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Opening up the ol' mailbag

5/19/2010

Tjaden Mattison from Hannover, Germany (they love me in Hannover), wrote me recently with a question. I didn't think it was a great question (sorry, Tjaden), but he ended it with something interesting.

He wrote: "I know that you get zillions of Twitter messages, e-mails and Facebook messages, so it's clear that you can't answer every mail, so I'm good with it -- no shedding tears -- but I'm very curious about your answer."

I appreciate Tjaden's understanding. With all the things he just listed, plus my weekly chat, comments on my columns' ESPN Conversation pages and e-mails into the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast, there's just no way to answer all the queries. I do read every one, however, and I always appreciate folks taking the time to write in. Reading the comments gives me a good idea of what folks are thinking about and wondering about as well as what they like and what they don't.

The e-mails, however, tend to pile up, so let's see whether we can't make a dent in the ol' mailbag.

Justin (Waupun, Wis.): Berry, I have to ask: Are you still feeling the love for Wandy? You were big on him in the preseason and so was I, but I am growing a little impatient with him. What's your advice?

TMR:Yeah, I've been big on him during the preseason for like three years now. Twice he's made me look smart, but so far this year? Not so much. Still, I am hanging tough. The concern is Rodriguez's lower strikeout rate (a strikeout-per-nine-innings rate of just under 6, while it was close to 8½ the previous two seasons) and the increased number of hits he's allowed. Even so, his underlying numbers suggest he's been unlucky on the base-hit side, and as he told the Houston Chronicle, he's had trouble locating his fastball. (Hitters, meanwhile, have found it just fine.) It's not ideal, of course, but it is fixable, and I believe he will right the ship.

I no longer think Rodriguez will be an ace this year but feel that he'll be a solid No. 2/high-end No. 3, which is where I will rank him when our May reranks come next week. He'll be lower than at the start of the season but higher than he's performed so far. And his value is so depressed right now that your only choice is to ride it out or trade him cheaply. I say hang on.

Blake Traylor (Owenton, Ky.): I've been offered Josh Beckett for Colby Lewis. While I love what Lewis has done for me this year, it's hard to pass up on Beckett. Who do you see as the better pitcher for the rest of the season? Thanks for your time.

TMR: Kids, when we talk about buying low and selling high, we're talking about Josh Beckett for Colby Lewis. Now, I don't think Colby Lewis is a total fluke. Mike Maddux is a fantastic pitching coach, and Lewis has had a K/9 rate better than 9 in both Triple-A and Japan, where he pitched in 2008. But underlying numbers suggest he's been getting lucky, and did you know he's 30 years old? So he's not the young flamethrower that you might assume because you've never heard of him before. Beckett has me concerned a little, sure, but based on his upside (and last year's slow start), I'd do this deal in a heartbeat and wouldn't think twice about it.

Alex John (East Lansing, Mich.): I am an avid fan of fantasy sports. I am such a fan that I want to pursue a career that deals with either broadcasting or journalism, but I don't know where to get started. I am currently a student at Michigan State University and would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me how you got started and what steps you took to get to ESPN. Thank you for your time.

TMR: I receive this question a lot. I mean … a lot. Like, every day. Sometimes it's sarcastic, but mostly it's a serious question. And I like to help. I want to help. I really do. One of the accomplishments I'm most proud of is that there are lots of fantasy analysts in the industry right now (some at ESPN, others at other sites big and small) who started at my old Talented Mr. Roto site.

But before I help you … dude, help yourself. How I got my start is a story that's been written about a lot before, including a Wikipedia page (to which I did not contribute and which is semiaccurate). My favorite versions (which are closest to reality) are these two articles from Sports Business Journal and the New York Post. Both could easily be found with a search engine and a little time.

When I started in show business, I received a great piece of advice. Most successful people remember what it was like starting out and want to help. But folks are busy, and the more successful they are, the busier they are. So you get only one chance to impress a person from whom you want advice/a job/whatever. You must make absolutely sure that when you send that e-mail or résumé or have that meeting, you knock it out of the park.

Eminem says, "You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow; this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo." See? I've been wanting to use an Eminem lyric in an article for a few years now, but because of subject and excessive-language concerns, I couldn't. So I waited for my shot and made it work. Or maybe it didn't. Whatever. Lines not working is half my shtick. The point, young Alex, is that when you don't crush it, the next time it comes around that person will be like, "Oh yeah, Alex? I know that kid. Doesn't do research. I'll pass."

There's just not enough time and too many people who also want that advice/job/whatever that you can't waste a second chance on someone who failed the first time. I'm not trying to be cruel, Alex, but that's the answer to the question you should have asked. Oh, and kissing up a little never hurts, either. Saying you are a fan of me (and giving a reason) as opposed to a fan just of fantasy sports would've played better to my already-inflated ego. Gotta feed the beast.

From @tayfoy, who follows me on Twitter: "Is Adam Jones toast? Even in a keeper league?"

TMR (or, as I am known on Twitter, @MatthewBerryTMR): Another way to ask this, of course, is, When will Pacman make it rain? You know, like I screamed from the rooftops in my preseason Love/Hate?

Well, first off, he absolutely must be kept if you have him in a keeper league. Second, I know it's tough. He's been brutal this season. But he's still on pace to hit 15 home runs this season (after hitting 19 last season), and he's hitting .300 in May, even though his hits are all singles. The Orioles' whole offense has really been struggling, but getting Brian Roberts back (his return currently looks like June 9) will help. Jones is batting .188 this year as a leadoff guy but .313 in the 2-hole, which is where he batted most of last season. And keep in mind that through Thursday's matchup against Felix Hernandez, the O's will have played 22 of their first 35 games against the Yankees, Mariners, Rays and Twins, the teams with the four best ERAs in the American League. In a 10-team nonkeeper league, you certainly could bench Jones or possibly drop him if you like someone else out there, but I still believe and am hanging on.

Jeff Steinhaus (Holt, Mich.): Grady Sizemore continues to struggle. Is he going to make me look at least somewhat smart by returning to his numbers from two to three years ago?

TMR: Nope. He's gonna make you look like an ignorant tool. The trick is to just fess up to your mistake and quickly make a random, semioutrageous pop culture reference to distract folks. I've found Anne Hathaway to be inordinately helpful here.

Back to Sizemore. He was on my hate list in the preseason for his declining batting average, injury concerns and questionable judgment in people he texts. And nothing so far suggests anything will get better for him. I mean, the dude is striking out a lot. Sizemore is running a little (he's on pace for 22 steals), thank goodness, but he's yet to hit a home run that counts and has an on-base percentage under .300 … ugly. If I could get 50 cents on the dollar for his draft day value, I would do it.

James (Orlando, Fla.): Matthew, someone in my league wants to take Joe Nathan off my hands in exchange for a draft pick in 2011 draft. Which round should I ask for?

TMR: I'd ask for a sixth-round pick, which is around when elite closers start going. And I'd do that trade in a heartbeat. You already know I believe that you should never pay for saves. And without knowing how his elbow is, coming off surgery … if you can get any kind of a pick for Nathan that is in the single digits, I'd do it.

@neilfw: I can pick up Chris Carter and drop Ryan Spilborghs. Will Carter get playing time?

TMR: I'd probably do that. I'm not convinced that Carter will get regular playing time, but I think he has less competition and a better chance to get regular at-bats. The Rockies' outfield is loaded, and Spilborghs is the odd man out. Go with Carter, whom the Mets got for Billy Wagner. He has some nice pop.

Steve (Philadelphia): Hey MB, I love reading your articles, and I usually agree with most of what you say. In fact, I agree with you on the thinking of never pay for saves. Well, that strategy has failed me this year. I ended up with Ryan Madson, Juan Gutierrez and Franklin Morales! Uggg! I tried to get Evan Meek last week but didn't. Any advice or help? Who is a middle reliever whom I may be able to get and who could vulture some saves? Clay Hensley, Drew Storen and Manny Corpas are not available. Any hope for guys like Manny Parra, LaTroy Hawkins, etc.? It is a 12-team, NL-only, roto league. Thanks!

TMR: Well, for one, you misused the strategy. I've often said that in a deep league (such as a 12-team AL- or NL-only league), you have to pay for saves somewhat. Saves just don't come into a league that deep with any regularity, as you're finding out. But, given your list, here are some suggestions:

Jose Contreras, Philadelphia Phillies: He's pitching well in a late-inning role; Madson is hurt and Brad Lidge is not totally healthy.
Luke Gregerson, San Diego Padres: It likely will be either he or the more popular (and likely owned) Mike Adams when Heath Bell is traded.
Esmailin Caridad, Chicago Cubs: I think the Cubs will eventually move Carlos Zambrano back to the rotation.
Bob Howry, Arizona Diamondbacks: If Juan Gutierrez had been even close to decent, it would be his gig now.
Takashi Saito, Atlanta Braves: There's always a chance Wagner gets injured, although I assume that whoever owns Wagner has cuffed him. I certainly would have.

Need more names? I find our bullpen organization chart to be a valuable resource.

G.M. (Collegeville, Pa.): Do you and Nate [Ravitz] get along well off-air? I think it is all an act how you rag on each other … or does that carry over into your off-air lives? Either way, you guys are good as a team there. I recommend this show to my friends in my league, but they act like it will be just another fantasy show with doofuses giving lame recommendations. I said, "No, this show is also funny, though!"

TMR: I like that as a tag line. Fantasy Focus: doofuses giving lame recommendations, but actually funny! To answer your question, you are correct on both counts. Yes, Nate and I get along very well off-air, and I consider him a close friend. I socialize with him and his wife and have known him for close to eight years. That said, yes, we rag on each other all the time, and the show is very similar to real life.

Mike Vogler (Reno, Nev.): Mr. Berry: Huge fan of yours. But regarding your statement [Todd] Helton "was never a huge power guy." You might have added "sans the six-year period from 1999-2004." Yes, his numbers have definitely fallen off. Thanks for all the great reads and chats in all the sports!

TMR: I got this complaint a lot after last week. And I guess it depends on your definition of "huge power guy." Helton's 162-game average for his career is 29 home runs, 106 RBIs and a .327 average. And I think that's right. Helton was certainly a great hitter and a fantasy stud back in the day, but he's hit more than 40 home runs only twice and has never cracked 50. And the two 40-plus years were the crazy Coors years, which need to be discounted a little. I mean, the year Helton hit 49 homers, Jeff Cirillo hit 17! (The next year, Cirillo hit six in Seattle.) Even Helton's career-high 49 in 2001 isn't nearly as impressive when you remember that there were a dozen 40-homer hitters that season, including four guys who hit more than 50. When I said "huge power guy," I guess I was thinking of a Prince Fielder/Ryan Howard type -- the guys who could hit 50 or even 60 if everything fell right. It's just semantics; the point of the post is that you're not drafting Helton for power this year, and Justin Smoak has that potential with just as much batting-average downside and much-more-realizable upside.

@jimsmith41: Just want you to know that I can't wait for Fantasy Football to start. I'm bored until August 1, 2010!

TMR: If you're jonesing for football, check out the fantasy football podcast that deals with fallout from the draft or Christopher Harris' updated top 200. My post-draft updated rankings will be out next week as well. Besides, if it makes you feel better, you're not alone. Everyone who just read this is clearly bored, too.


Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is now above the law in College Station, Texas, thanks to his mom becoming mayor. Thanks for the support and well-wishes. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend