My Everyman   (06/29/01)

I wanted to pay homage to Jack Lemmon in this week's Sandbox update with a collage of his more famous movies.  The title of this page comes from director Billy Wilder's description of Lemmon.  Wilder directed Lemmon in 'Some Like it Hot', 'Irma la Douce' and 'The Apartment'.

The Odd Couple

Both Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken announced their retirements this week, slating both to enter the Hall of Fame in 2006.  Both were anachronisms during their playing days: Ripken was a slugging shortstop and Gwynn was primarily a singles hitting outfielder.  Oddly enough, though, Gwynn will finish with a higher career slugging percentage than Ripken.  Regardless, both set standards of excellence that will be hard to match.

Ripken will finish his career in the top 20 in hits, doubles and RBI and in the top 30 all-time in homers.  He was a very good fielder in his prime and of course set a streak for consecutive games played (2,632) that, in a day where multi-million dollar careers are at stake by playing through injuries, might never be broken.

Gwynn has 8 batting titles, tied for 2nd all-time with Honus Wagner, and has the highest career batting average (.338) since Ted Williams.  As Jayson Stark put it, "It's one thing to hit .338 for a lifetime back when there were no light towers, no airplanes, no sliders, no setup men and, most importantly, no Baseball Tonight.  But to do it in the age that Gwynn has done it is the equivalent of bicycling to the moon."   Like Ripken, he will finish in the top 20 in hits and doubles.

Both men are generally viewed as role models and moral bastions of the game.  Both men have also been accused on more than one occasion of pursuing individual goals ahead of team goals.  However, no one can deny that what they have accomplished over the last 20 years is very impressive and deserving of baseball's highest honors.

The China Syndrome (or Grumpy Old Men, depending on how you look at it)

Which brings me to the controversy regarding their merit to play in this year's All-Star game.  As great as they have been, neither has been particularly productive this year.  Should honoring them at a game created to honor the best players come before honoring the actual best players?  Probably not.  But the way the All-Star rosters are currently chosen, selecting the best players doesn't seem to be a high priority anyway.  Just the most popular ones.

So this year's All-Star game will be special if you're a Ripken or Gwynn fan, not so good if you wanted to see baseball's current best players.  One would think that baseball would eventually figure out what exactly they want to represent with the All-Star game.  Of course, one would also think that baseball would do a better job of managing itself when it comes to labor relations, revenue dispersal, public relations, etc.  Oh well.  Like an comfy pair of old raggedy shoes, love the game anyway.

Mister Roberts

OK, back to fantasy baseball.

Winning any fantasy game is all about managing your resources.  If you're ahead in steals by 50, there's no point in keeping all your basestealers if you're team is desperate for homers and RBI.  Similarly, if you need starting pitching and have outfielders to spare, why not make a trade.  Another way to manage resources is to juggle the roster as to maximize the value of each roster spot.  Both strategies were in evidence this week in Sandbox.

The Woodmen traded Ichiro Suzuki, Eric Young and Ryan Dempster to Fantasy Baseball HQ for Craig Biggio, Paul O'Neill and Brad Penny.

The Woodmen should benefit from having Penny on their staff.  He has been good-to-brilliant this year.  Biggio is not likely to hit much better than he is now and it's questionable how many steals are left in those 35-year old knees that are still fresh from offseason surgery.  Paul O'Neill's best days are past and his second half will much more likely resemble his May and June numbers - .250 average, .320 on base and .380-ish slugging - which also resemble his August and September numbers from last year, than his 8-homer outburst this past April

FBHQ gets Eric Young with the lowest batting average of his career and his worst stolen base percentage as well.  Chances are Young will perform as well or better than the departed Biggio.  They also get Ichiro Suzuki, who has been great so far, but is really a completely unknown quantity.  He's never played more than 135 games in a season (that's how long the season is in Japan) and it remains to be seen how he'll fare through the grueling season, especially as pitchers try to adjust to him in the second half.  Ryan Dempster has shown signs of snapping out of his doldrums, but before last year, he really hadn't shown a great deal of control.  It could be that the high walk rates we are seeing now from him are the real Ryan Dempster.

Broken down, the Biggio/Young part of the deal looks like a wash.  What it comes down to is that the Woodmen are risking that either reserve Gabe Kapler or O'Neill will hit enough to cover the loss of Ichiro that the addition of Penny will boost the team's fortunes.  The Woodmen are risking that Ichiro can hold up over the full season and that last year wasn't simply a career year for Dempster.

...Jumanji! also took a risk this week, picking up Rick Ankiel off waivers at the expense of Matt Anderson.  Anderson will be the Detroit closer by the end of the year.  Right now, the Tigers are showcasing Todd Jones as a closer in order to increase his trade value.  Once they move him, Anderson will resume closing duties.  However, that process may take more than a month.  So there's no need to occupy a roster spot for a guy who'll have little fantasy point value until August.

Ankiel, meanwhile, has had two brilliant outings in his effort to return to the majors.  So brilliant in fact (10 innings, 3 hits allowed, 1 walk, 21 strikeouts and no wild pitches) that it's clear his problems were entirely mental.  Given the traumas and media scrutiny he's endured over the past year (including his father being convicted on drug charges), there's no wonder his mind was not able to focus on pitching.  I'm sure the Cardinals will take their time with him and bring him back only when he's ready to move up, but the move to the majors could come suddenly.  He's pitching well and there's no reason to walk him up the minor league ladder.  He's already dominated those levels.  My guess is that when he gets tired of blowing away Appalachian League hitters, they'll bring him back for a game where the attention on him won't be so intense, like for a game in Montreal or when McGwire is about to pass Reggie Jackson or Harmon Killibrew on the all-time home run list.  Once he gets his feet wet again, and he remembers how well he pitched against major leaguers last year (holding them to a .219 batting average), he should be fine.

In the meantime, Jaret Wright was sent down to AAA to figure out his mechanics and the strikezone.  If he hasn't figured it out in a month or so, or about the same time that Matt Anderson has once again resumed the closer role, then Anderson will replace him - provided he's not taken already - for the stretch run.

The Standings

                                  Starting P        Relief P       Hitters FP
Rank  Team                       FP   G   FP/G    FP  G  FP/G    FP    G   FP/G   Total
1     ...Jumanji!               1144  70  16.3   576  67  8.6   2537  758   3.3    4257
2     SF Mock Woodmen           1034  80  12.9   461  63  7.3   2664  742   3.6    4159
3     BaseballHQ Bombers        1146  67  17.1   542  74  7.3   2293  751   3.1    3981
4     Dr. Stats Juggernauts     1585  81  19.6   538  68  7.9   1761  722   2.4    3884
5     Fantasy Baseball HQ       1223  79  15.5   621  77  8.1   2023  750   2.7    3867
6     Sandbox Sports            1156  85  13.6   498  71  7.0   2205  750   2.9    3859
7     Desert Dwelling Scalawags 1282 100  12.8   292  64  4.6   2152  748   2.9    3726
8     The Write Stuff           1257  69  18.2   412  65  6.3   1960  738   2.7    3629
9     Press Room Pundits        1241  88  14.1   363  57  6.4   2006  752   2.7    3610
10    WSS Hurlers               1232  82  15.0   400  65  6.2   1939  704   2.8    3571