Water, milk, OJ, Oreos, Fuji apples, chicken breasts, London broil, corn, carrots, half-pound ham, quarter-pound yellow American, long rolls, paper towels, dish soap.

Sometimes, you just need to get something down. I’m leading with my grocery list because I’m trying to snap out of a funk. The last week or so, I’ve been opening up a file with some sparse notes and searching for a way to make sense. It’s a brutal existence, made worse by the pressure that builds each time a newsletter goes out and you’ve failed to put together a coherent-or any-column. Eventually, you just want to find out if your laptop can swim.

There are people, colleagues, who seem to have no trouble cranking out 1200 words every day ad infinitum. (There was a famous exchange internally where one unnamed scribe said, “Writer’s block? I had it once…worst Tuesday afternoon of my life.” I should have had him whacked.) Me, I have stretches like that, and it feels good when it happens that way, when there are more ideas than space and the words come easily. For the most part, I don’t struggle, but the last few weeks have been a grind.

I should follow up on some stuff from last week. The Extra Innings/DirecTV issue is still a considerable sore spot for thousands of people. While I can justify MLB’s almost-completed deal, I don’t mean to dismiss the frustration felt by the baseball fans who could be left out by that agreement. That the deal makes short-term and even long-term sense for MLB doesn’t mean that the people who now can’t follow their favorite team from across the country are wrong to feel slighted. This is an emotional issue, and I suppose the passionate reaction is another indication that baseball’s fan base is much more rabid than that of any other sport.

A couple of readers passed along this information, which I think is important. Apparently, landlords and homeowners’ associations are not permitted to forbid dishes, per an FCC ruling. I have no idea how this plays out in real life, but there does appear to be a regulation that supports people who want to switch from cable. That doesn’t help everyone, of course, but it might help some people. I’d be curious as to whether anyone has cited this in the face of opposition, and how the situation was resolved.

Wednesday’s article on post-hype sleepers produced a host of questions. First off, people reacted to my claim that Jeremy Hermida had the best future of the Marlins‘ young hitters, asking if I meant he would be better than Miguel Cabrera. Well, no, I didn’t mean that at all. Although I could see Hermida having some seasons that produce value comparable to Cabrera’s best, I didn’t mean to compare the two. I don’t think of Cabrera as being in the same group as Hermida and Hanley Ramirez and Josh Willingham and Dan Uggla, even though he’s younger than a lot of those guys. He’s been in the league for three-and-a-half years, and while he’s a chronological comp for those players, his real peers are not only the very best hitters in baseball, but the very best young hitters in baseball history.

Take these with a grain of salt, but Cabrera’s best comps by age include seven Hall of Famers, none of them weak, and two guys who are good bets to go. At 21, 22 and 23, the player he’s most similar to statistically is Hank Aaron. His PECOTA comps are a bit less impressive, but include Cal Ripken Jr. and Frank Robinson and Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Me, I see Manny Ramirez all over him, except that he’s been a year ahead of Ramirez to date. Perhaps “halfway between Ramirez and Pujols” is the best way to describe him. I’ll take two, thanks.

I don’t think we talk about this enough. Miguel Cabrera has a chance to be one of the 10 or 15 best hitters in baseball history. He could hit 700 home runs and pick up 3500 hits. The presence of a direct comp who got here first and plays on a better team-Pujols-isn’t helping him, but that shouldn’t stop us from recognizing his greatness.

Another line in the post-hype sleepers piece that caused a reaction was my claim that only Felix Hernandez and Johan Santana would have legitimate claims to the AL Cy Young this season. There was a very loud cry from fans of Roy Halladay that this slighted their boy. Perhaps it did. Halladay bounced back from two injury-shortened seasons to be the second-best starter in the AL last year.

On the other hand, Halladay’s underlying indicators aren’t quite what they used to be. He posted a 16 Stuff score last year, which is good but not great. Santana, for example, was at 39; Hernandez, in a “disappointing” year, posted a 24. I like the Stuff score as an indicator of how much of the pitchers’ success is his own doing. It may short Halladay, who gets a lot of outs on ground balls, but any time your strikeout rate dips below six men per game, there’s cause for concern.

Just eyeballing their PECOTA weighted-mean projections…

         ERA    IP   VORP  WARP  Stuff
King    3.64   144   30.5   4.5     29
Doc     3.57   204   49.4   6.6     16

Hernandez’s projection includes an innings-pitched total that doesn’t seem rational. He’s expected to be basically just as good as Halladay, though, and the difference in their Stuff scores is substantial. Hernandez is also a groundball pitcher, so he also loses some strikeouts due to his ability to get outs earlier in the count.

I fall in the middle here. I don’t have a problem with Halladay fans taking offense to the idea that Doc shouldn’t be part of the Cy Young Award discussion in 2007. He’s earned that kind of consideration, even as his strikeout rate slips a bit. However, when I look at the two pitchers head-to-head, and consider the skill sets they have going into ’07, I’m even more convinced that Hernandez will outpitch Halladay, and by at least a win. I stand by the original statement: Hernandez and Johan Santana will be the only pitchers with claims to the AL Cy Young Award this year.

Finally, about those post-hype sleepers. I first wrote about the idea two years ago, and no one said a word to me, but this time, a number of readers checked in to dispute my claim that I’d coined the term. It turns out that both John Hunt of USA Today and Cory Schwartz of had used it long before I ever did. I did not know this, and I sincerely apologize to both men for my error. Hunt has been providing great fantasy content since my biggest concern was trying to schedule out of Friday classes, and Schwartz…um, well, Cory tells good stories and will always pick up a check.

Seriously, thanks to the readers who pointed out the problem.

Thank you for reading

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