I had just started to put the crushingly sad news of Nick Adenhart's tragic death behind me when the news broke that Phillies broadcasting legend Harry Kalas collapsed of heart failure on the same day Mark "The Bird" Fidrych died, apparently the victim of an accident while working on his truck. Fidrych's death struck a particular chord for me, as I started liking baseball right around his rookie year of 1976. I was just recently given back a scrapbook that I apparently slapped together at some point in my childhood and in there was a magazine picture of Fidrych. Quite a character, his Rookie of the Year season would have been a fantasy uber-stud and a likely steal in any draft. (19-9, 2.34 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 24 complete games, just for kicks, will do that for you.) But he never came close to that again, and would have probably been woefully overvalued in any draft for the rest of his career -- in which he went 10-10. (In many ways, Dontrelle Willis seems like a modern day version of "The Bird," with hopefully a far happier ending.)
I guess that's a really roundabout -- and hopefully not insensitive -- way of saying that past performances do not guarantee similar results in the future. (A lesson my financial advisor, if I had one, would have hopefully impressed upon me long ago.) Need proof? Just look at what's already happened in this short season.
You saw Lastings Milledge hit 14 HR with 24 SB last season and expected him to improve on both of those numbers. He went in the 12th or 13th round of most drafts, and right now that pick is looking wasted since Milledge was demoted to the minors this week. Not only was he not doing it on the field (.167 BA, 1 RBI, 1 R and 1 SB) but he failed to show up for meetings and was a distraction in the clubhouse. I expect Milledge to be back, but his fantasy owners are feeling the sting.
Some past performances had small sample sizes (guys like Twins OF Carlos Gomez haven't lived up to projections, nor have veterans like Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins), but after all, we're just in week two. I make no apologies for worrying about my guys who haven't started off hot. Fear is a great motivator, and that fear also is part of what makes fantasy sports fun. (Or, perhaps, this is a poor reflection on me. Let's move on.)
The many folks who snared Chris Carpenter on the cheap in their drafts were feeling pretty sweet after his first start, when he entered his final seventh inning without allowing a single hit. Now, they're left to ponder that they drafted Chris Carpenter, who left his second start with a strained left ribcage. Certainly, this is better than his elbow acting up, but sometimes you can see things like this coming. See, for example, Cubs OF Milton Bradley, who is out for at least a few days with a strained right groin. Bradley is pretty familiar with the DL, and this is a risk his owners hopefully factored into his draft day price. While Bradley is expected back shortly, the news on Carpenter is decidedly less optimistic.
And, I'm not gloating, but ... here's the thing. Carpenter went for $15 in my NL-only league. Part of that was timing, in terms of who was left on the board and what budgets some teams had left, but it was clear that several owners in our league had him targeted as a sleeper -- and a bidding war exploded. Even if this injury hadn't occurred, it was ridiculous -- unless Carpenter was going to replicate his Cy Young season, that was going to at best be fair value for his production. It's a lesson I can't stress enough - after the first few rounds (or top priced players in auctions) go by, you should be trying to pay less than the player will produce. I can go buy a new Porsche for $200,000 but I don't have to -- they list for less than half of that. Sure, I'd still have a Porsche -- but I'd be left without many of the other things I wanted to buy.
(Note that this is advice that Brian Sabean, GM of the Giants, could have used prior to outbidding himself on Barry Zito.)
If reports are correct, Alex Rodriguez is ahead of schedule, meaning he could be back by the end of the month. He slid several rounds after news of his injury broke, going after guys like Aramis Ramirez and others in many drafts. I don't expect him to be 100 percent on day one, but if he's close to that, missing one month of production is likely a trade-off his owners can accept.
Speaking of drafts, we're also approaching Draft Day for the NFL -- which is leading to some rare, exciting trade rumors that have real fantasy impact. The Browns, thought to be players in the Jay Cutler trade, are still looking to shed both Brady Quinn and Braylon Edwards, having already lost Kellen Winslow Jr. to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. (Not to mention Donte Stallworth and his unforgivable vehicular manslaughter charges.) It's an interesting tactic to rebuild a team that never really got built. For all their potential and hype (they were scheduled in roughly 1,598 national games last season) the Browns are collecting draft picks and seemingly prepared to go with Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis and ... well, your guess is as good as mine.
Both Quinn and Edwards have shown considerable if inconsistent talent, and would likely improve any team they joined, so this should continue to be something worth watching.
One team that denies being involved with talks for Quinn -- but certainly should think about it -- is the San Francisco 49ers. Would Quinn be worth their No. 1 pick, the 10th overall? I doubt it, because they could take Mark Sanchez there who may turn out to be just as productive as Quinn in the long run. But if they could get him for less, he'd certainly be a better bet for the long-term answer than Alex Smith, whom the 49ers surprisingly re-signed, only to let slip that they have a "supreme loss of faith" in him. (Question: Is San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean moonlighting with the cross-town Niners? Because outbidding yourself and making inexplicable roster moves is sort of his trademark.)
By the way, are any of you optimists hanging onto Travis Henry in your deep keeper fantasy football leagues? You can safely drop him, unless you are willing to wait a minimum of 10 years -- the soonest he'll be released from prison on two counts of cocaine distribution. Add in the (at least) 11 children he's fathered with 10 women, his marijuana suspensions and the fact that he made decisions to sell cocaine rather than earn the $22.5 million deal he had with the Broncos, and I think we can safely assume Henry (or T-Hank, as I liked to call him) is not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Alright, that wraps up another one of these babies. Let's hope next week starts and ends with happier news across the board.