A Man of Constant Sorrow  (07/07/01)

Like most Coen Brothers movies, "O Brother, Where Art Thou", is more than it lets on to be.  It is a clever reworking of the tale of Ulysses, set in rural Mississippi in 1937.  The heroes of this tale - Ulysses Everett McGill and his two chaingang-escapee friends Delmar O'Donnell and Pete Hogwallop - suffer the same hardships as Homer's epic protagonist, although in slightly more familiar guises.  The film is fast paced, at times hysterical and offers one of the catchiest "old-timey" songs you'll ever hear.  Plus, it'll make you appreciate that long boring lecture about the Odyssey back in high school.

The Sirens

The Sirens in the Odyssey, with their captivating song and allure, would lure men on ships to venture too close to the dangerous rocks on which they resided.  Completely mesmerized and unaware of the danger, the men would crash their ships onto the rocks, sending all aboard to a watery grave.

There are players who can do the same thing to a fantasy baseball team.  Sure, their stats look inviting right now and if your team just had a guy like that, you'd be sure to win.  More often than not, though, theirs is a song of the siren that will sink your roto ship.

If a player is having a year that seems way beyond his perceived ability, in all likelyhood, it is.  Guys like Luis Gonzales, Paul LoDuca, John Burkett, Bret Boone and Chris Michalak are well above their expected production.  Trading for them now in all likelyhood will not net you a repeat of their first half numbers.  What they're more likely to give you is what was expected of them at the beginning of the season.

There are exceptions, however.  The key to finding the exception is checking his entire career, especially his minor league days.  If he has ever shown he can dominate his opposition at any level, provided he wasn't 29 playing against 18 year olds, then he probably can.  And what appears to be a career year could very well be his actual talent level.

There are all sorts of reasons a player doesn't live up to expectation, many of which have nothing to do with what happens on the field.  Family hardships, such as divorce, can have an effect on a player's attitude and confidence.  Some players can't handle the money or attention that comes along with being a major league athlete in their initial exposure to it.  Sometimes the organization is to blame, either in not providing quality coaching or in not providing adequate opportunities or incentives.  It happens.  Others, it's pretty obvious what went wrong: injuries.  The important thing is to focus on the talent of the player.  If he's demonstrated he can do it, more than likely he still can.

A lot of people are surprised by Cliff Floyd's ascendancy this year, but if they had remembered what he did in the minors, they wouldn't be.  He was called by several scouts a "Willie McCovey with speed" and "a high batting average Darryl Strawberry".  The freakish injuries that have plagued him throughout his career have limited his playing time.  But if you look at the months where he's been healthy, he's produced fantastic numbers with great regularity.  It was just a matter putting six of those months in a row.  The same things that are being said of Floyd now were being said of Ellis Burks in 1996.  Expect a similar career path.

The Cyclops

I get lots of emails asking me to rate possible fantasy baseball trades.  I'd really like to offer specific advice, but I simply can't because I don't know the context of the league.  In fact, I don't really know anything about the situation other than the fact that someone wants or needs to make a trade to address certain shortcomings.

It's nearly impossible to offer competent advice without knowing what the other owners are like, who they have on their teams, what real life teams they like and don't like, which players they always try to get, etc., etc.  While these may seem like incidental things to know, they play a significant part in getting a good deal.  Knowing your trading partner can maximize your potential to get good value, which is more important than simply getting good players in return.

John Goodman reprised the role of the Cyclops as a one-eyed Bible salesman, who entices the Delmar and Everett with the promise of big money from "selling the truth" to the hungry masses.  In reality, he just wants an easy meal and to take everything they have.  Anyone, professional or otherwise, who doesn't know your specific situation yet offers specific advice on your particular trade desires, is in all likelyhood, doing the same thing to you.

The best judge of your situation is you.  I'll be happy to answer any questions regarding the performances I expect from specified players over the course of the rest of the season.  But I simply can't tell you to make a trade or not because I just don't know your situation.  So while trading Barry Bonds for Juan Pierre may look like a bad trade in many leagues, it might actually be a pretty solid one in another.


Last week, I speculated that Matt Anderson wouldn't get the Tiger's closing role for around a month, as Detroit shops it's current closer, Todd Jones.  This waiting period would also allow me enough time to evaluate whether or not Jaret Wright would help me this year.

Well, it appears as though someone cast a spell and altered my calculations rather drastically.  Since last week, Todd Jones was demoted in the pen, Matt Anderson was named the Tiger's closer and Jaret Wright has been ineffective in his last 2 AAA starts.  Thankfully, my team's chances weren't dependent on the success of Wright.

On the flip side, Glendon Rusch looks like he's turned a corner this season.  During the draft, I thought that the new strikezone would play havoc with him, and for much of the season, it has.  But his last 4 starts have been pretty solid and he is beginning to show some of the fearlessness that made him a sleeper pick last year.  So I dropped Wright and picked up Rusch, who'll provide insurance against Tony Armas' recent struggles.

Armas was dominant for much of the first half, but he's been hit pretty hard his last 3 starts.  It could be that he's suffering through a dead arm period where fatigue has dulled the movement on his pitches.  Or he could be tipping his pitches.  In either case, it's probably a temporary problem that is best waited out on the reserve roster.  Armas' minor league numbers are super, so his first half performance is more likely his true level of talent than that of his last 3 starts.


At the beginning of the movie, a blind man tells Everett that "you will find a fortune but not the fortune you seek."   For Everett, that was certainly true of his journey.

That rings true in roto as well, as not everyone will find the fortune they seek, which for most is finishing in first.  But even though not everyone wins, there is some fortune in making smart moves and getting the most out of one's team over the course of a season.  However, making an uninformed trade or worse, a misinformed one, can not only spoil the journey, but can leave one feeling for the rest of the season like that man of constant sorrows.

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!                1231  76  16.2   606  72  8.4   2749  821  3.3    4586
2     SF Mock Woodmen            1150  87  13.2   504  66  7.6   2850  805  3.5    4504
3     BaseballHQ Bombers         1324  76  17.4   618  80  7.7   2476  812  3.0    4418
4     Fantasy Baseball HQ        1371  86  15.9   706  84  8.4   2209  814  2.7    4286
5     Sandbox Sports             1229  92  13.4   529  75  7.1   2414  815  3.0    4172
6     Dr. Stats Juggernauts      1640  86  19.1   592  73  8.1   1871  775  2.4    4103
7     Desert Dwelling Scalawags  1376 108  12.7   334  70  4.8   2356  817  2.9    4066
8     The Write Stuff            1371  76  18.0   477  71  6.7   2096  793  2.6    3944
9     Press Room Pundits         1343  92  14.6   405  67  6.0   2175  821  2.6    3923
10    WSS Hurlers                1344  90  14.9   419  70  6.0   2106  767  2.7    3869

(Note: I will be in Milwaukee for the SABR convention, so there won't be a Sandox update next week.  If you're in town, though, stop by and say hello.  I'm always up for talking baseball.)