Rule of (Braun's) ThumbSunday, April 06, 2014
This weekend in Iowa City, an arts festival called Mission Creek interrupted what was an otherwise peaceful Opening Week of baseball watching. Crawling out into the sunlight from Week That Was headquarters—a utopian bunker in which streams of MLB.TV play from both the television, which is connected via HDMI to the laptop, and the iPad—into a series of readings and musical acts was a decidedly disconcerting experience. When I tell you I watched a lot of baseball last week... I mean, I watched a lot of baseball last week. When your hobby and your job intersect, you sort of lose track of hours. And then days. And then all of a sudden there’s no baseball at all, and you’re sweating through your plaid shirt in a teeming room, the music loud, the bar wait long.
And you’re surrounded by people you weren’t sure you’d ever see again. You are, in fact, at an event overheard described as “homecoming for nerds.” You are one of these nerds. In this bizarro world, in which you’re struggling to find your footing, a procession of ghosts from grad school past materializing one after the other in front of you, you find your devious mind grounding itself back to reality with the only totem of understanding that has endured from boyhood. Your brain must reconcile the very real person standing in front of you with the shards of recollection that your memory had reduced them to, so it busies itself constructing a mental shorthand to bridge the gap. You aren’t proud of it, but your internal processor is using baseball again.
- The Dear Friend, who will stumble into your apartment at 4:00 AM, exclaim, “Sorry! Sorry!”, which you will perceive as a dream, and stumble back thirty minutes later: “Thor, baby, it is you. I love you.” You haven’t seen the Dear Friend in two years, and his arrival in town very much feels like the return of baseball itself, warm and comforting, two words that only the Dear Friend’s mother could use to describe his father’s mustache. The slick-fielding shortstop reached as high as Triple-A Omaha wielding 80-grade facial hair.
- The ex. She is more or less the same, and you are more or less the same, and yet there is an unspoken understanding that this is precisely the reason it didn’t work and never would: Y’all misjudged each other from the jump, and the bloated expectations of that joint miscalculation guarantees continued awkward interactions going forward. For reasons that barely need explaining, this communication reminded me of the Angels, who are just as flawed and poorly conceived as they were last year, despite the prodigious talent of Mike Trout. Don’t blame (the ice cold) Albert Pujols and (the red hot) Josh Hamilton. Blame the talent evaluators.
- The woman who lost 25 pounds: Break out the Mariners! I write the late-game MLB news recaps for the site, and am thus almost as acquainted with the West Coast teams as I am the hometown Twins, of whom I’m perhaps uncomfortably close. It’s early yet—and they did a lot of their damage in a season-opening sweep of the aforementioned Angels—but I’m buying Seattle stock. The frisky offense deploys a series of emerging talents or bounce back candidates that I’d gun for in trades at draft day prices: Abraham Almonte, Justin Smoak and Mike Zunino are three hot starters worth inquiring about. The switch-hitting Almonte’s shiny wheels and decent pop will generate better than expected value at the top of this lineup. The latter two burned so many hopeful owners last year that I can’t see their trade prices having inflated over one good week. As I wrote about Zunino after his 2-for-4, three-run homer performance against the Angels on Wednesday: “Owners that invested in Zunino last year are probably still salty, but they should think about easing up on the sodium and move on: The 23-year-old slashed just .176/.256/.311 in 23 games after he fractured a hamate bone in his left hand in late July.
- The person who you never expected to be successful ever, let alone two years in the future: When I covered the Twins for MLB.com in 2008, I interviewed two superstar center fielders who were far more kind to the lowly media than their mega-talent contemporaries: Curtis Granderson and Grady Sizemore. I mourned what I thought was the end of Sizemore’s career two years ago, simply because his shyness and humility struck me so much in the moment. All the puff pieces you are going to read about him this season will be true: He’s a person of wealth and talent who never acquired the accompanying sense that he was better than the non-gifted. He won’t be on any of my teams this season, but congratulations if you took the risk late in your draft. If you didn’t, satiate yourself in a redemption story nobody saw coming from a person who I should have known wouldn’t quit.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $5,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Sunday afternoon MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $1,200. Starts at 4:05pm ET on Sunday. Here's the FanDuel link.
Let’s bang out the rest of our Week That Was news items in a lightning round:
- Ryan Braun’s thumb, the same right digit that led to his first career DL stint in 2013, is becoming an issue for the Brewers and fantasy owners alike. After starting the season 1-for-16, Braun was held out of Saturday’s lineup with what is being described as “numbness.” Allow him to explain: "The analogy is if you touch a hot stove, no matter how badly you want to keep your hand there, the natural reaction will be to take your hand off it," Braun said. "That's kind of what happens every time I make contact." That doesn’t sound pleasant. This promises to be a lingering issue. If I was a Braun owner, I would be running through my league directory searching for either a Brewers fan or a sucker.
- Cory Gearrin wants a second opinion before he undergoes Tommy John surgery.
- The Yankees placed Mark Teixeira on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with a hamstring injury. Did you win your office pool? He’ll undergo an MRI Monday.
- The Rays announced a contract extension with Yunel Escobar that will ensure the retention of his vacuum mitt through at least 2016; the club holds a $7 million option with a $1 million buyout in 2017. Escobar, coming off a .256/.332/.366 campaign, is best relegated to AL-only formats.
- Ervin Santana’s Braves debut is scheduled for Wednesday, but Monday’s off day affords the team the luxury to postpone until Saturday if they so choose.
- Not only was Nate Jones bypassed for closer’s duties by veteran Idahoan righty Matt Lindstrom, but a hip strain deprived him of a home plate GPS in the season-opening series again Minnesota and then landed him on the 15-day DL. He can be axed in every format.
- Ike Davis hit a pinch-hit walkoff grand slam against the Reds on Saturday. New York ostensibly still wants to trade him.
- Jose Reyes’ hamstring injury is projected to keep him out until late April, Wilson Ramos’ fractured left hamate bone will keep him out until some point next month, and Bobby Parnell’s torn medial collateral ligament is awaiting decision on a potential Tommy John surgery before a timetable can be announced.
- Parnell’s injury inexplicably leads to fantasy relevance once again for ol’ Papa Grande. I don’t expect Jose Valverde to hold onto ninth-inning duties for long—guile is all he has left at this point—but dude’s got nine lives. He needs to be owned in all formats until the music stops.
- Jim Henderson will take over closer’s duties again in Milwaukee once his velocity and mechanics are in order. But your guess is as good as Brewers manager Ron Roenicke’s as to when that will happen. Roenicke yanked Henderson from an appearance against the Red Sox Saturday after just two batters (a double and a walk). Francisco Rodriguez, who fanned the side in the 11th to earn the save later on, also needs to be owned in every league.
- Ryan Zimmerman will undergo an MRI after prematurely leaving Saturday's contest due to shoulder soreness.