Mark St. Amant

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Coulda Shoulda Woulda

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Last week was bittersweet.

Even though I was exhausted after several consecutive nights of colicky infant-tarnished sleep, red-eyed air travel to Boulder, drinking beer in high altitudes (one Bud Light felt like I'd licked an entire blotter of acid) and the emotional toll of having to be "on" for a full day of job interviews ("Dance, monkey boy! Bang those cymbals!"), I was nevertheless excited about life in general.

New baby. New job possibility, at one of the world's most awarded creative ad agencies, in a beautiful part of the country. (Boulder couldn't have been nicer; its mountains point, giggle and make tired Viagra® jokes at Vermont's/New Hampshire's poor little emasculated molehills.) What's not to love? Yes, life was suddenly looking as grand as possible for a laid-off schmuck with one third-to-last-place roto team and, suddenly, two children to support . . . which made what happened next even more deflating. (And, no, I'm not talking about Tim Wakefield's getting no love in the All-Star game or my trading Justin Morneau right before his 7 RBI outburst.)

When I landed back in Boston, I received an email from a friend, the uber-talented LA-based playwright ("Radio Free Emerson")/director (Parachute)/TV writer ("Law & Order SVU"), Paul Grellong. It was titled "D'oh! I guess we were ahead of our time" and included a link to a new fantasy football TV series on FX, "The League," co-helmed by the exec producer of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Jeff Schaffer.

I was torn: on one hand, I lovvvvve "Curb" – best TV on TV along with "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Rescue Me," "Dexter," and "30 Rock" – but on the other hand, Paul and I had this same basic idea five years ago. (Open mouth; insert Liquid Draino.) See, he'd read my first book and, in 2004, wrote a TV pilot based on it called "Fantasy Man." Like "The League," it was a look at life, love, marriage, friendship and parenting through the eyes of a fantasy football fanatic and his longtime league. We pitched it around -- not well, evidently -- but the common response at the time was, "Who wants to watch a bunch of nerds play this dorky 'fantasy football' game?"

Granted, we're admittedly not Schaffer, who was also a "Seinfeld" exec producer and co-writer of "Bruno." So I'm honestly glad someone like him is in charge and I, like most of you fantasy fanatics, absolutely can't wait to see it. Especially if Jeff, a fantasy sports nut himself, reads this column, soaks in this shameless, long-winded, thinly-veiled suck-up, and hires me to write for him while I'm (hopefully) working in Boulder. Seriously. I can commute to LA over the Rockies via burro. He doesn't even have to pay me in American currency. I'll take rubles. Dunkin Munchkins. Play-Doh. Unwashed, game-worn Al Hrabosky underwear. Anything.

Anyway, being ahead of one's time can also be a curse in roto baseball. I'm prone to drafting/buying players a year before they really blow up. It's uncanny. I mean, check out my pitching staff in my main/most competitive league last season: Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Yovani Gallardo, Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Wandy Rodriguez. Some had good seasons, but none busted out like this year . . . when I don't own a single one of 'em. Sigh.

But whether it's real life or fantasy, you just can't play the coulda-shoulda-woulda game. That'll drive you batty. And speaking of people driving us nuts, say hello to Mr. Chad Billingsley in this week's Fallers section, right after a few Risers . . .

RISERS

Felix Hernandez: Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke are getting all the A.L. pitching ink, but Felix is quietly dominating, winning two of his three July starts, averaging 8 IP with 7.5 Ks in each. And he's now 10-3 with a 2.51 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a 129/37 K/BB rate. All hail King Felix! (Royalty humor. Always kills.)

Jonny Gomes: Injuries have forced Dusty Baker to give Gomes time, and he's responded: .310/6 HR/19 RBI/.402 OBP/.962 OPS in 117 at-bats.

Jermaine Dye: One of the more underappreciated roto players of the past several years – he's averaged 34 HR/95 RBI/85 R -- Dye's batting a hair under .300 (.299) with his trademark power (21 HRs), and is batting .380 with 9 R over his past eight games. I traded him in a package for Grady Sizemore a couple weeks ago, but I still miss him. Sniff.

Nyjer Morgan: He started hot in April with a crazy-high BABIP (a career .346 according to FanGraphs, high even for a speedster) that pushed his average to .307, but came back down to Earth in May and took his average with it (.245). But he's batting .344 with 10 SB and 10 R since the Buccos exiled him to Washington – "out of the frying pan, into the fire" personified -- and he's got 28 SB/49 R total. Getting 40-plus steals and 8o-plus runs from a likely waiver pick is gravy.

Chris Davis: On July 12th, I Tweeted the following: "Chris Davis since his demotion: .467 (7 for 15), 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BBs, and only 4 Ks. Just sayin' . . ." Since then he's cooled a tad, but he's still making a case to be recalled – .370/2 HR/.696 SLG/1.119 OPS – especially with Andruw Jones morphing back into the greasy can of gelatinous goo that he is (1-for-19 since his 3-HR game).

Jimmy Rollins: The MCI's favorite 2009 whipping boy, the eminently frustrating Rollins is having himself a nice little July (.377). But remember he's still the Devil, and while the Devil can take on many forms – serpent; dog-beast; small, pale British schoolboy with his own creepy theme music; and, of course, Muppet-like dictator with bouffant hairdo -- it's this familiar one that has mostly confounded owners this season.

Ubaldo Jimenez: A trendy sleeper, he crashed in April (1-3, 7.58 ERA) so he's either possibly still on your waiver wire or not highly esteemed by your league mates. But look closer at his May/June/July and you'll see a 6-6 record with 3.32 ERA and 12.1 K/9 in July.

Garrett Jones: Beisbol been beddy beddy good to heem. Wait, that's Garrett Morris. As Chico Escuela. Now I'm all mixed up. Because Garrett Jones is not only not Latino, he's not black either . . . he's white. Call me a racial profiler, but I was shocked to discover that. One of those Troy O'Leary "I coulda sworn he was a fat, drunk, chowderheaded, red-faced lout" situations, I guess. Or Junior Spivey. Remember him? No way I ever thought someone named Junior Spivey was black, because a "Junior Spivey" is one guy and one guy only.

Where was I? Oh yeah -- Jones has been absolutely en fuego since getting the call: 8 HRs in 59 at-bats (but he's unfortunately studying at the Adrian Gonzalez School of Empty Base Hitting: all 8 have been solo shots, amazingly enough). And he's got a higher slugging percentage than Albert Pujols (.783 to .726)! Quick, trade Pujols for him! Fantasy Sports Message Board Humor 101 aside, feel free to ride him while he's hot or sell high (if someone believe sin your league), because he has that look/feel of the proverbial "old rookie who pitchers will figure out very, very soon." Unlike, say . . .

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For two seasons, Mark St. Amant was the fantasy football writer for the New York Times.com. He is also the author of Committed: Confessions of a Fantasy Football Junkie and Just Kick It: Tales of an Underdog, Over-Age, Out-of-Place Semi-Pro Football Player, and has written for New York Times, Boston Globe Magazine and Salon.com.
Email :Mark St. Amant


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