Welcome to the SCFE Week 4 Hot Topics column. It’s three weeks into the season, and we’ve already seen closer changes, suspensions, and bizarre injuries. In short, baseball is back.
As I said at the conclusion of last week’s column, this week’s edition is dedicated to The Sandlot. If you’ve never seen this movie, then you’re not a baseball fan. If you dislike this film, you may as well go ahead and punch an American flag in the face. Thank you Danny McBride in Tropic Thunder.
24 years ago, The Sandlot premiered to both critical and commercial indifference. Because who wants to see a tween comedy about kids playing baseball in the summer of 1962? As it turns out, anyone who loves baseball. For the younger members of the audience, we used to have these things called videotapes. In the dark ages before the internet, you needed an actual physical medium to watch movies. While The Sandlot was irrelevant at the box office, it found its life as a cult classic on videotape.
This was my introduction to The Sandlot. I never heard of it when it was in theaters, but after its theatrical run was over, a friend of mine bought the videotape. He told me “you have to see this!” Putting aside my initial skepticism, I gave The Sandlot a shot. I will always be grateful that I did. The Sandlot represents everything that is wondrous about baseball. If you have never seen this movie, do so now.
For this week’s column, each topic will be introduced with a Sandlot quote. Like the last two columns, it’s still early. You shouldn’t write off a slow start as a lost season, or declare a hot start as a cakewalk to the championship. Like Super Dave said in Ocean’s Thirteen, “it’s a little early for a victory lap.” With that in mind, here are your Fantasy Baseball Week 4 Hot Topics.
Week 4 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “You’re Killing Me Smalls!”
Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
The most famous quote from The Sandlot, this sums up the feelings of Starling Marte owners. This is a gut punch; no doubt about it. If you’re a Marte owner, it cost you an early-round pick or a big chunk of your auction budget. As someone who was heavily invested in Dee Gordon last year, I feel your pain.
While the Fantasy Baseball police might have a warrant out for Starling Marte for attempted Fantasy homicide, it is not full Fantasy homicide quite yet. If you are thinking about cutting Starling Marte, take a breath and go to your happy place.
Like Dee Gordon last year, he will be back. He can still help you down the stretch and in the Fantasy playoffs. It stinks that he is non-DL eligible and you have to use a bench spot, but you need to hold him. Outfield is deep; you can find a fill-in OF on the waiver wire.
As for the suspension itself, I will not engage in any moralizing or hand-wringing. I only note that Starling Marte tested positive for Nandrolone. This was not HGH or something sophisticated designed to evade testing. We’re talking about something from the days of old-school American Gladiators.
Looking at the Pirates’ replacement options, for now the Pirates will be going with a combo of John Jaso (a DFS legend due to his ridiculous platoon split), and Jose Osuna. Like a Pet Shop Boys reunion, it’s tough to get excited. With Adam Frazier being placed on the DL, the Pirates may be shopping around real soon.
Of course, the real name of interest here is OF Austin Meadows. The last remaining uber-prospect of the Pirates, he looked blocked going into this season. With the Marte suspension, shouldn’t you be rushing to grab Austin Meadows? Maybe not, and here’s why.
The Pirates play the service time game like Mike McDermott drags the occasional pot (who doesn’t love Rounders?). This means that no matter what, Austin Meadows will not show his face in Pittsburgh before his service time cutoff date. If you’re wondering about the service time game, see Kris Bryant in 2015.
In addition to that, Austin Meadows may not be ready. If he isn’t, he will not stiff the majors before the Pirates absolutely think he is. If you’re looking for a temporary Starling Marte replacement, you should go outside the organization like Vincent and Jules bringing in Winston Wolfe.
Hot Topic No. 2: “And we the dumbest thing anyone of us could ever have imagined.”
Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
This quote regarding the wisdom of combining chewing tobacco with an amusement park ride describes the current plight of Madison Bumgarner. If Starling Marte’s suspension was a gut punch, this is a shot to the pills. As Austin Powers said, “that’s just not cricket.” Like Starling Marte, Madison Bumgarner cost you some serious draft capital.
Not only is he on the DL, but he is on the DL for the first time in his career. Why? Because of a dirt bike. I think Ron Burgundy sums this up best: “Where did you get a hand grenade, Brick? I don’t know.” Going into draft season, there was a credible argument to be made for Madison Bumgarner over Clayton Kershaw. Why? Because of Bumgarner’s durability. Not so much now.
Just like Starling Marte, you need to hang on to Madison Bumgarner. Unlike Marte, Bumgarner owners at least get the consolation of a DL slot. As for the Giants’ replacement options, the team announced Ty Blach will move from the bullpen to the rotation. Can you hear the crickets? The player to watch is Tyler Beede, the Giants’ top prospect who features a 98 MPH fastball. Like most young pitchers, his command still needs work, however. The Giants may also play the service time game before promoting him.
If you own both Marte and Bumgarner (and you might; those were solid picks at the first round/second round turn), you did nothing wrong. You could not have predicted this. There was no way to figure this into your draft prep. You just got Bossked; sorry about that (Robot Chicken fans, you’re welcome).
Unfortunately, there is nothing to be learned here. We learn from our mistakes, but there is no way drafting Starling Marte and/or Madison Bumgarner was a mistake this year. You just got unlucky. Like baseball and life itself, luck is part of the game. If it helps, you’ve probably built up some serious karma points. Just remember it’s still early, and anything can happen.
If you’re a Marte or Bumgarner owner and need waiver wire options, head over to Dennis Sosic’s Waiver Wire column.
Hot Topic No. 3: “You’re not in trouble, you’re dead where you stand.”
Blake Treinen, RP, Washington Nationals
This quote comes from James Earl Jones in the second-best random movie cameo ever. The best of all time? Bill Murray in Zombieland. I suppose the world being overrun by the walking dead could also describe the Washington Nationals’ bullpen.
As for Blake Treinen, happy trails to you. Another week into the season, another closer bites the dust. A 7.11 ERA might be good for a Slurpee, but not for MLB closers. The Nationals’ closing duties will now be a “mix & match” of Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover. Joe Blanton could also be in the mix. Like Monty Python and the Holy Grail . . . there was much rejoicing, yay.
Here’s a Fantasy Football analogy (please don’t get upset); the Washington Nationals’ bullpen situation is like the New England Patriots’ RB situation. The Nationals are a great team, as their 12-5 record through the first three weeks demonstrates. Save opportunities should be numerous. Like the Patriots, a great team that rushes for big yards and scores a ton of touchdowns.
The problem with the Patriots from a Fantasy perspective is that you never know which of the RBs on their depth chart will have the big game. This is how it will be with the Nationals’ bullpen, which is about as stable as the average reality shown contestant. Remember that pretty much every pitcher in that bullpen had the chance to win the closer gig during spring training, and didn’t.
I say it is karmic payback for Drew Storen. You remember Drew Storen, right? He had 29 saves as the Nationals’ closer in 2015, but the Nationals traded for Jonathan Papelbon at the deadline anyway. Considering Papelbon tried to choke out Bryce Harper in the dugout, this was probably not the best move.
Drew Storen was never the same, and you might say the current Nationals’ bullpen is the result. Will someone emerge as the Nationals’ closer this year? Maybe. There will be opportunities. With all the uncertainty, however, it’s best to just stay away. Unlike the kids in a horror movie, don’t go into the big scary house. If you’re a displaced Blake Treinen owner and looking for bullpen advice, check out the Bullpen Briefs column provided by Derek Harvey.
Hot Topic No. 4: “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations, Chicago Cubs
This quote from the ghost of Babe Ruth might as well have been written with Theo Epstein in mind. How is a non-player Fantasy relevant? After seeing Theo Epstein (or Cursebreaker the Mighty as I call him) listed as the world’s greatest leader (you read that right) by Fortune magazine, I thought about what he means from a Fantasy Baseball perspective.
Here are Fantasy relevant players this season who were drafted/traded for/signed on Theo Epstein’s watch with the Cubs: Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Wade Davis, Kyle Hendricks, Jason Heyward, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and Ben Zobrist. If Theo Epstein came up to you and said, “give me all your money and I’ll double it,” wouldn’t you say “OK, and would you like my first born?”
When the Cubs received their championship rings, guess who got the loudest cheer? Theo did. Breaking both the Curse of the Bambino and the Curse of the Billy Goat, he is baseball’s answer to Harrison Ford. Like being both Indiana Jones and Han Solo, forget about being in the pantheon. He is the pantheon. If Theo Epstein started stealing babies, you would think “well, he must have a reason.”
There is a legitimate argument that Theo Epstein is the most Fantasy relevant individual in the last five years. Is this just me enjoying myself as a Cubs fan? Maybe. But from a Fantasy perspective, if Theo Epstein signs or trades for a player, or even just says he likes a guy, you stop and write it down. Like Powder from How High, you know he’s the chosen one.
For next week’s column, get ready for the Fast and the Furious. Can you believe we’re really up to eight of these? I can, and I will explain why next week. Like I said in my first two columns, it’s still early in the season. You can’t panic or start celebrating. If you liked your draft picks, don’t give up because a few players are struggling. Even if you got Marte’d or Bumgarner’d last week, don’t give up. Until next time, ride or die.
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