We all have those players.
You know, the Ike Davises and Josh Rutledges (this season) who whet our fantasy appetites with hope -- and even some confidence that they would deliver the goods, as in stats -- in a way that will show the world just how smart we were to select them.
And then they fall in the crapper.
Sometimes we draft them again with the hope they will redeem us.
And sometimes they are drafted over and over, but with continued dismal results.
But the worst are the Danny Valencias of the world. Guys that you pluck out of the FAAB pool because they can hit and have good numbers.
Guys that actually play pretty well at first.
And then tank. And then tank again. And then tank again.
So, like a lover you have finally had it with, you walk away, satisfied that "that is it" and you are done. And you are, so that even when the player returns to the bigs in some circuitous fashion, on a different team, several years later, you can simply keep moving forward.
And then they put up -- are you listening, Mr. Valencia? -- pretty good numbers. Numbers good enough to break your heart, just like the lover you thought you had left in the rear-view whom you see at a bar and looks better -- and maybe more well-adjusted -- than ever.
Using Valencia as the example, the third sacker went .311-7-40 over 85 Minnesota games in 2010, with a pretty good .351 OBP (his Minor League totals in that vein even looked good up until that point). Valencia's 2011 (.246-15-72) was a little down average-wise, but the power numbers were up.
But nothing suggested he would fall off the map. In successive years from 2011, Valencia hit .188, .198, and .143, so why would anyone bother with him this year when the Orioles brought the now utility middle infielder back up? Well, because he is hitting a modest .292-4-8 over 51 at-bats, wonderful for a $1 FAAB pick up in a deep league. Wonderful, that is for everyone but me who simply could not bear to roster him anymore, despite having a pretty big hole at third base (Kevin Youkilis, replaced by the awful Chris Nelson).
So I am sure you know what I mean. I am sure you can relate. But just in case, here are a few more Valencia-like heartbreakers.
Edwin Encarnacion: Yeah, he has 60 taters over the past two seasons, but the dude has now been in the majors for nine years. And after hitting 26 big flies, at the age of 25 in 2008, "E5" followed with 13, 5, 8, 21, and 17 over successive years. Talk about wanting your money back. So, he hits 117 over seven years, and then 60 over the next two? The "family" context of this space forbids me from saying what I really think of this.
Took him long enough
Austin Kearns: I mention Kearns especially for my friend Jason Grey, because Jason, now a MLB scout with the Tampa Bay Rays, may have originated the fantasy man-crush thing with Austin. Starting his career with Cincinnati (hmm, like Encarnacion, which makes me think there might be a pattern?) at 22, Kearns hit .315-13-56 in 2002. In the 11 years since, he hasn't hit over .272, and could manage full-time play only twice since (.264-24-86 split between Cincinnati and Washington in 2006, and .266-16-74 the next season, again with the Senators). Not bad seasons, but schizoid enough to make you want to poke him between the eyes with an ice pick.
Scott Kazmir: The poster boy for pitching disappointment, Kazmir did turn in three pretty good years with Tampa from 2005-07, tantalizing enough by leading the league in strikeouts that third year. Kazmir made us all think he had arrived. He did: in suckland, because that is what he has done over the 119 games since then. When Kazmir isn't hurt, he pitches one good game (usually while on someone's roto bench), we activate him, and then he gets torched.
Matt Anderson: OK, Anderson goes by many names, kind of like Strider in "The Lord of the Rings." Like Kyle Farnsworth. Or Curtis Leskanic. Guys who show some moxie and earn the closer gig, and convince us they are worth $14 or so in whatever league we are in. I remember Anderson specifically, though, because he did indeed cost me $14, and then gave up 10 runs in an inning and went on the DL and was basically never heard from again. Which I suppose is better than Farnsworth, who did the same a year later, made me hate him, and then came back to have some decent playing time with Tampa (a pox on you, Kyle).
Milton Bradley: I had a girlfriend once who was reading this book Please Understand Me. And I tried. Same with Milton. I knew he had all this talent, and I knew all he needed to do was stay healthy and keep his mouth shut and it would all fall into place. And he did have a good year in Texas, once (.321-22-77 in 2008), but most everything else was a self-destructive washout. But he did this tease over 12 seasons. What is it with you, Milton? We tried to understand you. I mean, I always wondered if that girlfriend was ever interested in understanding me. I certainly know Milton wasn't.
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Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.