The Epidemic ContinuesBy Phil Janowicz
I believe that epidemic I was referring to last week has decided to infect closers now. Cliff Politte gave up a walk-off homer to hometown hero Nomar Garciaparra. Mike MacDougal got roughed up against Minnesota -- did he remind anyone else of Rick Vaughn? Kazuhiro Sasaki and Danys Baez got rocked in turn on Tuesday in the same game. Armando Benitez ... well, he was himself, being sure to blow his fourth save this year and also giving up a run when he recorded his lone save this week. Rocky Biddle gave up six in a relief appearance against the Braves. Poor Matt Anderson has only had one opportunity to save a game this year, but has converted it. Keith Foulke blew the save Tuesday.
Perhaps a closer by committee should be instated with more teams because it seems that some hitters have these closers figured out. But no matter what, Eric Gagne is still unbeatable.
The Red Sox are doing quite well, winning eight of nine, including a heroic walk-off home run by Nomar Garciaparra on Sunday. Pedro has bounced back well from his opening day shellacking. Kevin Millar hasn’t produced the same numbers he did earlier in the season, but he’s learning how to hit in the five spot in the lineup. Also, the committee is learning how to function properly and will hope not to fall below the Mendoza line.
Elsewhere, the Royals continue to dominate the AL with hot hitting, but most of all with great pitching. Jeremy Affeldt is on the DL with blisters, but now Carlos Beltran is back in the lineup. Although he hasn’t produced anything, he needs time to get his swing back.
In the NL, the Expos blanked the Diamondbacks in their home opener in Montreal. The D-backs participated in their fourth home opener this season and dropped to 1-3. 36,879 fans watched Jose Vidro for 3 for 4 with a triple shy of the cycle. Tomo Ohka pitched a great game to allow these Expos to keep their winning ways.
Look out in the NL West for the Padres. On Wednesday, Adam Eaton, making his return after Tommy john surgery, pitched seven innings and gave up five hits and two walks and struck out twelve Cubs to outlast Kerry Wood. Even without Trevor Hoffman, the Padres pitching staff is shaping up to be a high-class staff. They also have the offense to back-up these guys. Look for the Padres and Dodgers to get some winning streaks.
Now it’s time to take a little look into the world of fantasy baseball. As a fantasy owner who drafted Milton Bradley, Dave Roberts, Raul Ibanez, Mike Sweeney, Jose Vidro, and Scott Rolen, I know what it’s like to take risks. (What kind of team named MIT Tony Batistas doesn’t have Tony Batista?!) Some owners might be disappointed that Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu aren’t producing anything as of late, but really, what kind of manager would have these guys on his team?
With Randy Johnson on the DL and Curt Schilling recovering from an appendectomy, top pitchers are hard to come by. For those short term solutions, I’d recommend Runelvys Hernandez (if you don’t have him already), Ricardo Rodriguez, or Josh Beckett to fill the short term hole. I’d keep Beltran benched for a week until he gets his swing back. Also, rising stars right now are Ramon Hernandez, Paul Lo Duca, Karim Garcia, and Travis Hafner, so watch for those guys.
Crazy things have happened so far this season, so look for more unexpected stats to pop up.
Batting: Carl Everett of the Texas Rangers. Despite getting clocked with a cell phone from the stands, Everett homered in five straight games. He batted .429 with 7 runs, 6 RBIs, and one stolen base. He may be explosive in the clubhouse, but he’s also explosive at the plate. Honorable mention: Carlos Lee of the Chicago White Sox.
Pitching: Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox. Pedro is back. The past week, he has two wins and 11 strikeouts with a 0.00 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP, or (Walks + Hits)/(Innings Pitched). Now that he has run support, he’ll become the Pedro of old. Honorable mention: Jorge Julio of the Baltimore Orioles.
Utility: Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This guy is the best lead-off man in the league. The past week alone, he is batting .476 with six stolen bases. He just needs Lo Duca to start hitting the ball in order to pick up the Dodger offense. Honorable mention: Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox (game-winning home run, spinning play to rob Eric Hinske of an extra-base hit, and beat out a double play to spark a big Red Sox inning last Sunday).
Boner of the Week: Danys Baez of the Cleveland Indians. Sigh ... What can I say? You have bad weeks sometimes. Sometimes, you just have to give up five runs in the bottom of the ninth without getting an out. Sometimes you let Mike Cameron hit a walk-off grand slam. This week, Baez has 0 K’s, with a 23.63 ERA and a 3.75 WHIP. Bounce back, please. My fantasy team and my Indians need you.
Honorable mentions: Armando Benitez (perpetual winner) of the New York Mets and Jim Reynolds, first base umpire who said that Roy Halladay didn’t step on first base, when everyone else at Fenway saw him slide his foot across the whole bag.