Have to admit something here: I am a bad son. Not like A-Rod bad, but you know, one that resists performing his familial duty.
Once a week, that's all she asks. Mom wants to have a conversation with li'l Ericky. She's asked about the weather up north: "It's cold." She's asked about the brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews: "They're fine."
She then proceeds to pepper me with sports-related questions. You know, the important stuff.
But I can't wait to get off the phone. Usually, the conversation begins to end with: "OK, mom, gotta go: the kitchen's on fire, the washer is flooding the house and there is this baby screaming on my doorstep."
Unaffected, she replies: "So who's going to win the Super Bowl?"
She giggles and comes back with five more questions while the kitchen's ablaze, water is seeping throughout the house and the baby's screams have become primal. Twenty minutes later my phone battery dies, mercifully.
But here at SI.com, you have this writer's undivided attention every Friday and can get the most honest and well-thought-out fantasy answers on the ol' WWW. It is the SI.com Fantasy Mailbag and we start it with some of mom's most-pressing issues dogging her imagination right now:
It sure doesn't look good for him and his future, after the notebooks from Biogenesis, a Miami-based anti-aging clinic, fingered him, Gio Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Yasmani Grandal, Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera, among others. We recently finished the Top 300 and had A-Rod, out after hip surgery this month, as a speculative reserve draft pick in standard leagues. You would have had to stash him through the All-Star break, burning a reserve spot, for the hope of around 15 homers and 45 RBI in the second half.
Don't bother now.
Baseball is investigating any wrongdoing and a suspension is entirely possible even without a positive test for banned substances. Grandal, Colon and Cabrera were already busted and got time in baseball's PED prison. It is likely their trail that led to the discovery of Biogenesis clandestine business practices. It could mean time for A-Rod, Gonzalez and Cruz.
Players have been suspended before for merely purchasing HGH or steroids, including Jay Gibbons, Jose Guillen and Jordan Schafer. The question now is how will baseball prove the banned substances were bought and delivered to those players?
Baseball is going to request the documents from the editors of the
A-Rod, Gonzalez and Cruz immediately denied any wrongdoing and we wait. It makes A-Rod a "don't bother," Cruz a "let someone else take him" and Gonzalez a "monitor in case he falls unreasonably deep into the middle rounds."
But in every hardship, there is an opportunity. Mom taught us that. Gonzalez, and Cruz for that matter, might actually prove to be more sleeper than bust if nothing comes of those allegations above. Proceed with caution, like those surgeon general warnings on those prescription PEDS.
In the issue of fairness, here is A-Rod's canned statement:
"The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true. Alex Rodriguez was not Mr. Bosch's patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story -- at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez -- are not legitimate."
Sorry, but where there's smoke there is fire. The PED reports can be just as dangerous as the drugs themselves, as far as fantasy drafters should be concerned.
Marcum, a 31-year-old right-hander who signed one-year deal with the Mets, is a decent pitcher with some nice upside, working half of his games in still-spacious Citi Field. It sets him up nicely to have a rebound year to earn a bigger contract next winter.
The negatives are his history of injury woes -- he had a balky elbow last year -- and the fact the Mets likely won't make him a big winner for fantasy owners.
Consider Marcum a late-round pick with a very good chance to outperform his draft position. He is a legit injury-risk sleeper.
Now, this is legit. How many of your moms actually know who the heck Bourn is? And of those, how many care where he is going to get his paychecks from in 2013?
Mom asks because she is a Mets fan; hence, the preceding Marcum question.
But, Bourn is stuck on the free-agent market because of the teams that would sign him, none want to surrender their early first-round draft picks.
Bourn's fantasy value doesn't figure to change no matter where he signs, since his value is related to his legs and steals, not power or ballpark dimensions. He is the last decent domino to fall this winter and he checks in at No. 53 in our Top 300. It should be noted that lofty ranking is related more to rotisserie formats for his potential to challenge our No. 1 overall player, Mike Trout, for the majors' stolen-base crown.
Good questions mom. Keep them coming. We can use our weekly pow-wows to populate the SI.com Fantasy Mailbag and get something productive out of them. "Working" and being a better son. We all win.
We have to briefly go back to A-Rod before we get productive again. A-Rod, unfortunately for baseball, is not done. There is little chance that his contract is voided and there is no chance A-Rod gives it up and retires.
He'll attempt to play baseball on crutches for $114 million more. Wouldn't you?
But judging by his age and past couple years of production, he is no longer anything more than one of the many risky options -- no matter how strong he comes back from his second major hip surgery.
We have Jose Veras, 32, right now, but it's a crapshoot. He'll likely be a $1 player at the end of a mixed league auction for the saves potential, but the Astros figure to struggle mightily in their first season in the AL.
Wesley Wright, 28, is the better pitcher, but he is left-handed and the Astros seemingly would like to keep him in a setup/situational lefty role. If you're looking for more options out of the free-agent market, former Tigers closer Jose Valverde (aka 7-11 this past fall because he never closes), Francisco Rodriguez (the reliever formerly known as K-Rod) and the bearded one, Brian Wilson, (coming off Tommy John surgery) remain available.
All three can wind up being better fliers in fantasy than Veras, or whoever closes for the lowly Astros.
All keeper questions depend on the dynamics of your league. Your five best long-term keepers are 1B Eric Hosmer, OF Wil Myers, C Salvador Perez, 2B Dustin Pedroia and OF Alex Rios.
Myers will open the year in Triple-A, though, so if your league doesn't stash prospects on reserve spots to start the season, you are better off keeping Ethier and getting Myers back later, either in the draft or reserves.
Holy smokes! You have the best three players in fantasy and the best pitcher. Then, you can keep the player with the potential to hit the most home runs thereafter.
Go Stanton. Your team is ridiculous.
While the love affair with Kaepernick is understood, does everyone so easily forget how tough it is to be an elite fantasy quarterback? No one can crack the Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning level right now, and that included Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, the two best rookie quarterbacks in the fantasy era, if not ever.
Postseason hype makes players dangerous picks in fantasy, because you're paying a premium for a small sample size in games that did nothing for yearly fantasy owners. How did Eli Manning look this season after his second Super Bowl-winning postseason run?
We agree Green is too good of a value to pass up, but Kaepernick probably shouldn't even get picked as a sixth-rounder next season. The elite quarterbacks above will go in the early rounds and then you should wait on quarterback until you have secured your running backs and wide receivers. That draft strategy is age-old for a reason.
Keep Martin. He is a top three back after Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. Just as much of a no-brainer as Green. Kaepernick -- no matter how much you believe in his future -- is a different kind of fantasy no-brainer. Those that overrate what he has done in the short term have no (fantasy) brains.