- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
I still get a kick out of watching a George Carlin stand-up routine on TV or video. I saw him in person in concert once, and I don't know if I've ever laughed that hard again. Carlin was very creative and wouldn't abide by any boundaries, and it turned out the Supreme Court agreed with him. Anyway, you can read all about Carlin's life on news sites today, as the comedian passed on from heart failure at the age of 71 over the weekend. He will be missed.
In honor of Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV" sketch, which still cracks me up to this day 30-some years after I remember hearing it for the first time, here are the seven words (or phrases) you never want to hear in fantasy baseball, in no particular order.
Collusion: I've never been a part of this word on the bad end, which means I haven't pushed words like integrity and fair play too far in a fantasy game, but I have had to deal with this as commissioner and league mate. It stinks. Win or lose the game the right way, I say. If you're in first, earn your championship. If you're in last, try to get into ninth place rather than sinking even further into oblivion. Or, as Mike Tyson, another pretty good comedian, once said, before you fade into "Bolivian." Dumping belongs in this section as well. I don't want a championship decided by one owner helping out another, or helping out the entire league, yet people still do this, even in my leagues.
Rebuilding: I still cringe at the thought of this word in a keeper league. I guess, at some point, all owners have to do this, realize they don't have the horses to make a run for the title the next season, so they feel the need to move Ichiro to a contender for three younger parts. I just don't want to do it. In a perfect world, we'd all get the chance to win a championship every year.
Dr. James Andrews: Colleague Stephania Bell, fast becoming a star at ESPN by the way, tells me this Birmingham, Ala., doctor is actually a very nice man, and I believe her. But when I own Shaun Marcum in like five leagues and the day after the AL ERA/WHIP leader leaves a start with a sore elbow he already has a plane ticket to see Dr. Andrews, I'm not pleased. Remember, pitchers don't visit the Tommy John doctor to break bread. By the way, I've met the real Tommy John. He was a good pitcher, seems like a nice guy, but man, to have that injury named after you is tough. Have you ever thought about what injury you'd want named after you, if you could choose?
DH-only: Billy Butler, I'm talking to you. He's got that first base eligibility now, but you couldn't draft him there in most leagues. We know guys like David Ortiz, Frank Thomas and Travis Hafner will fall short year after year, but when a 21-year-old kid (now 22) clogs your utility spot on draft day, it's a bit different. Butler also qualifies for a few other phrases you never want to hear, like "getting sent to the minors" and "4-A player," but I do think neither of those will be associated with Butler much longer.
Pitching cap exceeded, over start limit: The worst time to see this one is in August, when you're in the race for a roto title, and you realize Jake Peavy and Justin Verlander no longer have any value for you, and if you try to trade them elsewhere the day before the deadline, you're not going to get much for them. The solution? Please pay attention to your league rules, see if there's an innings or at-bats minimum or maximum, and plan the season accordingly so you can still compete in the final month. This goes for weekly head-to-head formats as well. I hate heading into Sunday with all my starts used up, knowing I need only one win or a few K's to steal a few more categories, and a nice spot starter like Jo-Jo Reyes is still sitting there.
Closers just getting work in!: Ugh, is there anything worse? I'm sure we notice only when our closers get pummeled when they're getting work in, as opposed to when they pitch well in the same situation. Like on Sunday night, when the Cubs are about to finish off the White Sox, and here comes Bobby Jenks to "just get some work in" because he hasn't had a lead to save all weekend. As a Jenks owner, the fact he allowed only one run actually made it a solid outing. Note to new Mets manager Jerry Manuel: Whether it's actually true or not is secondary, but Billy Wagner gets lit in mop-up games. Just save him for the saves.
Fell down stairs carrying deer meat: An oldie but a goodie, we finish with this one. Of course nobody wants to see their players hit the disabled list, because then they can't help their fantasy team. Sometimes, in reality, a DL trip is not a bad thing, like with Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs. He'll miss two or three starts, total. He'll still make 31 or 32 this season. The big picture is the two weeks of rest will protect Zambrano from himself, which I like. Good going, Cubbies. Protect that investment! Then there's Clint Barmes, hitting .400 in April 2005, still carrying an OPS near .900 in June, and the dreaded deer meat comes into play and ruins everything. It could have been worse. Imagine if he fell down a flight of stairs carrying Girl Scout cookies, and the repercussions on that industry? By the way, Barmes is off the DL, and ready to resume his inconsistent career. Jeff Baker owners should get a week of DH duties while the Rox visit AL parks, and after that, who knows?
So there are seven phrases you never want to see in fantasy baseball. Have some more, send 'em in! Hey, I have an eighth: Sidney Ponson. Wonder what the Supreme Court would say about that one!
You'll see plenty of talk over the next month in terms of who might and might not get traded, leading with C.C. Sabathia. For the record, most of these deals will not get done, and most of the ones that do happen will go down to the wire on July 31. There's a reason for this; like fantasy baseball, it's about value, and teams are more desperate at the trading deadline. Fantasy owners thinking about rebuilding should wait until the players they want to move are at their apex for value. Like Mark Teixeira, for example. Will there be a better day than today, after he swatted three home runs? But to deal David Ortiz today makes no sense.
So, how do I feel about Chipper Jones now? Well, .400 is a memory at this point, but let's not be hasty to bury the guy, either. He probably will sit out Monday, and hopefully only 20 or so more games the rest of the way. I'd take a .350 season with 30 home runs in 130 games, wouldn't you? Sure, it's not ideal, and if he bats "only" .350 for the season it means he will struggle to hit .300 the rest of the way, but don't measure players solely on the first two months. Jones has less value than a few weeks ago, but he's still valuable.
The Shaun Marcum injury hit me like a brick. I wasn't expecting it. I thought he had emerged, was safe, might actually win the WHIP title. Now I feel used. I will not make this same mistake in leagues where I own Justin Duchscherer. Not to be negative, but the Marcum injury is a sign, to me.
Yes, it is true I predicted a Blue Jays shake-up in Friday's Baseball Today podcast. John Gibbons was relieved of his duties by J.P. Ricciardi, who might be even more at fault for the plight of the once-proud Blue Jays, later that day. I don't see Toronto having any fire sale, and affecting fantasy baseball very much, despite being in last place. The team just doesn't hit enough, because it views Alex Rios and Vernon Wells as No. 3 and 4 hitters. They aren't. Matt Stairs leads the team in home runs. Adam Lind profiles as a middle-of-the-order presence, so Cito Gaston better play him regularly.