We conclude our dozen previews with a review of M**e, a team name that I utterly refuse to state properly based on the owner's complete failure to give his squad a real team name. I mean, for crissakes, it's not that hard to create a fantasy team name. A team name doesn't have to be good (The Spam Avengers), timely (President Skroob), relevant (bobcat goldthwaits) or even sensible (Le Dupont Torkies). Occasionally, they're quite inspired (The Sex Cannons). But mostly they're ok and nothing more. And passing on this obligation? Tantamount to fantasy treason. I'm disgusted. On with the preview.
Team History: A third-year squad that joined at the same time as Hand Banana, M**e hasn't quite had the success that his co-expansioner has, but that's nothing to be ashamed of. The difference was while Hand Banana went for the gold out of the gate (rightly), M**e took the more patient, Jerry-West pre-Grizzlies style of building from within and stockpiling assets. The two-year plan tightened a bit in the offseason with a stunning trade with Mickelson's Spawn, which resulted in him keeping a crapload of offense (indeed, his whole starting lineup) and virtually no pitchers. Can this work? This is the year they've been building for, and it's time to see if their grand plan comes to fruition.
Infield: Chris Ianetta, Albert Pujols, Rickie Weeks, Rafael Furcal, Bill Hall. Well, starting with Pujols automatically gives you credibility and stats, and the rest of this infield makes a ton of sense, as it's very well rounded while relatively young and still has some upside. I'm a hair skeptical that Hall can repeat his insane 2006, and Ianetta & Weeks are still somewhat unproven, but it beats starting graybeards like Jeff Kent and Paul LoDuca in these spots. Like this a lot.
Outfield/DH: Andruw Jones, Matt Holliday, Johnny Damon, Derrek Lee. The presence of Lee here knocks this from a good to very good quartet. There's a bit less star power than you'd like to see from a contender's OF, but it's not harmful, as steals are made up pretty quickly with these guys, and they're all around solid in all categories. Which is nice, for the inevitable injury won't cripple you the way, oh, Juan Pierre's vagina acting up might kill your steals. M**e seems to be shooting for 9 points in all offense categories, and that's fine if the pitching holds up.
Bench: Jorge Posada, Ryan Freel. It's a short bench, but a smart one: Freel takes away the need to keep other guys around because he covers for all positions but 1B...which D.Lee already takes care of. Catcher's obviously the other wildcard, and Posada's not only a good guy to spell Ianetta off injuries and day games after night games, he's also a very viable fantasy option should Ianetta struggle. Can't say that there's a better way to make a 2-man bench than this.
Starting Pitching: Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Tim Hudson, Jason Jennings, Jake Westbrook. By contrast to the youth movement in the infield, you've got octogenarians galore in the starting staff. I can't say I really endorse the squad here; Clemens is currently unsigned, and probably won't be a Yankee until Memorial Day; Pedro is out till August (though may be good trade bait); Maddux is old; Hudson is less old and suckier; Jason Jennings just went from bandbox #1 to bandbox #2, and Jake Westbrook is...well, probably the surest thing on this staff. That's sad.
Relief Pitching: B.J. Ryan, Huston Street, Jose Valverde, Kerry Wood, Brad Lidge, Jorge Julio Jorge. We're once again all over the map here, with a bonafide stud in Ryan, to a very good guy in Street, to a mebbe in Lidge, to the last triuumverate of question marks. I see the goal and it's interesting: work the relievers to hit a lot of saves, creep over the IP minimum, win ERA & WHIP, and not suck in W's and K's. Not the dumbest idea I've heard, I'm just not sure these are the horses you need to do it.
Breakout Star: BP loves Ianetta, and while I can't argue with it much, I really think Weeks is going to take a big step forward this year, and put himself in the upper echelon of second basemen. Of course, the position is currently so weak that Robby Alomar could contemplate coming out of retirement and get drafted by a fantasy team, so this isn't exactly hard to become a fantasy stud at the keystone position. Still, I like him almost as much as Howie Kendrick this year, which is saying something.
On the Wrong Side of the Hill: I owned Tim Hudson last year. It wasn't pretty. Trust me M**e: get rid of him now. I somehow can't believe I took him in the 2nd round of the league's inaugural draft, and it turned out ok for exactly 3 years.
X-Factor: Wow, I'm to pick an X-factor between a guy who's not on a team, a Hall-of-Famer returning from season ending surgery, and a Cubs flameout? You know what? None of these guys has as much immediate relevance as Brad Lidge getting his head screwed on straight. If he reverts to pre-Pujols' 5000 foot blast in the 2005 playoffs, suddenly we're staring at a team with three stud closers and a plan that makes a whole lot more sense in a heartbeat. If he stays on the level of Valverde & Julio though, this is not gonna be pretty.
Verdict: With all due respect to Teddy, I disagree that the Defending Champs are the hardest ones to figure out, this team, to me, is the most difficult one to decipher. The offense is quite good, if lacking the scare factor in any single player. The pitching plan is a good idea with some holes, and some work is going to be needed here. This isn't a championship team at the moment, but it ain't far away. If Clemens & crew can add something to a bullpen that could be lethal if all the closers pan out; or if the depth can be used to bring in a real starter, we may be talking about this 3rd year team instead come September.
And boys and girls, that does it for the previews! Up next, a perfunctory effort to prognosticate by Messrs. Teddy & Angelo.