Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
5/24/2007 03:37:00 PM
Elijah Dukes reportedly threatened his estranged wife over the phone and at the school where she works.
In the fantasy sports world, it's supposed to be all about stats. Your squad doesn't have to worry about team chemistry or "clubhouse guys" to succeed. As long as the numbers are there, it usually doesn't matter what type of person he is off the field. Or should it? Does character play a part in filling out your team, or only when it's possible that he could miss playing time because of it?
On Wednesday, the Devil Rays benched Elijah Dukes after reports surfaced that the rookie outfielder allegedly made death threats against his estranged wife. Dukes has played relatively well this season, hitting eight homers, tied for best among all rookies, and was getting his average up after it dipped in the low .200 range earlier this month. He's one of Tampa Bay's top prospects, but now he's got a major red flag, especially if the reports are true.
Should you keep Dukes on your roster? He's got eight homers, which isn't bad, but his average leaves a lot to be desired. But will these allegations alter his mental focus, or even more tangibly, will he miss considerable playing time because of this? Alternatively, do you forgo the winning at all costs mentality and drop someone because of his crimes? Those are all issues some fantasy owners may face.
Similarly, what should we make of all the steroid and drug allegations surrounding players like Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi? Do you avoid players with drug clouds hanging over them because they could face a major suspension if they're caught? And what about secondary links to steroids, such as added injuries to players alleged to be using it or a downturn in play when testing was ramped up? Those last couple are a lot tougher to gauge, but is that possibility on your radar?
Also, while baseball hasn't busted any major names yet since instituting a 50-game ban, the NFL has been efficient in handing down four-game suspensions in recent years for similar offenses (see Shawne Merriman, Antonio Bryant), but with the way those things are handled, those absences are almost treated like injuries. They're a bit of a surprise when it happens, but you know when they'll return. It's a bit hard to predict, so maybe the drug issues shouldn't alter your fantasy evaluation of players.
However, the NFL also means business when it comes to off-field behavior, slapping Pacman Jones and Chris Henry with huge suspensions this offseason. Fantasy owners took notice since Jones is a very productive defensive back and return specialist, while Henry is a very serviceable No. 3 receiver for a high-powered Bengals team, but both obviously had their issues and are paying for it now.
But with that precedent set, now comes one of the more intriguing fantasy/character questions heading into this football season. What do you make of Michael Vick?
Fantasy owners have many on-field questions about him entering this season. While his running skills add to his fantasy value, can they offset his so-so passing skills (who knows what will happen with Joe Horn in the flock this season)? Will this newest coach get all they can out of him numbers-wise? Can he ever rank as high from a fantasy perspective as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Carson Palmer or is he a middle-tier option at best?
Now another question: will he face a suspension for his bizarre offseason that includes allegations about dog-fighting at a house he owns in Virginia, as well as a couple of airport incidents? Character now may come to the forefront for some owners. There are many reasons owners may avoid Vick, but do these incidents add to it, especially with a possible suspension looming? Before, Vick's travails made for some amusing team names and draft day banter, but now it may have a direct impact on his fantasy value.
I suppose some fantasy owners probably faced a similar dilemma a few years ago during Kobe Bryant's legal issues, or even this season with all of Stephen Jackson's escapades. In both cases, there were times when they missed some games attending to those issues, but when they were in, they did produce, so sometimes it is a calculated risk.
Obviously people will have reasons beyond just stats and other on-field performances to add someone to his or her fantasy team, and if character issues are a reason, that's their prerogative. Adding a dash of reality to the fantasy world isn't always the worst thing, especially when you can see when they collide.
Phillies fans and Brett Myers owners didn't want to see this scene Wednesday.
-- Another day, another closer situation to watch as Brett Myers left Wednesday's outing with a shoulder injury that could land him on the DL. Ryan Madson appears to be the next option to close in Philadelphia, but you could also roll the dice with veteran Antonio Alfonseca.
-- Randy Johnson will miss Friday's scheduled start with forearm tendonitis. While it doesn't appear like he'll miss more than one start, the Big Unit's health issues will continue to make him a risky play all season, although he did turn things around in his last outing on Sunday. Edgar Gonzalez will start in Johnson's place.
-- Roger Clemens appears closer to returning to the Yankees despite allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday night. Clemens owners are itching for him to get back to the majors, and he should produce well -- about 10 wins, a 3.00 ERA and 120 strikeouts over the season. He'll be a lot more helpful for the instant gratification of head-to-head leagues, but Clemens will have enough of a season to bolster full-season roto leagues as well.
-- I mentioned John Maine's recent slump yesterday, but it doesn't compare to Chris Capuano, who's really tailed off since striking out nine Nationals over eight scoreless innings on May 7. In the three starts since then, he hasn't gone more than 5 1/3 innings in any start, and has a 9.45 ERA with an 0-3 record. He's due to bounce back soon enough, so it could be a good buy low opportunity here.
-- Magglio Ordonez has been remarkably consistent with his batting average this season (.344 in April, .347 in May), so it's been easy to forget about him at times. But with four homers in his last five games, he's getting a bit more attention. Ordonez has eight homers total this month and 12 all season, although he's a bit off his RBI pace (26 in April, 16 in May).
-- Another slugger finding his stroke this month is Ken Griffey Jr., who leads the majors with nine homers this month. This definitely could be a great sell-high time, given his penchant for injuries.
-- The Josh Barfield-Kevin Kouzmanoff trade may work out after all for both sides. Kouzmanoff is finally over the Mendoza line after a two-hit game against the Cubs, which included his second homer in as many games. After a miserable .113 mark in April, Kouzmanoff is hitting .349 in May. This is on the heels of Barfield hitting .295 this month after a .162 April. Both guys could stand to hit more homers, but at least you're seeing positive corrections for both guys.
Greg Oden and Kevin Durant will both be on Team USA, but which one will get more fantasy attention right away?
Now that we have a better idea of who will draft Greg Oden and Kevin Durant (and here's our first stab at a mock draft), which one will be more valuable from a fantasy perspective next season? There's obviously a lot of other factors that will come into play this offseason, but based on potential situations, will Oden or Durant be the first rookie drafted and where?
Oden's center eligibility will be huge for him, given the dearth of quality options at the position, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a first- or second-rounder, even if he's on an improving team like Portland. He'll definitely be a major contributor in the defensive categories, although it's up in the air to figure out how consistent a scorer he'll be his rookie season.
Durant has more of the overall game like Kevin Garnett, a very popular early fantasy pick. He can score in bunches plus clean up the glass and even block some shots. It's very possible Durant could be the more productive player right away, although he'll be competing with a lot more players for a starting fantasy spot while Oden has just a few competitors at center. Don't be surprised to see the two taken just a few picks from each other, possibly in the third or fourth round once a good chunk of the established stars get taken. It may depend on who an owner drafts in the rounds before Oden and Durant.
A couple of football notes from Wednesday to round out the non-baseball part of this blog entry … -- Cross Keyshawn Johnson off your draft list as he opted for retirement and a job with ESPN instead of trying to catch on with one of the many teams looking for a receiver.
-- The Chiefs seems set with rookie Justin Medlock at kicker after trading Lawrence Tynes to the Giants, who lost Jay Feely to the Dolphins earlier in the offseason. Tynes isn't anything special, but it looks like he'll get regular work in that offense. Same goes with Medlock with Kansas City. Neither warrants a high pick, but then again, what kicker does?
-- The Raiders added Travis Taylor to their receiving corps, and while he's never come close to living up to his first-round expectations, he could be useful if someone like Mike Williams can't turn his career around.
The Brewers could add Yovani Gallardo sooner rather than later.
There's been a constant flow of top prospects being called up to the majors since the season started, much to the delight of fantasy owners looking for the next big thing.
Tim Lincecum, Phil Hughes, Billy Butler, Brandon Wood, Andrew Miller, Andy LaRoche, Hunter Pence, Adam Lind, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Felix Pie, Ryan Sweeney and Carlos Gomez are among players from Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list to get the call since Opening Day. Some have shined (notably Lincecum, Pence), some have struggled and some are back in the minors (Pie, Wood, Butler in particular). So it's not a sure thing that the top prospects will pull off a Jered Weaver, for instance.
Still, that's not stopping people from stockpiling rookies, even in non-keeper leagues, for the inevitable call-up. Here are a few more candidates who probably could land on rosters now with a potential call-up in the future:
Yovani Gallardo, P, Brewers: Ben Sheets left Tuesday's start with a blister and could miss his next start. If he's out more than a couple of starts, Gallardo, who's 6-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings for Triple-A Nashville, could be the next big pitching prospect to hit the bigs.
Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers: With veteran utility guys Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino manning the hot corner, you have to wonder when Braun, who's hitting .339 with nine homers and 20 RBIs for Nashville, will finally make that leap.
Homer Bailey, P, Reds: He just returned from the minor league DL by pitching 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday, allowing one hit and an unearned run. The Reds will take their time with Bailey, but with the starting staff struggling at times, he'll be up pretty soon.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Scott Hatteberg's little run of three straight multi-hit games has him at .300, so he's still got a little bit left in his system. However, Votto is hitting .463 with three homers and eight RBIs in his last 10 games for Triple-A Louisville and could get in there by midsummer if the Reds are out of the race.
Kevin Slowey, P, Twins: My colleague Jason Grey digs deeper into this situation as Minnesota looks like it could use these young arms instead of Sidney Ponson or Ramon Ortiz.
Other notes for Wednesday: -- Cole Hamels got roughed up by the Marlins for his second loss of the year, but despite allowing five runs in six innings, he still struck out eight, so he's still in good shape down the line.
-- The same can be said for Jorge Sosa despite the Braves touching him up for five runs and six hits in just four innings for his first loss with the Mets.
-- Joakim Soria did get a save on Tuesday, as the Royals said they'd ease Octavio Dotel into the closer's role after activating from the disabled list. If you've got Soria, you might as well stick with him for now, but Dotel owners will continue to be frustrated for another few days.
-- After a brilliant start for the Tigers on Friday, Andrew Miller is headed back to the minors with Jeremy Bonderman ready to make his start on Thursday. It's unfortunate for Miller owners not to get another outing, but he'll be back sooner rather than later.
-- Jim Thome has picked up where he left off by putting up a five-RBI game against the A's on Tuesday. His owners must've been very disappointed with his short stint on the DL, but he's already making up for lost time.
-- Xavier Nady has seven RBIs in his last four games, all multi-hit efforts.
-- Carlos Delgado continues to frustrate his owners with another 0-for-4 night. He's been hovering around the Mendoza line all year long and just three homers but 23 RBIs. Hopefully he'll go on a hot streak like David Wright, who has seven homers this month, including three over the weekend against the Yankees.
Jorge Posada leads the American League with a .374 average.
To follow up yesterday's post about players who may be too late to sell high, here are a few candidates of players who may be too early to do the same. You may want to consider selling high now but could also burn you if they keep going on their hot streak long after you've moved him to another team.
Jorge Posada, C, Yankees: The .374 average isn't going to last, that's for sure, and his 15-game hitting streak just ended Monday. Joe Mauer's batting title was a milestone in itself, and he's a much younger player. Posada is 35 years old and has been pressed to play a lot more with light-hitting Wil Nieves as the Yankees' backup catcher. The question with Posada is whether the decline will be gradual (months of .270-.280) or steep (a month or two in the .200 range).
Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox: He's steadily gotten better as the season has progressed and is in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak. Youkilis impeccable on-base skills were always a plus, and now he's turning his great batting eye into more tangible fantasy results. He could keep that average in the .300 range all season, but can he add a little more power to his game?
Jack Cust, OF, A's: Eight homers and a .306 average in his first 49 at-bats are a great start for Cust, but how long will keep it up? Could he be Matt Kemp, who hit a bunch of homers with the Dodgers right away last year before heading back to the minors? Could he be Kevin Maas, the former Yankees first baseman, who slugged 21 homers in 254 at-bats in 1990 in place of Don Mattingly but failed to sustain a long-term career? Fantasy owners wouldn't mind a Maas-like performance this season, but knowing when to let go is still the big question.
Fausto Carmona, P, Indians: He's won five straight starts, but if you're looking for a potential sign to sell high -- he's struck out just 20 and walked 14 in 49 1/3 innings. Just something to keep in mind.
Oliver Perez, P, Mets: Perez has always had the stuff but his control was the reason why he's on his third team. The 48:16 K:BB ratio in 49 innings is very promising, especially when you consider seven of those walks came in his second start of the season. For now, the walks are under control, which is a very good thing, but there is that fear that another seven-walk game is in the offing, something that could concern those in head-to-head leagues.
Francisco Cordero, P, Brewers: He's still perfect in save chances (17-for-17) and he's allowed just one earned run all season. Milwaukee's losing streak on the road may have actually helped him since it gave him some much needed rest. Can the Brewers keep winning at this clip, giving Cordero more chances? And isn't Cordero due for a bad outing or two like any pitcher?
Other notes for Tuesday: -- Good luck trying to figure out what Lou Piniella wants to do with his pitching staff. On Sunday, Ryan Dempster was already talking about moving to the starting rotation before Piniella changed his mind. Now, the Dempster may be headed to the rotation after all, just not right away, as there's talk in Chicago that Angel Guzman will be groomed to assume the role in a few weeks. Guzman had been a top prospect in the Cubs organization for a number of years but has been spotty at best in his big-league stints.
(And to go with my post on Friday, I had Guzman for a number of years in an NL-only keeper league, but opted not to hold on to him after his underwhelming early performances.)
-- Congratulations to Carlos Quentin for his five-RBI outing against the Rockies after just nine all season. Slowly but surely he'll produce, but the numbers will take a while to catch up. You may want to snatch him now from an impatient owner (similar to the guy who let Josh Barfield go).
-- Kaz Matsui returned from the DL on Monday with three RBIs. He'll get scoring chances, at the very least, near the top of the Rockies lineup.
-- Alex Rodriguez is getting his bat back in order, hitting homers in three straight games.
-- Edwin Encarnacion is back with the Reds with Josh Hamilton landing on the disabled list with an intestinal problem. Encarnacion was dominating pitching in Triple-A, and here was a good time for him to reclaim his third base job with Ryan Freel moving back to the outfield.
John Maine's ERA has risen from 1.35 at the end of April to 2.77.
At some point you have to pull the plug on a hot starter after his play returns to earth. But there's always a question of timing; you don't want to get saddled with some bad outings in a row but you also don't want a brilliant performance sitting on the bench or the waiver wire.
Here are a few players who are teetering on the brink of losing their trade value because of some recent down times:
John Maine, P, Mets: After starting 5-0 and leading the majors in ERA, Maine has an 0-2 record with a 6.19 ERA in his last three starts. More disturbing for Maine is that he's already walked 30 batters in just 55 1/3 innings. The current 2.77 ERA doesn't really match the 1.34 WHIP, so the correction probably will come at the expense of his ERA. Play up his current stats and not his recent struggles to get the best deal.
Mark Hendrickson, P, Dodgers: On May 2, his ERA was down to 1.30. But it was only a matter of time before his numbers reverted to his so-so levels. While his 3.22 ERA and 1.12 WHIP this season aren't bad, he has gone 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in his last three starts. Again, he could be good trade bait if someone forgets his past history.
Joakim Soria, P, Royals: He blew his third save of the season on Sunday, which could make it easier for Kansas City to install Octavio Dotel back in the closer's role when he's expected to be activated from the DL as early as Tuesday.
Damion Easley, 2B, Mets: Keep him around in NL-only leagues since Jose Valentin still isn't close to returning from a knee injury. But if you're a mixed leaguer enticed by his seven homers in just 74 at-bats, I'd be wary. Easley has flashed 20-homer power in the past, but can the Mets resurrect another veteran infielder for the second straight season?
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Here's a case of a guy who you probably should've sold high last month. After hitting .298 with nine homers in April, Kinsler is hitting just .155 in May with a one a homer. As my colleague Ray Flowersnoted Friday, it's probably too late to sell high on him and you may as well as ride out the storm for now and hope he bounces back.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Reds: A gastrointestinal problem forced Hamilton out of the lineup this weekend, but even before this weekend's hospitalization, he was slumping. Since hitting two homers against the Rockies on May 6, Hamilton has no homers, one run, one RBI and is hitting just .147 (5-for-34).
Other notes for Monday: -- The Red Sox and Yankees both got nice 2007 debuts from Kason Gabbard (5 IP, 2 ER, 7 K vs. Braves) and Tyler Clippard (6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H vs. Mets), but it's hard to recommend in anything but the deepest of leagues for now. Gabbard could be back in the minors after his one start, and the Yankees will have to figure out where Clippard stands in the rotation when Roger Clemens returns. Clippard is helped by the fact that Darrell Rasner could be out three months with a broken finger.
-- Ramon Vazquez, filling in for the injured Hank Blalock, could be worth picking up in AL-only leagues after going 6-for-8 this weekend, including a five-RBI game on Sunday to beat the Astros. Blalock had surgery to remove a rib, sidelining him for at least three months, and Texas is desperate for batting help in the infield with Michael Young and Ian Kinsler slumping.
-- Randy Winn's hitting streak is at 19 games, which is something the Giants could use, especially with Barry Bonds cooling off in his march to Hank Aaron's record.
-- Erik Bedard took the major-league lead in strikeouts with 75 after fanning 12 Nationals in Sunday but got a no-decision after the Orioles bullpen blew the lead. Bedard has had an up-and-down season so far, but he's getting just 4.13 runs of support per game, a pretty mediocre mark.