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05/09/2007 1:13 PM ET
In-house affair: Mixing fantasy with pleasure
Competing against your spouse can lead to complications

 Ask Rotoman
 Peter Kreutzer

 When healthy, is Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya in the same value range as Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett?  (AP)
Question 1: BLISS

Dear Rotoman:

My girlfriend and I are in a league together and on opposing teams. In our league, when a trade is proposed, the league has to vote on it. Anyway, we had discussed a trade in which I would trade her Joel Zumaya for A.J. Burnett. I was looking for a starter, and she was looking for a reliever, plus I knew she liked Zumaya.

I discussed this with the commissioner of our league and he felt it was a decent trade, but once we made it, he called for a veto. Naturally, the trade got vetoed, she dropped Burnett, and I ended up having to drop another of my players to pick him up and hope he was there when he cleared waivers. He was.

Now the commissioner says I was screwing her over, but ...

1. We live in the same house.
2. We discussed and agreed to the trade.
3. Everyone in the league knows we live together.

My question is, was that a good trade?

"Pillow Talk"

Dear Talk:

All this went down, obviously, before Zumaya tore a tendon in his finger and had surgery, which should keep him out until August. But the actual trade part of your letter isn't really of much interest. Burnett earned $8 last year, while Zumaya earned $14, and Zumaya could have become a closer at any time. It's not traditional to deal a starter for a setup guy, but I agree with the first opinion of your commissioner; it's a decent trade, a defensible one.

Actually, your duplicitous commissioner isn't of that much interest, either. After all, you ask a guy for his opinion, he gives you his support, but when it's time to vote, he actively campaigns against you? Why do you play with this guy? Get out of this league. Asking other owners to approve trades by vote is stupid, but not nearly as stupid as playing with a lying, untrustworthy commissioner. End of story.

Of course, what sparked my interest in your letter was the first sentence. In the 12 years I've done this, I don't think I've ever heard of a guy and his gal playing on different teams in the same league. I've played in leagues with women, but none that had a boyfriend in the league. Lawr Michaels' wife, Cathy, had a fantasy team for a couple of years, but they didn't play in the same league. I've known homosexual men with teams, too, and they didn't play in leagues with their boyfriends. Nope, maybe I live a sheltered life, but your situation seems quite novel.

Here is where I should make the knockout joke, something about having to trade Big Papi or wind up on the sofa, but the more I think about your situation, the warmer my thoughts get. If you two are open and trusting enough to play this consuming game against one another and still have a working relationship, more power to you. So my advice is, keep talking, keep trading, never go to sleep mad and get out of that league!


Question 2: COMPARE

Dear Rotoman:

I just traded away the red-hot Josh Hamilton for the struggling Bobby Abreu. Is it a good deal going forward?

"Joshing, Not"

Dear Not:

What we don't know is why Abreu's power has flatlined since he won the All-Star Home Run Derby in 2005. In the first half of that year, in 397 plate appearances, Abreu hit 18 homers and had a slugging percentage of .526. In the second half of the year, he hit six homers in 322 PA with a .411 SLG.

That's not alarming. Fluctuation happens. But then, Abreu only hit 15 homers in 2006, split between Philadelphia and New York, with a .462 SLG. That's a definite decline in power, even though he didn't seem to be injured, and players in his position (getting older) generally add power, not drop it.

What's even more alarming is that this year, Abreu's feebleness seems to be even more feeble. His SLG is a wondrously awful .312. When I tried to find a comparable player, I discovered that Cristian Guzman and Neifi Perez both have career slugging percentages near .375. Bobby Abreu has been awful this year.

Despite all this bleak evidence, Abreu is on target in stolen base and walks, his batting average is suppressed but modestly so, and he's scoring runs. For whatever reason, it's hard for him to punch the power clock, but he's doing the job in other ways.

Does that mean he's a good pickup for Hamilton, who so far stands as the hitting phenom of this season? Of course he is. Hamilton is a classic sell-high candidate, a player with almost no professional experience the last three years who has stepped into Major League shoes and dominated. While the sabermetric indicators say Hamilton's talents are real, remember that he is an extreme novelty to all pitchers. They haven't figured out how to pitch him yet.

When they do, he's bound to struggle some. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he's a great player, or will be one day, I'm just saying that from his lofty perch, he's likely to get knocked down a few rungs. Meanwhile, history tells us that even a struggling Abreu (April is historically his worst month) will rebound, perhaps even muscularly. That makes your trade a good one.


Question 3: THE BIG ONE


What can I expect the rest of the season from slumping sluggers Alfonso Soriano, Garrett Atkins and Bill Hall? Also, would you start Carlos Guillen over Hall next week?

"Hall of Shame"

Dear Shame:

Slow starts are nerve wracking for invested owners. And the more I (and others like me) point out that it is still early, the more I recall that while some will bounce back and have their regular season, there are players who will inexplicably fail all year long.

Not that there is much we can do about it. Mike Lowell a couple of years ago went from a middle-of-the-lineup producer to a scrub, for no apparent reason. Last year, veteran players like Marcus Giles and Preston Wilson foundered, while promising youngsters like Jhonny Peralta and Clint Barmes, coming off big years, beached.

The best we can do in these cases is to take a look at the specifics and the player's history, and make a judgment about whether there is cause to think that he won't bounce back. Of the three guys you mention, one is clearly unlike the others.

His name is Alfonso Soriano. He's a four time 30-30 clubber who joined the 40-40 club last year. Over the last five years, he's hit 186 homers. In other words, he's a star. He started the year learning to play center field, which had to be a distraction, and then he pulled a hammy, which landed him on the disabled list. He's having to work his way back into baseball readiness on the field in games, which is bound to make anyone struggle. He may not match last year's numbers, but he'll be fine.

Garrett Atkins was a prospect who progressed a little slowly and was viewed as something of a disappointment but broke out last year with a big offensive year. Given his solid walk rate, good contact skills and power burst in the second half last year, he looks like a solid bet to match last season's production. He's struggling so far, but he's still taking his walks. When he starts making better contact, he'll pick up where he left off last year.

Bill Hall was born almost two weeks after Atkins in December 1979 but reached the Majors a year before him and to date has 400 more big-league at-bats. As a youngster, he was a free swinger who didn't make much contact, but in the last two years, he's walked more and hit for power (while striking out a lot). He was expected to continue to hit homers this year but take a hit in batting average. Instead, his interior numbers are the same as last year, but it's the power that's not there. Like Soriano, Hall has been adjusting to a new position. There is also the chance that with his new role, he's been asked not to swing quite so often from the heels. He'll be OK, it's early, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he didn't match last year's power numbers or AVG, and he should never try to steal.

The only reason to ever play Hall over Guillen is because you need home runs and don't care about the other categories.

Until next time,

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