Archive for July, 2006

News & Notes

Monday, July 31st, 2006
  • Francisco Liriano generates missed swings with 34 percent of his pitches, which is by far the most in the majors; Aaron Harang of the Reds is second, at 26 percent.
  • Jeff Francis last week became the third Rockies pitcher to toss a two-hitter this year, joining Jason Jennings and Josh Fogg. In their first 13 years, the late Darryl Kile was the only Rockies pitcher to perform the feat.
  • The next Twins pitching phenom to arrive should be right-hander Matt Garza, a former first-rounder from Fresno State. Garza, who started the year in A-ball, hit 97 mph in the ninth inning last week in a 1-0 shutout for Triple-A Rochester. Overall this year Garza is 13-4 with a 2.03 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

  • The Padres have hit 51-homers at Petco Park this season. They hit 54 there last year and 57 in 2004, its first season.
  • Johan Santana has a 1.35 ERA in his last 10 starts against the White Sox.
  • Chris Young hasn’t lost a road game since June 20, 2005.
  • If the Orioles really did turn down the rumored Tejada for Ervin Santana, Erick Aybar and Casey Kotchman deal, then they are even more insane than I gave them credit for.
  • Sean Casey hasn’t homered against a right-handed pitcher in 144 at-bats this season.
  • The Yankees’ first six hitters in their batting order have the following OBPs: Damon .372, Jeter .427, Abreu .427, A-Rod .383, Giambi .402, and Posada .389. How does Joe Torre do it? Amazing what he can get out of such deficient talent in a team devastated by injuries. Maybe the fact the Yankees have $100 million more in payroll than any other team in baseball has something to do with it, but you can’t be sure. And if I hear one more “analyst” say Corey Lidle was the more important piece of the Abreu trade, I’m going to be forced to choke myself. Hope none of you expected a playoffs without the Yankees involved, because there’s zero chance of that happening.

Market Watch

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

The following are players I like as trade targets or as excellent pick ups if somehow still available. While not all are your typical buy-low candidates, make sure their respective owners value them properly, as their production may exceed perception.

Alex Rios – Not that his play has been poor, but maybe Rios’ owners grew tired of his extended absence for the past month. Saturday saw him strike out in all five plate appearances. Any struggles for the time being can be blamed on rustiness, and don’t forget, before the DL stint Rios was having one of the finest seasons in the league. While his overall numbers are suppressed due to time off, treat him as an elite outfielder and make sure his owner feels the same way.

Dan Johnson – Johnson is currently in Triple-A, so chances are you can either pick him up off waivers, or get him in a trade rather cheaply. Word is the A’s are attempting to trade for Sean Casey too. The logical choice, however, would be to simply recall Johnson, who didn’t deserve to be demoted in the first place. He has five homers in 14 games and an OPS over 1300 since his demotion. Forget about his terrible start, he’s been hitting well since June 1 and will continue to do so if recalled.

Brad Lidge – Well, it can’t get any worse, can it? Lidge has a 5.47 ERA and while everyone keeps expecting him to bounce back since last year’s debacle in the playoffs, it just hasn’t happened yet. In fact, he has only gotten worse, as July sees his ERA sit at 7.45. His stuff is still there, evident by his 65 strikeouts in 47 innings, but his location has been terrible. The Astros have remained committed to Lidge in the closer’s role and with such a strong rotation and an offense bound to improve, save opportunities should be plentiful. It can’t hurt to see how fed up his owner is if you are in need of saves.

Jake Peavy – Peavy threw a career-high 129 pitches in his last outing, and while that may not be the smartest decision, it does show he must be feeling fairly healthy. A 136/36 K/BB ratio does not match his 5.01 ERA. Once he figures out his mechanics, which I expect will happen very soon, expect the ERA to come crashing down.

Howie Kendrick – Kendrick is long gone in nearly every league by now, and while it’s hard to call this a buy-low since he has been raking ever since his recent call up, Kendrick is for real. Whether time at first base or an Adam Kennedy trade, the Halos will have no choice but to find room for Kendrick in their lineup. I say he will be valuable even in shallow mixed leagues from here on out. If you’ve been saving your FAAB all season, don’t count on a better prospect coming up later, bid now on Kendrick.

News & Notes

Friday, July 28th, 2006
  • The Tigers became the first team in 115 years to score at least five runs in the opening inning of three straight games.
  • The Astros were recently shut out for the 11th time in Roger Clemens’ 38 starts since the beginning of 2005.
  • ESPN is convinced that pent-up demand for the Aug. 22 release of the videogame “Madden NFL 07” is so enormous that it has created an hour-long pay-per-view special about the game to kick off on Aug. 4. “Inside Madden NFL 07,” which will be available for purchase for $19.95.
  • More from Bristol: ESPN has been vigilant about sexual harassment because it reportedly has been a problem in Bristol for years. In 2000, the book “ESPN: The Uncensored History” reported rampant cases of harassment of women. Most prominently mentioned was Mike Tirico, who was even suspended at one point. Mike Tirico!
  • Ryan Madson tied a major league record with four wild pitches in an inning Tuesday.
  • Back-to-back shutouts at Coors Field this week? The humidor is officially working too well at this point.
  • The Twins are 34-8 in their last 42 games.
  • Switch-hitter Carlos Zambrano has four homers in 46 at-bats this season.
  • The Dodgers are 1-13 since the All-Star break and are averaging only 2.1 runs scored per game.
  • Alfonso Soriano had never walked more than 38 times in an entire season, and he’s got 45 already this year. Not to mention he’s nearly 30-30 while switching leagues and playing in one of the best pitcher’s parks in the game. Do not underestimate the contract year.
  • San Francisco’s Eliezer Alfonzo had his second multi-homer game of the season Thursday. Barry Bonds hasn’t had a multi-homer game since Aug. 29, 2004.
  • Mike Piazza has thrown out a ridiculous seven of 68 base runners attempting steals this year.
  • Jeff Suppan has made 290 starts in the majors and has never struck out 10+ batters, which is the longest active streak in baseball.
  • In 81 at-bats batting second in the lineup, Adam Dunn has 7 homers and a .370/.452/.691 line. Jerry Narron might want to leave him there.
  • Scott Olsen has now gone 11 straight starts without allowing more than three runs. Lowering his ERA from 5.83 to 3.79 in the process.

Player Spotlight: Alex Rodriguez

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Alex Rodriguez is one of the most talked about people in all of baseball. While he consistently puts up nice numbers, most of the chatter surrounds his ridiculous paycheck and failures on the field. Of all the non-steroid suspected players, no one is viewed more negatively than A-Rod.

It’s entirely possible Rodriguez brought most of this onto himself. Not just by signing a $252 million contract, but also by the way he carries himself. Constantly worried about what others think, no beat writer has ever left an A-Rod interview thinking they received anything other than PC answers. While it’s difficult to ever truly know an athlete, Rodriguez is so self-conscious it has created the exact opposite effect he originally intended. The perfect guy act eventually grew old.

A-Rod the baseball player, just like his personality, is an enigma. He’s the youngest player in the history of the game to reach 450 homers – the youngest by nearly an entire year by the way. The 450th homer was also his 2,000th career hit already. He’s won two MVP awards, including last year, when he led the AL in homers, runs, slugging and OPS. He was second in batting average and OBP and fourth in RBI. He’s durable and has led the AL in homers four times in five years. Rodriguez also hit more home runs in a season than any previous Yankee right-handed hitter, supplanting Joe DiMaggio and Gary Sheffield.

Sure, the guy can hit, and no one disputes that. It’s when he gets his hits is the problem. A-Rod is viewed as one of the most unclutch hitters out there, and everyone’s heard this. I won’t argue whether “clutch” even truly exists, after all, is a run in the first inning worth less than a run in the ninth? I will, however, argue against A-Rod’s apparent inability to hit when it matters most. He’s driven in 72 RBI in 98 games this season. Two-thirds of his 21 homers have come with runners on base. He’s batting .296 with nine homers in 115 at-bats with RISP. His OPS is 987 with RISP and 805 with the bases empty.

Admittedly, those numbers were reversed last year, but are remarkably similar for his career (942 OPS with bases empty vs. 951 OPS with RISP). Rodriguez’s weak reputation in the clutch was fueled last year by his 2-for-15 performance in the ALDS against the Angels. Still, Rodriguez has hit .305/.393/.534 with six homers in 31 career postseason games. He almost single-handedly led the Yankees over the Twins in the 2004 ALDS, batting .421 and slugging .737.

Derek Jeter, comparatively speaking, has an 824 OPS with RISP and an 857 OPS with the bases empty for his career. Mr. Clutch himself David Ortiz also sees his career OPS fall when there are RISP. As of last week, Ortiz had the most RBI opportunities in baseball, having batted with 347 runners on base, and he’d only knocked in 16.7 percent of them. That’s not even among the top-30 for hitters with at least 200 plate appearances.

Rodriguez has been more susceptible than his teammates to criticism because he has never played for a championship team. While I can throw good RISP stats at you, I cannot prove that his hits come in the later innings more than most, which people seem to hold in great account.

Recently, he’s been better known as E-Rod, as he committed five errors in a five-game span last week and led the American League with 18 going into Monday. Not much I can argue here, but it is ironic, considering defense was the main reason he took the MVP trophy from Big Papi last year. As for his huge salary, Yankee fans should probably look elsewhere to complain, given that they’re paying him just $15 million a year – Texas picks up the rest of his salary – he’s a relative bargain in their world. In fact, A-Rod is only the fourth-highest paid Yankee.

Bottom line, A-Rod doesn’t deserve nearly the criticism he receives. Once someone gets a reputation, it often follows him forever. In A-Rod’s case, his is both unfounded and false. While he may be fun to root against, the guy simply can rake.

News & Notes

Monday, July 24th, 2006
  • The Twins have won 37 of their first 48 home games. It’s the best start at home by a team since the 1998 Yankees went 40-8.
  • Jose Canseco had another run-in with police this week after winning the home run derby at the Golden Baseball League’s inaugural All-Star game. Several hours after Canseco won a $250 cash prize in the contest, Chico police officers found him outside his Oxford Suites hotel room early Wednesday morning in a heated argument with a woman. Officers found the room, where the two were staying, had been damaged. Neither person was arrested.
  • According to Baseball Prospectus, the list of the most abused pitchers in baseball this year goes as follows: Livan Hernandez is first, Jason Schmidt is second, followed by Aaron Harang, Carlos Zambrano, John Smoltz, Barry Zito, Dontrelle Willis, Bronson Arroyo, Curt Schilling and Brett Myers.
  • Josh Beckett has allowed 27 homers this year, a career-high. His previous high was 16 with the 2004 Marlins.
  • Sunday’s win improved the Twins’ record to 63-1 when leading after eight innings this season. They’re also 257-3 when leading after the eighth since the start of the 2003 season.
  • Robby recently did an excellent job of pointing out the ridiculous quality of Sports Illustrated’s recent foray into the fantasy sports industry. Well, I didn’t want ESPN to feel left out; after all, we here at RotoScoop do not choose favorites when it comes to shoddy fantasy football rankings. Other than the laughable ranking of Tony Gonzalez ahead of Antonio Gates, I won’t nitpick too much with Bristol’s rankings. My main criticism is that they probably should have spent a little more time analyzing teams starters (DeShaun Foster ranked ahead of Reggie Bush, Willie Parker, Brian Westbrook, Julius Jones, Kevin Jones and Chester Taylor is a tad suspect) and less time on teams third, fourth and fifth stringers. I’m all for a thorough job, but come on, do 115 RBs really need to be listed? What about 150 WRs? I mean, I couldn’t believe that LeRon McCoy was ranked No. 140, ahead of No. 142 Skyler Green. The 77 TEs were absolutely necessary, however. When a guy who played in all 16 games and amassed 1 reception for 1 yard last year isn’t the last player on the list, it’s probably time to focus your resources elsewhere.
  • My favorite part of ESPN’s fantasy coverage has to be the mock draft. It’s tough to take Bill Simmons (The Sports Guy), who is one of my favorite writers, seriously after seeing him take a kicker in round eight.
  • In hindsight, I probably should have blown all of my FAAB on Jered Weaver instead of Cole Hamels. Oh well, at least I referred to Francisco Liriano as “THE steal of fantasy baseball drafts” before the season. You win some, you lose some.

Silly Sports Illustrated

Friday, July 21st, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

When I arrived home from work today, my mom (I know, I know, it’s only temporary) greeted me with a big smile and the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, a special fantasy football issue, featuring 14 pages of beefed-up coverage! Now Dalton has commented on this before, but it cannot be emphasized enough; Sports Illustrated is obviously the premiere sports magazine in the country and has been for 40 years. Yet every year, when it puts out its season preview for the big three sports, SI insists on accompanying it with a haphazard laugher of a fantasy guide. This issue marked the first time ever that the magazine gave fantasy sports its own cover, and I was cautiously optimistic that their coverage may actually be useful. After all, Larry Johnson was listed on the cover as the number one player, clearly a promising sign (I was kind of hoping for Sir Brett Favre, oh well). So, bracing myself for some serious fantasy coverage or, at the very least, a few chuckles, I took the magazine from mom and hit the head for a quick and timely perusal.

First up we have the running backs, humm . . . this looks pretty good actually, sure Lamont Jordan seems a little low at No. 13 and DeAngelo Williams and Cedric Benson are ranked 10 and 15 spots ahead of incumbents DeShaun Foster and Thomas Jones, respectively, but not bad SI, not bad. Oh wait, there’s my man Domanick Davis languishing down at No. 26. We can now officially move on.

Wide receivers look a tad bit silly; Larry Fitzgerald is No. 2, two spots ahead of Steve Smith and well ahead of No. 8 Torry Holt. Randy Moss comes in at No. 13, directly ahead of good old Terry Glenn. Brandon Lloyd is No. 18, a meager 16 spots ahead of that scrub Darrell Jackson. Next. . .

Ah, here they are, the quarterbacks. Tom Brady has usurped Peyton Manning for the top spot, and No. 8 Mark Brunell is singled out for being “on the rise,” as he “will approach 3,500 yards and 30 TDs.” Umm, OK. Props to SI for going along with RotoScoop in actually giving Kurt Warner some love at the No. 6 spot, but poor Marc Bulger is stuck at No. 15. Donovan McNabb is overrated in almost everything I read, but even I think that No. 14 is a tad bit harsh for the guy. Heavens to Betsy! One of my favorite sleepers, Aaron Brooks, is stuck down at No. 30. Ouch.

The tight ends look pretty respectable. Sure, Jeremy Shockey at No. 4 is a bit low, and Dallas Clark at No. 6 is ridiculous, but there’s not much else to comment on here. I couldn’t even comment on the kickers, since no self-respecting fantasy football player gives a damn about them . . . wait a second! Adam Vinatieri is No. 1 ahead of Neil Rackers?! The same Neil Rackers who just turned in the greatest kicking season of all-time and is not only the focal point of Arizona’s rebuilding efforts, but also the sole source of the unbridled enthusiasm and elation that permeates the desert? He’s not No. 1?! That’s it, I’m cancelling my Sports Illustrated subscription. Unbelievable.

News & Notes

Friday, July 21st, 2006
  • The Braves became the first team since the 1930 Yankees to score 10 or more runs in five straight games. Do not count them out of the wild card race just yet.
  • The Braves’ Jorge Sosa and the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano are the first pair of pitchers with three or more homers since 1984.
  • When Jason Schmidt allowed Rickie Weeks’ fifth-inning RBI single Monday, it marked the first time this season that the right-hander had yielded a hit with a runner in scoring position. Until then, opponents were hitless in 42 at-bats against Schmidt in those instances.
  • Cadillac Williams on the Auburn directed-study mini-scandal: “Auburn’s a great school as far as academics and athletics … once everything unfolds, they’ll know that Auburn didn’t do nothing wrong and I haven’t did nothing wrong.”
  • Jose Canseco, using his patented knuckleball, retired only one batter Tuesday while giving up four runs in the first All-Star game in the independent Golden Baseball League. Before his struggles on the mound, Canseco wowed the crowd with some titanic drives to win the home run derby. “I’m going to take these guys out and get them drunk,” motioning toward his teammates on the South team. “I’m going to buy about 400 gallons of beer.”
  • Chad Cordero has fewer saves this season (14) than he did in June alone in 2005 (15).
  • Braves manager Bobby Cox is but eight ejections away from breaking John McGraw’s record for lifetime ejections. McGraw was ejected 131 times.
  • Milwaukee’s Tony Gwynn Jr. collected his first big league hit with a ninth-inning double Wednesday — exactly 24 years to the day after Gwynn’s famous father recorded his first hit.
  • Buck O’Neil, at 94, became the oldest player to bat in a professional game Wednesday.
  • Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been named in a New Jersey divorce case as “the other man.” It has to be the hoody.
  • Toronto manager John Gibbons challenged Shea Hillenbrand to a fight during a team meeting before the Blue Jays designated Hillenbrand for assignment Wednesday.
  • It’s probably too late, but make sure Fausto Carmona isn’t still available in your league. Not only is he the new Indians closer, but there’s also a good chance he’s going to be quite effective in his new role.

Fantasy Contender

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Note: Don’t worry, this article contains no spoilers.

Last night I spent two delightful hours glued to ESPN’s “The Contender.” For those who missed Season One, the show takes 16 fairly talented and accomplished boxers who live and train together. At the end of each episode, two boxers are chosen to fight, with the winner advancing and the loser going home until an eventual champion is crowned.

The show’s first season aired on NBC but was not renewed after suffering through subpar ratings. ESPN picked it up for a second season, which features welterweight boxers instead of middleweights and has trimmed down the primetime budget. The million dollar purse has been slashed in half, the fighters’ families no longer are provided with housing nearby, the teams no longer compete in elaborate and idiotic competitions and, tragically, executive producer Sylvester Stallone no longer appears on the program, having focused his most recent efforts on the highly-anticipated Rocky VI.

This is far and away the most severe blow to the show’s enjoyability, as Sly provided pure, unadulterated comedy every moment he was on camera. My favorite Stallone moments were during the actual fights when he would sit next to co-host Sugar Ray Leonard and offer insight, matter-of-factly telling one of the greatest boxers of all-time what was going on in the match (“Gomez won that round,” or “Mora needs to use the jab more”). Clearly, the audience, and maybe Sugar Ray himself, were supposed to believe that this wasn’t Sylvester Stallone providing boxing expertise, but rather Rocky Balboa, the greatest champion ever! Anyway, Sly’s absence has forced Sugar Ray Leonard, his former second banana, to take over the hosting reigns, a job he is not at all cut out for. No doubt, the man was a great boxer, but he exudes about as much charisma as a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.

So while the show’s changes appear to have caused it to drop a full grade on the watchability scale (from an A to a B), the last twenty minutes of each episode are still gold. The first ten really tug at the old heartstrings as each boxer is reunited with his family the day of the fight, a scene invariably spliced together with an emotional and tearful soliloquy, all of which is accompanied by some phenomenally dramatic music. Then, for the next ten minutes, you get to watch the two men beat the living hell out of each other. I generally think that the show chose their boxers, in large part, on fighting style, selecting only guys who are willing to wail on each other for five rounds and produce entertaining bouts. And on the rare occasion when a match isn’t entertaining, it’ll be edited enough in post-production, combinations repeated from different angles, punches slowed down and made to look more powerful, not-so-subtle sound effects and cutaways to combatants’ families, all of which may sound incredibly cheesy, but trust me, work quite well.

But enough about the show itself. I am here mainly to advocate a way to make the program even more entertaining, the same way we spice up any sport or game: gambling. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present “Fantasy Contender.”

The scoring system is fairly simple: a point for every bout your fighters win and a bonus point for picking the eventual champion. I briefly considered a 1-2-4-8 doubling format similar to most NCAA pools, but clearly whoever picked the winner would win with the owner of the runner-up getting second, and that’s no fun. You can also make things a little more interesting by choosing to have additional bonus points awarded or taken away for each platitude your contender utters (e.g. “I left it all in the ring”) as well as every time a fighter asks God to help them win.

Now, unless your league has seven participants, some teams will have one fewer boxer than others. The best solution I have for this problem is that all participants have the option to draft one point, instead of an actual boxer, meaning your team would have one fewer boxer, but start a point ahead of teams with full rosters. Granted, not a perfect solution but better than not using every boxer in my opinion.

Another problem is what to do with the boxers who already advanced. Should their owners get a point for the wins from last night or only count future victories. Since I personally don’t think that either of these boxers have a great chance of taking it all, I am inclined to award their owners a point for the first round victory, but either format works.

So now how do you prepare for your league’s draft? The best way, I would think, is to watch the first episode closely, taking note of which fighters were singled out at the beginning as the frontrunners, and which order the teams were picked (a good way of judging the boxers’ perceptions of each other). There are also a handful of Web sites that briefly profile each boxer, with ESPN’s official site being a good place to start. So just remember, you were put here for a purpose, do this for your family and for a better life, leave it all out in the ring, give 110 percent and make sure that God is in your corner because it’s win or go home when you play Fantasy Contender.

Tight End Rankings

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

We continue our rankings with tight ends. These rankings are for 12-team leagues, and a scoring system consisting of 6 pts per receiving TD, 1 point per 10 receiving yards and .5 points per reception. We combined our own individual rankings into one unified cheatsheet. Our personal player rankings are listed after each name.

Dalton = The first number listed after each name
Jeff = The second number listed
Robby = The last number listed

1. Antonio Gates (1, 1, 1)
2. Jeremy Shockey (2, 2, 2)
3. Tony Gonzalez (3, 3, 3)
4. Todd Heap (4, 4, 4)
5. Alge Crumpler (5, 7, 5)
6. Chris Cooley (6, 5,8)
7. Jason Witten (9, 6, 7)
8. Randy McMichael (10, 8, 6)
9. Heath Miller (7, 9, 10)
10. Vernon Davis (12, 10, 9)
11. Ben Watson (11, 11, 11)
12. L.J. Smith (8, 15, 12)
13. Kellen “Warrior” Winslow (14, 12, 13)
14. Ben Troupe (13, 14, 15)
15. Dallas Clark (17, 13, 16)
16. Jerramy Stevens (16, 16, 14)
17. Alex Smith (15, 18, NR)
18. Zach Hilton (NR, 17, 17)
19. Jermaine Wiggins (18, 19, 18)
20. Marcus Pollard (19, NR, 20)
21. Joe Klopfenstein (NR, NR, 19)
22. Marcedes Lewis (NR, 20, NR)
23. Erron Kinney (20, NR, NR)

Dalton Says: This is a year to wait on the tight end position. The pool is pretty deep, so the shrewd move would be to let others draft one high, while you wait and snag a Heath Miller-type much later on.

Speaking of Heath Miller, I really like his touchdown potential this year. He had an impressive rookie campaign (gaining more yards than Gates did in his first year) and is already the Steelers’ second best target behind only Hines Ward.

L.J. Smith is another guy I like who can be grabbed late in most drafts. Before McNabb went down, Smith was a top-five tight end last year. Now with T.O. gone, he might just be McNabb’s best option.

Say it with me now; stay away from rookie tight ends.

Jeff Says
: Chris Cooley is in store for a big year, as he will constantly work in single coverage in Al Saunders’ offense.

The arrival of Drew Brees in New Orleans will be great for Zach Hilton. I like Hilton to put up solid numbers. Standing at a reported 6’8”, the Big Easy will be a red zone target.

With Bettis no longer a goal line hog, Heath Miller will get a handful of touchdowns from inside the five.

Marcedes Lewis will be a yardage machine for Jacksonville, taking over for Kyle Brady on passing downs.

At this point, anyone who takes Gonzo over Shockey watches too much ESPN.

Robby Says: I think the four through eight tight ends are all pretty comparable. Heap and McMichael should benefit from new and improved quarterbacks while Witten and Cooley (primarily Witten) should see a slight decrease in looks thanks to the arrival of additional receiving weapons to their teams.

If you’re into taking gambles, Kellen Winslow and Vernon Davis each have pretty big upsides and should improve as the season progresses, peaking right around fantasy playoff time.

L.J. Smith could probably be ranked a bit higher, considering Donovan McNabb, devoid of other good options, should be looking his way early and often this season.

Wide Receiver Rankings

Monday, July 17th, 2006

We continue our rankings with wide receivers. These rankings are for 12-team leagues, and a scoring system consisting of 6 pts per receiving TD, 1 point per 10 receiving yards and .5 points per reception. We combined our own individual rankings into one unified cheatsheet. Our personal player rankings are listed after each name.

Dalton = The first number listed after each name
Jeff = The second number listed
Robby = The last number listed

1. Steve Smith (1, 2, 1)
2. Terrell Owens (3, 1, 3)
3. Torry Holt (2, 5, 2)
4. Chad Johnson (4, 4, 4)
5. Randy Moss (7, 3, 6)
6. Larry Fitzgerald (6, 7, 5)
7. Marvin Harrison (8, 6,8)
8. Anquan Boldin (5, 8, 10)
9. Chris Chambers (10, 9, 7)
10. Reggie Wayne (9, 13, 9)
11. Darrell Jackson (11, 10, 16)
12. Roy Williams (12, 11, 14)
13. Plaxico Burress (13, 12, 13)
14. Hines Ward (14, 15, 11)
15. Santana Moss (16, 16, 12)
16. Donald Driver (17, 14, 15)
17. Andre Johnson (15, 18, 18)
18. Joey Galloway (20, 19, 17)
19. TJ Houshmandzadeh (19, 20, 19)
20. Derrick Mason (23, 17, 20)
21. Deion Branch (21, 21, 21)
22. Javon Walker (22, 24, 22)
23. Lee Evans (29, 22, 26)
24. Nate Burleson (26, 31, 24)
25. Reggie Brown (35, 23, 25)
26. Jerry Porter (30, 30, 23)
27. Joe Horn (18, 32, 36)
28. Laveranues Coles (25, 28, 35)
29. Koren Robinson (28, 27, 34)
30. Donte’ Stallworth (32, 29, 29)
31. Matt Jones (36, 25, 32)
32. Drew Bennett (27, NR, 28)
33. Michael Clayton (24, 33, NR)
34. Muhsin Muhammad (31, 34, 37)
35. David Givens (38, 37, 27)
36. Rod Smith (35, 35, 33)
37. Eddie Kennison (37, 40, 30)
38. Mark Clayton (NR, 26, NR)
39. Antonio Bryant (34, 38, 39)
40. Terry Glenn (NR, 39, 31)
41. Roddy White (40, 36, NR)
42. Kevin Curtis (39, NR, 40)
43. Chad Jackson (NR, NR, 38)

Dalton Says: Anquan Boldin is a stud. The guy was targeted more than any wide receiver in all of football last year while missing two games. Over the last seven games of the season, all he did was catch 63 balls for 786 yards.

Roy Williams is a tough call this year. While he’s clearly prone to injuries, he’s also shown flashes of brilliance, is entering his third season (read: breakthrough candidate) and now calls Mike Martz his offense coordinator (read: jackpot). Although his QB will remain ho-hum, Williams could easily end the year as a top five wideout.

I actually don’t plan on drafting Joe Horn in any of my leagues this year, but one-year removed from a 1400 yard, 11 TD campaign, he can’t be completely ignored. As far as aging vets go, I’d certainly take him over Derrick Mason.

I don’t think Terry Glenn is a very good pick this year. Sure, she led the league in yards per catch last year, but remember, the most yards a receiver starting opposite Terrell Owens has ever got in a season is 805.

I like Michael Clayton’s value this year, as it looks like he could be had for dirt-cheap. He had an awful season last year, but that can be blamed mostly on injuries. His rookie campaign, however, was one of the most impressive first year’s ever. Joey Galloway is 34 and coming off a career year. Gruden’s offense is made for big receiving numbers. Don’t forget about Clayton.

Maybe in hindsight I am underrating Reggie Brown a tad. But the recent track record of sophomore receivers is nothing short of terrible.

Jeff must know something about Mark Clayton that I don’t. Don’t keep the secret all to yourself Jeff. Are you sure you’re not getting his first name confused with Michael?

Jeff Says: For the first time since his early ‘Niner days, Terrell Owens has a legitimate WR opposite of him. With all of the weapons surrounding him in Dallas, Owens will have a honeymoon season.

I like Randy Moss to rebound from is 2005 totals. He was lights out in the first four games of last season before getting cracked in the pelvis against San Diego. Aaron Brooks can buy Moss the time that Cocktail Kerry could not provide, so expect plenty of nine routes. An improved O-Line won’t hurt his cause either.

Without a second established receiver in GB, I like Donald Driver to rack up over 100 catches this year, as Favre tends to lock in on one receiver.

I’m not big on Reggie Brown at all. He is young and talented, but has he improved enough over his second offseason to be a number one receiver?

Mark Clayton will work well out of single coverage opposite perennial McNair target, Derrick Mason. Although he must compete with Mason and Todd Heap for receptions, Clayton will be the target of many underneath crossing routes, as he is a perfect weapon for the West Coast offense. Part of keeping McNair healthy will be getting the ball out of his hands quicker on three step drops. Clayton will pull in 65 receptions for 850 yards and 7 TDs.

If you load up on running backs the first three rounds, give Deion Branch a look for a receiver spot. I don’t think his contract disputes will carry into the season.

With Jimmy Smith retired, Matt Jones will have plenty of opportunities in 2006. At worst he will be a money red zone target.

Robby Says: I think there are appreciable dropoffs in talent after the top six and the top sixteen receivers.

TO very well could have the biggest numbers of all receivers, but the inherent risk allows Holt to slip in ahead of him. Same thing goes for Fitzgerald passing up Moss for the number five spot.

Marvin Harrison was yet again the top dog in Indianapolis last year, but Wayne is going to overtake him one of these days. This year is pretty much a coin flip in my book.

The whole NFL is abuzz over the reunification of Volek to Bennett, the most explosive pass-and-catch combination since Beuerlein to Jeffers. Bennett burnt me last year, but I’m still putting him in my top-30.

I think that Fitzgerald and Boldin will both be hurt by the arrival of Edge James. That said, I still have them ranked fifth and tenth, go figure.

Javon Walker is probably the biggest question mark on this list and is someone to watch closely during the preseason.

I’m not too high on the Baltimore offense or Steve McNair, but he should certainly help Derrick Mason eclipse his modest totals from last year.

I want to have Matt Jones’ kids. I don’t think he’s a top-30 receiver just yet though.

News & Notes

Sunday, July 16th, 2006
  • The All-Star game matters. Home field has been fairly significant in determining the World Series champion recently. Since 1985, the team with HFA has won 17 of the last 20 World Series. Also, the last eight times the World Series has gone to a Game 7, the home team has won each game.
  • For the first time in almost 28 years, Major League Baseball played a full day of games with nobody recording a save Saturday. There were six save attempts, and every single one of them was blown.
  • Chipper Jones extended his streak of games with at least one extra-base hit to 13 Saturday. The NL record is 14 set in 1927 by Hall of Famer Paul Waner.
  • Alfonso Soriano leads all major league outfielders in assists this year.
  • The Colorado Rockies lead the majors in fewest homers allowed.
  • If you have the roster room, go ahead and stash BJ Upton. Similarly, keep your eye on the White Sox’ rotation; if they do in fact trade either Garcia or Vazquez, Brandon McCarthy would become a starter and be worthy of a pick up in virtually all leagues.
  • When Angels pitcher John Lackey set down 27 straight A’s after Mark Kotsay’s leadoff double, he became the seventh pitcher in the modern era to do that. He later ran his scoreless streak to 26 2/3 innings Friday.
  • Alex Rodriguez recently collected his 100th homer as a member of the Yankees. A-Rod, who also has more than 100 homers with the Mariners and Rangers, is one of three players to have 100 homers with the three different clubs. Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees, Angels) and Darrell Evans (Braves, Giants, Tigers) are the others.
  • Chicago’s Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club, a gay bar, is offering an Effen Ozzie Guillen-tini made with Effen vodka and fresh fruit. The drink will set you back $8.50 but at least it comes with a free copy of the Sun-Times, whose columnist Jay Mariotti started the whole flap with a column critical of the White Sox manager.
  • Curt Schilling was 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA against teams with winning records in the first half. The rest of the Red Sox’ starters were 11-14 with a 6.75 ERA.
  • Andy Pettitte has the best career winning percentage after the All-Star break in the history of MLB.
  • Trot Nixon’s batting average dropped 11 points after his 0-for-9 showing in the Red Sox’ 19-inning loss to the White Sox last weekend. Only five hitters since 1957 have had more hitless at-bats in the same game.
  • The Mariners players have spent just 76 days on the DL this year, fewest in the majors. The Nationals lead the way at 846.
  • If you’re as bored with TV this summer as I am, give “Rock Star” a try. With Nirvana, The Killers, Coldplay and Franz Ferdinand on the play list, it’s certainly more appealing than “American Idol.” Plus Dave Navarro and Tommy Lee are involved, so high comedy is abundant.

Second Half Preview

Friday, July 14th, 2006

After giving out my midseason awards, I figure it’s time for some predictions on what’s to come. The following is how I see the playoff picture unfolding. Unfortunately, these teams don’t exactly match the ones I predicted entering the season.

NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers – A much, much better division from top to bottom than last year’s pathetic version, the NL West has every team in the playoff hunt. The Padres are a surprising eight games over .500, and that’s with Jake Peavy sporting a 4-8 record. The Giants would have a fighting chance if everyone stayed healthy, but that’s not likely. The Dodgers look like the team to beat here. Remember when everyone gave Paul DePodesta a hard time for trading for that scrub Brad Penny? The Dodges win the West because of it.

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
– Not too much doubt here, as the Cards remain the class of the Central division. The Reds certainly hurt their playoff chances with their recent trade, giving away two very useful position players for middle relief help won’t get it done. The Brewers really needed a healthy Ben Sheets this year to truly contend; now, I see them unloading Carlos Lee. The Astros will be right in the thick of the Wild Card race, but more on that later.

NL East: New York Mets – The easiest pick of all, as the Mets have built an insurmountable first half lead. I am still surprised by their success with such a weak bottom of the rotation, but it’s safe to say the NL East will be won by a team other than the Braves for the first time since 1990. Speaking of the Braves, I am not ruling out a Wild Card run by them. I want to say the same about the Phillies, but I get the feeling they are going to be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline. The Nationals have a surprisingly strong lineup all of a sudden, but the John Patterson injury is a killer.

NL Wild Card: Houston Astros – This battle involves approximately 11 teams. I actually do think the Braves have a chance here, but my money is on the Astros. Although they currently have the worst batting average in the NL, Houston has the pitching to make it. Andy Pettitte is the key, as he needs to turn it around. Ideally, Morgan Ensberg gets healthy and mans third while newly acquired Aubrey Huff stays in the lineup at a corner outfield spot. With that said, a number of teams could take this Wild Card spot.

AL West: Los Angeles Angels – The A’s have a strong team and could still easily take this division; after all, they are always a better team after the All-Star break. Losing Rich Harden is the difference maker here, as I see the A’s losing to the Halos in a battle that comes down to the very end. The Angels just received a blow themselves, however, having to put Kelvim Escobar on the shelf with an elbow injury. Still, their top four in the rotation is pretty tough to beat, assuming Colon at least resembles the pitcher he was last year. Their lineup is admittedly weak, but with one of the most talented farm systems, the Angels are in good position to either trade for offensive help, or turn to Howie Kendrick for contributions.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox – I’m hardly the only one calling for a Detroit second half fall, but there are still plenty of people out there convinced they are for real and will make a run in the postseason. While the Tigers do have a very solid squad and one I vastly underrated going into the year, look for them to ultimately fall just short of making the playoffs. Kenny Rogers’ ERA has jumped over a full run in the second half for two years in a row, including a 2.18 hike last year. Justin Verlander has never pitched more than 130 innings in a season at any level ever – he’s over 110 already. The White Sox, meanwhile, are the best team in baseball. I actually see them running away with this division. If I were forced to choose, the White Sox are my favorites to win it all yet again this year.

AL East: Boston Red Sox – Do not count the Yankees out. The Red Sox, however, are healthier and have a better pitching staff. Not to mention their lineup is absolutely loaded still. The Blue Jays will hang around all year but are destined for a third place finish. The Yankees have taken the division title for eight straight years; this time around they’ll have to settle for the Wild Card.

AL Wild Card: New York Yankees – The Indians are having quite a disappointing season. The A’s could make a run here if they do indeed fall short in the West. But with the Tigers’ huge lead in the loss column, this is their spot to lose. I really like the Twins’ team, but they have quite the hole to climb out of at this point. Them not making the postseason would be good news for the rest of the league. I see the Yankees ultimately making it over the Tigers. While clearly a flawed team, New York will be active in the trade market to fill some holes and still have enough firepower in their lineup to do some damage. Randy Johnson repeating last year’s second half performance would go a long way as well.

Midseason Awards

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

NL MVP: Albert Pujols – An easy call. He misses 18 days with a strained oblique and still leads the league in homers. A run at 60 bombs cannot be ruled out. He single-handedly makes the Cardinals a threat in the National League.

AL MVP: Jim Thome
– My top three picks for AL MVP so far all play designated hitter. Travis Hafner would be a fine choice, but because he plays for a team seemingly out of it, he sits third. Big Papi is just as good of a choice as Thome, as 87 RBI are pretty impressive at the break. Still, I’ll give it to Thome; he plays for baseball’s best team and has a 70-point advantage in OPS over Ortiz. Make no mistake, Aaron Rowand is the best defensive centerfielder in baseball, but GM Kenny Williams really made a brilliant move bringing in Thome.

NL Cy Young: Jason Schmidt
– There really isn’t an overwhelming pick here. To put it in perspective, the No. 4 finisher in the AL voting this year would absolutely qualify as the National League’s best pitcher. Schmidt has received the league’s sixth-worst run support, so he doesn’t have many wins to show for his effort. He has been rather dominant, however, holding opponents to just a .216 average. Since April ended, his ERA is 2.05. Not to mention he’s had one of the most dominant performances of the year – a 16-strikeout gem against the Marlins.

AL Cy Young: Francisco Liriano – Like I said, the fourth place finisher in the AL is having a season that would win in the NL. An argument could easily be made for Jonathan Papelbon, Johan Santana and/or Roy Halladay. All are having Cy Young caliber campaigns. My pick goes to Liriano because, well, he has been baseball’s best pitcher this year. I’ve already been effusive enough in my praise, but Liriano’s numbers really do stand out above all the rest.

NL Rookie of the Year: Josh Johnson – Prince Fielder is having a fine season, but when it comes to rookies, it’s all about the Marlins. Dan Uggla, Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham are all solid nominees, and if Jeremy Hermida hadn’t been injured, he’d probably be in the mix as well. The winner so far, however, is teammate Josh Johnson. He leads the entire league in ERA for crying out loud (he needs to pitch 1/3 of an inning to gain eligibility). Did I forget to mention that he’s yet to surrender more than three earned runs in any single start this year?

AL Rookie of the Year: Francisco Liriano – Maybe the best way to handle this situation is give Liriano the Cy Young and Papelbon the ROY award. This year’s ROY second place finisher will no doubt have the best numbers of any runner-up in the history of the game.

Running Back Rankings

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

We continue our rankings with running backs. These rankings are for 12-team leagues, and a scoring system consisting of 6 pts per rushing TD, 1 point per 10 rushing yards and .5 points per reception. We combined our own individual rankings into one unified cheatsheet. Our personal player rankings are listed after each name.

Dalton = The first number listed after each name
Jeff = The second number listed
Robby = The last number listed

1. Larry Johnson (1, 1, 1)
2. Shaun Alexander (2 ,2, 2)
3. LaDainian Tomlinson (3, 3, 3)
4. Clinton Portis (4, 5, 5)
5. LaMont Jordan (5, 4, 7)
6. Tiki Barber (6, 6, 4)
7. Ronnie Brown (7, 8,8)
8. Edge James (8, 9, 9)
9. Steven Jackson (10, 11, 6)
10. Rudi Johnson (11, 7, 10)
11. Cadillac Williams (9, 12, 11)
12. Domanick Davis (13, 10, 12)
13. Willis McGahee (15, 15, 13)
14. Julius Jones (12, 16, 16)
15. Willie Parker (19, 17, 14)
16. Kevin Jones (20, 14, 17)
17. Reggie Bush (17, 20, 15)
18. Brian Westbrook (14, 19, 19)
19. Chester Taylor (16, 21, 18)
20. Tatum Bell (18, 22, 20)
21. Jamal Lewis (21, 13, 26)
22. Reuben Droughns (23, 18, 23)
23. Joseph Addai (22, 29, 22)
24. DeShaun Foster (29, 24, 21)
25. Thomas Jones (25, 25, 24)
26. Warrick Dunn (24, 26, 25)
27. Corey Dillon (27, 23, 28)
28. Dominic Rhodes (30, 27, 29)
29. Ron Dayne (26, 37, 27)
30. Deuce McAllister (33, 30, 30)
31. DeAngelo Williams (28, 28, 38)
32. Frank Gore (31, 31, 33)
33. Cedric Benson (34, 35, 31)
34. Curtis Martin (32, 32, 37)
35. Fred Taylor (35, 34, 32)
36. LenDale White (37, 33, 36)
37. Chris Brown (NR, 36, 35)
38. Dee Brown (NR, NR, 34)
39. Greg Jones (NR, 38, 39)
40. Laurence Moreny (36, NR, NR)
41. Ahman Green (39, NR, 40)
42. Samkon Gado (38, NR, NR)
43. Kevan Barlow (NR, 39, NR)
44. Marion Barber (NR, 40, NR)
45. Chris Perry (40, NR, NR)

Dalton Says: The only reason I have Alexander over LT is the playoff schedule. Alexander matches up against the Cardinals, 49ers and then plays LT’s Chargers at home, which pushes him slightly over LT, who I think is going to have a better overall year than Alexander, especially in points per reception leagues. There’s nowhere to go but down for Alexander, who had his career year last year. Even while winning MVP and scoring a record-breaking 28 TDs, Alexander only outscored LT by 10 total points in PPR leagues. Alexander had 430 rushes last year, his team lost the Super Bowl and Steve Hutchinson, he got paid a huge contract and worst of all, has to deal with the Madden Curse. LT played through cracked ribs and showed that 1,800 yards and 20 TDs is his downside. Actually, I might be changing LT to my No. 2 spot before long.

I’m higher on Julius Jones than just about everybody else. He’s admittedly injury-prone, but Bill Parcells always backs him up – something rare when it comes to him and injured players (read: Terry Glenn). Parcells does this because Jones has talent. The offensive-line failed miserably last year but looks much-improved this time out. Combine that with Owens opening up the box, and Jones will provide tremendous second round value. Just make sure you draft Marion Barber.

Another one of my guys is Brian Westbrook, especially in PPR leagues. If he somehow played a full season, a run at 100 catches isn’t out of the question. His numbers were suppressed last year because from week 10 on he either had Mike McMahon as his QB or he didn’t play. Just make sure to grab Ryan Moats.

I’d treat Kevin Jones the same way I would an ex-girlfriend – avoid him.

I can’t remember a class of young RBs so large and full of uncertainty: DeAngelo Williams, Laurence Maroney, Joseph Addai and LenDale White all have potential to pay big dividends, but also are currently behind veterans on the depth chart. I’m not sure who, but at least one of these guys will become a starter early on. I suggest you come away with at least one of this group – wait and see which one falls and grab the back who presents the best value.

Jeff Says: I expect bounce back years from Jamal Lewis and Kevin Jones. Lewis no longer has to spend training camp in the clink, and Mike Martz will play to Jones’ strengths by getting him the ball in space. Both should make fine RB2s.

Rookies DeAngelo Williams and LenDale White will get plenty of touches as the season wears on, not to mention they both play behind injury-prone starters. I like White to rack up plenty of goal line opportunities, and DeAngelo Williams reminds me of a young Thurman Thomas. Grab and stash these guys, and you could have top-20 starters come playoff time.

With an improved offensive line in front of him, I like Reuben Droughns to put up good yardage numbers and increase his touchdown totals. With that being said, his playoff schedule frightens me (at Pit, at Balt, TB).

LaMont Jordan will benefit from a retooled offensive line in Oakland. He is durable as well as versatile and will continue to make a name for himself in 2006. I envision around 1,300 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns.

In deep leagues, keep an eye on some unranked players such as Ryan Moats and Chris Perry. Both play in powerful offenses and serve as third down backs. Should injuries strike Westbrook or Rudi Johnson, Moats and Perry owners will hit the jackpot respectively.

Robby Says: Running back is far and away the most important position in fantasy as well as the most tenuous. Position battles are sure to shake up these rankings more than any other between now and fantasy draft day, and I expect the uncertainty to carry well into the season. If I could break out a crystal ball to determine the fates of various backfields, I would be sure to check out Indianapolis, Denver, Chicago, New Orleans and Tennessee…in that order.

Mike Shanahan broke up the Denver stud running back dynasty with a brutal platoon last year, and I don’t expect things to change much this season. Tatum Bell may not start but he has more value than Dayne. If Bell’s 5.3 YPC ever translates into more than 10-12 carries a game, watch out.

Furthermore, my money is on Addai, at least late in the season when it counts. I’ll give Jones a slight edge over Benson, Bush a significant one over McAllister and am staying away from Tennessee, thank you very much. Then again, I’ll get back to you in six weeks.

While there is clearly a precipitous drop after the top three backs, I also think the top-12 stands alone as well; the gap between Double-D and McGahee is significant in my mind.

I’m pretty high on Steven Jackson. He was viewed as a disappointment last year but still put up solid numbers in a pass-happy offense. Still only 22 years old, I expect Jackson to break out big.

I also like Chester Taylor, and a successful preseason could propel him into my top-15. He could have some big receiving numbers.

Dee Brown is one of my favorite backups if only because he plays on KC. If Larry Johnson goes down, Brown instantly becomes a top-five back. Then again, it’ll probably take an elephant gun to bring LJ down.

Kevin Jones, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice. . .

Quarterback Rankings

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

Over the course of the next week, RotoScoop will be posting NFL Fantasy Rankings, with a different position each day. We start off with the signal callers. These rankings are for 12-team leagues starting 1 QB and standard scoring (4 pts per pass TD, 1 point per 20 passing yards). We combined our own individual rankings into one unified cheatsheet. Our personal player rankings are listed after each name.

Dalton = The first number listed after each name
Jeff = The second number listed
Robby = The last number listed

1. Peyton Manning (1,1,1)
2. Carson Palmer (2,2,3)
3. Tom Brady (3,3,2)
4. Matt Hasselbeck (5,5,4)
5. Marc Bulger (4,6,5)
6. Kurt Warner (7,4,7)
7. Eli Manning (6,7,6)
8. Drew Bledsoe (8,10,8)
9. Donovan McNabb (9,8,9)
10. Ron Mexico (10,11,16)
11. Aaron Brooks (12,14,11)
12. Jake Delhomme (14,12,13)
13. Daunte Culpepper (15,9,15)
14. Brett Favre (17,13,17)
15. Jake Plummer (13,23,12)
16. Ben Roethlisberger (11,20,21)
17. Trent Green (20,22,10)
18. Drew Brees (21,21,14)
19. David Carr (19,17,23)
20. Byron Leftwich (16,19,24)
21. Chris Simms (18,18,27)
22. Mark Brunell (28,15,20)
23. Jon Kitna (23,24,19)
24. Billy Volek (22,28,18)
25. Steve McNair (24,16,28)
26. Philip Rivers (27,25,22)
27. Brad Johnson (25,26,26)
28. Matt Leinart (NR,27,25)
29. Charlie Frye (26,NR,NR)
30. Matt Schaub (29,29,NR)
31. Josh McCown (NR,NR,29)
32. Gus Frerotte (30,NR,NR)
33. Vince Young (NR,30,NR)
34. Chad Pennington (NR,NR,30)

Dalton Says: Apparently, my colleagues are still unaware of Big Ben’s super powers. All he has accomplished so far is this: won 15 regular season games as a rookie, won the Super Bowl as a sophomore while dating Natalie Gulbis, has a higher career completion percentage than Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady, and oh ya, took on a Chrysler New Yorker head-on sans a helmet and laughed it off. Dude is mythical. He is 23 years old, so the best is yet to come. Admittedly, the Steelers are a smash-mouth team, but Jerome Bettis is gone, and if the postseason is any indication, the Steelers are transitioning into more of an air attack style. Not only did Big Ben lead the league in yards per attempt last year, but he also rushed for five TDs. He doesn’t have huge upside while the Steelers limit his attempts, but he certainly belongs in the QB1 category.

I’d rather watch “The View” than have Mark Brunell on my team this year. After week 10 last year, he didn’t throw for 200 yards even once. Look for the Jason Campbell era to come sooner rather than later.

I am the only one to rank Charlie Frye at all. His receivers are terrible and his playoff schedule is brutal, but Frye is going to be a good one. Grab him as a QB3.

There are some interesting backups this year: Matt Leinart, Josh McCown and Matt Schaub are all excellent late round targets. But don’t forget about Gus Frerotte. While not a sexy pick, he was surprisingly efficient last year and is joining a Scott Linehan coached team, so he is ahead of even starter Marc Bulger in the playbook. Speaking of Bulger, it’s said that the Mr. Glass character from “Unbreakable” was modeled after him, so you know Frerote is in line for some playing time. In the Rams’ potent offense, he’ll make the most of it.

Jeff Says: Ron Mexico owners would be wise to carry the Matt Schaub insurance policy. Schaub knows the West Coast offense, as he is reunited with former Virginia head coach and current Falcons QB coach, Bill Musgrave. If Mexico continues to take heavy shots and miss games, Schaub will eventually provide some great value as a starter.

Entering his third NFL season, I like Eli Manning to establish himself as an elite fantasy QB. Manning has plenty of weapons at his disposal as well as a defense that will cause many turnovers.

If Carson Palmer’s recovery process continues to go smoothly, I like him to top 3,500 yards with 30-plus touchdowns.

The Baltimore Ravens are in better shape with Steve McNair at quarterback. McNair has the luxury of throwing to Heap, Mason, and the budding Mark Clayton, while Jamal Lewis sets up the play action. McNair is considered an injury risk, but you can roll the dice with him as your second QB.

Mark Brunell may be long in the tooth, but Washington has surrounded him with talent and a brilliant offensive coaching staff. Al Saunders will spread the field with Santana Moss, Cooley, Lloyd and Randle El, with Portis keeping the defense honest. If you can afford a third QB, Jason Campbell would be a wise choice if you draft Brunell.

Aaron Brooks owners should enjoy weeks 14-16 (at Cin, StL, KC).

Robby Says: Remarkably, I have two Lions quarterbacks in my top-30, as I think Mike Martz will help the starter in Detroit put up some decent fantasy numbers.

The Cardinals’ passing attack will remain among the most prolific in the league, and Neil Rackers should be kicking more PATs and fewer field goals this season. That said, it would be a mild upset if Kurt Warner didn’t miss at least a game or two this season, making Matt Leinart my favorite backup.

The oft-maligned Aaron Brooks managed to put up some pretty solid fantasy numbers in New Orleans, numbers that should benefit greatly from the improved weapons at his disposal, not to mention the sieve-like defense in Oakland.

The knee injury and new digs are going to keep Daunte Culpepper from having a significant fantasy impact this year, although Chris Chambers should do a pretty good Moss impersonation.

While it looks like Carson Palmer will be good to go in Week 1, the slight uncertainty with the knee was just enough for Tom Brady to pass him in my rankings.

I’m probably in the minority, but I think that Drew Bledsoe will outperform Donovan McNabb this season. Bledsoe has arguably the best supporting cast of receivers in the league with TO, Terry Glenn and Jason Witten. Meanwhile, McNabb will have to rely on Reggie Brown, Brain Westbrook and LJ Smith to get it done.

News & Notes

Monday, July 10th, 2006
  • The Tigers had a three-year record that was the worst in the game and now have a midseason record that’s the best in the game.
  • As much as I like the Oakland A’s squad, the Angels cannot be counted out at this point. Name a better rotation than Jered Weaver, Santana, Colon, Escobar and Lackey. Not to mention their bullpen and even more talent just waiting for their chance in the minors. Speaking of, if you have roster room, go ahead and stash Howie Kendrick, you’ll thank me later.
  • It’s pretty ridiculous that a team featuring Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and last year’s deserving MVP-winner has the third worst record in baseball at the break. The Cubs figured they could be the next team after the 2004 Red Sox and 2005 White Sox to break a curse. They figured they could stay healthy, too.
  • One of the biggest story lines in the second half has to be whether Joe Mauer can flirt with a .400 average or not. Hopefully he at least keeps it close for a while.
  • With all the grumbling over All-Star snubs, including me, one forgotten name is Jim Leyland. It’s safe to say he’s done a better job managing than Eric Wedge has this year.
  • Even though they haven’t won since 1996, maybe there’s hope for the NL All-Star team this year, as they are a career 4-0 in All-Star games played in Pittsburgh.
  • A’s GM Billy Beane recently banned beer from the Oakland clubhouse, home and away. For home games, the visitors clubhouse will be dry as well. This was a reaction in part to Esteban Loaiza’s recent DUI but also something Beane said he should have done years ago.
  • A GQ Magazine article reports that NBA groupies target bad boys like Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace, with GQ writer Lisa DePaulo proclaiming that this “isn’t just kinky, it’s smart business.” Of course.
  • With the recent talk of baseball betting here at RotoScoop, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at tonight’s opportunity – the home run derby. First off, let’s take a quick glance at PNC Park. The power alley in left, which reaches 410 feet at its deepest, and the 21-foot wall in right can be a challenge for tonight’s hitters. However, there is a short porch in right, seemingly benefiting left-handed hitters. David Ortiz could do some damage with the 320-foot line down right field. But at BoDog.com’s modest +270 line, and Big Papi’s past poor derby stamina, there might be a better bet out there.
  • Remember, there is a six-foot wall in left, so a right-handed batter winning this competition isn’t completely out of the question. I’m thinking Troy Glaus for a couple reasons. Mainly, this bet is difficult and pretty much a crapshoot, but Glaus is for some reason the least favored of all the participants. He has been bothered by some leg injuries and has only two home runs in his last 17 games. Still, one of them came Sunday, and the guy has one of the best power strokes in the game. Don’t go crazy or anything, as this type of bet is obviously not a very safe one, but Glaus is listed at a lucrative +1000. With only one returning bomber from last year and a field that is very open, go Glaus and at the very least, the derby will become even more watchable.

The People Have Spoken

Friday, July 7th, 2006

Nomar Garciaparra was a fine choice, but the American League fan vote is more of a joke than ever. First, let me say that this isn’t a huge deal in the big scheme of things, but it does, however, underscore how little the average fan pays attention. Or maybe popularity just overrides common sense.

The White Sox ran a campaign called “Punch A.J.” – I guess if you can’t do it personally, then punching him figuratively is second best. Anyway, the public relations ploy remarkably and inexplicably worked. While carrying three catchers isn’t so absurd in an All-Star game, the selection itself is still preposterous. Maybe the fans wanted to get a White Sox player in there; after all, that makes seven of them now.

Pierzynski is hitting a solid .325 on the year, with a .823 OPS. Travis Hafner, meanwhile, has an 1.113 OPS; he also has 18 more homers and a measly 41 more RBI than Pierzynski. I’m still convinced this is an elaborate joke of some kind. It’s too bad the Tribe are having such a down season, as it would have been great to see a legitimate MVP candidate not make the All-Star team. If you refuse to pick “Pronk” because he is a designated hitter, fine, I have another option for you.

Francisco Liriano has, plain and simply, been baseball’s best pitcher so far. His overall numbers speak for themselves – 9-1, 1.99 ERA, 94 Ks in 81 1/3 innings. Since he entered the rotation in May, he has a statline that requires a microscope to view – 1.61 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. Maybe it will take a Cy Young award to get people’s attention. The National League squad just got that much closer to their first victory in a decade.

Good Luck

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Early next week, RotoScoop will be releasing our coveted football cheatsheets, an aggregate of the three writers’ individual rankings. In anticipation of this glorious event, and amped-up fantasy football coverage here at RotoScoop, I’d like to briefly comment on why fantasy football is the greatest of all fantasy sports, and it comes down to one word. . . luck. Fantasy football requires far less skill than baseball or basketball (unless your league has rotisserie scoring, which is just plain silly), and this invariably keeps almost all of the league’s teams involved throughout most of the season. You only have to set your roster once a week, and you only have to immerse yourself in watching your players one day (and possibly an extra night). Even the most casual of fans can manage a successful fantasy football team, and while this may irk the more intense and involved owners, I enjoy the competition and uncertainty that it brings on a weekly basis. Lastly, I’d like to quickly list five of the most underrated and overrated aspects of fantasy football. More on this to come. . .

UNDERRATED
1. Weeks 14-16.
2. Denver Running Backs.
3. Exploiting matchups (particularly quarterbacks).
4. Larry Johnson.
5. The NFC West and the immortal Neil Rackers.

OVERRATED
1. Quarterbacks not named Peyton.
2. Bye Weeks.
3. Handcuffs.
4. 1,000-yard Receivers.
5. Kickers and Defenses (in most formats).

News & Notes

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006
  • Injury of the week (if not the year): Brewers reliever Matt Wise is temporarily shelved after an injury caused by a pair of salad tongs. He cut the middle finger on his pitching hand while reaching for the aluminum tongs in the postgame spread. This is the same Matt Wise who strained his shoulder on a railing in early May. He was in the Brewers’ bullpen in San Diego, heading for the bathroom.
  • With Jose Canseco now a San Diego Surf Dawg, getting paid $2,500 a month, he’ll be subject to the Golden Baseball League’s drug-testing policy. Steroids are banned, and every player in the GBL is tested. Canseco will be a designated hitter and “showcase his knuckleball as a member of the pitching staff,” according to a press release.
  • 383 – Triple-A hitters Jeremy Sowers faced this year while allowing one home run.
  • 2 – Homers Sowers allowed in a span of four batters in his first start for the Indians.
  • Orlando Cabrera has reached base safely in 61 straight games, giving him the longest such streak since 1960. The major league record is 84 games by Ted Williams
  • Jason Marquis has 10 wins on the season despite a 5.78 ERA. Meanwhile, Todd Jones has 22 saves despite an ERA of 6.00.
  • Chicago Bulls mascot charged with attacking an off-duty officer after driving a mini-motorcycle through an outdoor festival.
  • Nomar Garciaparra tied a major league record when he was hit by three pitches in Monday’s game against the Diamondbacks.
  • USATODAY has a poll asking, “which do you think was the worst MLB All-Star snub?” They list eight players, including the likes of A.J. Pierzynski; Travis Hafner, however, isn’t one of them.
  • Make sure Erik Bedard isn’t available in your league. After a rough two months to start the season, he has a 1.24 ERA in his past four outings, with a 32/6 K/BB ratio. The opponents included the Mets, Phillies and White Sox, so it wasn’t against weak competition either. Maybe he is finally harnessing his stuff, which is definitely good enough to excel in the majors.
  • Sammy Sosa told a Korean newspaper he’s not retired and might return to action next season, but he nearly ended the interview when asked about steroids.

All-Star Thoughts

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

First off, it’s tough to get the rosters perfectly right, as the system is obviously fallible. I do like the fans having the ability to choose, but this certainly leaves room for error – as does the absurd rule of every team having a representative, Mark Redman, anyone? Another rule worth mentioning is the winner getting homefield advantage come World Series time. I understand this one, after all, the fan should come first, and this no doubt makes the game itself infinitely more watchable. Problem is, of course, is that it’s unfair. It should come down to overall season record, not Mark Redman. Actually, that’s another benefit of the rule, it prevents the likes of Redman, et al., from even playing in the game, so the better players are on the field more.

National League – Among the eight offensive starters, four of them will be Mets. It doesn’t even look like there’s anything wrong with that either. If you are counting at home, the Oakland A’s are sending one player, as are the National League champion Houston Astros; the Pittsburgh Pirates are sending two. Still, both deserve it. Freddy Sanchez’s .363/.399/.530 line is one of the most under the radar and productive of the year. How the mighty have fallen; Barry Bonds doesn’t even make the candidate for the final roster spot list? It’s clear he’s a shell of his former self, but the guy has a .480 OBP and 977 OPS. Bobby Abreu, comparatively speaking, has a 917 OPS and three fewer homers than Bonds in 98 more at-bats. Of the final roster spot candidates, Nomar Garciaparra and his league-leading average looks like the sure choice there.

American League – Ozzie Guillen is one loyal guy, as six White Sox will be headed to Pittsburgh. Pudge Rodriguez over Joe Mauer? Not only should Pudge not be starting, but Ramon Hernandez should be in over him as a reserve as well. Pudge sports a 764 OPS with seven homers; Hernandez has a superior 836 OPS, 15 homers and thrown out 51 percent of opposing basestealers. Joe Mauer, meanwhile, is hitting a decent .392 on the year. But enough about catchers, as the true outrage is the exclusion of Travis Hafner. This after he was passed over for Shea Hillenbrand last year; you would think there would be an effort to make up for it. Hafner leads the entire league in OPS. This would leave one to believe he’s the obvious pick as the final vote fill-in; too bad Francisco Liriano is also on that list. The Twins deserve at least partial blame for taking too long to insert him into the rotation, but a guy who’s 9-1 with a 1.99 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in just over 80 innings has to be on the team.

Bottom line, the American League team is just too stacked. This looks like a mismatch, yet again. The AL will win, and probably win big, and complete an undefeated decade in the Midsummer Classic.