OpinionAugust 24, 2008

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Cleat Marks #10

By Madison Jones

Take Barry Bonds, illegal substances, and Bud Selig out of baseball and the sport gets much quieter. Granted, Bud is still around, but he’s been rather quiet. And speaking of Barry, I guess my prediction about at least one owner willing to gamble proved incorrect. Luckily, I didn’t stash him in any leagues and I hope you didn’t either. So with those stories out of the way, it’s left plenty of time to focus on different things this season.

For starters, let’s look at the Tampa Bay Rays. All I can say is wow. Never would I have imagined them still holding down first place in the American League East. Injuries have hurt the Yankees, and the Red Sox had a severe case of “Manny Being Manny” that lead to him being traded away, but it still surprises me to see the Rays out in front with so much of the season gone. It’s getting close to “magic number” time, seeing as how they are 5.5 games in first with only 34 games left to be played. Personally, it’s nice to see a surprise team doing so well and I guess the devil did make them do it!

How is Rich Harden only 3-1 in 7 starts for the Cubs? He’s recorded 59 strikeouts in only 42 innings (wow!), is sporting a 1.50 earned run average, and has a WHIP under 1 (0.95 to be exact). Not to mention the Cubs are 29 games over .500 and are sitting in first place. Talk about unlucky. For a comparison, look at Milwaukee’s C.C. Sabathia. He’s made 9 starts and is 8-0. He’s racked up 69 strikeouts in 73 innings, has an earned run average of 1.60, and a WHIP of 1.03. The Brewers are 25 games over .500 and trailing only the Cubbies. Pretty even on those two examples, and yet Harden isn’t really making any headlines while Sabathia is all over the news. I even heard C.C.’s name mentioned during a National League Cy Young discussion. Overlooked is Rich Harden, so pay attention come next year’s draft because he might make for a nice pick. I doubt you’ll get him at a “steal”, but he could provide solid return for his draft position.

Who’s the guy dressed up as Cliff Lee? Anyone know? He’s sparkled all season and has racked up 18 wins to go along with his 2.43 earned run average. Tack on a 1.03 WHIP and 141 strikeouts, and you could have yourself a “Fantasy MVP” right there because he was taken very late in most drafts. Edinson Volquez is giving him a run for that title though, as Volquez has won 15 games while maintaining a 2.73 earned run average, a 1.31 WHIP, and 150 K’s. And not to forget the hitting side, Carlos Quentin has exploded this season. He’s hitting .292 with 35 home runs, 97 runs driven in, 92 runs scored, and added 6 stolen bases as a bonus. I’ll give an honorable mention to Mike Mussina for pulling it together and putting in a very solid season himself this year. If you drafted one of these guys, then kudos to you. If you drafted two or even all three, I really hope you’re sitting in first place, as it’s these types of picks that win fantasy leagues. Do you have someone else in mind who deserves the “Fantasy MVP” title? Post it up and let us know!

It’s the final stretch run guys. For those of you in roto leagues, it’s time to make the final push and squeeze out every single point you can. For those in head-to-head leagues, the excitement and/or agony will begin very soon. Best of luck and I hope everyone winds up with a Yoo-Hoo shower when all is said and done!

Madison Jones is always lurking in the shadows of the Cafe. When he does venture into the forums, you can find him posting as Madison.
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