With a slight sneer, Jerry would always say the name of his neighbor on "Seinfeld" with equal parts acknowledgement and eye-rolling. And as I gathered this past Monday afternoon with nine of my colleagues here at ESPN Fantasy, that exasperated and slightly tired tone permeated through my thoughts.
It's not that I don't like my fellow fantasy folks -- quite the contrary. I consider all of them good friends. And they are a smart, fun bunch to draft with. But, as Tiger Woods never said, everything in moderation. Hah! Thought I was gonna use a joke about a certain fired sitcom star there, didn't you? Well, that is even more played out than Tiger jokes, as are drafts against my friends.
Over the past two months I have spent two days locked in a room with them discussing every player in baseball, drafted against them multiple times and talked with many of them on the podcast, in the office or at lunch. I've read them all, and they me. If you asked me to draft an "Eric Karabell team" or a "Jason Grey one" or a "Tristan Cockcroft team" I could do just that, as I am sure they could all do the same for me. ("OK, now, I would not draft Bedard in the fifth. Come on!")
But, with many drafts scheduled for this week and the weekend after Opening Day, we decided to gather once more to mock. Armed with spring stats and injury news, we all piled into the virtual draft room one last time and warily looked each other over. "Helloooooo, fantasy staff."
For an ESPN standard ten-team mixed league with the typical 5x5 categories, the draft order was fantasy deputy editor (and 06010 podcast co-host) Nate Ravitz, ESPN Insider Answer Guy Dave Hunter, fantasy analyst AJ Mass, your friendly neighborhood TMR, fantasy editor James Quintong, fantasy editor Keith Lipscomb, ESPN Insider Answer Guy Shawn "C-dub" Cwalinski, fantasy editor Pierre Becquey, fantasy Insider Eric Karabell and fantasy Insider Jason Grey.
In each round, I'm going to talk about whom I drafted, whom I was thinking about drafting and any thoughts I may have on other picks. When you see a number in parentheses after a player, that's my rank of that player on my recently updated top 200.
Was thinking about: Troy Tulowitzki. After Troy, shortstop gets ugly quick, and I'm a positional scarcity guy (I have Troy at No. 5 in my ranks), so I was thinking of grabbing him here knowing there was no way he was coming back.
I actually took: Miguel Cabrera. As Buster Olney explained on our podcast last week, Cabrera does fine with off-the-field issues as long as there is structure. Planes to catch, games to play, meetings to get to. In a team environment, with a 24-hour sponsor with him, Cabrera should be able to cope just fine. I think he's gonna have a monster season and, in fact, I have him at No. 3 overall, so happy to get him at No. 4.
I raised my eyebrow at: Nate taking Hanley Ramirez No. 1. His explanation: "I thought I could build a better team around the No. 1 shortstop than I could the No. 1 first baseman."
Was thinking about: Nelson Cruz (whom I love this year), Dustin Pedroia (positional scarcity again, as the top tier of second basemen took a hit with Utley's injury, and you know I'm no Ian Kinsler fan) and Alex Rodriguez.
I actually took: Kevin Youkilis. This is where knowing your leaguemates pays off a bit. I knew only Jason Grey would potentially reach for Cruz at this point and he wouldn't get a pick again until after my third-round selection. So I figured Cruz would still be there.
So now it boiled down to which third baseman did I want: Youk or A-Rod? I actually have A-Rod (17) two spots ahead of Youkilis (19) and in most cases would have gone for the Yankee. But in this case I went with Youk instead, specifically because I already had Cabrera.
First base is actually a bit more shallow this year than folks think (in terms of big power sources) and I'm a big believer in power being scarce this year. So this would create more scarcity at first base. Add to that the fact that Youk would qualify at two positions in case I'm dead wrong about Miggy pushed him over the top for me. I would construct my team with the idea that Youk will be my third baseman for most of the year and I'll just grab whomever is left at third on the final round for the first two weeks. Yooooooukkkkkkkk!.
Raised my eyebrow at: Shawn Cwalinski taking Ryan Zimmerman over A-Rod at 14. I'm on the bandwagon of Rodriguez having one more really big year this year. Plus, Cwalinski had drafted Longoria in the first. Trying to create scarcity? Hmmm. Also, shocked at how far Halladay fell (to James Quintong at 16). One of the results of drafting with the same group over and over: Everyone has gotten the message that pitching is deep this year. I'm fine with him dropping that far; I just was surprised he did.
Was thinking about: Pedroia (20) again. A bit surprised he didn't go in the second.
Actually took: Nelson Cruz (13). Knew he would be there. Look, I've been all over him all preseason. This year's Josh Hamilton to me. Gut call, but I feel this year he stays healthy and puts it all together for a monster season. Also, as I've written, almost 20/20 last year in fewer than 400 at-bats, while battling injuries the whole time. All-in on Nelson Cruz.
Raised my eyebrow at: Cwalinski again, this time in a positive manner, as I was surprised Josh Hamilton lasted until Pick 27. Health concerns, of course, but he was a top-three fantasy player last year.
Arghhhhh! I was desperately hoping Shin-Soo Choo would fall to me, but alas, Cwalinski grabbed him at Pick 34.
Was thinking about: Ichiro Suzuki, Justin Verlander and Adam Dunn. As people who might have heard me on the B.S. Report know, I consider Ichiro to be going too late these days. And I knew that Nate Ravitz loves him as well, so if I didn't grab him now he wasn't coming back. I also love Verlander this year to take one more step and become a really elite guy. But I was determined to wait on pitching, and felt with Miggy, Youk and Cruz I was solid in batting average. Therefore
Actually picked: Adam Dunn (33). Even though I have Suzuki three spots ahead of him, I liked the idea of grabbing Dunn, who was the last of the "safe" stud first basemen. I like Dunn more than Ryan Howard, for example, as I feel Howard continues to trend downward and the injury history of those around him scare me. With batting average protection already, and since I would be playing Youk at third and Miggy at first, having Dunn to play the "CI" gives me real nice power on the corners. At least I practice what I preach; I was hoarding power early.
Raised my eyebrow at: Jason Grey going back-to-back pitching with Jon Lester and Clayton Kershaw in the third and fourth at the turn. He's normally a huge "wait on pitching" guy, especially in a mixed league. Can't argue with the pitchers or even where he got them, so it'll be interesting to see how his team pans out. He was the second guy to do the "back-to-back" stud thing, as Ravitz went Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee in the second and third.
Was thinking about: Lunch, actually. I was starting to get hungry at this point. But I was also looking at Hunter Pence, whom I like a lot; Brandon Phillips, the last of the "big" second basemen; and CC Sabathia. I have Pence at 40 and Phillips at 49 in my ranks. Had no interest in taking Victor Martinez here (or Joe Mauer in the previous round); in a 10-team one-catcher league, you can seriously wait on the position.
Actually took: CC Sabathia. Honestly, my plan coming into the draft was to wait on pitching until the eighth round, but I was too weak to resist the charms of CC at Pick 44. I have him at 35 in my ranks, and I know others who have him higher. As much as I like Pence and Phillips, my thought was that getting Sabathia allows me to wait even longer on pitching and take more risks there, as 230 innings of CC absorbs a lot of shaky pitching.
Was thinking about: I considered a lot of people here, none of whom I loved. Shortstop was getting predictably thin, so I thought about Derek Jeter (58). I was also mulling Shane Victorino (59), Brian McCann (64) and Jacoby Ellsbury (53).
Actually took: Ellsbury. Clearly, I have the risk/reward team at this point with guys like Cruz and Ellsbury. But he's whom I had ranked highest. Didn't love this pick, to be honest. But didn't want to go catcher; not a huge fan of Jeter this year (don't think he bounces all the way back at all; I think he's "low double-digit steals and power with a .290 average" guy); and I like Ellsbury to rebound. Also needed some speed at this point.
Raised my eyebrows at: Ah, there's the Jason Grey I know, going young with Rickie Weeks and B.J. Upton at the turn. Very solid picks from Eric Karabell in Brandon Phillips and Andre Ethier as well, and I would have loved Mike Stanton to fall to me, but alas, Keith Lipscomb grabbed him at 55. This only one I didn't get was Pierre Becquey going Chase Utley at 53. Hells to the no. Not on my team this year. NO. WAY.
Was thinking about: My boyfriend Chris Young (51), Elvis Andrus (57), Martin Prado (56) and Jay Bruce (48). I felt could absorb the batting average hit Young would take on my team, Prado because second base was starting to get thin, and the same with Andrus, whom I like slightly more than Jeter this year.
Actually picked: Bruce, my highest-rated guy and a very good value. If you read my bold predictions piece, you know that I feel Bruce will have a top-20-type season. Probably should have gone Andrus here based on scarcity but just couldn't resist Bruce. Yoooouuuuukk! Wait, that's not what I yell. Hang on.
Raised my eyebrows at: Becquey going Josh Johnson the pick after Utley. He's either the Stephania Bell all-stars or he's running away with the league.
Arghhhhhh! You know how, on "The Simpsons," the action movie star McBain always screams "Mendozaaaaaaaaa!" to the sky in anger? I yelled "Quintonggggggggg!" in the same intonation as James grabbed Andrus one pick before I was about to go. I don't think there's anything more frustrating than waiting and waiting on a guy, seeing him available pick after pick, only to have him go right before you can grab him. "Quintonnnnnnnnngggggggg!"
Was thinking about: Other than Andrus? Corey Hart (72), maybe. Didn't love any of the guys available at this point. Possibly reaching a bit for Drew Stubbs (84) but I was worried I couldn't take on more batting average risk or I'd negate my first few picks. And with Sabathia on board, didn't have the desire for another starter.
Actually took: Kendrys Morales, now with 100 percent more "S"! Was not thrilled with this pick at all, but have him ranked 71, so the value is fine. This is one of those examples in which, instead of reaching for someone I don't really like, I grabbed another first baseman and now I have a surplus. Once he's healthy, I can deal Dunn if I have to and I can also play Morales at DH. A surplus of power is never going to hurt and I'll be able to stash him on the DL at the start of the season, giving me an extra roster slot to add the first hot free agent without losing anyone. If it sounds like I'm trying to talk myself into it, it's because I am. The best pick of a bad lot, I thought, but didn't love it.
On the plus side, I felt that AJ taking Paul Konerko and Nate grabbing Billy Butler immediately after this pick was a result of my drafting, and perhaps neither loved having to make those picks then. Incidentally, I really liked Cwalinski and Lipscomb's back-to-back picks of Alexei Ramirez and Casey McGehee.
Raised my eyebrows at: Starting pitching. If I had waited till Round 8, here's who was available: Roy Oswalt, Matt Cain, Francisco Liriano, David Price and Zack Greinke and potentially one more guy, as you figure someone else would have grabbed Sabathia and maybe not one of the pitchers that went earlier. You can wait on pitching, kids.
Was thinking about: Considered Carlos Santana, Delmon Young and Colby Rasmus, but with most of my offense filling up I needed a second baseman, especially as I knew shortstop was going to be thin and everyone has a middle infield slot to fill.
Actually got: Ben Zobrist (85) at Pick 84 and then, on the comeback, Rasmus (whom I have ranked at 61!) was still there. Couldn't click on the draft button fast enough.
Raised my eyebrow at: We finally see closers start to go off the board, as Joakim Soria and Carlos Marmol are the second and third closers to be drafted in Round 10. I say wait on closers, but getting either of these guys in the 10th is great, especially when Heath Bell went to Dave Hunter in Round 8.
Was thinking about: Just filling in holes. And lunch again. Seriously. How many caramel chews do I need? I also may have clicked on Rebecca Black's "Friday" video again on YouTube at this point. Seriously, it's like a train wreck. I can't turn away. I discover something new every time I watch it. I have so many questions.
Actually took: In Round 11, I was thinking about guys like Wandy Rodriguez (94) (a great No. 2), Juan Pierre (103) (could use a little more speed after going so power-heavy), Pedro Alvarez -- I'd planned on waiting on a throwaway third baseman but I do love Alvarez (105) -- and Ted Lilly (96) is also a favorite here. But I felt I really needed a shortstop, and the last guy left that I thought had potential to break out is Stephen Drew (98), whom I feel will run more under Gibson while maintaining his power. This was approximately five minutes before the latest injury news, obviously.
Lipscombbbbbb!!!!!! Took Wandy from me in the next round (and Becquey got Lilly), so I grabbed Tim Hudson (104) at 117, good value for me, but now I'm gonna have to be mindful of strikeouts. As a result, I consider Jonathan Sanchez (120) in Round 13 but ultimately decide to bolster my batting average and to be done with middle infield by reaching a bit for Howie -- sorry, Howard Kendrick (135) at Pick 124. Pitching will still be there, I felt, but a middle infielder who could fill a need would not.
Quintonngggggg!!! He grabs Sanchez the pick before me in Round 14. Once again, foiled by Quintong after watching Sanchez drop, pick after pick. So cruel. At this point, I didn't love any of the other starters, and most of the elite and good closers had gone (Brian Wilson, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Matt Thornton), so I grabbed Chris Perez (138) with Pick 137. As I mentioned in Love/Hate, Perez had a 32-10 strikeout-to-walk rate in 28 2/3 innings and a 0.63 ERA with 16 saves once Kerry Wood was traded. Like him a lot this year and felt he is the last of the tier at that position.
Raised my eyebrow at: Cwalinski got a steal with Rajai Davis at Pick 127. Big year coming for Rajai. Big, big year. Ravitz pulls the back-to-back at the same position thing again, this time going with getting Jonathan Broxton and Jose Valverde in Rounds 14 and 15. Like both of those guys at that price, though I'm slightly worried about injury with each, hence me grabbing Perez instead. And this is the area of the draft where speed really starts to go. In addition to Davis, we see Chone Figgins (Pick 118), Pierre (Pick 121) and Brett Gardner (Pick 122) all go.
Was thinking about: Is this thing over yet? I'm eating paper at this point. I really didn't plan ahead. Looking at my team, I need to really hit pitching hard now to fill out my current staff of Sabathia and Hudson.
Quintonnnnnggggg! Really was hoping Brandon Morrow would drop to me in Round 16, but James Quintong once again snatches him from me in the pick before. With Morrow (along with Colby Lewis and Jhoulys Chacin, the other guys I really liked here) all gone, I looked elsewhere. As you can see, at No. 128 in my personal rankings, I just could not let Vlad fall any more. I'm gonna have to deal him or Morales once Kendrys comes back, probably for some pitching or middle infield help, but that's fine. Either will be easy to trade.
Montero was the last "safe" catcher whom I knew would put up numbers and then, once more, with feeling Quintonnnnnggg! He snares Phil Hughes from me, whom I really wanted. So I go with Nunez, who is a solid second closer with job security and an ERA and WHIP that won't hurt.
Raised my eyebrow at: Once you get to this part of the draft, frankly, there's almost no such thing as a bad pick, but there were some potential steals. Reports of Manny Ramirez being in shape and motivated may have prompted Jason Grey to draft the mercurial Ray (who is old enough to have fathered many of the players Jason typically drafts), Dave Hunter's Travis Snider in Round 16 and Carlos Pena in Round 17, Ravitz grabbing Brian Roberts in Round 16, Jason Grey again with Mitch Moreland in Round 18, followed by Eric Karabell's Freddie Freeman selection. Marlon Byrd in Round 18 by Lipscomb is exactly the kind of pick no one ever gets excited about but that wins you leagues. Great value for the always underrated Byrd there. And Ricky Romero (149) at Pick 180 for Ravitz just shows, once again, you can wait on pitching.
Was thinking about: That Rebecca Black "Friday" video. It haunts me. Why does she have to get down to the bus stop to catch the bus if her friends are picking her up? How are they driving? They are 13. Why does she have to ride in the middle of the back seat -- the least desirable of all seat assignments -- if she is actually taking the time to consider where she should sit? And then at night, why are all the friends different? The morning kids are good enough to give her a ride to school, but not party with her? What's that about? And why is she still singing about where to sit? She's chosen a seat. Is she conflicted about her seat choice? And -- as she sings -- they're going so fast, why isn't she wearing a seat belt? What's with the awkward friend with braces who sits next to her in the car and seems to move out of rhythm to the beat of the song? Why is she acknowledged in the song but the girl on the left isn't? What's wrong with her? And why aren't they in any of the other scenes? Were they dropped off before the party? Do they no longer want to party party (yeah) party party (yeah)? Did she get confused and forget that Friday is before Saturday and after Thursday? Does anyone? Why the need to talk about the calendar in the song? Why is an adult in his mid-30s suddenly rapping to a 13-year-old girl? About driving and noticing her school bus, which she doesn't even ride? They don't look related, so why the interest in her? Does he have nothing better to do? He's alone in his car. Is he lonely? Does he have no friends? Is his interest in Rebecca's life because he has no friends or does he have no friends because they are weirded out by his interest in Rebecca's life?
When she sings "we we we so excited," why the sudden use of incorrect grammar? Did she skip that day in English class because she was learning which days come after which days? Not to get all stick-in-the-mud, but where are the parents at the party? They are all 13 years old. There's (correctly) no booze, so what do they do at this party? Besides have fun fun fun fun? And stand around watching her sing? And she's standing in front of a tree raised up above her friends singing. How is she suddenly that much taller than them? Is there a stage in front of the tree in case someone at the party decided to sing outdoors? Do people sing at these parties all the time? Seriously. I need to discuss this with someone for two days straight. So. Many. Questions.
It also occurs to me I need more starting pitching with an emphasis on strikeouts, I could use one more speedy outfielder and since I didn't get an elite Soria-type of closer, I want to fortify my bullpen with depth. In a 10-team mixed league, you can always spot-start and bolster strikeout numbers if need be during the season.
Actually took: Kevin Gregg in Round 19, Gio Gonzalez in Round 20 (love this pick. Like Buster, I feel Gio is due for a huge year), Austin Jackson (197) in Round 21 (think he regresses but he's still fast, and at Pick 204, it's fine). Really wanted Jose Tabata but Karabell steals him from me the round before at Pick 192. And then I grab my last closer, Brandon League, with Pick 217.
Raised an eyebrow at: Dave Hunter's grab of Andres Torres at 182, which is another boring pick that no one likes but will win leagues. Great grab. You know I love Jason Grey's Edwin Encarnacion pick at 191 and Keith Lipscomb's Will Venable grab at 195. We see folks starting to back up their closers; Becquey goes Jordan Walden after grabbing Fernando Rodney and Ravitz takes Hong-Chih Kuo for his Broxton. Finally, Dave Hunter takes Erik Bedard from me at 202 because he is evil, soulless and has a dark void where his heart should be.
So here's what my team should look like once folks qualify everywhere they should. (You can see everyone's results and rosters by clicking here).
C Miguel Montero
1B Miguel Cabrera
2B Ben Zobrist
SS Stephen Drew
3B Kevin Youkilis
CO Adam Dunn
MI Howard Kendrick
OF Nelson Cruz
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Jay Bruce
OF Colby Rasmus
OF Austin Jackson
UT Vladimir Guerrero
P CC Sabathia
P Tim Hudson
P Daniel Hudson
P Gio Gonzalez
P Jamie Garcia
P Chris Perez
P Leo Nunez
P Kevin Gregg
P Brandon League
Bench: Kendrys Morales, Edwin Jackson, Chase Headley.
Notes: I'm weaker up the middle than I want and could use one more stud pitcher. But once Morales is healthy I should have good trade bait and I can drop Headley for another starting pitcher to stream until I get someone I count on.
I don't agree with all of our projections; for example, we project Gio Gonzalez to have a worse ERA and WHIP this year (we project an ERA over 4.00 for him!) and I strongly disagree. I feel he goes the other way and becomes a very strong No. 2. I like Edwin Jackson more than our projections and I feel Brandon League winds up with more than 11 saves, to give a few examples. So in some cases, I like my players better than our projections show.
But even if we just take the ESPN projections for this team, I wind up with the following totals: (not counting Headley or Morales stats, but I am counting Jackson since I would just sub him in on days he is pitching for someone who was off):
1,112 runs, 298 HR, 1048 RBIs, 168 steals and a .286 average (1,998 hits on 6,992 at-bats), 100 wins, 1,339 strikeouts, a 3.46 ERA (1,482 innings pitched, 569 earned runs) and a 1.27 WHIP (1,353 hits, 534 walks).
Looking at the graph I put in my Draft Day Manifesto, where we took the average winning totals for each category in a standard 10-team league last year, here's what my point totals would be: first in home runs and batting average, third in runs scored and RBIs and fifth in steals. Pitching-wise, I'm fourth in wins, fifth in saves, fourth in strikeouts, fourth in ERA and seventh in WHIP. With no tinkering, using a few negative projections I don't always agree with and not using Morales or Headley's roster slot, I'm at 73 points, which should put me in the running.
Now if I could only get some answers to that "Friday" song, we'd be all set.