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July 25, 2007

Fantasy Focus

Man Crushes

by Kenn Ruby

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I think I'm in love. The object of my affection is 24, 5'10", and is putting out all the right signals. Unfortunately, it would never work out between me and this person, who we'll call R.M. R.M. lives in California for most of the year, about 2,000 miles away. Plus we've never met. And I'm already happily married. Still, my relationship with R.M. has gone from mere admiration to a full-on crush in the last few months. Eleven homers, 17 stolen bases, and a .310 batting average from a catcher will do that to you.

In case you haven't guessed, R.M. is actually Russell Martin, and no, I'm not really in love with him, but I fully admit I have a man crush. Still, when I was agonizing over whether or not to keep him at $10 in March, I never expected that he'd put together the kind of year he had. Martin's arguably my best player, and without him my team probably wouldn't still be in contention.

So, a few weeks ago when I was offered Johnny Estrada and Roy Oswalt for Martin, I turned it down. I could really use a good starting pitcher, and someone like Oswalt (a past man crush of mine from 2001-2003) would fit the bill nicely. Still, I just couldn't part with Martin and face the prospect of seeing the much more mediocre Estrada behind the plate every day.

Was it the right thing to do? Oswalt's salary is ridiculously high-there's no way I'd keep him next year at $43-and there seems to be something off about him this year. I needed a pitcher, but how could I give away someone like Martin? I couldn't. By the All-Star Break, I had overvalued Martin to such an extent that I'd expect nothing less than Chase Utley and Jake Peavy for him.

How do you know when you have a man crush?

  • Do you look forward to every single game your man plays, because you just know he's going to get at least two hits and two RBI?
  • Do you find yourself looking at his stats several times, every single day?
  • Do you turn down reasonable trade offers for your guy?
  • Do you find yourself waving and talking to the TV when your man is at the plate, thinking he can hear you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably have a man crush. Or you could be Rich, an owner in one of my leagues. Ater dalliances with many other players, Rich appears to focus all of his current affection on Derrek Lee. Fortunately for him, his family is willing to go along with it:

For Father's Day my wife and the girls got me a Derrek Lee t-shirt. My older two girls have pink Derrek Lee t-shirts. When the family is in the room and the Cubs are on I'll wave to the TV and say "Hi Derrek!" I do that in part to worry my wife, but also because...well…

It is not known how Rich handled Lee's recent five-game suspension, but hopefully his withdrawal wasn't too hard on his wife and children.

When you've overvalued a player like I have Martin, you won't listen to reason. And if you find yourself on the other side of the fence, there's not much you can do. Savvy owners might as well move along rather than risk offending another owner by making an offer on the crush, but there are a few ways to turn the situation into a positive:

  1. If someone is overrating one player on his team, it stands to reason that he may be underestimating the value of another. It may be difficult to pry Martin away from my fingers, but chances are there are other players on my team who may not be feeling the love.
  2. Never forget. When a guy writes an article for Baseball Prospectus about how much he loves Russell Martin, try to remember that about him, forever. You can drive the price up in future drafts. Even better, you can buy the player and immediately try to trade him to the spurned owner. This could of course backfire-I once played in a league with someone who loved Fred McGriff-LOVED him. I think he would've had McGriff's children if he could have. Once draft day rolled around, McGriff's name would be thrown out early every year, and everyone would make the usual snarky comments and bid up McGriff. His only defense would be to let someone else buy the overpriced McGriff, but that rarely happened. Love makes you do strange things.
  3. If all else fails, tease the guy. I play in a redraft league with ex-STATS employees, and one of them, Mike, has owned Ken Griffey, Jr. every year of the league's existence. Mike's handled the good-natured ribbing year after year, so this year is sweet vindication: "So many years I have been ridiculed for selecting him because of his injuries," Mike said, "but it's nice to see him finally reward my man-crush faith in him year after year."

One last thing about the man crush. Like any crush, things can go sour in a hurry: "Full-on man love for Ian Kinsler!" appeared on a message board in one of my leagues in April. He's been hitting .221 ever since, and is currently on the DL-and the waiver wire.

Some people take it even harder, like Rich did when an old flame, Mark McGwire, dogged steroid rumors and finally retired, hitting .187 in his final season: "I feel like McGwire cheated on me, so we're not on speaking terms. But at the time, he was my one and only." One can only hope that Derrek Lee-and Rich's wife-stays on his good side.

Have you ever had a man crush? Maybe the six players below will get your heart beating fast…

Magglio Ordonez had a five-year run with the White Sox in which he was one of the top fantasy players in either league. He had nice year last year after two injury-plagued seasons, but it's nothing compared to the hitting display he's put on in 2007. With six hitting streaks of at least seven games and a league-leading .359 batting average, he's seemingly slump-proof. Fantasy owners who bought him on the cheap in 2006 have been nicely rewarded.

It's hard to decide what the best thing is about Chase Utley. Is it that he's on pace to top 125 runs for the second year in a row? Is it that he'll get to 100 RBI sometime next month? Is it the 41 doubles, the 17 home runs, the .337 batting average? Is it the fact that you bought him for 10 bucks in 2005 and will probably keep him locked up forever? I thought so.

My brothers and I used to have a word to describe a player with stats like Hanley Ramirez: tasty. He's in the top five of the National League in several categories, including runs, stolen bases, and batting average. That would be good enough, but he also has 16 homers. Not bad for a shortstop who hit 17 home runs all of last year.

Chris Young came into the season as a solid starting pitcher, but one you could possibly get for $15-$20. Owners who spent their draft day money on Chris Carpenter or Roy Oswalt now probably wish they'd cut their budget in half and went for Young. He's leading the league in ERA and WHIP and has thrown a quality start in 10 of his last 11 starts (and that other start was three innings of no-hit ball before he was ejected).

As good as J.J. Putz was in 2006, he's quite possibly the most unhittable pitcher in the league this year. In 46.1 innings, he's given up 19 hits, four runs, and seven walks. That's a 0.78 ERA and 0.56 WHIP to go with his 29 saves. He hasn't given up a run in seven weeks. He'd have my vote for AL Cy Young if the season ended today.

I know Johan Santana is an obvious choice, as he's been the best pitcher in the league over the last five years. However, anyone who has ever owned Santana would swear lifelong loyalty to him. For his career he's 46-11 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.02 WHIP after the All-Star Break. Just think how many fantasy winners owe their Yoo-Hoo shower to Santana.

Related Content:  The Who,  Russell Martin

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