Back In The Swing

May 31, 2010

I’ve been busy working on some other writing projects lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been obsessing over my fantasy baseball teams. The  Ham Fighters suffered through an abysmal May, going 18-27-3 for the month and prompting me to change the team’s name to “Lima Time Forever,” in an effort to gain back favor with the baseball gods. With a whopping 17 HR week, it looks like some of that sleeping lumber is starting to wake up and not a week too soon.

While The Harlem Hangovers hit a rough patch last week, dropping down to as far as fourth place, the team has since bounced back into fine form. Uptown’s Finest finished the week atop the standings with 104.5 points, four better than the second place Osaka Outsiders. Here’s a look at the Hangovers roster as it currently stands.

The biggest news to come out of the Big Ballers League is my trade of Nelson Cruz for Kevin Youkilis. I had been wanting to move Cruz since he reinjured his hamstring last week. I could see the writing on the wall for Mr. Boomstick and it wasn’t pretty. Essentially he’s become the Ian Kinsler of the Texas Outfield: great when he plays but ultimately disappointing due to his reoccurring injuries. To be honest, this deal doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me from the other owners prospective. While the offer was made before Cruz was placed on the 15-day DL, last night, the slugger was well-known to be damaged goods. Perhaps his new owner is more of an optimist than I, but it just doesn’t add up to me, particularly in light of how well Youk has been playing. We count OBP, so Youk and his gaudy .445 clip gain even more value. This move allows me to play the “Greek God of Walks,” at third, bench Gordan Beckham’s anemic bat and move Chase Headley to the outfield as needed.

Another interesting development that gives my team a boost is the arrival of Buster Posey to the big show in SF. But you don’t have Posey, so how’s that help you? Well my disembodied friend, Posey has been playing first base (and hitting the crap out of the ball) since his arrival to the Majors on Saturday. This has prompted manager Bruce Bochey to move first base incumbent, Aubrey Huff into left field, meaning that I’ll soon be able to play Huff in the outfield and bench one of my current OFs for added flexibility – Cameron Maybin, I’m looking at you.

Another move that I made was dumping OBP black hole, A.J. Pierzynski for Greek demigod of Walks, George Kottares. With Greg “Kneel Before” Zaun done for the year with a torn ulner collateral ligament, Kottares becomes Brew-Town’s starting catcher and should generate decent counting numbers and OBP where ever he hits in the Brewer lineup. Kottares and D-Back squatter, Chris Snyder will do fine keeping the catchers seat warm for the impending arrival of Indians top prospect, Carlos Santana.

With all the position shuffling, I now find myself with a log jam in my middle infield. With stalwart Robinson Cano entrenched at second base, Yunel Escobar swinging better for the Braves, Reid Brignac asserting himself for playing time in Tampa and Cubs rookie Starlin Castro continuing to open eyes, I suddenly have a good problem: too many playable middle infielders. It would be nice to be able to trade one of these guys for another bopper or an upgrade in my starting rotation at some point.

On the other side of the ball, The Hangovers pitching staff has been pretty solid. I could stand to use another high quality arm, but who can’t? With a little luck, I already have one in Brandon Webb, who will hopefully see action in the 2nd half.

Unfortunately, let Max Scherzer go now seems like a terrible miscalculation, but I still believe I have enough good arms to win. Scherzer of course was sent down to the minors after performing horribly in his first eight starts for Detroit. Disgusted with yet another bad start, I ditched Mad Max in a fit of rage as my team began to slide in the standings. At AAA Toledo, Scherzer tweaked his delivery and rediscovered his lost velocity, turning in two stellar performances before returning to the big club yesterday. Well it was quite a return for Max, dispatching of 14 A’s batters by strikeout over five and 2/3 innings. Of course he threw that gem just to spite me as he now sits on Georgetown Gigolos roster. Maybe Max is the karmic retribution for stealing Chris Carpenter and Chase Headley for Carlos Lee, Tim Hudson and Brandon Lyons from the New Phila Phenoms earlier this season.

Recent acquisition, Hisanori Takahashi has taken his new starting job in Flushing and run with it, having not yet allowed a run over his 12 innings as a starter. What’s most impressive is that the two starts came against the Yankees and the Phillies. I expect continued success his first go through opposing lineups, before scouting reports catch up with his less than awe-inspiring stuff.

Another recent piece that I picked up was reliever J.C. Romero, who I grabbed when Alfredo “Shutdown SauceSimon went down with a hamstring injury. While Jose Contrares is the primary closer in Illadelph, Romero has closed two games where a lefty heavy lineup batted in the 9th. I can see this sort of usage continuing as the Phils have been struggling and cannot afford to mess with a working bullpen formula.

Overall I’m thrilled with this team’s performance. With the hot Youk injection and Huff’s moving to the outfield, I’ll have added flexibility which will allow me to spot start some of my more dubious players. If Santana performs upon his call-up to Cleveland, I’ll have a new weapon hitting out of my catching slot to improve power numbers. On the bump, I expect some regression from Pelfrey, Cueto and Marcum but not too much. These guys are simply pitching their asses off. Zack Grienke‘s luck has to improve right? The Crown Royals can’t blow every game he pitches and he should continue to be in line for plenty more W’s down the road. The bullpen has suffered from The D.A.’s recent rough patch and the loss of Simon, but Heath Bell continues to rack up Saves fortunately. It would be a nice luxury to have another good closer, so that might be something worth looking soon.

Well there’s the wrap up of The Harlem Hangovers after two months of play. Lets hope that my boys can keep this up!

Here are the standings going into today’s games:

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Lima Time Forever

May 23, 2010

Baseball lost a colorful and talented character today as Jose Lima died of a heart attack at the age of 37. “Lima time” took over Houston for a couple of years, marked by a scintillating 1999, which saw Lima win 21 games and go to the All-Star game for the Astros. Lima who made his home in Los Angeles, brought his fine, control pitching and joyful exuberance to the Dodgers in 2004, drawing top billing in Hollywood for one magical late summer run. As part of that division champion winning team, his solid season was ultimately capped by a five-hit complete game shutout of the Cardinals in the Nation League Divisional Series.

Lima’s celebrations on the mound were the stuff of legend and his persona was larger than life. He lit up clubhouses and made friends wherever he played, from his start with the Tigers in 1994 to stints in various independent leagues from his Native Dominican Republic to California’s Golden Baseball League. after last playing in the Majors as a Met in 2006. He loved to chat with reporters, fans or anyone else within ear shot, making him a fan favorite where ever he pitched and irritating hitters who didn’t care for his swagger. A talented Merengue singer from the Santiago region of The Dominican Republic, who would just as soon talk music as talk pitching, Lima even got to sing the national anthem at Dodger Stadium before a game in 2004. Lima was a man with a big heart, who lived life to the fullest and never lost sight of the fact that he was incredibly lucky to be able to make a great living playing a game.

According to ESPNDeportes, Frank McCourt, the owner of the Dodgers, released a statement saying that Lima had rejoined the organization in the last month as a member of their alumni organization. “He was committed to making appearances in the community on behalf of the team, including an upcoming musical performance at a Viva Los Dodgers event this summer,” McCourt said.

I never got a chance to see Lima pitch in person, but I enjoyed watching him pitch on TV plenty of times. He was the sort of pitcher that you weren’t quite sure how he got hitter out, but seemed to will his way out of trouble all the time. Seriously irritating to see him shut your team down, but always incredibly entertaining, I once named a fantasy baseball team, “Stop… Lima Time!”

Enjoy some videos of Jose off the mound. Here’s one of him hanging out in LAX, singing “Sweet Home Alabama” (to which he admittedly doesn’t know the lyrics) with his teammate, shot last year, while he was a member of the Long Beach Armada.

Lima Time back home in D.R.

We’ll miss you Jose.

“Everyone will remember Jose for his antics on the mound,” said former Astro Craig Biggio, a teammate of Lima’s, according to the team’s website. “But he was a tremendous teammate and a great competitor. It’s a big loss for the Astros baseball family.”

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Baseball’s Idea Of Inbreeding

May 22, 2010

Call me old school, but I’m not a fan of interleague play. While it’s cool to see teams that one might not get a chance to peep outside of October, I just have a hard time getting excited about K.C. playing The Rockies or some of the other “geographical rivalries,” that the geniuses in the MLB office have concocted. With the wild-card playoff format, I’d rather see the Mets for instance, play against other out-of-division, NL teams, who they might be contending with for a back-end shot at the playoffs. It just seems to make more sense in the scheme of things, particularly since having to play six games against the Yanks, puts the Mets at a distinct disadvantage, next to The Cubs for instance, who get the call against their cross-town rival or SF, who get Oaktown six times. I understand that there’s some money to be made at the box office by scheduling teams to play against those in the other league that are close in proximity. Would those gate receipts eclipse the take at games against historical rivals, who’s games might have serious consequence to their playoffs hopes?

Division realignment and the unbalanced schedule really took the steam out of the rivalries that I grew up with. Lets breath new life into those, instead of trying to create new rivalries out of thin air. In my early years as a Mets fan, I grew up hearing about the black cat that cursed the Cubbies in ’69 and ultimately helped those Amazin’s go on to their first world championship. It’s one of those classic moments that you’ll see aired over and over on SNY, when they’re talking Mets history. Poor Ron Santo… In 1984, it was the North-siders who got the long end of the stick in the standings, over an upstart Mets team. I was at Shea for some heated games during that season, fans of both stripes verbally abusing one another like Sweet Lou used to do to umps. Of course the St. Louis Cardinals were the Mets true rival during the 80’s, doing battle in some of the greatest regular season duels in my memory. God how we Mets fans hated Whitey and his team of wild running rabbits. Our hatred was only eclipsed by the genuine animosity the two teams felt. Now the two teams only face each other six times a season and I would imagine younger fans might not even be aware that a such a bitter rivalry existed.

Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez said exactly what I’m thinking. The novelty has worn off. Experiment time is done. Lets have a return to a more balanced schedule and the real rivalries that older fans long to see.

On that note, I’ll add that this hypocrite will be attending the Mets vs. Yanks game tonight at Citifield. Mike Pelfrey on the mound against Phil Hughes. If I were a betting man (that had money to bet) I’d take Hughes. While the injury hampered Yanks have half of their AAA Scranton lineup out there, they should still beat the Mets, whose bats have just looked awful.

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Hawk Reads Hanley The Riot Act

May 20, 2010

“I’m not going to say a lot, because if you say the wrong the thing to me, then you might wind up on the floor on your rear end,” Andre Dawson said to Hanley Ramirez, with Tony Perez standing by his side in a coach’s office at Sun Life Stadium.

That about sums up what the Florida Marlins brass think of their star shortstop, Hanley Ramirez‘ antics, stemming from his costly non-play that got him yanked from Monday’s game. His galling, non-apology to manager Fredi Gonzalez and his teammates only made matters worse as he rode the bench the following day. I hope The Hawk’s coming out to the media further humiliated Ramirez, as he should fully understand that a lot of ordinary people actually spend their limited funds watching guys like him play a game. Well according to Rob Neyer at ESPN, The Marlins shouldn’t have gone there and should have let the whole thing blow over. I don’t agree. It’s not too much to ask for a little hustle from a guy getting paid $70 million to play baseball, is it? If he doesn’t perform like a professional and he wasn’t embarrassed enough (which apparently he wasn’t) by the awful play, than he should be held accountable by his superiors in some way. You’re not going to keep your best player on the bench and you have to continue to pay him, so what better way than to let everyone one know what kind of an immature prick the guy is? Sorry Rob. Numbers only go so far. I gotta cry bullshit on this.

Alex Remington at Fangraphs asks if Dawson’s doings were counterproductive as well. What do you think?

Other interesting happenings around the league…

Angel Pagan hit an inside the park home run and started off a triple play in the same game, the first time anyone’s accomplished the strange feat since Ted Kazanski pulled it off for The Phils back in 1955. The Mets still found a way to lose in D.C. last night 5-3. Pagan is an interesting speedy outfielder play in deep leagues.

The Braves completed the largest comeback in franchise history today, overcoming an 8-0 deficit on their way to defeating the Reds 10-9. The winning blow came in one of strangest ways you’ll ever see a game end: Journeyman infielder Brooks Conrad hit a pinch-hit, walk-off grand salami that bounced out of the extended glove of left fielder Laynce Nix, only to have it deflect over the wall for the game winning homer. My sympathies to Mike Leake owners who changed the channel thinking they had a W in the bag.

Speaking of comebacks, Kevin Gregg blew a Save today in horribly spectacular fashion today and in the process, inflated the pitching ratios on my Head To Head team like Macy’s Thanksgiving float. That was three hits and two walks, while only retiring one Mariners bat in the 4-3 loss. Thanks asshole. Grey at Razzball rubs it in telling everyone he just grabbed Jason Frasor. I subsequently ask how all the fantasy writers always have these empty roster spots with which to grab setup guys for speculative saves. It’s something you always read from the experts if you follow fantasy baseball. “Pick up middle man X in case slumping closer Y fails,” but with my hitting categories close and this being a keeper league, I can’t bring myself to grab Frasor at the expense of young stud catching prospect, Carlos Santana or back-up outfielder Andres Torres. It was only Gregg’s second blown save, so I wouldn’t hit the ‘drop’ button yet.

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Under The Weather

May 19, 2010

I seem to have been struck with the same stomach ailment that plagued Carlos Quentin over the weekend but like Quentinsity, I’m breaking out! With that in mind, I’ll turn to a few of the latest ballers to nursing injuries and how it might open up playing time and create some interesting fantasy options.

Ass-suck Cabrera fractured a wing the other day. Chief Wahoo calls up Jason Donald to fill in at short. Donald went 2-3 with a BB and a run scored last night in his MLB debut, while hitting in the nine-hole. Yeah that sounds dirty but with uninspired duo of Trevor Crowe and Mark Grudzielanek setting the table in Cleveland, it’s safe to imagine Donald leading off in the not too distant future. Donald is a cheap speed play if you’re in need of swipes and shouldn’t kill your ratios, as he has exhibited decent plate discipline in the minors.

Josh Beckett was sent to the DL with pain in his lower back. Fantasy owners trying to trade him (like my man JP) collectively bury their heads in their hands. I’m not sure what’s more painful, Red-State-Jeter’s bum back or having to watch him pitch. Tim Wakefield will take Beckett’s place in the Sawx rotation. I wouldn’t roster Wakefield with your team. Instead go grab some schmo who pitches in the NL West, like John Ely, Jason Hammel, Jon Garland or Jeff Francis for a safe play. You could also go with…

Atlanta Braves pitcher. Kris Medlen, who looked solid in his start against the Mets last night. Going in place of Jar Jar “I told you he’d end up on the DL” Jurrjens, Medlen cruised through five before giving up solo jacks to Ike and Frenchy and ultimately getting chased in the 7th.  He finished with a no-decision but a tidy 6K, 2BB, 4H and 2ER in 6 1/3IP. There’s a lot to like about the young righty who started the season in the bullpen and now holds a 26/5 K/BB rate in 29 1/3 IP through 2010. With a mix of plus fastballs and a very effective change, he’s sustained that 5-1 K/BB rate through his minor league career so those numbers are not a fluke. I’m looking forward to seeing him go deeper into games and raking up Quality Starts for the Uptown Ham Fighters, as he stretches out and gets more acclimated to starting.

Of course the biggest injury to hamper the hopes of Dodger fans and fantasy owners alike, is the fractured pinky that Andre Ethier suffered in batting practice a few days ago. The hottest hitter in baseball couldn’t swing through the pain, so he was placed on the DL yesterday for some R & R. In his place the Trolley Dodgers call up intriguing power-speed combo, Xavier Paul. Paul was raking for the AAA Isotopes over the last few weeks, before getting the call. He didn’t reach base in three plate appearances while hitting out of the two-hole last night for Los Angeles.

One of the surprise stars of my Ham Fighter squad is Yankee right fielder Nick Swisher. Swish has been a steady producer in 2010, hitting well from both sides of the plate on his way towards approaching the numbers he posted in his career year in 2005. Nagged by a strained left bicep for the past few weeks, the arm flared up last week during the Yanks-Tigers doubleheader split. Making it painful to swing from the left side, he’s been sitting the past two nights, after coming out of the game on Sunday against the Twins. Consider him day-to-day, but be ready to grab a bat if he hits the DL. That bat should not be Randy Winn or Marcus Thames, unless you’re playing in a deep AL-Only league or you hate yourself. Thames might give you a little pop against lefties or Jon Paplebon, but neither are really rosterable.

Back off of the DL is Cardinal infielder, Felipe Lopez. The versatile, if unspectacular utility man hit a two-run bomb in his second game leading off for St. Louis last night. Brendan Ryan will ride the pine as Lopez should see consistent playing time. The holder of a career .269/.338/.401 line has shown flashes of goodness through out his 10 seasons in the bigs but has had nagging injuries that have hampered him. If he could get hot, Lopez could be a good source of runs at with occasional speed and power, that won’t murder your ratios. Leading off for the Cards has its benefits and you could do worse as far as middle infielders go.

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Legend Of The Overfiend

May 18, 2010

Lyle Overbay is like that monster in a horror film that the protagonist could swear they killed, only to have it rise up one last time to give the crowd a cheap gasp. Just when you think he’ll ride the pine and give another guy a chance to shine, the Overfiend arises to make you think he’s a rosterable fantasy baseball player.

In today’s win against the Twinkies, the unkillable Blue Jays first baseman filled up the box score with crooked numbers for the second time in a week, going 2 -4 with a HR, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored. With 7 hits over his last 24 plate appearances (2 BB) over the past six games, Overbay has hit two dingers, scored and driven in six. With Brett Wallace percolating down on the farm while playing first base exclusively, The Jays are giving Overbay every opportunity to showcase his limited talents for teams that might in the market for a replacement level first baseman. He could be a pick up in a deep league if you’re hurting at the corner, but I wouldn’t expect too much. In fact I wouldn’t pick him up. So how’s that for an endorsement!?

If Corey Patterson was infected with Zombie Ju-Ju, he would be one of these relentless new-school zombies, that runs like the wind and attacks everything in sight. Swinging at everything he sees at the plate hasn’t worked out so well for Dusty Baker’s favorite lead-off man, as he carries an ultra-light weight .252/.291/.405 career line since entering the league in 2000. After bouncing around for cups of coffee in Milwaukee and Washington last year, C.P. was resurrected from his latest blow-fish venom induced slumber and inserted into the Charm City lineup as the everyday left fielder on May 12. Reanimating a lifeless Orioles squad, with 8 hits, 8 R/ 2 HR/2 SB/3 BB and 5 K in 29 PA, Patterson could be useful if you’re in dire need of speed. If you play in an OBP league, forget I ever wrote this. In fact you can print it up and then eat the page, so nobody ever finds it. If you don’t use OBP, Patterson’s speed and run production at the top of the O’s order, might be sufficient to mitigate whatever damage he might do to your batting average. Since Nolan Reimold has been playing first down in AAA and Felix Foot is laid up in sick bay, Patterson has a clear shot at playing time if he can produce. That’s a huge if but this is a guy who’s stolen more than 30 bases three times in his career, with a season high of 45 in 2006, his first year haunting the Baltimore outfield.

A final player noteworthy for recently rising from obscurity is Austin Kearn, who I discussed upon picking him up in the Big Ballers League back on April 27. While an 0 – 4 afternoon snapped his nine game hitting streak and he’s cooled off a bit as of late, he’s still providing solid R/RBI production while hitting in the middle of the Cleveland Indian lineup. I didn’t think that I’d be keeping Kearn when Nelson Cruz returned from the DL, but his steady play has lead me to hold onto the much maligned outfielder, who hasn’t been fantasy relevant since 2007. Current ZiPs projections have Kearn finishing this season with a 59 R/10 HR/59 RBI/4 SB/.274/.368/.431  line in 435 PA, which isn’t bad for a 5th OF in deeper OBP leagues, like the one I own him in. I don’t really expect to see him on The Harlem Hangovers roster at season’s end but I’ll ride him for as long as I think he might be useful.

Come back soon for more tales from the fantasy baseball halls of horror and in the mean time witness the horror that is…

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Holy Diver: Gavin Floyd *UPDATED*

May 17, 2010

In memory of the passing of Metal God Ronnie James Dio, I’m going to discuss another pitcher who’s career has taken a holy dive this season. The White Sox, fans and fantasy owners alike had very high hopes for Gavin Floyd coming into 2010. After a highly successful 2008 campaign, his first as a full-time starter in the majors, Floyd’s results took a dip last season, as he finished 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.23 WHIP and 163 K’s in 193 innings. Looking deeper at his numbers however, we see his peripherals actually improved, as his FIP went down from 4.77 to 3.77 from 08′ to 09. His 2.76 K/BB ratio was also a dramatic improvement over the 2.07 rate he posted the year before. Down as well were his HR/9, going from 1.31 to .98. So inspite of a drop in Wins from 17 to 11, Floyd actually pitched better, leading me to believe we’d see a solid year out of Floyd in 2010.

1-4 7.00 ERA/1.71 WHIP and 7.2K/3.4BB per 9 over 43 innings in eight, mostly miserable starts. That’s what fantasy owners like me have gotten for thinking Floyd was actually a good buy. The ERA and WHIP are ghastly to say the least, but a K/BB rate like that would lead one to believe that he should be seeing more success. More puzzling is that he’s actually given up less jacks at .8 HR/9, down from .98 and less line drives: 18.2% versus 22.4% last year. In fact his contact rate overall is down from 77.8% in ’09 to 75.7% in ’10. So what’s happened to Gavin Floyd?

This isn’t a matter of a guy facing tough competition. Floyd’s been given a laser show by Cleveland, Seattle and K.C. twice now. If a pitcher’s not going to get fat off of those bums than who’s he supposed to get right against, the Twins? Floyd’s been the unfortunate recipient of a .381 BABIP, tied for third highest amongst all starters. Couple that with a 57.2% strand rate, fifth worst in the game, and you’ve got a very very sad pitcher. I don’t care how many bats you miss, you’re not going to succeed if the hits are falling in like that. Why has Gavin Floyd suddenly become so hittable?

Unlike our last case study in futility Max Scherzer, the problem here isn’t due to a loss in fastball velocity. Floyd has maintained the pitch speed on his hard stuff. He is throwing his four-seam fastball only 29.6% of the time however, leaning on his two-seamer for 19.2% of his pitches, up from only 2% last season. What about his breaking stuff?

From Yahoo: After Sunday’s lost to the Royals, manager Ozzie Guillen was asked if there is a chance the struggling pitcher could be replaced in the rotation, especially with top pitching prospect Daniel Hudson not disappointing in the minors, and Guillen said not yet. “As long as Gavin is healthy … he’s got only one problem, throwing strikes,” Guillen said. “I think (Sunday) he threw only two or three breaking balls for a strike. You’re not going to win that many games doing that.”

Last season, Gavin Floyd’s slider was a very effective pitch and he threw it 16.3% of the time for a Pitch Value of 7.5 Runs Above Average, according to Fangraphs. This season, that value has dropped to -2.9. His curve, which was downright filthy, has also lost a good deal of effectiveness it seems, slipping from a 14.1 RAA in ’09, down to 1.9 this season. Looking at horizontal movement, we’ll note that his slider which was arriving at -.3 inches off of the X-axis is now coming in at +.7 inches. The curve has flattened out a good deal too from 7.3 to an even 5, below the league average of 5.3 inches. So it seems that Floyd’s lost some feel for his breaking pitches and has tried to compensate with a below average two-seam fastball and change-up combination, which he’s thrown a lot more this season than last.

I wish I could look into the future and say with certainty that Floyd will turn his season around. With every start, those prospects seem to grow dimmer. We seem to have a case of a very mixed up pitcher who also happens to be pitching behind a poor fielding team, with the 6th worst UZR in baseball. Another strike against Floyd is that the ChiSox are not hitting and it never helps a pitcher to constantly feel that he’s walking a tightrope without a net. Chicago’s .313 wOBA is 7th worst in the game and there have been few signs of this team snapping out of it. Changes are in order and how those changes will effect Floyd are anyone’s guess.

As for my stake in Floyd in fantasy land? The clock is ticking on the once promising South Sider and it’s almost time to cut bait. I’m going to try my best to move him via trade in the coming days, which might buy him another start on my team. He could be on waivers in exchange for bat soon, since Nick Swisher’s been day-to-day with a bicep injury and I’m thin for bats as it is.

NOTE: I got so sick of seeing his cancerous name in the Ham Fighters rotation, that I dumped him for San Francisco speedster Andres Torres. I couldn’t even bring myself to mention him in a trade. Let someone else worry about when he’s going to bounce back. In H2H you gotta play the hot hand.

While you contemplate Floyd’s fate, enjoy a performance from the man who popularized the devil horns…

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