April 4, 2003
So, who had the Expos 3-0/Royals 3-0 exacta?
(Sit down, Pete.)
Not since 1972 have those two teams, expansion brethren in 1969, both started a season 3-0. (Historians will note that the 1972 season started late due to a lockout, and marked the first games in baseball history to be lost to labor troubles and never made up.) The Expos would reach 5-0 before losing, and go on to a nondescript 70-86 campaign. The Royals lost their fourth game that year, and 77 more, finishing 76-78.
No one will be surprised to see these squads match the desultory performance of their predecessors. For now, the two teams can stand proud with the Yankees, Twins, Pirates, Cardinals and Giants as the last remaining and-ohs.
It has to be especially rewarding for the Royals, who have won two of their first three games by beating the White Sox bullpen, winning in the same fashion that they lost so many contests in 2002. Thursday's game in particular, when they scored seven eighth-inning runs off of four White Sox, was reminiscent of any number of Royals losses the past two seasons.
While beating up Chicago's revamped pen, the Royals have gotten great work from their own young fireballers. Mike MacDougal saved the first two games, and Ryan Bukvich threw two shutout innings in closing out Thursday's win after Kris Wilson had blown a late lead. Even Rule 5 fireballer Dan Carrasco made a successful cameo appearance. If the Royals can simply keep from losing many leads late in games, they'll close a lot of the ground between last year's squad and .500.
The Expos won their first three games despite being without the services of one of the game's best players in Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero's understudy, Ron Calloway, was 2-for-6 with two walks and a double while Guerrero served a two-game suspension. More importantly, Expos pitchers held the Braves to two runs in 27 innings, with the three starters (Tony Armas, Zach Day and Javier Vazquez) coughing up just one run in 18 2/3 frames.
While the Expos' rotation should be a team strength, I think the three games showed us more about the Braves, who couldn't sustain anything offensively. They've returned essentially the same team as last year, with Rob Fick taking over at first base and Marcus Giles theoretically the everyday second baseman. With Vinny Castilla and Javy Lopez still in the lineup, though, they'll need Fick, Giles and Rafael Furcal to have their best seasons to date, because they will be allowing more runs this year than any Braves team has in some time. I don't think they can make up the losses of Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood, plus an expected decline from the bullpen as a whole, with the current personnel.
Just a Fantasy
After playing no "personal" baseball last year--save a couple of friendly Yahoo! leagues--I'm back in this season with both a Scoresheet team and a rotisserie team. I mentioned the latter a couple of weeks back; we finally finished the auction and drafts, and this is what I ended up with:
18-team keeper league, 23-man active roster, 5x5 roto (includes runs, strikeouts), $260 budget
Roster Price C Charles Johnson 16 C Eli Marrero 9 1B Carlos Pena 5 2B Frank Catalanotto 15 SS Alex Rodriguez 57 3b Ronnie Belliard 1 CI Adam Dunn 37 MI Alex Gonzalez (Chi) 7 OF Endy Chavez 1 OF Eugene Kingsale 4 OF Carl Everett 10 OF Brad Wilkerson 10 OF Jay Payton 5 UT David Ortiz 1 P Greg Maddux 26 P Aaron Heilman 1 P Damaso Marte 1 P Vladimir Nunez 1 P J.C. Romero 1 P Octavio Dotel 6 P Byung-Hyun Kim 14 P Scott Williamson 15 P Billy Koch 17
I had just $17 left when the auction restarted, which severely limited my options. I had to watch Ted Lilly get away for just $3, which hurt. On the other hand, I was able to out-max-bid one team--I had a max bid of $5, he had one of $4--for Carlos Pena, which was nice. The endgame picks of Endy Chavez and Ronnie Belliard were met with positive response, and I still don't understand how Jay Payton went for just $5. Is there any real difference between Payton v.2003 and Jeffrey Hammonds v.2000?
My pitching strategy reflects my stubborn beliefs about what can win in roto, even 5x5: Dominate ERA, ratio and saves, and hope for the best elsewhere. Byung-Hyun Kim's move to the rotation leaves me with just two closers (and four backup closers), but I think that might actually be a net positive. If Aaron Heilman comes up in three months and does what I think he can do, I may finish higher in wins than I expected.
The drafts went as follows:
Res Placido Polanco Res Jack Cust Res Bobby Howry Res Colby Lewis Res Mike Timlin Res Desi Relaford Res Chad Bradford
Placido Polanco will be eligible at second base soon enough, and provides an insurance policy should Belliard flop. I think Desi Relaford could steal 20 bases and provide BA and runs if he plays. I grabbed two members of the Red Sox bullpen as well, just in case the saves do start flowing in one direction (which may be Chad Fox's, if it happens).
Minors Jake Gautreau Minors Jeremy Brown Minors Lew Ford Minors Josh Stewart Minors Anderson Machado Minors Jayson Nix Minors Jhonny Peralta Minors Andy Phillips Minors Koyie Hill Minors Kelly Shoppach
I had a bit of a brain lock in the middle rounds (Anderson Machado and Jayson Nix, who are marginal for this depth) but recovered nicely with Jhonny Peralta, and finished strong with two older catching prospects who can hit a little.
I know a lot of fantasy players read this column, and many of you provided feedback going into the auction that proved invaluable. If you have any ideas on how to improve this squad, fire away.