With just a few more days to go before the regular season begins, I am obsessively checking the SEAL (Semi-Employed All-Stars League) homepage in hopes that BREAKING NEWS will await me. Other than Brian Roberts’ bizarre ailment, which does not look like it will keep him out of the Opening Day lineup, my current fantasy league strategy is sitting on my hands to prevent myself from pointlessly signing free agents. Jeremy Hermida has had a monster spring! But he hit .249 last season! And how will his production be affected by his placement in the lineup relative to Cameron Maybin and HanRam? There has been a distinct dearth of news regarding Jay Bruce of late–THIS CLEARLY MEANS I SHOULD DROP BRUCE IN FAVOR OF HERMIDA, right? No? How is Jim Thome’s back today? Maybe I should drop him–WAIT A MINUTE, I can’t drop a first-ballot Hall of Famer in favor of a 25-year-old with just two full seasons under his belt, can I? Of course I can–fantasy baseball is all about gambling on breakout seasons, right? AAAH! Hands…off…mouse…NOW! Must…read…about…um…politics?
I followed the most recent presidential cycle obsessively, allowing entire days of my life to be swallowed up by various campaign intrigues which I cannot now remember. I would feel bad about this, except that the guy I voted for got elected President, and it’s relatively easy to make the mental leap to presuming that my hyperventilated mashing of the Refresh button on various poitical blogs had something to do with his success, and is therefore somehow related to the General Well-Being of the World. So what does it say about me that I am, if anything, even MORE consumed by the pre-season minutae of the upcoming baseball season, about which there is far less news–to say nothing of its decreased significance regarding the General Well-Being of the World? I am too busy to think about this at present; I am currently attempting to determine the relative weight of Jered Weaver’s potential statistics as compared to Gil Meche, who is still unsigned and has far superior stuff, but pitches for a far inferior team and received mysteriously mediocre stat projections from both Bill James and Baseball Prospectus. Additionally, I am deeply involved in my planning for Opening Day of the 2009 Prospect Park Wiffle Ball League, which will be played according to the Official Wiffle Ball Rules–which, interestingly, are quite different from the rules of Regular Baseball.
What the rules fail to mention is whether or not the use of a strike-zone/backstop is recommended, and if so how large it should be. THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS AND IMPORTANT QUESTION. The site says each team should have a catcher, but if this is the case then who serves as umpire? ALSO, what is the meaning of this:
- The batter can strike out only if he/she swings at a pitched ball and does not foul tip the third strike. Foul tips count as a strike for the first two strikes only. A foul tip caught in back of the batters box does not count as an out.
- Fly balls caught in fair or foul territory
- Ground balls caught while the ball is in motion, in fair territory. Bunting is not allowed and the batter cannot obtain a base on balls.
Am I to assume, then, that no strike zone is in fact necessary? That an at-bat continues until the batter either strikes out or puts the ball in play? Plus, here is the real question: does it really matter, since a world in which Felix Pie gets the starting left-field job over Ty Wigginton is not a world in which I care to live?
Bad news for the Taxibirds today, as it looks like Wieters is in fact starting the year at AAA (leaving the day-to-day catching duties in the serviceable-but-unspectacular hands of Kurt Suzuki), and Guthrie got lit up again, surrendering six runs in the bottom of the first to the Fish.
Leaving the Wieters situation behind for the moment–I have resigned myself to the notion that he will be called up in mid-May and still manage to win the Triple Crown–I am left with an interesting pitching conundrum. Both Gil Meche and Joe Saunders are available as free agents, and I could sign either of them by dropping one of my current pitchers. Despite some fleeting injury concerns for both men this spring, either of them figures to have a better season than J-Guth (Meche by virtue of superior stuff, Saunders more by virtue of the team he pitches for). Which begs the question–why am I holding on to Guthrie? I think it’s some bizarre revenge fantasy against Saunders, against whom I played varsity ball in high school.* As for Meche, I am for some reason dubious of his ability to generate solid stats in Kansas City, despite the fact that I have placed the closer’s duties firmly and without question in the hands of Joakim Soria. You know what? I’ve just convinced myself–I must go now, I’m off to the Yahoo! Sports portal to drop Guthrie in favor of…OH GOD NOW I HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE!
*True story! Although “played” is perhaps a strong word–I watched from the bench while he struck the bejeezus out of my teammates.
I have taken some flack from the peoples about the name of my fantasy team (The Taxibirds). If it wasn’t clear enough that I was going for the same jovial vaguely portmanteau-ish sensibility that infuses the names of many obscure professional baseball leagues, behold the following REAL ACTUAL NAMES OF ACTUAL REAL TEAMS:
It appears that Rich Hill will not be ready for Opening Day, which leaves the Orioles’ rotation still unresolved with two weeks to go.
AWESOME. This means that Mark Hendrickson (hooray! Mark Hendrickson! Who the hell is Mark Hendrickson?) will likely get the ball every fifth day simply by virtue of the fact that he is left-handed. It’s looking like another year of potent offense and non-existent pitching for the O’s, about which I’d be more upset if it weren’t for the gathering concensus that the Birds may finally be just a few years away from putting it all together again. With Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta a year of seasoning away from the bigs, and Angelos apparently finally prepared to make a big move, 2009 represents an opportunity to consolidate an offense and new team attitude that will lay the groundwork for the future. It suddenly seems as if we may find ourselves cruising into 2010-2011 with Nick Markakis in his prime, Adam Jones playing at the top of his potential, Matt Wieters entrenched as the offensive core of the lineup, Brian Roberts providing veteran stability (albeit probably decreased productivity), Ty Wigginton and Luke Scott providing power deep in the lineup, three young horses anchoring the rotation, and Chris Ray in place as the bullpen stopper. Add to this mix a move like Alomar or Palmeiro (you know, before we found out they were both horrible people), and suddenly it’s looking like 1997 again.
I also found it interesting to read that Koji Uehara has begun experimenting with a change-up. In my season as the XBOX 360 version of the Orioles (in 2K Sports’ MLB 2K9), Uehara got hammered in his first start, largely due to his use of a two-seam fastball and a screwball as off-speed pitches, which the virtual Yankees tagged to the tune of 11 runs through three innings. Real-life O’s manager Dave Trembley would probably have been a bit quicker with the hook, but it’s hard to see real-life Uehara having distinctly different results without developing a serviceable change.
In fantasy news, it appears Taxibirds’ bench outfielder Rick Ankiel is poised to nudge Ryan Ludwick out of the running for the cleanup spot in the Cardinals lineup behind Greatest Player In Baseball Albert Pujols–which means Ankiel will be seeing lots of delicious pitches. There aren’t many players who can artificially lift other guys’ stats (we’ve seen David Ortiz for what he really is with ManRam’s departure) like Pujols, so I’m provisionally swapping Ankiel into the DH spot to start the season–especially since there’s been a dearth of good news about Jim Thome’s back. I’m continuing to gamble that depth and no real drags on the lineup will be the key to my team’s success–but with some people now predicting Wieters’s arrival as late as July, I’m starting to get nervous that my offense doesn’t have enough pop. So please, Ryan Ludwick, if you’re reading this: continue to underperform so that Rick Ankiel gets your job.