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There was a time when conservatism produced solid results in fantasy
auctions. Hang back, let people spend themselves silly on the stars, then
scoop up the middle guys at reasonable or even bargain prices.

Judging by the LABR and ToutWars auctions last month, those days are gone.

I went into the American League ToutWars auction with my usual strategy of
skimping on starting pitching, and with the expectation that I would grab a
closer if the top names were going for under $30. Indeed, early on, closers
were running a few dollars below what I expected, so I grabbed Troy
Percival
at $28, figuring that the Angels will run him out there until
his arm falls off. Knowing I had some flexibility on the hitting side, I
took Ray Durham at $30 (a few dollars over, but speed was going
quickly) and Rafael Palmeiro at a reasonable $28.

On balance, hitters were going right around where I expected them, but I
didn’t jump in aggressively. I took John Olerud at $18, Jose
Offerman
at $19 and Brad Ausmus at $11, shoring up my speed and
average categories. Meanwhile, second-tier closers went ridiculously cheap:
I ended up with Paul Shuey, arguably only a half-closer, at $18. For
comparison’s sake, Todd Jones went for $18, Bobby Howry for
$20, Jason Isringhausen for $19 and Steve Karsay for $12. I
figured I was set in saves and could concentrate on hitting.

The problem? AL hitting this year is poorly distributed. The middle class
has shrunk. So Bobby Higginson cost me $13; a good gamble, since
he’s not as bad as his 1999 performance, but not a bargain right now.
Gabe Kapler cost me $15; thank God he’s hitting directly behind the
patient David Segui and not the hacking Ruben Mateo.

After I took Troy Glaus at $16, I found myself staring at a pool of
some pretty yucky hitters, and I largely sat out as the few decent hitters
remaining went for insane prices: Alex Gonzalez for $16, Will
Clark
for $17, Jacque Jones for $12, Troy O’Leary for $20
and Chad Curtis for $12. This was as much a function of the fact
that four or five of us had too much money left as it was a function of
high expectations, but it still relegated me to the sidelines.

I wound up filling out my offense with reserves and scrubs: Bill
Haselman
$1, Craig Wilson $1, Jason McDonald $1,
Quinton McCracken $3 and Stan Javier $2. My one extravagance
was Jeremy Giambi at the insane price of $15, largely because I’m
convinced John Jaha is good for only 250 at-bats this year, and
Giambi won’t hurt me even if he plays often.

The rotation is probably the only aspect of the team where I met my goals:
three starters who were likely to post good ERAs and Ratios without many
wins. Eric Milton $18 and Jeff Suppan $9 fit the bill, and while Mike
Sirotka
$3 has had a rough spring, he was solid last year, and I can
replace him with reserve pick Jim Parque if necessary.

At this point, I expect to be competitive in saves, ERA, ratio and batting
average, but stuck in the middle in home runs, RBIs and steals. That’s just
not a recipe for a contender.

The team:

C    Brad Ausmus       $11
C    Bill Haselman      $1
1B   Rafael Palmeiro   $28
2B   Ray Durham        $30
SS   Craig Wilson       $1
3B   Troy Glaus        $16
CI   John Olerud       $18
MI   Jose Offerman     $19
OF   Bobby Higginson   $13
OF   Gabe Kapler       $15
OF   Quinton McCracken  $3
OF   Jason McDonald     $1
OF   Stan Javier        $2
UT   Jeremy Giambi     $15

SP   Eric Milton       $18
SP   Jeff Suppan        $9
SP   Mike Sirotka       $3
RP   Sean DePaula       $1
RP   Scott Service      $1
RP   Bill Simas         $1
RP   Rich Garces        $3
RP   Paul Shuey        $18
RP   Troy Percival     $28

RES  Jim Parque
RES  Dee Brown
RES  Ryan Christenson
RES  Alfonso Soriano
RES  Matt Perisho
RES  Calvin Maduro

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