Playing for one category might make sense this late in the season. Here are some limited players who might nonetheless pick up a point or two for you.
On Thursday, I discussed the importance of managing your categorical needs at this time of year. By this point in the season, you could actually make a case for dropping certain would-be stars like Adam Dunn or Michael Bourn if their categories are no longer of use to you (and if you’re certain enough they won’t fall into the hands of a competitor that needs what they offer). On the flip side, players that you might have turned your nose up at earlier in the year may now be incredibly appealing. Because there is so little time left in the year, a couple of home runs or steals could mean a point or two in the standings. And if this is the case, the crappy batting average that is likely to come with it probably doesn’t matter to you. As I always say, it’s all about context. So today I return with some more one-category wonders that are worth considering for a final championship push.
My Mitch Moreland obsession is far from a secret. He was one of my preseason sleepers and I drafted him everywhere. As little love as the guy gets outside of these pages, he has 25-homer power at worst. Especially if you have the luxury of picking the days you play him (he sits against lefties), he could give you a couple of homers over the final weeks.
How do we judge a GM who seems to make so many wrong moves -- and wins anyway?
What does Andrew Friedman do well? He finds low-cost talent, drafts productive players in the first round, and banks on strong run prevention to win games. Where does Friedman stumble? Generally when dealing with relatively big-money free agents. Wait, my computer keeps autocorrecting “Brian Sabean” to “Andrew Friedman.” What a weird glitch.
Any card-carrying baseball fan can name four or five of Sabean’s greatest follies. He employed Barry Bonds for 11 seasons and failed to win a title. When Sabean did win a World Series, he allowed sentimentalism to interfere with upgrading his team, thus hurting its chances of a repeat. He favors veterans over prospects and once admitted to signing (not very good) players in order to forfeit draft picks. Then there are the times he signed Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand to budget-busting deals that looked no better at the time than they do now.
We generally don't expect top athletes to choke, but that doesn't mean they don't get just as nervous as you would.
There was a brief period in my life when I was afraid to drive. I had had a near accident on I-5 when I, inexplicably, could not find the brake pedal and had to veer off the freeway at full speed. After that, I drove in dread of missing the pedal again. I tried to visualize myself braking, but even in the visions the nervous part of my brain took over and my visualized foot would just flail dumbly and unsuccessfully. This is what we call choking. A bit of nerves made me unable to perform a basic function. The level of stress it took to cause me to choke was: the threat of having to slow down a car. It did not take a lot of stress to cause me to choke.
We take it for granted that baseball players won’t choke, except in the extremely rare cases when they do. We are aware of those cases, and those cases make sports a little bit unpredictable and exciting, but mostly we take it for granted that they won’t choke. We take it so for granted that we have repurposed the word to describe merely failing in a big situation, which has nothing to do with choking. In a competition between two athletes, after all, one must fail. There’s nothing psychological about it. If you say Alex Rodriguez chokes in big situations, you mean he pops out. You don’t mean he forgets how to swing and holds the bat upside down.
Participation in the WBC can impact big-league roster decisions, but the Braves would be wise to welcome back Gregor Blanco with open arms.
The World Baseball Classic's affect on players has largely focused on pitchers, and whether the competitive stress they take on in March has a negative effect on their health and performance. The evidence that the 2006 Classic caused problems for its participants is inconclusive, and self-selection probably cuts off potential issues early. Players who think that playing in the WBC will cost them in the regular season simply decline the invitation.