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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Fantasy Team Blues -- It's Only May 2.

My partner in our Rotisserie League team (the name "Rotisserie" dates us, doesn't it?) had to leave our draft early, and he's usually the better prepared of the two of us. We've been in the same league for about 20 years, won two consecutive titles about 15 years ago, and we didn't seriously contend until last year, when another team that hadn't won it in a while ran out to a big lead, so much so that most of the other teams threw in the towel and didn't pay much attention to them. Except us, of course, as we won an auction for Manny Ramirez, kept on replacing disabled players and had a strong pitching nucleus of Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum and Roy Oswalt. To make a long story short, we were up 1/2 point going into the final day of the season. What happened next was that our competition had three starting pitchers going on that day, we had none, two of those guys pitched well (helping ERA and WHIP) and we lost by a point. That hurt.

This year we were able to retain 9 of our 23 players, albeit at higher prices. We also drafted new players who, by and large, have not panned out. Right now, we're in eighth place out of 11 teams, and a whopping 35 points out of first place. The best a team can do is score 88 points, the leader has 75, and we have 40. Thankfully, it's only May 2.

It's not as though our leader has any of the following players: Albert Pujols, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Manny Ramirez or Ryan Howard. He's more likely at this point to have Brian Giles, Adam Dunn and everyone's favorite second baseman not named Chase Utley, Orlando Hudson. His pitchers are strong, but he doesn't have Hamels, Lincecum, Oswalt, Peavy or Santana, to name a few. Which means, of course, they can start to replicate Billy Champion, who started the season 6-0 in 1974 for the Brewers -- and those were the only games he won all season. Make no mistake, the owner of the first-place team is a formidable opponent, very knowledgeable, and a perennial contender. He's the guy who always seems to pick up the good player off waivers right before you do.

But remember, it's only May 2. Those who are having Hall-of-Fame seasons in May sometimes wilt and have AA seasons by August. We all jokingly remember the case of Tuffy Rhodes, who hit three homers in one of the Cubs' first games about 10-15, years ago. Off to such a good start was this rookie (or perhaps a second-year player) that the bidding on him went out of control, and Rhodes went for prices the likes of the top hitters went. The only problem is that he hit about 3 more home runs during the rest of the season. Thankfully, Rhodes has had a happy ending of sorts -- he's one of the leading home run hitters in the history of the Japanese League, and he recently hit his 450th career home run.

So, my advice to those on top is to enjoy the ride and do the most to continue to fortify your team. If you're like most of the rest of us -- because most of us are not in first place and very far away -- chill, scout players, replace your disabled and demoted players promptly and, if you're allowed a few waiver moves, use them wisely.

But by no means panic or throw in the towel.

It's only May 2.


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