Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Smiles & Frowns: The Fantasy Baseball Oscars, Part II

If you have not done so already, please check out the first five awards here.

In the final five awards, I have again bestowed upon each player an award named after a particular actor, linking the two based on their respective career-arcs, status and reputation. Please refer this quasi-guide as a reference for your draft. Or, just read it. You might find a nugget or two of actual, real information in here somewhere. Here are the awards:

6. Carlos Zambrano (SP, Cubs)--The "Russell Crowe" Award for the Undeniably Talented But Highly Volatile and Somewhat Self-Destructive Player”

I don’t read Perez Hilton or People Magazine, nor do I watch E! programming, but from what I’ve heard, Russell Crowe is pretty hot-tempered and somewhat difficult to work with. After all, he was charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon a few years ago. But heck, he’s the Gladiator!

In the baseball world, Crowe’s counterpart is Carlos Zambrano. Just last year, Zambrano got in a fistfight with his own catcher, Michael Barrett; Barrett was subsequently traded to the Padres. How convenient! Zambrano displays his emotions and a variety of histrionics on the mound, and say what you want, but he’s fun to watch. As Crowe once said, “Are you not entertained!!??”

Big Z’s fire is part of what makes him so competitive, but when he gets rattled his control totally unravels. When he’s good, he is good, and when he’s bad, he’s gross. Over a five game stretch in April and May of last season, Zambrano earned a loss in each game, giving up four, five, six, seven and eight runs in those five outings. Then, he went on to win nine of his next 12 starts, giving up two earned runs or fewer in all but one start where he allowed only three. Hot and cold, and that’s a tough sell in head-to-head.

The bottom line: he’s kind of a wild card. I’m going to let someone else pick him and ride the rollercoaster. The safer bet is from owners in rotisserie leagues where his inconsistencies will stabilize over a season and won’t cause an ERA implosion in any single week.

Runner Up: Milton Bradley
Almost named the Award after: Colin Ferrell, Steven Seagal

7. Jason Bay (OF, Pirates) – The "Justin Long Award for the Guy They Tried To Sell You In A Leading Role, But Only Has Supporting-Talent”

Who is Justin Long? Trust me, you’ve seen a film with him before. He’s a regular-looking guy, and you probably knew someone in high school that looked just like him.

Someone in Hollywood tried to make Justin Long a lead guy by casting him as the lead in Accepted on the heels of his performance in Dodgeball. That someone failed. What do you expect when you name the lead character Bartleby?

Last year, if you drafted Bay to lead your outfield, you were sorely disappointed. Many of you, including myself, are still disappointed. Bay came off a couple solid but not spectacular campaigns with 32 and 35 homers, 100+ RBI and 100+ runs, a respectable batting average, and then he fell on his face last year. It’s one thing when a top pick gets injured, like Derrek Lee in 2006 or Chris Carpenter in 2007 where you deal with it and move on, but Bay’s lack of production systematically drained owners.

Bay has probably fallen in most standard drafts to the seventh or eight round this year, one year after he was a third-round pick. That’s one of the most drastic falls from the top I’ve ever seen from a player that’s still relatively young (only 29) who hasn’t suffered a career-threatening injury.

In fairness, Bay really doesn’t deserve this award. He had a painful bout of knee tendonitis last year and played through it. But I just wanted to point out that there comes a point when you either need to bench a guy, or get the best value you can in a trade. There’s a difference between panic and stubbornness. Don’t be too stubborn to bench a guy just because he was your third-round draft pick. The numbers usually don’t lie.

Oh yeah, Justin Long is the Macintosh guy too.

8. Tim Lincecum (SP, Giants)-- The "Christopher ‘McLovin’ Mintz-Plasse Award for Outstanding Performance By An Extremely Skinny Guy That Just Burst Onto The Scene”

I’m going to refer to Mintz-Plasse as McLovin because it’s much funnier, and much easier to type. McLovin landed his big-time role after trying out on a whim. His previous acting experience included…nothing. Apparently he had just taken drama classes. Anyhow, he nailed the role of Fogell (or McLovin) in the best comedy of the year, Superbad. The kid is pale, rail-thin and simply doesn’t look like a Hollywood actor.

Similarly, Tim Lincecum, a Gumby-like hurler with a peculiar windup burst onto the scene armed with a dominating mid-nineties fastball (Admittedly, there was a ton of hype for the prospect, but cut me some slack with this connection). Lincecum looks like he’s about 17 years old—maybe—perhaps using his teenage appearance to coax strikeouts because of the whole “is this guy really throwing 96 mile-per-hour fastballs?” element. It looks like Lincecum twists his body and whips the ball out like a tetherball unraveling from a pole.

Take away three 6+ run implosions in June last year, his second month in the bigs, and Lincecum’s ERA drops to somewhere in the mid to low threes in the other 21 starts. At 23 years old, the only thing that really concerns me is his control; he lost the strike zone in several outings and seemed to have trouble finding it again. In Lincecum’s final 15 games of the season, he surrendered more than three runs only once. All that and you know it’s always fun to have a physical anomaly on your team, so enjoy the 5’ 11” wonder listed at 170 pounds if the price is right.

9. Chone Figgins (3B/OF, Angels)– Winner of the “Joaquin Phoenix Award for the Guy Who’s Value is Somewhat Inflated Because of an Uncommon, Unique Name.”

This one begins here: Joaquin Phoenix is a solid actor, and Chone Figgins is a solid baseball player. The issue is whether they would be as popular if not for their interesting names.

Phoenix by itself is a cool last name. It’s a major United States city, it has historical significance from Ancient Greece, and it’s actually quite pleasing to the eye to look at. As for Joaquin, that just takes things to a whole different level. I have no idea what language Joaquin originates from, nor do I know anyone named Joaquin, or anyone who knows someone named Joaquin. Has he gotten more roles as a result? Maybe. More fame? Possibly. More anything else? I’ll stop there.

As for Chone Figgins, it’s a similar story. Figgins is just hands down a cool last name. It’s exciting. It’s different. Part of the name is a fruit and, when you add the alternate spelling of Sean or Shaun to the equation, it’s dynamite.

But here’s the thing: I think the answer to the above question is probably not. There’s an inherent bias towards people with cool names. We gravitate towards them. What’s more marketable: Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez, or Martin Sheen? You get it. Having said that, look closer at the numbers before letting the Figgins bias cut against you during the draft, or during the season.

Figgins has hit 25 homers in 2500 career at-bats; he’s averaged about 60 RBI in each of his season as a starter; he has about a .290 career batting average (last year’s .330 looks like an anomaly in an injury-shortened season); and he’s stolen 189 bags over the last four seasons, including 41 last year in only 115 games. He is what we thought he is!!!—a base stealer with a good average that scores a healthy amount of runs.

Are his stolen base, run totals and batting average enough to offset the lack of power? It depends whether your team is built to sustain that lack of power production. Look for players that are balanced across the board or, simply make sure you balance the roster; if you draft a guy like Figgins, look to nab Adam Dunn too.

10. Manny Ramirez (OF, Red Sox)—Winner of the “Matthew McConaughey Award for the Extremely Talented Guy That Lives On His Own Planet And Seems To Be Very Content There”


This one is almost too easy.

Manny has his own media-donned phrase—Manny Being Manny—a theory that attempts to explain the unexplainable—Manny Ramirez’s behavior. Everyone has at least one friend (or foe) that can only be described by using that person’s own name to explain him. Ramirez is the baseball’s version of that guy. For that matter, he’s everyone’s version of that guy. He floats around in a perpetual malaise and seems to be disinterested in baseball most of the time. And when he’s not disinterested, he hits home runs and admires the moon-shots. He looks like a mess. What would Manny do for a living if he weren’t a professional baseball player? What was the first thing that came to mind? Exactly.

Apparently, Matthew McConaughey does not use deodorant and instead takes several showers a day because it’s more natural, and because his natural scent is more desirable. This actually became a problem on the set of Fool’s Gold with Kate Hudson. There are videos all over the Internet of McConaughey dancing, singing and generally being…himself. McConaughey was just a regular guy who seemed to fall into his talent and made a career out of it. Is Manny any different?

Both of these guys have produced a number of solid performances in their respective professions (McConaughey in A Time To Kill, The Wedding Planner, Edtv, Failure to Launch…actually, nevermind), and motivation notwithstanding, they should continue to produce for at least a little while longer. We need more of these guys in the world. So if you draft Manny, don’t say you didn’t know what you were getting: a power hitter that will mash the ball when he’s not too tired or bored.

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