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07/16/08 12:06 PM ET
Appeal Play: Top 10 first-half regrets
Season's first three and a half months filled with surprising developments
It was a painful first half for Andruw Jones, who entered the break with a .164 average and two homers. (AP)


It's January 2008, and you and I are grabbing a cup of coffee, just shootin' the breeze. We're hanging out, chatting about John McCain and the economy and last night's "Gossip Girl," yuckin' it up like we always do.

Just to be funny, I throw out a few wild predictions for the coming year. Why not, right? People are always doing that kind of stuff.

"Barack Obama will win the Democratic presidential nomination," I say. "Eli Manning will lead the Giants past the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Starbucks will shut down 600 stores. A mute robot will star in the summer's best movie."

"That's insane!" you reply, smacking me on the back as you order us a couple more double skim soy lattes. "You're nuts, bro!"

Since I've got you all jazzed, I figure what the heck, why not really spice this conversation up and turn to our favorite subject.

"Boston's biggest competition in the American League East will be Tampa Bay," I say. "The Rockies will be 19 games under .500 at the break. Cleveland will deal CC Sabathia to the Brewers for prospects. Cliff Lee will be the top pitcher in the bigs. Ryan Ludwick will be the best power hitter in St. Louis. Jerry Manuel will be the Mets manager come mid-June. The Cubs will have baseball's best offense -- without Alfonso Soriano. Oh, and uhhh ... remember that Josh Hamilton-Edinson Volquez trade? Yeah, that'll turn out to be big."

You're laughing so hard, tears are streaming down your cheeks. People around us are staring.

"Dude, like where do you even come up with this stuff?" you spit out. "Cliff Lee ... oh man, Cliff Lee! That's like about as likely as like, Melido Perez coming out of retirement and winning the Cy Young!"

You throw a few bucks on the table, chuckling to yourself as you get up to leave.

Uh huh. Shows how much you know. Flash forward to mid-July, and things aren't nearly so funny. In fact, they're downright depressing. I look like the Nostradamus of the baseball world, and you look like Chevy Chase in "Vegas Vacation."

Lucky for you, you're not alone. The first half of this season has been excruciatingly unpredictable, and baseball fans across America are grinding their teeth in search of a logical explanation to a maddening last few months.

Which means only one thing: Fantasy owners everywhere are in a uniquely painful state of retrospective agony. No one -- not even me - could've seen this all coming when they made their preseason draft picks. It simply wasn't possible.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the first half's 10 players who inspired the most regret, and tell me you saw it all coming:

10. Andruw Jones, OF, Dodgers: Sure, Jones hit just .222 in 2007, but he still managed to crack 26 homers with 94 RBIs. The Dodgers grabbed him in the offseason, and you figured things could only get better, right? Wrong. The veteran outfielder's posted a paltry .164 average with two jacks and 10 RBIs in an injury-plagued 53-game stint this year. Apparently, Hollywood can hurt your career even if you weren't on this season's "Real World" cast.

9. Russell Branyan, 3B, Brewers: Here's one that even the most knowledgeable of gurus couldn't have seen coming. Branyan rang up a .193 average for three teams last season and began this year at Triple-A Nashville. Then, he ate an entire box of Russell BranCrunch and blasted eight homers with 15 RBIs in the first three weeks of June. Hungry? Grab a bowl.

8. Victor Martinez, C, Indians: Coming off a four-year stretch of strong, consistent production, V-Mart entered '08 in what looked to be the prime of a long and fruitful career. A smorgasbord of ailments has put the kibosh on that fantasy, though, as the All-Star catcher went homerless in 198 at-bats this season before landing on the disabled list. Chalk it up as one in a series of regrets that has marked Indians baseball this year.

7. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies: Forget the injuries, though the cause of Tulo's latest DL stint -- a midgame bat-slamming fiesta -- might itself be the source of some chagrin. The 23-year-old shortstop has been a major disappointment even when he's played, batting just .166 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 151 at-bats after last year's near Rookie of the Year campaign (.291 AVG, 24 HR, 99 RBIs). Feel like slamming something?

6. Trevor Hoffman, RP, Padres: OK, so maybe you could've seen this one coming, but it's unlikely you saw it coming with this degree of intensity. After compiling 40-plus saves with a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the past four seasons, Hoffman has a 5.08 ERA and just 17 saves thus far in '08. Beeeeeep. Paging Heath Bell. Beeeeeep.

5. Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox: Think you're feeling blue about overlooking the budding slugger heading into '08? Just be happy you're not the Diamondbacks, who dealt Quentin to the White Sox for Minor Leaguer Chris Carter, only to watch Q-Tip (yeah, Q-Tip -- you heard it here first) launch 22 homers with 70 RBIs heading into this year's Midsummer Classic. Whoops. Kenny Williams better hope he called "no tradebacks" on that one.

4. Brett Myers, SP, Phillies: It's 10 p.m. Do you know where Brett Myers is? Ah, that's right, he's in sunny Lehigh Valley, home of Muhlenberg College, NASCAR's Andretti family and a lovely little squad called the Triple-A IronPigs. Yep, that's right. Until further notice, Brett Myers is an IronPig.

3. Milton Bradley, DH/OF, Rangers: Just 10 months after he suffered an ACL tear that was on par with Sammy Sosa's sneeze-induced back spasms and John Smoltz's dry-cleaning disaster, the Board Game Basher sports a healthy .316 average with 19 jacks and 57 RBIs. Do I feel like making Monopoly jokes about how Milton took you to the bank, cashed in your hotels and made you pay $200 for passing Go? Maybe. But I won't.

2. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: One of the most prolific fantasy producers of the season's first half, Hamilton has also been one of the greatest sources of frustration for rightfully regretful owners. Every day for the past three months, I've heard some variation of "I could've had Josh Hamilton, but I decided to take Josh Fields instead," or "My buddy offered me Josh Hamilton for Richie Sexson and Ian Kennedy, but I couldn't pull the trigger," and at this point, there's really only one thing left to say: At least you didn't trade him for the rights to Darko Milicic.

1. Barry Zito, SP, Giants: With his 4-12 record and 5.62 ERA shredding fantasy pitching staffs, Zito whips out his guitar and provides the soothing acoustic set that accompanies our Top 10's final credits.

Corey Gottlieb is a fantasy writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.