- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Mad at Carlos Quentin? Hardly. On the contrary, I like to take positive outlooks on things. Sure, it would have been nice had Quentin continued his MVP season, rather than breaking his wrist in a fit of mistimed anger, thus costing the White Sox and fantasy owners here in September, but he didn't. Over the weekend, when the news of the surgery was made official, I cut Quentin for Chris Dickerson. Imagine that!
The thing is, had Quentin not gotten hurt and just stunk in September, he would have cost us and the White Sox more. This is what fantasy owners don't seem to get. Yeah, it stinks that Quentin's power is done for the season, but at least we have closure. He's done. We can cut him for the likes of Dickerson and not feel remorse. Nobody else in your league can beat you with Quentin. You cut Brandon Webb today, and, well, that might not work out so well if he gets back on track. Leave him active, and he hurts you.
Of course, dropping Webb is exactly what I'd like to do on a head-to-head team of mine. Instead, I will choose to bench him, because whether it's injury or fatigue or the way the moon is crossing over some axis or whatever, he's pitching poorly, doing harm to the Diamondbacks and fantasy owners.
When you get to September in a fantasy baseball league and you still have a shot to win, the rules of managing have to change. Sometimes the wise move is to play it safe, but if you're the one who needs to make up the points, you can't afford to send Webb out there every fifth day. He might still win the Cy Young Award -- I really want to choose CC Sabathia, and Tim Lincecum certainly is a factor, but time will tell -- but at the same time, he might be waiver-wire material. Fantasy owners need to know when to ignore the "I'm healthy ... I'll figure things out" quotes and sit a guy. The Diamondbacks can't do that, not after choking away the National League West lead over the weekend. You can.
Since Aug. 26, the day Webb got pounded by the lowly Padres in his first of three failed attempts at his 20th win, nobody has allowed more earned runs than he has. He has permitted 21 runs, 19 earned, and his WHIP is nearly 2.00. This is not the time for your ace to be struggling, so you have to be proactive and sit him. While I haven't totally given up on the guy and released him, I won't use him.
Anyway, I just finished a first-round playoff win in the ESPN Hot List league, knocking off one of the producers. Next up, I play anchor Michael Kim. I cut Quentin and some other name players, and now find myself relying on Dickerson, Pablo Sandoval and Kevin Slowey. You have to roll with the times. Zach Miner certainly didn't help the cause with his performance Monday.
Here are the classifications of players I have no problem cutting ties with in September.
The tired pitchers: I tend to see this more with young lefties than portsiders. Joe Saunders and John Danks have been on my watch list for the past month. Saunders won his 15th game over the weekend, after struggling through a few outings, so maybe whatever was ailing him has stopped. He says he went back to basics. This is good advice for all of us! Similarly, Danks has never thrown this many innings before and could be playoff bound, and his team needs him out there. If Paul Maholm gets winded, the Pirates can shut him down and nobody notices, except us. Greg Smith and Glen Perkins are spot starter types I won't use anymore. While we all appreciate what Saunders has done this season, if you drop him now, he probably is not going to burn you too badly. He has 15 wins, but what does he have left, maybe three or four starts? He strikes out nobody. I'll drop a guy like him and try to get him back for his next outing, knowing he's hit or miss this late in the season. As for right-handers, I thank Jair Jurrjens for his efforts this season, and the fact that I have him on a bunch of teams, but he's a matchups type now.
The older pitchers who probably are tired: Pedro Martinez looked terrible against the Phillies over the weekend, and it could have been worse. He allowed six runs, and of the 12 outs he did register, nine were fly ball outs. A few of those shots could have left the park. I dumped Martinez a month ago in one league and cut the cord in a deeper format a week ago, before my team could be saddled with the bad game against Philly. But he still is owned in nearly half of ESPN's standard leagues, mainly due to the Hall of Fame name. Tim Wakefield, Kenny Rogers and Andy Pettitte also are struggling and should be parted with. I used one of my final transactions in a league last week to let Justin Verlander walk and sign David Purcey. It was a matchups thing, but clearly Verlander is a mess. A fellow league owner grabbed Verlander. So, this was actually win-win for me.
The low-save closers: Every save doesn't matter in every league, not this late. I had three closers in a league sans a bench, and I kept trying to get saves, going through the backup Diamondbacks pitchers and a few Tigers, then I just gave up and loaded up on starters. At most, I can lose one spot in the standings. Mike Gonzalez has managed to save four games in the past four weeks, which just isn't worth it unless you can gain a spot or two in the standings. I dropped Troy Percival in a league before he came off the DL, with the thinking being he won't get every Rays save and his bad outings are too counterproductive. This has proved to be true. I also cut Luis Ayala in a league and watched my playoff opponent this week, Kim, add him, so it works both ways. In that league, the category is saves/holds, though, and I've got plenty of holds guys. Chad Qualls is more valuable than Ayala in that league. Joel Hanrahan, Salomon Torres and Brandon Lyon are other examples of closers who just aren't getting many chances, and now that the Cardinals situation with Chris Perez is muddled, I wouldn't bother. Chris Carpenter might get a few saves, but will they really help you?
Struggling veteran bats: I wrote a few weeks ago that I was ready to give up on Chipper Jones, and since the All-Star break, he has managed a largely hollow batting average of .302, with two home runs and 16 RBIs. If you gave up on Jones before your trade deadline, good for you for spotting an obvious situation. Who cares if others in your league laugh at you? He's playing, but really, he's playing out the string. It's imperative that fantasy owners not rely on players' names when they aren't producing the numbers you think they are, assuming there are others out there who are. Akinori Iwamura, for example, is on a first-place team, he shows up on "Baseball Tonight" Web Gems quite a bit and, sure, he's hitting for average. Did you know that since the All-Star break, he has zero home runs and one stolen base? Look, if Fernando Tatis is more productive than Pat Burrell, what are you waiting for? The goal is to win, not field a team of OPS leaders. If you own Dan Uggla, even at the relatively weak position of second base, it's not hard to find someone better right now.
Now, here is the type of player I do like in September:
The surprise prospects: While Mat Gamel was a very popular addition in my leagues, he's not doing much. It's not his fault; he's not getting opportunity. Everyone knows about the top prospects. But who knew Pablo Sandoval could rake like this? Look at the Giants, a team that started six rookies the other day. They combined for nine runs, 13 hits and nine RBIs. That had happened like once in 50 years. There's nothing wrong with riding the hot hand. I had Kevin Millar the past few weeks in the Hot List league, but OPS counts, and once Sandoval earned first base eligibility, I made the switch. I know some owners who say Sandoval is valuable only when playing catcher. Well, he's helping me at first base! I also am grabbing Nate Schierholtz and still relying on Eugenio Velez in a few leagues, although I realize he's just not that good. Schierholtz, I think, will be. I watched him the other day and, while this is a bit of a reach, it reminded me of when Nick Markakis was coming up and begging to play. Mike Aviles is another guy who wasn't supposed to be this good, but he is, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.
Mad at Carlos Quentin? Hardly. On the contrary, I like to take positive outlooks on things. Sure, it would have been nice had Quentin continued his MVP season, rather than breaking his wrist in a fit of mistimed anger, thus costing the White Sox and fantasy owners here in September, but he didn't.