Yesterday the American Dream League members commenced their 27th Rotisserie baseball season with the auction at the venerable O’Reilly’s Irish Bar on 31st Street in New York City.
The ADL is the toughest league I know. Members include my buddy Alex Patton, inventor of Patton Dollars and Stage 3 Hell (which wasn’t in evidence yesterday), Peter Golenbock, prolific baseball and sports writer, Les Leopold, who dragged me into the fantasy baseball writing business as the projections guy for Golenbock’s annual “How to Win at Rotisserie Baseball,” which Les did most of the roto analysis for. Those are the fantasy pros.
Other players include Mark Starr, a sportswriter (among other things) at Newsweek, Steven Levy, the technology writer at Newsweek until just recently, when he moved to Wired, Walter Shapiro, Washington chief for Salon.com, Michael Walsh, a former Time music writer, novelist, screenwriter, small arms expert, Mark Goodman, former Time film critic, novelist, journalist and recently political writer, Mark Jurkowitz, a long time media critic, Steve Stoneburn, a publisher of magazines, a lover of Jayhawks, and Bruce Buschel, a playwright, journalist, jazz documentarian, and the owner of one of the wickedest whiffle curves you’ve ever seen.
Plus he can control it.
I bring all this up out of vanity. It was an intimidating auction I stepped in to back in 1992 (did I mention that I was invited into the league after they kicked Hugh Sweeney–yeah, the guy the Sweeney Plan is named after–out of the league?), and it has never become less so. These are smart guys who play hard with sharp elbows. You have to love it.
This year the Bad Kreuznachs entered the auction with a decent list of keepers, but with the problem that they were nearly all outfielders.
Maicer Izturis $5–Not an outfielder, and not named the starter at SS until the day after the auction. Whew.
Chone Figgins $19–He was cheap last year because he was hurt to start the season. He came back early, played incredibly well, and is a great bargain this year. You can’t count on anything close to last year’s average, but it will be a plus, as will the steals.
Torii Hunter $20–I traded for Hunter last year trying to add homers or something, but that was yesterday. At the end of the day (my run for the crown ended in a tie for fourth) Hunter became a nice keep to pick up.
Emil Brown $3–For some reason Emil was out of favor in KC last year, and trade bait to boot. He ended up not being traded and not being used that much. Not a bad player at $3 but a lot of potential squandered. The A’s seem to see that, as long as they can overlook his baserunning (yikes!), and with enough AB he becomes a great bargain this year.
Brad Wilkerson $8–The day after I froze him the M’s announced he’d be platooning with Mike Morse. If the days off keep him healthy I’m all for it. I worry more about the ballpark. If he doesn’t get his share of jacks, his bad BA overwhelms his other production.
Milton Bradley $11–Awfully frail, but generally he earns this. And he doesn’t seem to be a slacker, when he isn’t getting into tussles that is. In a good park to hit, with his career on the line, I’m smart enough not to drool. But I want to.
Okay, those are the keeps. With a solid foundation in speed, fairly cheap, the mission was to accumulate AB and HR. Despite Figgins big year with BA in 2007, this wasn’t a good BA team, and so I decided to ignore that as much as I could. But I also didn’t want to chuck it all, because as Figgins showed last year, a good run can make a world of difference. Which is why I went…
Joe Mauer $22–This was my inflated price for him. He’s lacking in power or speed in the big sense, but for a catcher he brings some of both and a reliably (I stupidly hope) good batting average to earn his way. The danger is his injury history. I had him priced at $22, so I just hope he plays. I’ll take par.
Jamie Burke $1–End game catcher who shouldn’t kill the BA, might add a smidge of power, a player I really hope doesn’t matter.
Travis Hafner $26–I discovered within minutes of the start of the draft that power was king. Starting pitchers didn’t escalate the way I thought they might, and my savvy opponents didn’t chase speed simply because there wasn’t much of it (all of it was frozen except Carl Crawford and a lot of parttimers). I had Hafner at $24, he qualified at 1B in our league, he might not in yours, and the little bump seemed like a win.
Richie Sexson $14–Same verse again as Hafner. I wanted homers. There weren’t many out there. Sexson has hit a lot of them. Last year was so awful I’m counting on a bounceback. When he started talking about how he was hurt last year I bought in. My fingers are crossed.
Juan Uribe $11–In AL leagues a major issue is there aren’t enough shortstops. In the second half of the draft I identified a few who would be worth something like $8, well above my $4 bid prices. These were guys like Uribe and David Eckstein. I was targeting power, so I was looking for Uribe, but when Eckstein went for $12 I knew I was screwed. I was going to have to pay whatever for Uribe. Whatever was $11. If he plays I’ll be glad for the homers, and it will be fine, but it’s too high a price for a guy who might not play that much when the day is done.
Anthony Callaspo $2–Endgame middle infielder probably isn’t going to push Esteban German aside, but the out of season chatter was that the Royals might deal German. Even so, Callaspo doesn’t run and has no power, even though he can hit.
Josh Hamilton $26–I’d been advising people to pay $18 for Hamilton, what he earned last year, even though I knew they’d pay more for the possibility of more. When Hamilton came out in this draft lots of players were gone, and while there was still plenty of meat out there, Hamilton was the guy who might surprise. I got in a pissing match with Patton, and when it was over I felt I’d won despite the price. It was a situation decision, not one based on budget. If Hamilton earns his share, and he certainly could, I should have an incredible offense.
Reggie Willets $3–The real endgame, here’s a guy who earned real money last year, playing behind a bunch of guys who make it seem likely he won’t get much playing time this year. Which crushes his price. I won’t claim he’s a bargain, but he’s been a ML regular. For $3 I’ll be happy to be wrong.
I started the auction with no starting pitching, and almost all the good starters except Verlander and Bedard kept. I toyed with not spending any money on starters, but given my good freeze list I decided that it would be dumm to dump two categories in the auction. So I competed.
Justin Verlander $33–He was the best available starter and I had him at an inflated price of $36. Closed.
Justin Duchscherer $10–I have him well at a price in line with the prices I’ve been seeing, though a bit higher than I thought he’d go. At that point in the draft he looked like one of the more reliable pitchers left, incredibly enough. A risky pick, but when I took him I thought he’d go another bump.
Edwin Jackson $3–Looked good this spring. Was pretty decent the last two months last year. He was once a phenom. All that adds up to me that he’s worth a gamble.
Jason Jennings $2–Last year’s meltdown destroyed his rep, but he pitched very effectively in Colorado the year before. If he’s functioning I think I’m going to be awfully glad I have him.
Gavin Floyd $1–I thought I’d have to spend $3, but it worked out. He’s had a good spring, he has pedigree, and I’m not looking too closely because if I did I’d be rocking my head in despair. He’s a flyer I’m glad I got.
Francisco Rodriguez $22–I was pretty much price enforcing when KRod went for $22. I started writing about the collapse of closer prices years ago, but the trend continues. I’m not sure it’s so wise anymore to pass closers by completely, when prices are so low compared to the benefits, but this is the market working out what the real value of the saves guy is.
CJ Wilson $12–There weren’t many good closer alternatives left when I exercised my topper option on Wilson, turning an $11 bid into $12. He’s the Texas closer for now. He’s got the wrong arm, but he’s got great stuff. I picked him off the waiver wire last year, which is why I own his Topper now. The alternative in Texas right now isn’t clear.
Eddie Guardado $2–Which is why I bought one of the best alternatives. Guardado was lights out in September last year. That tells me his arm is okay, though age and history argue against him.
Jamie Walker $3–Another topper, mainly by default. He’s a very good but aging pitcher who is unlikely to get a meaningful role. But I controlled him and I’m not sure of George Sherrill in the closer role. Walker is one alternative, so adding him seemed like a plan, at least.
Is this a winning team? I think it stands a better chance of not winning a championship because I spent too much on Hamilton. But on the other hand, this is a team with strong strengths, plus Josh Hamilton. He could be a plus, despite his price. I hope so.