Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MLB: Man-Crush Fantasy Team

I was mocked by a kind reader a while back about my Top 5: Guys I'd Wanna Be list. He made some mention about my sexual preference, and although I found it to be out of nowhere and said more about his sexual preference than mine. Well this article won't help me at all, but I don't care. It's baseball season, I just had my keeper league draft, and it's time to rundown some of my favorite fantasy baseball guys (both known and sleeper) for the year. Plus this article is sponsored by the Paul Rudd-Jason Segal movie, "I Love You, Man" in theaters now. Ok, maybe not. Onwards!


The key with a catcher is really playing time and runs scored. Both are the hardest things to fill because due to the physically taxing nature of the position, you'll only get a guy out there for 130-140 games max. In fantasy you need players to play. So with Sandoval qualifying for the C in Yahoo! fantasy leagues, people should take advantage. Sandoval will most likely play in the field most of the year, making up for those lost games. Plus with the Giants offense being so weak, Sandoval is easily one of the most productive players on that team, and someone has to drive in runs.


I'm certainly not breaking the mold here, but Pujols is just such a dominant force. He was nursing an injured elbow last year, in a miserable line-up. Now he's back, healthy, and has an improved line-up (whether that's him making guys like Ryan Ludwick better or not). He'll put up his typical MVP numbers as he continues to be one of the best players in baseball.


For the defending World Series Champs, Chase Utley. After an MVP type start, Chase was hindered by a bum hip, which he played through for the second half and the playoffs. He had surgery in the offseason, and rumor was he could be out up to a month into the season. Phils fans had no doubt though, Chase is a gamer. Wouldn't you know it, he's back already, diving after grounders and just cracked his first homer of the spring. He'll round into form nicely. Plus he also had the highlight of the Phils World Series celebration.


Fantasy players have been waiting for a couple years now for Gordon to fulfill his hype coming out of the draft. Gordon, thought to be the next George Brett, has struggled in his first couple of years in the league. He still has trouble with lefties, and his average and power numbers are expected more out of Eric Bruntlett than the #2 pick of the MLB draft. The heart still lingers to see if this natural talent can finally pull through. Just the mere mention by one fantasy guru hinting at the possibility of a 40 HR 120 RBI still makes mouths water. He's starting to have a line-up built around him. A little protection and a little more experience might bring about the Gordon everyone has been waiting for.


Hanley Ramirez! #1 on the fantasy board and #1 in my heart. I've had this guy on my keeper team for 3 years now, and at 25 he is becoming an outright monster. Han-Ram went 30/30 last year with 125 runs scored, his RBI's suffered because he batted lead off, but he'll be third in the line-up now. His steals may drop, but if 30/30 is on the table, I have to think Hanley will go for it. Expect 100+RBI with 110 runs, and pretty much A-Rod numbers minus some RBI and plus steals. He'll only get better and I can't wait.


Ethier came into his own last year when Manny Ramirez arrived. Whether it was the protection in the line-up or the mental boost of having one of the best right handed hitters ever on deck, Andre settled in and had a monster second half. He finished with 20 HR and 77 RBI, but his ceiling is much higher than that.


One of the more miraculous comebacks in sports history, the former and, well, current can't miss prospect has had a coming of age over the past two years. This year will be the culmination of that return from drug abuse that nearly wiped away his career and life. He is the most potent player in an absolutely stacked offensive line-up. If Hamilton's health can keep up then 40+HR and a possible triple crown run is in his future.


Every year there is a super prospect that comes to the bigs. There was Ryan Braun, Evan Longoria, Matt Wieters this year, and Jay Bruce last year. Bruce did have some struggles on his way to his 21 bombs. He was in and out of the line-up, being shuffled in the order, but now his position is set, and he'll have the people around him to allow him to produce. He'll hit for a higher average, and his power numbers will go up as he matures.


Kershaw is another big upside guy. He had his first full year last year, and his stats are eerily similar to the break out pitcher of last year, Tim Lincecum. Kershaw has control issues that he needs to overcome, but with a better team behind him, he could put up slightly less dominant numbers than Lincecum did last year.


I didn't know who Jason Motte was before spring training, but in the hunt for the next Cardinals closer, Motte and his 100 mph fastball has rocketed him to the top of that list. With Chris Perez injured and Ryan Franklin useless, the job is probably going to be Motte's to start the year and his to lose as the season moves along. The Cards closers always puts up big numbers, and as long as La Russa sticks with Motte, it should be man-crush city.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Might of a Fight

The latest move by the brainiacs that run the NHL (stands for National Hockey League for those that don't recall the sports organ-I-zation) is to limit and eventually stop fighting in hockey.

Just as a bit of background, the NHL was once the least popular of the big four sports (baseball, football, basketball, hockey) then under the leadership of now NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, has subsequently completely fallen off the national sports radar behind golf, MMA, tennis, soccer, and even figure skating. Once seen on ESPN several nights a week, the NHL is now on Versus, a channel hardly anyone can find or care to look for. Visibility is at an all time low, oh, and did I mention there was a strike a couple of seasons back. A strike! It's laughable. So that's where the NHL is now, and here is where it's going...the way of the fucking brontosaurus.

To the non-sports fan, no fighting should sound like a positive, but in hockey it's a part of the culture. Not only legal since as long as I've heard anything about hockey, fighting is a safe way to protect other players on the ice. See these are large guys, flying around on blades throwing elbows, sticks, and anything they can in order to gain an advantage on a play, while not drawing a penalty. When players get a little carried away, to the point where it's upsetting to the other team, then two representatives from each team will have a conversation on the ice and throw down their gloves and have at it. Sure, sometimes it gets out of control, or sometimes way too in control, but that's the nature of the game. It's a tough sport originated by tough Canadians, who had nothing better to do in Ontario on a freezing pond.

The problem with this movement, aside from the in-game enforcement aspect, is that it is par for the course for what is killing the sport of hockey. It is trying to be like every other sport. This selling out in order to become mainstream has been going on for some time, since the NHL made notable efforts to increase scoring in the league. Granted, at the time, all the clutching and grabbing was not hockey, but larger goals, smaller pads, technologically advanced sticks have all accomplished this goal. Then they expanded. Took teams out of Canada and into Florida, Anaheim, and Columbus to make it more of an American sport. All absolutely terrible moves.

Now removing fighting is the one side of the sport that you can walk up to a non-hockey fan, and actually get him or her excited about watching a hockey game. The parts of the sport the NHL should be marketing, the flash, the speed, the fighting and the attitude are being muted in order to fit in with the cool kids.

A prime example is what happened with Sean Avery. The infamous agitator referred to his ex-girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert, as "sloppy seconds" during an interview. This garnered headlines and press for the NHL in an ESPN world where no one cares. Clearly, this was in poor taste, but the NHL should spin this bad publicity into the kind of passion in sports fans. It's good vs. evil, rivalries and opinions. That's what gets people into sports.

How did the NHL handle it? They suspended Avery, which was fair, then basically dragged him through the streets like he was a Holocaust denier or something. He lost his job with the Stars, which was the team he was with at the time, relegated to the minors and banished until the NY Rangers came calling. If this happened in baseball or the NFL, you'll probably get some disciplinary action, and this has probably happened multiple times in the NBA and no one raised an eyebrow. If there is an opening to get some attention for your business, then you have to jump on it. The NHL once again turned away and just wanted to be a square peg trying to get into a round hole.

Hockey isn't just another sport. It is unique and they have to accept that. Grow in Canada, focus abroad, and realize that due to the semi-complex rules and low scoring it will never be on par with football or baseball. The NHL has it's best chance in being something different. A change of pace for the sports fan who is looking for a different outlet. There will always be the diehard fans in the NHL, always. It's a matter of getting those people who aren't fans. Fighting is a way to do that. But the NHL will never learn.