lost his notes.


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