- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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So, I sorta love the Lakers' Metta World Peace. Not a popular opinion to have these days. And certainly I don't condone the elbow to James Harden's head in any way, shape or form. But let's put aside that play for a moment. We'll come back to it soon, I promise. But before we do, let's talk about the man formerly known as Ron Artest, and why I love him.
First of all, I love that he changed his name to Metta World Peace. I especially love it during games, when the announcers have to use it in describing action. "World Peace has been blocked!" Or, "That's a three for World Peace!" Or, "He was cornered by World Peace!" "World Peace denied!" And, of course, "Matt Barnes replaces World Peace." That's a tough act to follow for young Mr. Barnes.
I love his hypnotic Twitter feed (@mettaworldpeace), where he tells folks how he "plays defense for the ladies" and wears the short shorts for them, too. Where he asked his followers how many points Kobe Bryant just scored in a game that Metta had played in. And then said "April Fool's!" On April 2.
Where he announced he was going to follow the next 10 people who were the meanest to him and retweeted amazingly cruel comments. And then asked people to stop because he was going to cry. Where he announced "Damn# I just found out I was traded.. see yal later." And then followed that up with this tweet "Oh wow. I'm not traded, that was a old story from four years ago on google .. I typed my name n at bottom of page I clicked number 21."
Or where this is an actual tweet: "Can someone bring me an iPad charger? I don't have one."
I love that he auctioned off the championship ring he won with the Lakers and raised over half a million dollars for mental health charities. I love that he Skypes with fans, regularly gives away tickets, once showed up to a team bus in nothing more than his underwear, and that he has no problem shaving different things into his hair.
I love that he's a pain-in-the-butt defender who gets under the skin of whomever he's guarding. I love the 3-pointer he hit with a minute left in Game 7 against the Celtics to seal the 2009-10 NBA championship. I love the crazy, rambling press conference he gave afterward. Bill Simmons said it perfectly in a tweet after the Lakers won it all: "I don't think I've ever seen anyone happier about anything than Ron Artest."
I love that as the Lakers have struggled this year, he has changed his game to fit what the team needs, first focusing on defense but recently becoming much more aggressive on the offensive side.
I love that he's, well, human. More than almost any athlete I can think of, Metta World Peace allows us to see how very "human" he is, the good and the bad, the funny and the tragic, every single emotion, regardless of what light it might paint him in. It's not always pretty, but it's refreshingly open and honest.
I wish I could be that honest. Between this column, my podcast, Twitter (www.twitter.com/matthewberrytmr) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/matthewjberry), I try to be as honest as I can, but if I'm, er, being honest, I'm not as honest as I'd like to be, for various reasons, including my job and people I care about. It's so tough to be so raw, so emotionally open and out there, especially when you have as many eyes on you as Metta does.
Add all of that admiration to the fact that I'm also a diehard Lakers fan. I lived in Virginia until I was 12 (hence my Washington Redskins love), but never fell for any other team around there. Once I moved out to Los Angeles, I split Laker tickets with buddies, eventually taking them over myself and keeping them to this day, even though I now live in Connecticut (too valuable to give up). So I love him because he's a Laker as well.
This is why I was so upset when Metta's elbow hit James Harden's head. The first time I saw it, in live action, I thought it wasn't intentional, that World Peace had just gotten so caught up in the moment, hadn't seen Harden and it happened. That it was bad, sure, but it wasn't that bad.
That's what I wanted to believe. That's what was in my heart.
Then I saw the replays. Over and over again, from many angles, at many different speeds. Here's slow motion! Here's super slo-mo! Here's you-can-actually-see-the-sweat-beads-knocked-off-him slo-mo!
And I felt sick. I couldn't fool myself anymore. No one will ever know if it was intentional or not, but man, it looked bad. Really bad. I can't even argue with the seven-game suspension. Even though my heart wanted to believe it wasn't that bad, my gut and eyes told me a different story.
Which is often the case in fantasy baseball. You want to believe, with all your heart. But deep down, you know better. But considering we are just a few weeks into the season, the truth is there isn't nearly enough of a sample size to really do anything worthwhile with statistics. So this is a gut-call column. Not a ton of stats today; we had a lot last week and they'll return next week, but this week, it's heart versus head, gut and eyes.
What my heart wants to believe: That Francisco Liriano will turn it around and be an ace. He's always been a "fantasy kryptonite" guy for me, someone whose potential I couldn't resist, and I bought in after his huge spring. Plus, I own him in AL Tout Wars, a deep 12-team, 27-man-roster league comprised of industry analysts. So I really could use him, too.
What my head, gut and eyes know: He's lost, and wherever he is, he ain't comin' back. He's too much of a head case now. If he does have success, it'll be inconsistent. I'm dropping him in all but the deepest of AL-only leagues.
Heart believes: Jake Peavy is just getting lucky. The guy who has crushed many fantasy owners' hearts in recent years can't have finally gotten back to being good, could he? He'll get injured soon and I won't curse myself for ignoring him and my proven-player-coming-off-a-bad-year(s) theory.
Head knows: He's back. Great strikeout-to-walk ratio, he has beaten legit teams, he has dominated the bad ones he's officially above the "Wandy line."
Heart believes: Peavy's teammate, Philip Humber, is a finesse guy you just stream in when he has good matchups. Yes, he had a perfect game, but come on, it was the Mariners! He can't strike out enough batters for 10-team mixed league consideration.
Head knows: He has become a different pitcher. Since July 1 of last year through his first two starts this season, his K/9 is 8.14. He's the real deal.
Heart believes: There's nothing wrong with Jon Lester. He's just off to a slow start, like in 2010, and he'll ultimately be great.
Head knows: This is going to be another crazy, lost season for the Red Sox. Lester ultimately will be fine, but closer to a top-20 guy than the top-10 stud you drafted. Good, not great.
Heart believes: That Josh Hamilton, who I didn't manage to get in any of my five leagues this year, will come back to earth and stop inflicting damage on me in every league (except, of course, my NL-only league).
Head knows: He's not stopping anytime soon. This is a special year for him. He's in a contract year, he wants to prove the offseason issues are behind him, he has acknowledged that he doesn't know how much time he has left at an elite level because of what he put his body through early in his career. This is going to be an otherworldly year for Josh Hamilton.
Heart believes: Derek Jeter's hot start is just a mirage. He'll soon revert back to being the run-of-the-mill decent but nothing special fantasy shortstop he has been in recent years. I've never been a huge fan of Jeter as a fantasy option, and my rankings over the years have reflected that.
Head knows: He just looks like a different person this year. Or at least a younger version of himself. I saw an at-bat he had recently against Matt Capps, in which he battled, battled and battled some more until eventually hitting a home run off him. I know, it's Matt Capps, but still. The Captain is back to being an upper-level fantasy shortstop, and he'll stay there this season.
Heart believes: Jose Bautista will revert back to his 40-homer, high-average ways and be worthy of a top-five pick at the end of the year.
Head knows: It's gonna be more like 30 or so homers and somewhere in the .250 range batting average-wise. We saw hints of this over the second half last year, when he started striking out more, and it wasn't a fluke, it was the start of a trend. I'm happy he is still walking and getting on base, but the batting average is gonna be closer to his career mark of .253, and the power numbers will be down from what you expect, especially given the batting-average hit you'll be taking.
Heart believes: That Brandon Belt is going to get regular playing time soon, blossom into the stud we've all been waiting for, and everyone will live happily ever after.
Head knows: As we say on the podcast, they hate him with a "Motte-like" intensity. Well, almost. Things have gotten better lately, but still. I don't what it is, but with Nate Schierholtz crushing, and Brett Pill being solid, I see them continuing to mess with Belt, especially once Aubrey Huff starts hitting. It'll be another frustrating year to own Belt, who will tease us enough this year so people won't want to bail on him but won't produce enough to be worth it.
Heart believes: Michael Bourn is gonna make me look smart. I got a lot of flak for my high ranking and promotion of Bourn (and, oddly, his Braves teammate Brandon Beachy. Why didn't people like him as much as me?), and at the end of the year, he'll more than live up to the high ranking.
Head knows: Bourn is a stud, and he has righted the ship after a slow start. (Beachy, meanwhile, continues to make me think I should have named my daughters "Brandon" and "Beachy.") Bourn will continue to produce. Here's the problem, though. Part of the appeal of Bourn was that he could win you a category single-handedly. And while he's gonna have a ton of steals this year, so are my other preseason faves Dee Gordon and Emilio Bonifacio, among others. Bourn's advantage ultimately won't be as great.
Heart believes: Fernando Rodney will revert to being the terrible pitcher he was with my Angels and fade back into fantasy obscurity.
Head knows: He's a different pitcher. I could totally see the Rays sticking with him all year or Kyle Farnsworth faltering soon after returning and Rodney reclaiming the job. In fact, I now believe Fernando Rodney will lead the Rays in saves at the end of the season.
Heart believes: That Adam Wainwright will turn it around. That he is not going to get outpitched this year by Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse.
Head knows: That for once my heart is right. I do actually like Lohse and Westbrook in NL-only leagues or as spot starters in mixed leagues, but Wainwright is too good. He'll get back on track.
Heart believes: That Josh Johnson's Tuesday night start was the beginning of a great, healthy season.
Head knows: That ain't happening.
Heart believes: That Hector Santiago, he of the limited track record and control problems in the minors, will lose the job as closer of the White Sox and that Matt Thornton, who I own at a dirt-cheap price in my longtime AL-only keeper league, will become the closer.
Head knows: That the White Sox really like Santiago, and he has a longer leash than you might think. He will lead the White Sox in saves this year. If for some reason he falters, they'll go to Addison Reed instead of Thornton. I'm doomed to a life without saves from Matt Thornton.
Heart believes: That all my teams -- and all of yours -- will win the title this year.
Head knows: Of course they will. It's way too early to be bailing on the season no matter what your head is telling you.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- didn't have the heart to put Edwin Encarnacion or Erik Bedard on this list, though he knows heartbreak is coming. Berry 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.
5mEthan Sherwood Strauss