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Rock star with a penchant for fantasy
08/14/2008 3:47 PM ET
Stephen Malkmus was born outside of Los Angeles, grew up in Stockton, Calif., currently lives in Portland, Ore., spends a lot of time in New York City and roots for the White Sox.


"My wife's from the North Side of Chicago, but her whole family grew up hating the Cubs," says the man who helped pioneer indie rock in the 1990s with the band Pavement and tours the country these days with his band, the Jicks.

"But I like the Mets, too. I'm a Mets and White Sox person, not a Yankees and Cubs person. That says a lot. That says everything, actually."

Malkmus, who recently released his new album, Real Emotional Trash on Matador Records, has been traipsing across Europe with the Jicks -- guitarist/keyboardist Mike Clark, bassist Joanna Bolme and drummer Janet Weiss -- and playing summer rock festivals in the States, including Lollapalooza 2008 in the Windy City.

One thing he never forgets to do, even when he's on the road in the middle of nowhere, is check the statistics of his favorite baseball players. He's a fantasy baseball freak, with one team in a National League-only league and another regular league.

"I like the two leagues, and I probably like the NL-only league a little bit more, but I try not to go overboard," Malkmus says. "I'm not obsessed like some people."

Malkmus says he usually selects a healthy amount of Dodgers because of his L.A. origin, and right now he's got Derek Lowe, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda on his squad.

"I generally like the NL West, and I also like the Marlins in terms of players because they're young and there's a lot of potential there. And I like the young guys in Arizona, too."

Malkmus says one of the advantages of his NL league is that "everybody that should have been picked was picked."

"You know, Ryan Ludwick was picked," Malkmus says. "Edinson Volquez and (Jair) Jurrjens were taken. These guys in my league knew who they were. And that's pretty high-level geekdom. It's more fun being in leagues like that where there's real competition."

Malkmus says he's been proud of a few moves he's made this year.

"I traded Mike Pelphrey for Billingsley when Billingsley still had like a 6 ERA at the end of the first month," he says. "Not that Pelphrey's been bad, but Billingsley has been better.

"And I traded Garrett Atkins for Dan Haren about a month ago. Haren's not a great second-half pitcher historically, but that trade has worked out pretty well.

Malkmus' other big fantasy scores have included catching players such as Cody Ross and Jerry Hairston Jr. during hot streaks and drafting steals such as Jorge Cantu, Jeff Keppinger and Nate McLouth, whom he nabbed in the "sixth or seventh round."

While he says fantasy baseball has enriched his life and made the monotony of touring a little bit more bearable, he warns against taking it too seriously. And when he issues that caveat, he sounds like he could be talking about a lot of the excesses that have plagued rock n' rollers throughout the years.

"I know a lot of guys who have to quit doing it because it's bad for their life," he says. "It takes too much time. If you know that you have that potential to become obsessed with something like that, maybe you shouldn't be doing it."

Malkmus says his favorite team ever was the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, with "Cecil Cooper and Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, but this year he's rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays to continue their surprising run and for the "Cubs to lose."

And when he's not on the Internet making trades and picking up free agents, Malkmus says he tries to go to games when the band touches in a Major League city.

"It's tough to go to night games because we can maybe only catch half the game if we have a show that night, but we've done it before," Malkmus says. "When I was in Pavement, we went to the old Tiger Stadium and Coors Field."

Malkmus also caught a ball at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago when Kansas City outfielder Joey Gathright fouled one back and it bounced off a wall behind Malkmus, allowing him to grab it.

Yes, baseball seems to follow Malkmus everywhere he goes -- even Great Britain.

"We were in England recently and a reporter asked me to tell her what baseball is all about," Malkmus says. "I gave her a pretty good explanation about how it's similar or different to cricket, but she didn't know what cricket was. So once you hear that, you're not about to go into what kind of year Carlos Quentin is having.

"I was having fun talking about it, though. Not that it mattered to her."

What would matter to Malkmus is if he were invited to sing the National Anthem at a big-league park. It's something he's never done.

"I would try it," he says. "But I think I'm more of a seventh-inning stretch guy. I can't hit that high note. That makes me a guy who isn't a starter, and to sing that song, you really have to be an ace.

"I'm more the guy with the 7 ERA who's really funny in the clubhouse."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.