I know this is a fantasy baseball column, but bear with me.
In 1978, when I was six, my family moved from Massachusetts to Los Angeles. I had a "wicked" Boston accent, a "Six Million Dollar Man" lunch box and several Celtics T-shirts. In short, I was begging for all the butt-kickings I received from my new schoolmates.
In the '80s, I wore my Celtics starter jacket, black Converses and my corduroy Celtics hat to school during the height of the rivalry with the Showtime Lakers.
Needless to say, the butt-kickings continued.
Now, more than two decades later, the Celtics have won their 17th NBA championship, humiliating the Lakers in the process. It's like I've hopped into Doc Brown's DeLorean, punched it to 88 and ended up back in my teenage years.
Plus, since I'm now an adult living in Massachusetts, no butt-kickings.
The Celtics were the first team I loved so dearly that I thought the clothes I was wearing, the place I was sitting during the game, and the soda I was drinking all had an effect on the outcome. Before I ever met my wife, ate a Fatburger, or saw a picture of Salma Hayek, the Celtics were my first love.
Yeah. It's been a good week.
So in honor of feeling a little old school, this week's column is about trade strategy specifically for the first fantasy format I ever played: good old-fashioned rotisserie baseball.
Casing the Joint
In less than a week, we'll be at the halfway point in the 2008 season and that's when every roto trade you make has to have a point ... or multiple points.
Even though the season is already 12 weeks old, take a look at your league's standings and you're likely to find at least two or three scoring categories where there is a ridiculous knot of teams all within striking distance of each other.
In my "home" league, there are six teams within 15 strikeouts of each other, meaning that one owner could go from three points to eight points in that category with one dominant start. In one of my GTR leagues, the difference between being fourth in the league in home runs and being next-to-last is 11 dingers. If an owner had Alex Rodriguez and J.D. Drew both jacking balls for them at the same time, he could close that gap in a week.
So while different owners evaluate different players in different ways, all owners can look at their standings and objectively say "I'm 14 RBIs away from gaining five points." That's why now is the time to start planning your offers around promising the other owner immediate results while planning long-term rewards for yourself.
Go to your standings, look for the logjam and even if you're part of it, consider making an offer to which owner is at the bottom of the statistical cluster. Remember, you're selling the allure of moving up quickly. You want to play up the fact that the other owner is one Mike Jacobs or Cole Hamels or Huston Street away from picking up a handful of points in the space of a week or two. If it's a category that could change nightly, all the better. Basically, you're offering a bald guy a head full of real, human hair in just one office visit. It's hard to pass up because the gratification is nearly "instant."
The key is for you to try to get back one or two players who you think will lift your team over the long run in categories where you have the most to gain. Getting a starting pitcher who you think will win another 10 games this year while lowering your ERA and WHIP over the course of three months doesn't sound sexy, but getting stronger in three categories when September rolls around is going to help you a lot more than a five-point spike in late June.
Three I'm Stealing
Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies: Hawpe's hamstring put him on the DL nearly a month ago, but it also put him back on track after a wretched start. With rumors of him losing at-bats once the Rockies officially raise the white flag, Hawpe has gone absolutely bonkers, hitting five homers in 11 games since he came off the DL. We know Hawpe is streaky, and he has never proven himself to be a great second-half player. But last year, his production was actually consistent for the season with only his batting average taking a dip after the break. I think Hawpe can be had really cheap right now. In fact, I wouldn't even try to trade for him. Instead, find his owner, try to do a larger deal for a better player and then ask him to "throw in" Hawpe. It could be a steal.
Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox: People tend to undervalue young starters who don't strike out a lot of batters. Call it "Reverse Mark Prior Syndrome." So when Floyd got off to a hot start in every way except in the K department, he became one of those guys. But in the past 31 days, Floyd has 33 strikeouts in 41 innings. The other sign that I like is the fact that Floyd had allowed the fewest line drives -- 29 going into Thursday -- of any pitcher who has logged 80 innings or more. Despite getting lit up on Thursday, his rising strikeout totals and stingy line-drive numbers mean that Floyd's getting harder to hit. Everyone, including his owner, is predicting a decent-sized regression. That just means you won't have to pay full price.
Dan Haren, SP, Diamondbacks: In May, Haren was the poster boy for the "good AL pitchers are great NL pitchers" theory, but when he went 1-3 with a 4.45 ERA that month, he became the poster boy for the "some theories are stupid" theory. The question is whether his owner realizes that Haren has bounced back and that his June has been even better than his April. This season, Haren has struck out five times as many batters as he has walked. It's impossible not to succeed with that kind of ratio. He's an elite fantasy ace who still isn't getting enough respect, so throw a sexy name at his owner.
Three I'm Dealing
Marcus Thames, 1B/OF, Tigers: One of the streakiest power bats in the American League is streaking right now, with eight homers in June. At issue is the fact that those dingers represent more than 72 percent of his total hits. Talk about "all or nothing at all." Thames has some on-base skills and his power is legit, but he does his thing in bunches, so trading him after his recent streak of six homers in five games to a power-hungry owner is the right thing to do.
Jorge Cantu, 3B, Marlins: What doesn't scream "sell high" on Cantu? He's having an unreal June, with a .338 batting average and six homers this month. But in all that bashing, he has walked once and struck out 10 times. The scary thing is that for Cantu, that's actually a little bit of a low strikeout rate. Maybe you find someone who believes Cantu is this year's Carlos Pena and is ready to deal for him. Personally, I see his lack of patience catching up to him and the numbers sliding soon.
Kyle Lohse, P, Cardinals: He is 8-2, has a 3.77 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP as of Friday. However, Lohse is still a man with a 4.75 career ERA after more than 150 decisions. The big issues are that Lohse doesn't miss bats -- he is averaging an eyelash better than four strikeouts per nine innings -- and that those bats he's not missing are squaring up the ball. Only four starters in the NL have recorded more line-drive outs than Lohse, which suggests batters are hitting the ball right at fielders. He's owned in less than one-third of ESPN leagues, but in NL-only formats, I think you need to be shopping him immediately, before he gets the start Friday against the Red Sox at Fenway.
Pulling the Job
I actually did make a deal this week, but I'll get to it next week.
Until then, don't just win your league. Steal it.
Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball, football and golf analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him your own grand theft rotos by clicking here.