- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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John Hollinger is my hero. And not just because he has less hair than me.
Ten days ago, just before the start of the NBA's Western Conference finals, John wrote a blog in which he predicted that the Lakers would win in five games.
It was a gutsy prediction at the time, with most analysts split down the middle between the Lakers and Spurs and almost all of them saying the series would go seven games. "Gutsy" is my word, of course. Many of the 538 people who participated in the ESPN Conversation (beta!) attached to the blog were using words like "idiot," "moron" and quoting the movie "Billy Madison": "May God have mercy on your soul." Come on now. Quoting an Adam Sandler movie on someone? Doesn't get much harsher than that.
Speaking as someone who also makes his living in the prediction game, I loved Hollinger's column and love it even more now that he's been proved right. And not just because I'm an unabashed Lakers fan.
A lot of people tell me they could do my job and they may very well be right. But I'm not sure how many folks understand exactly what the job is. It's not about doing analysis and making predictions. It's about being willing to do that publicly and then have a Wall Street Journal article written about how much people hate you.
It's about trying to write a free-agent pickup column in a week when the two biggest pickups of the past year, Clayton Kershaw and Jay Bruce, are both already owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues. It's about taking it on the chin when you make a bad prediction (yeah, Andruw Jones isn't bouncing back this year) and not getting any credit when you get one right, like saying Miguel Tejada would have a bounce-back year in the preseason or being the first guy on David Murphy.
You know what commercial I'm obsessed with these days? The one where people are passing a beer all around the world. Share the love, they say, as they sing quickly in the background "peace love peace love." Think that commercial is awesome. And it's why I love my job. Why I have the best gig in the world. I get to share the love, except, you know, with fantasy player pickups instead of bottles of social lubricants.
So with summer starting, our June rankings coming out next week, my Lakers in the Finals and another reminder that I am lucky to have the greatest job in the world, I share some peace love with you, my friends. Just like an ice-cold beverage on a hot day, here are some players who can make your lives just a little bit better. However, this week, more than most, there weren't a lot of fantastic pickups other than the obvious Kershaw and Bruce. So, rather than try to force it, I just decided to get as many names in as I could, so I went with a "just saying" style for this week, with owned percentages in ESPN leagues in parentheses. Old format will be back next week.
That Eric Chavez (1 percent) has been activated. No, he's no longer "Eric Chavez, Stud Third Baseman," but he hit 15 home runs in 90 games last year and had at least 20 home runs in each of the seven seasons before that. He'll hit .250 or so with some pop and play every day.
That Bronson Arroyo (20 percent) has actually not been terrible recently. Christopher Harris was talking about him this week and with good reason. In the month of May, he has a 3.74 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 33 innings. He's a spot starter in mixed leagues.
That Cody Ross (4 percent) has eight home runs and 13 RBIs in his past 14 games.
That Pedro Martinez (56 percent) is due back next week for the Mets. He's no longer "Pedro" but he should be owned in all leagues.
That Chad Tracy (1 percent) will play most days and had 47 home runs in 2005 and 2006 combined, the last two years he was healthy. He's a career .287 hitter.
That the Murray Head song "One Night in Bangkok" holds up surprisingly well. It came on the radio the other day. I turned it up.
That despite me wearing a thong in support last week, Jason Giambi is still owned in only 43 percent of leagues. He is hitting .388 over the past three weeks and has three home runs in his past five games.
That Wandy Rodriguez (13 percent) didn't pitch well last night, but he is back, he was pitching well before the injury and I would definitely use him at home, where he has been lights out since the beginning for 2007.
That Dan Wheeler (35 percent) will get the majority of save chances for the Rays with Troy Percival on the shelf. He has 26 career saves and has pitched very well this year. I also expect Al Reyes (11 percent) to get in the mix somewhat as well.
That Wheeler's teammate Matt Garza (5 percent) now is 4-1 with a 2.52 ERA in six May starts.
That Wheeler's other teammate Jason Bartlett (1 percent) stole three bases Thursday night, has 10 steals on the season and stole 23 last year with the Twins. He's playing and he's running, two things we love.
That as long as I am talking about things I love, I absolutely love toffee-covered almonds. You know how in New York City they have those "Nuts 4 Nuts" carts? Well, I actually am nuts for nuts. There. I said it.
That Fernando Tatis (0 percent) is still alive and playing. For the Mets. Can't be easy to be a Mets fan these days. Luckily, I'm an Angels guy. Anyway, Tatis has been productive since coming up. A home run and six RBIs in nine games, and he's hitting .304.
That Kevin Gregg has now blown two saves. He'll need to blow a few more before he loses the gig, but it's worth mentioning that Matt Lindstrom (0 percent) has a 2.75 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and five holds this year.
That Jeremy Bonderman (39 percent) has a 3.26 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in his past three starts.
That Jerry Hairston Jr. (64 percent) now has five steals in his past six games and is hitting .345 for the past three weeks.
That there are a lot of Colorado Rockies getting playing time these days thanks to all the injuries. Scott Podsednik (0 percent) is the most interesting to me because he already has seven steals on the year and he's not gonna play enough to hurt you anywhere else.
That Ian Stewart (1 percent) also got a call-up. I like him much more than Ian Kennedy but less than Ian Kinsler, if we're ranking Ians. And I am. Stewart had 12 home runs and six steals in 46 Triple-A games before he was recalled.
That he is not for the weak of heart and I genuinely dislike him, but Barry Zito (8 percent) has pitched OK recently. He has a 3.47 ERA in his past four starts. He also has a 1.67 WHIP, which is horrific, so buyer beware.
That Brandon Inge (2 percent) will play a lot more with Gary Sheffield out and he has played 11 games at catcher this year, which means he probably qualifies there in your league. He's a lot more interesting as a catcher than anything else.
That Kevin Slowey (3 percent) has a 2.87 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP over five May starts. He has 22 strikeouts and just six walks in 31 1/3 innings.
That I'm confused by the ad where the girl wants to get the tattoo of "Mike" off her back. She's ostensibly in a wedding dress and the guy says "When are you marrying Mike?" and she says, sheepishly, "Tom." Here's my question: Why now? Once things with Mike broke off, don't you get the tattoo removed then? And if not, and Tom is OK with it enough to ask you to marry him, why now? Why on your wedding day? ("Here Comes the Bride" plays at the beginning.) I have lots of questions here, ending with what's the actress' name? Because she's pretty.
That Garret Anderson (60 percent) hit .340 in 26 games in May.
That Mike Aviles (0 percent) has been called up by the Royals and will probably be the starting shortstop for them going forward. He was hitting .338 with 10 home runs and three stolen bases in Triple-A.
That I entered a pool with a bunch of people for the National Spelling Bee this year. Blind draw, 44 folks, 44 kids. In case you're wondering, we're all rooting for Samia Nawaz from Little Rock, Ark. Go Samia!
That a bunch of the guys I mentioned in last week's column have continued to step it up and play well. You can read the reasoning behind them in that column, but suffice it to say I am still recommending Jorge Campillo (32 percent), Darrell Rasner (40 percent), Pedro Feliz (22 percent), Gregor Blanco (0 percent), Kevin Kouzmanoff (83 percent) and Alexi Casilla (12 percent).
That I'm calling my shot. Lakers in six.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.
Matthew Berry doesn't have a lot to say about a few guys, so instead, he says a little about a lot of them.