Friday, September 4, 2009

Pittsburgh's Fantasy Baseball Team

Wow, I am not a Pirates fan but I have just found out that I am an enabler; thanks for explaining this to me. I have been giving my friend Michael Beasley money to purchase alcohol and illegal substances for the past few months. No, really I am guilty. I have attended more Pirates’ games in the past 12 months than any non-pirates fan should. In fact, embarrassingly enough, I have been to more Pirates’ games than that of any other team (non IM-basketball division of course).

Attending games, supporting the team, buying apparel, this is what a fan does. Yes, the Pirates’ front office is inept. Yes, their recent percentage of successful free agent signings is that of Tony Romo’s win percentage in the playoffs (for all you Cowboy fans that number still remains at .000). But I repeat that is the job of a fan, to support a team through thick and thin. If you can’t support a team and be a fan of them when they are losing then you aren’t a fan at all. If you were a fan when Barry Bonds played for Pirates you should be one now, if you were a fan when the great Roberto Clemente was a Pirate you should be one now. If you aren’t a fan of them now you weren’t really a fan of them then.

Fair-weather fans don’t exist, if you don’t cheer for a team when they are losing you were never a fan in the first place. You were just riding the wave of enthusiasm brought on by a winning atmosphere. Being a fan isn’t about going to games when they have a shot at the division; it’s about being there when they are 20 games out of first 30 games in to the season. Real fans have boundless hope for their team. They get excited at the beginning of every season. They show up to games just to support the team. The Pirates show that Pittsburgh has a fan base, not the Steelers not the penguins. It is much more impressive to me that 20,000 fans show up for a Buccos game than it is that all Steelers games are sold out for the season, wow impressive the Super Bowl Champs are sold out, who would ever have imagined that happening.

One of the greatest things about being a fan is seeing your team go from being in the basement and in years win the championship. Believe me I know. I am a Phillies fan. I am and have been for years. My friends would torment me about how bad they were when I was in high school and now I can bask in the glory of a World Series Trophy. In fact, I miss some of the old days when I could show up the night of the game and buy tickets. Now you need to buy tickets weeks in advance to have a shot at getting tickets. This is the reason I could not attend a game this year, all of the non-fans who decided they should start going to games. Not that I am complaining, I can watch on TV and support them that way. I’ll save my games for the time when my team needs them most.

That is all beside the point. I am most interested in the theory of tanking if for 5 years and loading up a team. I love it. In fact I love it so much I am going to show how it would work out, besides taking the obvious way out and pointing to the Florida Marlins. Ok so in order for me to do this I decided that I started the project 5 years ago and I was going to take a 1 shot deal at the World Series in 2010. All of my players who are still on the roster because we brought them up and they are still within their arbitration are fair game, the only player I would ever consider keeping for talent purposes would be Zack Duke. I limited my self to a $150 million pay roll to fill out an entire roster; I would put almost all of that into starters and 2-3 bullpen pitchers and hope that I could find bench players and relief pitchers on the cheap.

So my lineup would look like this.

1- Chone Figgins-3rd base: 8 million (Consistent .300 hitter, 100+ runs, 50+ steals)
2- Carl Crawford-CF: 15 million (Maybe the most athletic and versatile player in the game, steal 50 hit .300, 25 homeruns, and can flat out play defense)
3- Jason Bay-LF: 12 million (Beautiful in his return to Pittsburgh, stepped up his game when wins mattered, big RBI guy in Boston would get about 125 with these 2 in front of him)
4- Matt Holiday-RF: 15 million (Cardinals have the best record in baseball with his acquisition, it hurts me to say this but he should have been MVP 3 years ago)
5- Victor Martinez-C: 10 million (best hitting catcher in baseball, enough said)
6- Adam Laroche-1st base: 8 million (sorry guys, weak year at 1B but he looks good again in Atlanta will produce in this lineup, plays better when he can be in the supporting cast)
7- Mark Derosa-2nd base: 6 million (consummate professional, can play all over infield, and offensively has taken his game to another level in his later years)
8- Orlando Cabrera-SS: 5 million (struggled with Oakland, has turned it on in Minnesota provides some pop and RBI potential at the bottom of the lineup)

Starting Staff
1. Tim Hudson-SP: 12 million (1 season since his rookie year with an ERA over 4, wins 2/3’s of his decisions, solid staff ace)

2. Jon Lackey-SP: 12 million (averages 200 innings a year, winning record all but 1 season, career ERA under 4.00, one season over 4.00)
3. Eric Bedard-SP: 8 million (recent injury struggle, nasty stuff, averages 8.9 K per 9 innings for career, ERA of 2.8 and 90 K’s in 80 innings prior to injury this season)
4. Jon Garland-SP: 8 million (work horse, throws over 190 innings every full season in majors, wins ball games)
5. Zack Duke-SP: 3 million (The lone pirate, an all-star in 2009 with a real pitching coach and an organization who cares he could be a stud)

Closer- Brett Myers: 7 million (Wants to close; yes I know he has been a starter most of his career but if anyone saw the Phillies run to the division in 2007, they saw the emotion and the talent he has, world class curveball, mid 90’s slider & fastball serious mean streak, I mean he beat his wife mean streak)

Set up- Rafael Soriano: 7 million (graduated form setup role to closer this year has the ability to do either)
Set up- Fernando Rodney: 7 million (looks great in first years closing)
(Weakest part of team, I am banking on my starters going 7+ most of the time I should only require an inning from this crew)
RHP: Jeff Karstens 400,000
RHP: Joel Hanrahan 400,000
RHP: Jesse Chavez 400,000
LHP: Scott Erye (FA) 1.5 mil (situational lefty who can get out hitters)

Bench: (great speed and defense in the outfield, power off the bench with Branyan)
C: Jason Jaramillio: 400,000
1B/3B Russell Branyan (FA) 3 mil
2B/SS: Delwyn Young: 415,000
OF: Brandon Moss 415,000
OF: Andrew McCutchen $410,000
($150 million; 25 Players)

*My wild card signing would be Brandon Webb, but I would need to check his injury progress. Would replace Bedard and be staff ace if healthy.

OK, so I had a weak free agent class to work with this year. I had no real stud such as a Manny or an A-Rod to sign. I went with a lot of athletic players who could fill the stat sheet. Playing in the NL I designed my team with speed up top. I should be able to get 110 steals or so out of my top 2. I do have big time RBI potential 3-4-5. I have above average 6-7-8 hitters. Up the middle with Cabrera and DeRosa, I have no superstar but I have above average veterans who know the game and have been difference makers on winning teams.

Defensively, I am pretty solid in the outfield, with great defensive replacements. Figgins has a great glove at third, DeRosa is an above average 2nd baseman, and Cabrera may have lost a step, but is more than adequate at short. Martinez is my only defensive liability but is more than worth the risk behind the plate.

My bench is very solid. It has great speed in the outfield. Russell Branyan brings big time power off the bench and forces the opposing manager to worry about a late inning pinch hitter.

The pitching staff is made of veterans who have been known for going deep into games and eating innings. The veterans all know how to win ball games and bring good career ERA’s to the team. Duke is the diamond in the rough; he could be a standout in that 5th spot. The bullpen has big upside at the backend, some solid guys after (Erye, Hanrahan) but nobody to write home about.

I think this team wins the Central Division no questions asked. May not win the World Series but has a great regular season because of the full 5 starters and no holes in the lineup. Regardless Pittsburgh would have its first exciting baseball team in years, and now that they broke the Phillies’ previous record for most consecutive losing seasons they could finally make the playoffs.