"From here on out, it's all smarts and no heart."
That was my promise to myself a mere seven weeks ago. I would like to say I'm a man who sticks to his convictions, but that would be a lie. I quit guitar lessons when I realized learning to play "Hot for Teacher" would only endear me to women above the age of 50. I quit yo-yoing when I realized it's hard to be a respected lawyer if you keep knocking your clients unconscious while attempting to execute a flawless "around the world." I even quit eating and showering at one point to see what it was like to be Living Lohan.
Besides, a lot has changed since then. I can get salmonella-free tomatoes on my daily burrito again. I can join in the feverish debate about whether or not President Bush is like Batman (seriously, is the nation collectively that bored that this is a hot topic?). And my readership has doubled due to my weekly trips to D.C. public libraries to attach my column to the end of those long wicker poles. Never before have the fine folks of our nation's capital been so well informed about fantasy baseball and outdated pop-culture references.
My team's roster has also changed significantly since I made this proclamation and you know what? Despite being guided by my heart, I've never been happier with my squad, and it's better than ever.
After a series of trades and roster moves, I now own my favorite six players in baseball. Since I watch my fantasy team play virtually every night, compulsively flipping between games on MLB.TV Mosaic like a man possessed, having all of my favorite players makes the action that much sweeter.
While I know it's a better tactic to see each player as a faceless and nameless stat-generating machine, these six guys have captured my heart and further rekindled my love of baseball. In fact, they even inspire poetry in me.
Here is a haiku dedicated to each one of them:
Flies around the diamond like
Spano on pep pills
Sleeper turned huge star
Sixth-round pick, first-round numbers
How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways; almost
Makes Nats watchable
Big grin and big bat
Devours fastballs for breakfast
With an entire pig
Sorry, I don't speak Spanish
Must mean "roto stud"
Inspires made-up terms
Pound for pound best in baseball
One word? Brauntastic
These guys aren't just poetry in motion, they are also fantasy demigods. In addition to making Hey Rook Nice Piece more fun to follow, they have made my team much better. Since acquiring Braun, my team has gone 10 games over .500 and has climbed right into the thick of the playoff hunt.
After flip-flopping back and forth all year between managing with my head or heart, I think I've finally struck the right balance between the two. I love watching my guys play and I now have one of the best offenses in the league. While it will probably be a classic case of too little, too late since I started the year so poorly, I know I'm going to enjoy the final weeks more than any other part of my inaugural season even if I end up missing the playoffs.
As a newbie, I'm going to learn new things and change my mind about various tactics throughout the season. What I've found is that as long as you love the right guys and don't give up too much to get them, you can be both all smart and all heart. Not that deep a thought, but for a poor poet like me, I'm going to chalk that one up as profound.
Box-score line of the week: July 21-27
Carlos Delgado is currently one of the hottest players in baseball. The eye-popping numbers above actually represent a bit of a down week for the veteran slugger, whose .357 average and nine jacks have made him a Top 10 fantasy player this month.
Delgado has been a serious contributor to my turnaround and his incredibly short swing is the clearest evidence in the world today that old-man strength is a real thing (at least until John McCain outdoes him by wrestling all comers, including a bear, during a campaign stop in Wyoming this fall. You heard it here first). While some people doubt Delgado's ability to keep it up, he's hitting cleanup in a rejuvenated offense and he seems intent on proving he's still got plenty left in the tank.
Last week, I reached another mild milestone in my short career. On the strength of Reyes joining the team and Zim's return, which provided a huge boost to my imaginary clubhouse, our heroes scratched out an 8-2 victory and climbed above .500 for the first time. Like any expansion team (and the Pirates and Royals), I revel in the small victories.
This big week put me in the thick of the playoff hunt. There are essentially five teams left fighting for three spots with only one month to go, and I'm not the only one feeling the pressure. One of the other owners has taken to giving me hourly updates on his team, even when he doesn't have anyone playing. He lets me know through constant e-mails, IMs, phone calls and texts how he is doing. Every time I walk outside, I expect to see a skywriter spelling out "I'm up, 6-4" in the clouds over my house.
When he finally cracks, it's going to be spectacular to watch in a Ricky Bobby-after the-big-crash kinda way. I'm 90 percent sure he'll be asking Tom Cruise to use his witchcraft to propel him into the playoffs.
My matchup this week is with the Mad Cat. After many months of spectacular disappointment, he has finally admitted his draft strategy was an epic failure on the level of "Waterworld," and has begun making trades all over the league to accumulate more power. In the past few weeks, he's managed to add Carlos Pena, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, J.D. Drew and Pat the Bat to his lineup, while only losing Reyes and Milton Bradley.
While he's to be commended for trying to remain competitive despite being in last place, and for having a nose that's better suited on a dog (seriously, they've done studies on him -- it's freaky), it hasn't been enough for him to avoid falling behind, 8-1-1, at the turn.
Such a margin of victory might even move me into a playoff position and make the rest of the season even tenser to follow. I just hope I handle the stress better than Jesse Spano.
I'm so excited
I'm so excited [deep breath]
I'm so [sobbing] SCARED
C: Chris Iannetta, COL
1B: Justin Morneau, MIN
2B: Ian Kinsler, TEX
3B: Ryan Zimmerman, WSH
SS: Jose Reyes, NYM
OF: Ryan Braun, MIL; Carlos Lee, HOU; Curtis Granderson, DET; Conor Jackson, ARI
UTIL: David Ortiz, DH, BOS
BN: Juan Pierre, OF, LAD; Carlos Delgado, NYM
SP: Carlos Zambrano, CHC; CC Sabathia, MIL
RP: Joakim Soria, KC; Salomon Torres, MIL
P: Andy Pettitte, SP, NYY; Carlos Marmol, RP, CHC; Joel Hanrahan, RP, WSH
BN: Zack Greinke, SP, KC; Roy Oswalt, SP, HOU
DL: Aaron Harang, SP, CIN
||Ankiel and Associates (Sully)
||Toms River East (Alex)
||Desert Justice (John)
||Client # Slevin (CuJo)
||Hey Rook Nice Piece (Toby)
||Salary Cap Dream (Danny)
||A-Rod = Applebees (Adam)
||Chuck Cecil Disciples (Peter)
||D. Kolb and the Choke Artists (Mad Cat)