Good players gone bad

ON FANTASY SPORTS

Injuries, unexpected poor play put star-level roster in ruin

Misfortune in May

May 31, 2008|By CHILD'S WALKER

It's hard to love something without really hating it sometimes.

Me and fantasy baseball? We're not so much on speaking terms at the moment.

A month ago, things couldn't have been dandier for my flagship team - Childs Play. I had never had such an offense. Chase Utley was off to a scorching start. Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins and Brian McCann were doing their parts. Even supporting players such as Edwin Encarnacion, Xavier Nady and Eugenio Velez were giving me exactly what I needed.

Better still, recent trade acquisitions Chipper Jones and Rafael Furcal were flirting with .400. Of a possible 60 offensive points, my squad had 59.5.

The pitching wasn't bad either. Ben Sheets seemed ready to be an ace again, and he was supported by cheap strikeout artists Randy Wolf and Jonathan Sanchez. I had just fortified the staff by trading my best long-term asset, Hanley Ramirez, for a package that included an excellent starter in Adam Wainwright and a longtime closer in Jason Isringhausen. I had six good starters and three closers.

My league mates agreed that I had the best team coming out of our auction. And they agreed that I had solidified my position with the Ramirez trade.

Dreams of a dominant season filled my head as my lead expanded. I couldn't wait to log onto CBSSports.com every morning to check the standings. Sometimes, I stayed up late enough to catch the live results after the West Coast games, just so I could fall asleep thinking happy thoughts.

But then, as quickly as my team soared in April, it collapsed in May.

Furcal got hurt, leaving a void where Ramirez had once shined so brightly. Isringhausen suddenly lost the ability to fool anybody and busted his hand in frustration. My secret offensive weapons - Velez, Encarnacion, Angel Pagan - hit the skids. My bargain pitchers - Sanchez and Wolf - got ripped start after start. Their supposedly reliable mates - Sheets, Derek Lowe and Jeff Francis - weren't any better.

I endured a two-week stretch in which none of my pitchers had a good outing. The team ERA went from an asset at 3.40 to a liability at 4.60.

I feel like everybody is hurt. I have eight players on the disabled list right now, including Holliday, Furcal and would-be closers Isringhausen and Rafael Soriano.

Even when they come back, my saves guys might not regain their jobs (Izzy because he stinks and Soriano because of John Smoltz).

Velez, one of my main sources of speed, got sent to the minors (you know it's bad when one of your guys isn't good enough to stay on the Giants).

Because I was building my roster to win this season, I have no salary cap flexibility and no healthy reserves.

It's entirely possible that my players will all come back healthy and carry me back to the top of the standings. But it's also possible they won't. And there isn't much I can do about it one way or the other.

This is not a column about how to fix a team in free fall. It's a lament about how some problems lie beyond fixing.

I have always said the best thing about fantasy baseball is its ability to teach us about the real game. Disappointment is part of that experience. Every year, there are teams that look great on paper in March but can't win in May or June because of injuries and inexplicably poor seasons.

Look at the Tigers.

Detroit might have guessed that Gary Sheffield and Ivan Rodriguez were on their last legs. But could the Tigers have known that new acquisitions Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria would play below expectations, that Curtis Granderson and the whole bullpen would get hurt or that young starters Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman would take big steps back?

When that much goes wrong at once, it's not an error in design.

Sometimes, many little pieces of luck turn against you at the same time. As much as I love numbers, the game is not an equation that can be worked out perfectly in advance.

Sometimes, you just have to throw up your hands and wait for a better day.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.