Commentary

A team only a mother would love

Updated: May 12, 2010, 1:36 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

We are not so different, you and I.

The Talented Mr. Roto

We both love fantasy baseball, clearly. We both, for the most part, tolerate me. And we both have mothers.

Still with us or passed on, in our lives daily or not so much anymore … we all have mothers. And with Mother's Day this Sunday, I've been thinking about moms a lot recently. Mostly about my mom, frankly, because I'm self-centered like that.

As you read this I'll be on a plane, heading to College Station, Texas, where my Mom, Nancy Berry, is running for mayor. Regardless of your political leanings, if you live in College Station, I plead with you to vote Saturday. Local elections tend not to have great turnouts, and it's very important for your voice to be heard. Look at me. I'm like MTV's Rock the Vote, but without cool music behind me, a lot less hair and about 15 extra years of age. Hmm. Maybe I'm more like VH1 Classic's Rock the Vote.

Since I don't live there, I can't vote for my mom, of course, so all I can do is tell her I love her, thank her for always being there for me and for not laughing when I said, at age 35, that I wanted to throw away the career I had spent the past 13 years building to try earning a living at something called fantasy sports. I love my mom and I'm guessing you love yours as well because, let's face it, who doesn't love mothers? They're like baseball and apple pie, I tell ya. In fact, remind me to send something nice to Ubaldo Jimenez's mother tomorrow.

But while I'm a huge fan of mothers, I have nothing but resentment toward "muthas." You know who I'm talking about. The guy who goes out there and gets lit up for 10 earned runs in just one inning. Who goes 0-4 with eight guys left on base when the rest of the team puts up 15 runs.

For years, Big Fat Bartolo Colon was one. The player that inspires muttering and head-shaking until you just can't take it anymore. It's just like I heard two-time ESPY host Samuel L. Jackson describe on a network television broadcast of "Snakes on a Plane …"

"Enough is enough! I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane!"

Well said, Sam. Couldn't have put it better myself.

So without further ado, here's my all-monkey-fighting team. Guys that are owned in way too many ESPN standard 10-team leagues. Guys that, if you don't drop or trade them now, will have you cursing to the point that your mom will have to wash your mouth out with soap.

Russell Martin
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesRussell Martin does a lot of standing at first base these days. When he gets on.

Catcher: Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers (93 percent): Folks think he's still 2008, but he's actually 2000 and late. Apologies to Fergie and, frankly, anyone who still thinks Russell is an All-Star catcher. The appeal was the speed, of course, but he's on pace for a career-low seven steals this year while the Dodgers are actually top-10 in the majors in stolen-base attempts. I mean, come on. James Loney has four! Add to the lack of steals a .250 batting average (it's dropped each season since '07) and it's not good news. Especially since Martin has had at least 500 at-bats in each of the past three seasons. If you're gonna have that bad an average (his on-base percentage is also trending downward and is currently at a career low), you'll need more than 10 or so home runs to make up for it.

First base: Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies (79 percent): People look at Helton's batting average, currently .284, and might think he's just a hot streak away from his customary .300-plus average. But will he hit that well? Helton hit .264 in 2008 before a resurgence of sorts last season. Never a huge power guy, he needs to hit for that average to generate the stats that make him rosterable. I'd much rather have a guy like Justin Smoak (32 percent), whose upside is that he's Mark Teixeira and whose downside is that he's, well, Todd Helton circa 2008.

Second base: Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles (80 percent): "It could be three weeks, it could be three months. We don't know." That's B-Rob, as only I call him, talking about his return. Yeah. Good times. There were already concerns about his declining speed and whether his power last year was a bit of a fluke. Now you add the most hated words in fantasy: no timetable for his return. He hasn't even started baseball activities yet, and as of right now, there's no date yet to start. With so much uncertainty and ESPN standard leagues having only three bench spots, if you need the roster spot, I'm sadly OK with dropping him.

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar, Milwaukee Brewers (63 percent): Here's part of what we wrote in our draft kit about young Alcides: "To say that he's capable of a .290 batting average and 40-plus steals isn't any wild leap …" Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Fear the Beer. Escobar is hitting .253 and has attempted just one steal, and was caught. He's a career .293 hitter in the minors (and hit .304 in 125 major league at-bats last year), and I expect the average to rise. But still, he isn't running, and with speed more plentiful than ever this year and more than few decent free-agent shortstops, you can't afford to wait. By the way, speaking of steals, "Fear the Beer" isn't mine. I heard John Anderson do it on "SportsCenter" and it made me laugh. The way Alcides is making me cry.

Third base: Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (88 percent): Oh, Larry. Sometimes, like Shania Twain, a beauty ages gracefully. And other times, like Kim Delaney, the force with which you hit the wall is startling. I remember thinking how crazy hot she was on NYPD Blue. Then she showed up on "The O.C." and even The Ex-Mrs. Roto, who was the Current Mrs. Roto at the time, was taken aback. Trust me when I tell you Peter Gallagher has never had a harder acting challenge than pretending he was struggling to choose between her and his beautiful wife Kiki. The point -- and I'm pretty sure there is one -- is that the end is near for ol' Larry. Currently hitting .240, he hit just .264 last year and had slightly fewer home runs, runs scored and RBIs in '09 versus '08, despite getting about 50 more at-bats. Look, the average will come up, he somehow already has two steals this year and he has 19 walks to just 12 strikeouts. But there's no upside here, and he's basically a slightly better version of Scott Rolen at this point. And you -- yes, you -- deserve better.

Outfield: Nate McLouth, Atlanta Braves (47 percent): Seriously, I'm not picking on Atlanta. But check this out, from Mark Bowman on the Braves' official website: "But with McLouth showing some recent signs of improvement, Braves manager Bobby Cox is hoping that he will at least be able to serve as a consistent catalyst when placed at the top of the lineup when the opposing team starts a right-handed pitcher." When they are hoping you can be consistent as part of a platoon, it's time for 10-teamers to dump Hate McLouth, as you'll come to know him in a few months. Incidentally, I'm still hanging tough with Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Adam Jones and Kyle Blanks, all of whom were options here. But honorable mention goes to Grady Sizemore, about whom I've made my feelings abundantly clear.

David Ortiz
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonBig Papi? More like big cr ... disappointment.

Designated hitter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (39 percent): True story. I went to the Red Sox-Angels game Tuesday, sat next to a 9-year-old boy. He asks excitedly at the start of the game "Is Big Papi playing?" Told yes, he is all smiles. It's his first Red Sox game ever and he's heard of Big Papi. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the score was 1-1 and Kevin Jepsen had come into relieve Ervin Santana, who had baffled the Sox all night. Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis both works walks and J.D. Drew comes through with a single to load the bases with no outs. A single -- heck, a sac fly -- puts Boston in the lead with Jonathan Papelbon already warming up. Just put good wood on the ball against a pitcher that has put the first three guys on.

David Ortiz comes up and promptly grounds out to Howard Kendrick, who throws home and then to first for a double play. As the crowd deflates, and a now-0-4 Ortiz walks back to the dugout, the 9-year-old says, in a soft, matter-of-fact voice, "Big Papi sucks." No one argues with him. Adrian Beltre then draws a walk and Jeremy Hermida clears the bases with a double, ending Jepsen's night.

Starting pitchers: I'm not doing any relievers because I think my feelings on closers have been made fairly clear. And in 10-team leagues, frankly, there's tons of pitching and folks stream starters, so it's a little tough to find widely-owned pitchers that shouldn't be. But here's my quick-hit starting five.

Edwin Jackson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (53 percent): On pace for a career year! Um, in home runs allowed …

Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Boston Red Sox (47 percent): The name "Dice-BB" is catching on.

Ben Sheets, SP, Oakland A's (37 percent): Here's the sad part: He's actually healthy.

Rick Porcello, SP, Detroit Tigers (49 percent): His best start in his past five was against the Royals. He held them to 10 hits. Ten. Kansas City. And that's the good start.

Mark Buehrle, SP, Chicago White Sox (80 percent): Is it the inflated ERA and WHIP you enjoy, or just the 16 total strikeouts? Just trying to get a handle on what you dig here.

Keep in mind that in deeper leagues, you're gonna need more patience. But for standard leagues, these are guys that will have you saying "That Monday-to-Friday son of a gun!" I'm assuming, of course, that when you speak, it's on broadcast television. Or in front of your mother.

Regardless of what you do with your team, call your mom, tell her you love her and thank her. Because without her, you wouldn't have that whole, you know, existence thing.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- would like to say he's also a big fan of Mama Krupa. 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

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"