Drew Fairservice: March 2010 Archives

lifetime.jpgLike Sunday's other major news item, the Joe Mauer extension ranks as a triumph of the downtrodden and signs that all is right in America. Joe Mauer's 8 year, $184 million dollar deal will usher in a new era of homegrown superstars laying root in the ballparks of their arbitration youth, forever dazzling the fans who cheered them as young turks.

You might picture all those zeros and think "wow, that's an impossible amount of money. Good for Joe Mauer" Well you'd be wrong, my chumpish friends. You see, a deal of this magnitude, when signed with your hometown team, isn't just good for Joe Mauer. It is good for all of baseball! Because Joe Mauer took a slightly below-market deal (which is instantly accounted as a hometown discount, not an "8 year deal for a catcher" discount), we're to believe this is the triumph of the mid-market, a sign they can compete for the top talent against the Two Devils of The East.

Interesting that as a full-time Minnesotan (Minnesotan? Land o'Laker? Distant Lapplander?), Joe Mauer himself helped pay for the re-signing of Joe Mauer. The public subsidy pool isn't really fit for swimming, but the Twins build a brand new stadium with oodles of public cash ($372 million of the $517 million total cost, by some accounts), then licensed the naming rights to cuddly superstore for 25 years, netting a cool $100 million dollar cash influx, not to mention all the tax breaks and rebates afforded teams for building new new walleye-on-a-stick stands and presto: off season spending spree!

Let's not hesitate for a second in pointing out w're talking about baseball owners. A more fiendish group of glad-handers you're unlikely to find. I'm confident they're doing their darnedest right now to leverage the Joe Mauer contract into salary cap fodder. "If we could control the remaining contract costs, we'd gladly re-sign Adrian Gonzalez/Andrew McCutchen/Jason Heyward." Hello, baseball's version of the Larry Bird Exception! Teams crying poor isn't going to stop because Joe Mauer signed an astronomical contract with his existing team, just as the massive ticket hikes sure to besiege Target Field in 2013 have nothing to do with the deal he agreed to on Sunday.

Ultimately, this was a decision made by Mauer himself. It's a sign that one guy was willing to stay home for less cash, rather than a willingness of a dozen stingy owners to throw up their hands and say, "nope, can't compete" while pocketing luxury tax payments. Many big name players have re-signed to below market deals before, just as many would step over their own mothers for an extra two mil per annum. This deal isn't any better (or any worse) for baseball than Felix Hernandez's 5-year deal or Vernon Wells' massive extension. Applying any greater significance to the deal because Joe Mauer is extra super-good is foolhardy.

killerwhale.gifAs animated gifs of people shooting whales or dolphins are hard to come by, we'll use a semi-regular wholphin to announce the curious news of Elijah Dukes receiving his unconditional release from the Washington Nationals.

The talented right fielder with a history of off-field problems was a shoe-in for the starting job in Capitol City this year. The temptation to label Dukes as "troubled" is easy and lazy, Dukes kept his nose clean for the better part of two years. Some truant legal fees and an odd incident involving a Little League appearance aside, Dukes played good baseball in between nagging injuries.

Nats manager Jim Riggleman swears up and down this was "strictly a baseball decision", though most of people around baseball lay in wait for the other shoe to drop. If Dukes was cut free for strictly baseball reasons, consider the decision "a very bad one" and move on.

Dukes has value as a cost-controlled outfielder with power and patience. Though his 2009 wasn't what the Nationals hoped out of the 25 year old, he projects well above average at worst at the plate and right around league average in the field. One would think a team like that Nats, fed up with the Dukes sideshow or convinced they can match his production somewhere else, would explore trade possibilities to shore up one of their many, many, many holes. Luckily for the fans of the Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, and Schadenfreudes, the Nationals simply let him walk. For nothing.

The one upside to this move &mdash aside from some lucky club acquiring a very talented and potentially motivated ball player &mdash is the increased reps Adam Dunn might see in the outfield! Oh, the fun we'll have!

Rob Jeter Hall.jpgMost general managers shouldn't really speak in public. No benefit comes from your team's GM popping off in the paper, be it in response to criticism or in support of the local star. Dan O'Dowd recently took it upon himself to praise his stud shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the only way our society knows: comparing him to Derek Jeter.

Most Jeter comparisons invariably rush to "intangibles" quicker than a base hit bouncing past Jeter's glove side, O'Dowd thinks Tulowitzki's "innate" leadership abilities class him as a "once-in-a-decade" player.

To be fair to O'Dowd, it's the Times headline that screams TULO = JETER IN THE MOUNTAINS, though the Rockies GM doesn't hesitate to play the small market card when comparing the two shortstops relative levels of fame.

If he played in New York or Boston or for the Cubs, he would be recognized right now as one of the best players in the game -- not young players, but players in the game

Or, had Tulowitzki not responded with a stinktastic sophomore season after bursting onto the national baseball stage in 2007, his five-tooled goodness would have a much higher profile. Once a decade? More like once every other year, amirite??

More troubling than Dan O'Dowd's eagerness to position Tulo as the new Face of Baseball is his tossed-off slam on the great Indians teams of the late nineties, teams O'Dowd helped build.

In Cleveland, we really never had that kind of a player; we had great players. And that's why we didn't win a World Series. I think that's why we fell short. We didn't have one straw that was stirring the drink, taking everybody to a different level.

At the risk of taking a baseball GM too literally, think about this for a second. Those great Indians teams featured some of the best players of their time, including the criminally underrated Kenny Lofton. But O'Dowd believes they failed to win the World Series because they lacked a leader? Didn't they lose the 1997 World Series to the Florida Marlins?

Gary Sheffield. Bobby Bonilla. Moises Alou. Kevin Brown. Who among this group of notorious pricks and mercenaries would qualify as the "straw that stirs the drink?" How could this team, with all the high-priced turnover from the previous year, classify as a cohesive unit with a common goal? They won a 7 game series because of talent and luck. The Indians reached the series and lost for the very same reasons. Leadership is nice to talk about in March with a guy from the New York Times, but really?

Motivating 25 guys every night for six months is tough, no doubt. But isn't it amazing how these mythical leadership qualities seem to grow and improve when surrounded by increasingly talent players? That must be the mark of real leadership: get players much better than you to perform to the true talent level. Then; watch the plaudits and playmates roll in.

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Sadly, this is not an open call for all beloved readers and lurkers of Walkoff Walk to join in the WoW league fun. The head honcho keeps a tight rap on all the fantasy comings and goings in order to maximize his cheating collusive competitive advantage.

As always, it is important to take a holistic look at your fantasy baseball experience. Chances are you simply aren't going to win anything this or any other year. If you're playing fantasy baseball for real money, chances are you're a degenerate with precious little keeping you from loitering in airports wagering on arrivals. The point is, fantasy baseball is supposed to be fun. So is Walkoff Walk, despite our occasional self-seriousness and absenteeism. In that spirit, allow me to present a few tips for making your fantasy draft strategy and experience a little more shrimp-friendly.

  • Whatever you do, don't draft a Met. Not only is showing mercy or affection to any or all New York Mets anathema to the Walkoff Walk ethos, it isn't sound fantasy baseball strategy. What good is first round pick whose joints and tendons could spontaneously combust at any time? Sure, picking up a five tool center fielder seems like sound strategy, but the egg will be on your face when he's sucked into the intake a passing jetliner.

  • Be mindful of players switching leagues. Let us not understate the impact of moving from the American to National league and vice versa. While so-called experts will point to the difference in ballparks, the DH rule, and artificial turf as key factors, the bigger issue is the change in scenery. Jake Peavy swapped multiple jaunts up the Pacific Coast highway for 9 nights a year in Minneapolis. In baseball parlance, that's known as a fate worse than death. Javy Lopez may have dominated in Atlanta, but how will he fare after 3 or 4 good cavity searches at the Canadian border? Don't think the RCMP forgot about "The Incident" in Montreal, I know that girls rugby team certainly hasn't.

  • Douche Will Be Served. Cheering for undesirables is a major part of fantasy sports. The mental aerobics and circular justifications can be exhausting. "So long as Roy Halladay pitches a complete game, giving up 2 unearned runs and Chase Utley hits a solo shot with three walks against my home team, I'm cool." It's ugly. This also applies to rooting for wholly unlikable goofs like Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, or any player under the employ of one Mike Scioscia. They're necessary evils, part of the social Roto contract. Make your peace during the draft process, lest you spend the summer admiring how nice a guy Jason Bay must be after 15 strikeouts in 2 games.

  • Prey on the predictable weakness of others. Know which end of the fanboy scale your fellow poolies lie. You know the Southern gentleman in your midst is going to draft Brian McCann in the second round, so plan around it. The Canadian guy is going for Halladay three rounds too soon, the guy that types in all caps without the petty intrusion of punctuation has his sights firmly set on any and all Red Sox. You can exploit these market inefficiencies to your benefit, freeing up some draft equity for a two-round-reach for "guy from your hometown" or "guy who said that one awesome thing that one time."

  • Come prepared for the draft. Prepping for the draft is key. Read your magazines, buy your fancy draft kits, or pre-rank your players, of course. However, the draft is likely the only time all the members of your pool will be in the same place at the same time. So ready your barbs and daggers, your memes and screenshots. Between 12 and 20 people stand poised to rush to the same joke as you at any time, don't hesitate to get it out there as quickly as possible. Feel free to jump all over the fatalistic manager who renounces his/her team in the fifth round. Applaud good picks so long as it serves your master plan to steal every juicy prospect porn item three rounds later. Should you lose out on a long-term target two picks before your turn, it is fully acceptable to weep on your keyboard and pick the first available name out of sheer frustration.

Go forth and dominate, friends. Draft your team, set your lineup, and then promptly ignore your team for the remainder of the season. One of two things will happen: you'll have drafted an unstoppable juggernaut or 60% of your team will find themselves in Dr. Andrews' waiting room. Precious little is within your control! Enjoy!