Friday, July 26, 2013

I Have A New Least Favorite MLB Player

Why, Yes. Yes, I Am.
About two months ago, I made a mistake in my fantasy baseball league. And like all mistakes made in fantasy leagues, it's going to be about as easy to ignore as tooth pain. Provided, say, that you live in a country where dentistry is outlawed.

The deal was simple: cash in on the hot and unsustainable start of Adam Wainwright, albeit with a nice low protection number, for a better starting pitcher, a dependable reliever and a veteran power bat. I'd move my two weakest players, get a power boost to my offense, make a move in saves, and all for the protection spread cost between Wainwright and the best starting pitcher in the American League. You know, Justin Verlander.

Making the deal made sense, but it was hard. I was trading with the guy that wins the league more often than anyone else. I was going to have to take on the guy that ended my A's in last year's ALCS, stopping the most fun baseball season in many a year. And there was, of course, a little bit of a nagging worry that if this guy was offering him up, there had to be something wrong with him. After all, the guy wins the league every year. It's like trying to slow play aces against a table full of pros. You might get paid, but you also might get hammered. No middle ground.

So I did the deal. And promptly watched as the power bat in the deal (Paul Konerko) didn't rebound from a middling start, but rather found an end of career floor. Then, the airtight closer in the good pitcher's park (Tom Wilhelmsen) struggled and lost the job for a while, and he's still not throwing strikes.

But enough of the side pieces. Let's talk about the main. This is a five by five league, where pitching stats are ERA, WHIP, strikeouts divided by walks, and Quality Starts. (Yes, we're odd. But Quality Starts are far less frustrating than Wins, and strikeout/walk ratio gives you a chance to build your staff in different ways.)

Justin Verlander for me: 112 IP, 5.00 ERA, 1.4 WHIP, 2.5 K/BB, 10 QS in 19 games.

Adam Wainwright for the opponent: 132 IP, 2.51 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.65 K/B, 14 QS in 19 games.

I'm reasonably sure that there has been two-month stretches in his life where Verlander has pitched worse. But never with as much seeming cheeriness. Here's what he said about today's turdburger effort, where JV went 6 innings, gave up 11 hits and 7 earned runs while walking 2 and striking out four. ''Today, as funny as it sounds, was a step in the right direction,'' Verlander said. ''I thought my stuff was the best it's been all year. It was just a little erratic.'' In a pitcher's park, with no apparent injury or explanation. Just a sub-replacement level line from what has been, up until seemingly the very moment that I got him, a ridiculously consistent SP.

The other day, I sold Verlander for the first offer, so today was the last day, ever, that I didn't want him to suck. I packed Wilhelmsen in the deal just to go for full fumigation (Konerko was waived a long time ago), and threw in Jose Veras because the other guy needs saves, and thanks to trading for Verlander, I need to tank for next year.  I got back the quite possibly unprotectable duo of Alexei Ogando and Kris Medlen, neither of who is guaranteed to be worth keeping next year. The guy who traded Verlander is bent, because he feels that I didn't get enough. (Charming behavior, that. "Just commenting," he says. As if that's some kind of defense for tossing out your unsolicited opinion. Just take my money and shut up.)

I'm certain that Verlander is going to turn it around now that I've moved him. I'm also certain that Wainwright is going to be great for the next five years, that Medlen and Ogando will be hurt or ineffective, and that I haven't even come close to the end of the chain of mistakes here that ruined my year and lost my money.

But on the plus side, I now have a player that I well and truly despise, that I want to see beaten and battered within an inch of his life, and that I can cheer on the advent of age and ineffectiveness. I can also root for a PED suspension, hope for some tawdry tabloid moment, and engage in the kind of refreshing, full-bodied hatred that you normally need to be Sicilian to achieve.

And well, I haven't had a guy like that for a long time, really. Maybe since Alex Rodriguez was relevant, or Barry Bonds.

So step on up to the mound, Justin. Assume the position. Throw your pitching coach under the bus, or insinuate that you are laying down because you just hate Jim Leyland.

Or, in the immortal words of the late great Sam Kinison, slide under a gas truck and taste your own blood.

Then, we'll get personal!

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