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April 21, 2008

BP Kings Preview

Meet the Players

by Ben Murphy

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AL Kings
  1. Kevin Goldstein & Jason Pare
  2. Jeff Erickson
  3. King Kaufman & Rob Granick
  4. Steven Goldman & Andrew Baharlias
  5. Rob Neyer & Dave Mlodinoff
  6. Jacob Luft & Albert Chen
  7. Nate Silver
  8. Dave Cokin
  9. Rico Brogna
  10. Sam Walker & Nando DiFino
  11. David Laurila
  12. Eric Karabell
NL Kings
  1. Tristan Cockcroft
  2. Jeff Ma
  3. Will Leitch
  4. Bil Burke
  5. Tom Herrera
  6. Mike Ferrin & Dave Kaplan
  7. Jeff Passan & Mark Pesavento
  8. Cory Schwartz & Mike Siano
  9. David Gonos
  10. Ben Murphy & Ian Lefkowitz
  11. Josh Levin & Steven Ehrenberg
  12. Jay Jaffe

Kevin Goldstein & Jason Pare(back to top)
Charity: Planned Parenthood
Draft Comments: We were fortunate to have a great pitching staff heading into the year, backed by a number of aggressive rookie pickups from last season (Morales, Bailey). This allowed us to concentrate more on offense in the draft, where we snagged big pieces like Hank Blalock and Jason Bartlett early on, and later backfilled the bullpen and offensive backups. In trading a draft pick for Jack Cust, the team picked up some much-needed OBP and power from the DH slot. Rather than draft a "proven" 9th inning stalwart, solid contributors like Wheeler, Delcarmen, Ayala, and Bray will share the high-leverage innings and spread the risk inherent in relief pitchers.

Jeff Erickson(back to top)
Charity: The Brain Aneurysm Foundation
Draft Comments: The draft was a lot different this year than last, with the core of each team pretty much in place. I made it a priority to address second base and get either Aaron Hill or Mark Ellis--my in-draft trade of Adrian Beltre for Hill did that. Unfortunately, there was a huge run on third basemen after that, I overreacted to that run by grabbing Joe Crede with my first pick.

Despite that snafu, I'm pretty happy with the end result of my team. I have a better pitching staff than last year, and a number of good prospects getting closer to being able to help me. And since I'm not in Nate's division, I'll have an opportunity to contend.

King Kaufman & Rob Granick(back to top)
Charity: Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health
Draft Comments: This was our first experience with the soft-10 keeper format, so after much scientific study of the possibilities, we decided to just kind of guess. We kept some guys, traded some others, cut some others loose, and tried to get better than last year's division winner by drafting smartly. We're quite confident that we either did or didn't succeed. We're hoping for big comebacks from Francisco Liriano, Vernon Wells and Bill Hall, and for everyone else to have a career year. We're extremely confident that that might happen.

Steven Goldman & Andrew Baharlias(back to top)
Charity: Heifer International

Rob Neyer & Dave Mlodinoff(back to top)
Charity: This year, we'll be playing for the Oregon Nature Conservancy, whose mission it is to preserve the diversity of life on earth by protecting habitats.
Draft Comments: In this year's draft the Gotham City Jokers were true to their namesake: schizophrenic. As the defending AL Kings champion (and the only Kings team to make the playoffs in both years of the league's existence), we might have been expected to follow the formula that's worked so well: focus on healthy players with guaranteed major-league jobs, and draft as many starting pitchers as possible to use as bullpen fodder and trade bait.

But no. Due to the run on starters (this means you, Karabell), we ended up with only five 'real' starters (including our three freezers), and three 'bubble' guys whose bubbles, we're afraid, may already have burst. We also somehow ended up drafting at least seven other players who might start the year either on the DL or in the minors. That's ten players out of twenty-five draftees who could rack up as much major-league playing time in April as will the two of us. Depth, which has been the key to our success in Kings, is not exactly our strong point this year.

On the other hand, we have a strong core of players left over from last year's pennant-winning squad. Our starting outfield of Ryan Braun, Alfonso Soriano, and Lastings Milledge is top-rate. We're expecting big years from David Ortiz, Ian Kinsler, and Mark Reynolds. And we're optimistic about Dan Haren and James Shields, our front-line starters. If Jeremy Bonderman returns to form and new Jokers Mike Mussina and Nate Robertson do their part, we should be fine, at least until someone misses a start.

In order to repeat this year, we'll have to make some trades and have the bulk of our 'bubble' guys percolate their way to the majors during the season. We'll also need to avoid The Curse Of Heath Ledger, since the pre-season death of the next actor to play the Joker himself has already cast a pall over our clubhouse. We're currently interviewing other supervillains regarding naming rights, but we've found them to be somewhat less than reliable as negotiating partners.

Jacob Luft & Albert Chen(back to top)
Charity: ASPCA

Nate Silver(back to top)
Charity: Union of Concerned Scientists

Dave Cokin(back to top)
Charity: bestfriends.org
Draft Comments: My 2008 team looks like it could be decent, but there are some definite question marks. I've got enough positional depth to juggle the lineup on a weekly basis, and I've therefore also got the freedom to work on some deals. Power could be an issue, although it might not be if Sexson rebounds to his pre-2007 level. I like my starting pitching as long as Kazmir is healthy. Bullpen depth is a major concern, but I'll be hoping to add a quality arm or two as the season progresses. Overall, an okay team that could make a run at a playoff spot if I manage it properly.

Rico Brogna(back to top)
Charity: Make A Wish

Sam Walker & Nando DiFino(back to top)
Charity: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. If (When) we win, we're going to find a random participant in a random city, and give them the money as an unexpected donation to help boost their fundraising drive.
Draft Comments: 2007 was what we call a "down year" for the erstwhile Street Walkers team. We finished dead last in the AL in runs scored (there's a chance we finished dead last in the whole of Scoresheet, but we don't have the heart to check), and second-to-last in ERA. During the full two weeks between the end of the 2007 Kings playoffs, and the start of the 2008 draft, we sat down, did some math, toyed with strategy, and came up with a plan:

Get a lot of good offensive players, and then get a lot of good pitchers.

The plan half-worked. Our hitting is sprinkled with potential stars, breakout candidates, and starting-in-real-life-but-for-our-team-they're-backups at every position. We go to bed at night and sleep soundly as we pull up a security blanket made of Luis Hernandez and Jason Giambi; and thanks to Rod Barajas, we're no longer one injury away from "Catcher AAA" elbowing his way into our box score. While our four starting pitchers have tremendous potential, our fifth starter doesn't exactly…exist…at the moment. In fact, if any fellow Kings owners with surplus pitching happen to read this…well, you know where to reach us…

So this year-for now, at least-our theme is "Find a Fifth Starter on Another Team And Try to Sucker Someone Into Taking Juan Pierre for Him." (Last year's theme: "Agree With Every Rule Change King Kaufman Proposes for the First Half of the Season, Then Disagree With Everything He Says in the Second Half. Just to Mess With Him"). And as scheming and nefarious as this year's theme may seem, keep in mind that:

1. Pierre stole 55 bases last year
2. We are kind of sure that translates into something useful for scoresheet purposes
3. He is immune to our bungling of "hook" values
4. It's all, in the end, for a good cause. We just feel our charity idea is a lot more fun. So we're in it to win it (and make the day) for a Race for the Cure participant, and hopefully we'll be able to stomp on our opponents in the meantime…

David Laurila(back to top)
Charity: Theo and Paul Epstein's Foundation to be Named Later
Draft Comments: Much like an expansion team, a first-year fantasy player should always build for the future. He should acquire young talent like Andrew Miller, Andrew McCutcheon, Colby Rasmus, and Elvis Andrus. He should draft 30-something players like David Eckstein, but then deal them for up-and-comers like Erick Aybar. He should hit promising kids like Billy Butler and Geovanny Soto in the middle of his lineup. Of course, that doesn't mean he doesn't want to win now. A team with solid starters and power arms in the bullpen can always compete. And, just in case he surprises the world and beats out the veteran teams, he should have a great charity in mind. In this case, that charity would be Theo and Paul Epstein's Foundation to be Named Later.

Eric Karabell(back to top)
Charity: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital: I only hope the major league players I selected play well enough that this fine organization can reap the benefits.
Draft Comments: I'm doing an about-face from a season ago, when I loaded up on offense, pretending I was the Yankees, and ignored pitching depth, again like the Yankees. It didn't work, and when I had so many injuries that the dreaded Triple-A pitcher was toiling regularly for my squad, I vowed to not let that happen again. I also dealt all my non-protectable players away for draft picks, realizing it wasn't my year, and enjoyed that mild advantage in this draft. I have seven starting pitchers, at least, and while a few have upside and a few are fillers, at least it's depth. I acquired Ichiro Suzuki to lead off for a deep lineup, drafted Frank Thomas to split my left-handed power and have a stronger bench than a season ago. Hopefully this team can contend.

Tristan Cockcroft(back to top)
Charity: The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
Draft Comments: It's my first foray into the Scoresheet world, but as a vet of sim leagues, I'm adopting a similar strategy, on-base percentage, innings-eaters and bullpen. Despite taking over for one of our departed teams, I managed to score a decent handful of youthful hitters, including Hanley Ramirez, Jeremy Hermida and Ryan Zimmerman, and a couple of slick trades landed me a respectable rotation of John Lackey, Tom Gorzelanny, Shaun Marcum and Micah Owings. (OK, well, it was respectable before Lackey went down.) That's a manageable core, one that can hang in a pennant race (or so I think!), especially with a bullpen six men deep, all scored in the draft. We'll see how it goes, but even if we can't take the league by storm in my first year, here's hoping we'll be the cause of many headaches in the wild-card race!

Jeff Ma(back to top)
Charity: Make A Wish

Will Leitch(back to top)
Charity: National Breast Cancer Foundation

Bil Burke(back to top)
Charity: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Draft Comments: Despite being a 10-year veteran of Scoresheet, there are two things that are/were new to me this season. First, this will be my first year in an NL-only scoresheet league and second, this was my first redistribution draft. I would be lying if I said those two aspects didn't help result in the roster confusion my team is suffering from. There was a constant battle between my gut and my brain while drafting.

It appears to me that the talent is just not as deep in the NL as compared to the AL and my internal sense of the strength of the available players was off (maybe way off). I took a look a what was available and decided to build a young team that would aim for contention in 2009 when Chris Carpenter might return to full strength and combine with Roy Oswalt and Justin Upton (my first two picks in the redistribution draft). I was able to also pick up Stephen Drew, Josh Vitters and Chris Carter who all became keepers prior to the regular draft. That said, those picks my brain made were in constant battle with my gut selections of Jim Thome, Hideki Matsui & Joe Nathan. These are players who are likely to be better suited to support a contending team and not be the core of a rebuilding team. Also note that when faced with AL players my anti-NL bias reared its ugly head.

This inability to stick with the strategy continued in the regular draft and my picks bounced back-and-forth between role players (Joes Bautista, Moises Alou & Chris Burke) or 5th starters (Jose Contreras, Joe Saunders & Chad Gaudin, more AL picks) and solid youngsters (Chin-lung Hu, Jesus Flores & Chris Davis). A new found appreciation for platoons got a bit out of control and ended up clouding my perception of the strength of my lineup (Chad Tracy vs. RHPs or Ramon Castro vs. LHPs), but after the draft had concluded and buyer's remorse had set in (not to mention injuries and slow recoveries for Alou, Tracy & Gaudin) it is looking like a long season looking up at the rest of my division.

Defensively this team's range is going to be awful. Thome, Burke, Drew & Bautista could very well be my opening day infield, all have below average range numbers. My Matsui/Alou platoon in LF is also poor defensively. The only above average player on the roster is Andruw Jones in CF.

Lastly, we come to the Jeff Baker failed gamble. Around mid-March, it appeared that Baker could get the 2B job in Colorado. Jayson Nix was suffering from a sore back, Baker was "progressing defensively" and Marcus Giles was on his way out of camp. As a benefactor of picking up Kelly Johnson cheap last year, I wanted to believe history would repeat itself and I would get a corner OF bat at 2B. To make matters worse, I traded away Felipe Lopez leaving me with only Baker and Burke. With the "ink still wet" on the Lopez trade, Nix was announced the regular 2B and my lineup had a giant hole in it.

On the eve of the season, I am left with one of those "if everything goes just perfect I can see winning 85 games" teams. It would be nice, but I don't plan on holding my breath.

Tom Herrera(back to top)
Charity: American Heart Association. My stepfather has battled heart problems for much of his adult life. I've seen the great amount of various medications that's needed to combat it. After he underwent a recent surgery to have a defibrillator installed, it really struck me how serious cardiovascular disease can become in such a short amount of time.
Draft Comments: Strategy: I'm not ashamed to admit I made quite a few scoresheet beginner mistakes in the drafts, but I feel I've learned from them and have studied up since. I wanted to make sure my lineup didn't have any glaring holes and my bullpen was stocked with reliable, versatile arms. I was told by a few experienced owners to make sure I had a strong bullpen. The advice definitely was helpful because quality starters were hard to come by in the draft, yet there were plenty of good relievers to help out. In hindsight, I should've snagged two more, but boneheaded holdovers from the redistribution draft blocked my way. I also felt like I had some ground to make up in the keeper department as one of the new teams in the league, so I splurged early to get Jordan Schafer and Jarrod Parker, two players I feel will serve me very well in the future. Coming into this league, I knew I had a lot to understand in the overwhelming transition to a scoresheet league, as well as a new set of rules. In all, my team is built more for the future than this year.

Memorable Moment: Making my pick of Angel Guzman via cell phone while half-asleep on the subway and scarfing down an egg sandwich from Dunkin Donuts. Then shouting an expletive as the train entered the tunnel and I realized Guzman was out for a month or more. At least the sandwich wasn't burnt this time around.

Mike Ferrin & Dave Kaplan(back to top)
Charity: The Christopher House, in my native Chicago, who do such great work with kids from underprivileged backgrounds, giving them after school and educational opportunities.
Draft Comments: "If you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker."--Matt Damon in Rounders

My first foray into Scoresheet was moderately successful. I mean, if you consider nearly blowing a double digit lead in the last 6 weeks of the season and then losing in the 5 game first round of the playoffs 4 games to 1. (Similar to 2001, when the Yankees lost the World Series to Arizona 6 games to 1.)

The team had been built on the old baseball philosophy of speed and defense up the middle, power at the corners and lots of starting pitching. It was a pretty good nucleus, that is until team general manager (me) decided he was the second coming of Jack McKeon.

Recovering from a bad trade is a bit like chasing your NFL Gambling losses in Sunday Night football...you're not really doing yourself any favors. So, after trading Brad Penny for Jeff Kent, I proceeded to deal away Ken Griffey Jr, for Joel Zumaya and Cliff Lee. Oliver Perez went in a deal for a backup shortstop, who I then somehow flipped for the starting left side of my infield. Of course, that deal also cost me my top prospect...and left me rooting for Matt Leinart to lead the kind of meaningless TD Drive with :38 seconds left that leads Al Michaels to say things like "And there are more than a few people interested in this 4th and goal play, with the Cardinals down 22. Yes, not only was I the sucker in the room, but I realized it, and I still let everyone else line their pockets with my players.

Now add a dose of draft mismanagement. (Note to self: when spending a weekend at the Girlfriend's, make sure John Lannan and Josh Smoker aren't the first two names on your auto draft list....in the 17th round...ugh.)

I've doomed my imaginary team to a level of mediocrity that can only be described as, well, mediocre. And the better news is the future is bleak too. I guess, at least it means I'm a realist. But I am disappointed for the folks at The Christopher House, in my native Chicago, who do such great work with kids from underprivileged backgrounds, because my ineptitude will likely prevent them from seeing any money in this venture.

Jeff Passan & Mark Pesavento(back to top)
Charity: Gabriel M. and Michael A. Rieke Memorial Scholarship Fund for Rockhurst High School in Kansas City
Draft Comments: We won our division last season with starting pitching, on-base percentage and defense, so we tried to adhere to those best as we could. We got the starting-pitching part, trading up to choose Hiroki Kuroda and then trading for Fausto Carmona to complement Daisuke Matsuzaka, Chris Young and Adam Wainwright. By drafting Nick Johnson and J.R. Towles, then trading for Chone Figgins, we filled our lineup holes with high-OBP guys. The defense is iffy. Carlos Beltran is a godsend in center field, allowing us to play Todd Helton in right, but the result is a somewhat below-average infield defense. Oh, and even though TINSTAAPP, we loaded up on young arms anyway, because at least one of them is bound to pan out. Right?

Cory Schwartz & Mike Siano(back to top)
Charity: New York Police & Fire Widows' & Children's Benefit Fund
Draft Comments: Draft Strategy: Although our veteran-heavy, offense-first approach didn't produce the best results last year, we're at at it again because it's just more fun to have a team that slugs it out. Prior to the draft this year we made the decision to keep veteran Carlos Delgado and re-aquire lumbering outfielder Carlos Lee, along with defense-be-damned Dan Uggla, giving up center fielder Chris Young in the process. However, we kept Aaron Rowand and acquired Shane Victorino, so our outfield defense should be improved; Jose Reyes anchors the infield and we have enough defensive caddies to cover for our weaker gloves. On the pitching side, we built a deep bullpen of power arms and acquired Oliver Perez to give us a second reliable (at least we hope so) starter to go along with Aaron Harang. Overall our team should be better and deeper than last season, and since we dealt away prospects like Joey Votto, Jesus Flores and Max Scherzer, we hope this team will win now because there isn't a lot of youth to build around.

Favorite Draft Moment: Although none of them is without flaw, our acquisitions of Perez, Victorino and Felipe Lopez all addressed specific needs and helped round out what we think should be a pretty balanced team.

David Gonos(back to top)
Charity: Hospice

Ben Murphy & Ian Lefkowitz(back to top)
Charity: Same as last year and the year before, we're playing for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This cause has ties to the BP family, so we were happy to win last year and be the biggest donor to Dessert First.
Draft Comments: Last year's Kings league victory was a tremendous thrill; one which probably ranks depressingly high among our list of life achievements. Due to good drafting, active trading, and especially good fortune, we were able to take a good team to the whip over the last couple of months and turn it into a champion. This year's team starts from a much stronger foundation, as much of our strategy for the season took place before the draft. Over the winter, we salvaged the remnants of last year's winner. We traded significant talent in exchange for a couple of players from the real-life unlikely champion story, Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki, and also undid the Carlos Lee for Chris Young trade we made with the MLB.com guys last year (who managed to make us pay coming and going for the privilege of reacquiring the Diamondback).

This has left us with what we consider to be a far superior team core to last year. In addition to our trade targets, we return Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, David Wright, and also what we consider the real strength of our team, a rotation of Jake Peavy, Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels, and Clay Buchholz, as well as reinforcements from BP's top 2 prospects in baseball, Jay Bruce and Evan Longoria. The draft, therefore, was less sexy than last year's, and more of an exercise in not screwing up a good thing. After grabbing Conor Jackson, Wily Mo Pena, and Tadahito Iguchi early, we traded down frequently for depth, and we decided to emulate many of our General Manager idols. Like Ed Wade, we concentrated on building our bullpen first and foremost, like Bill Bavasi, we made sure to get some soft-tossers for our rotation and defensive-minded bench players who aren't all that good at fielding either, and like Brian Sabean, we remembered to sign some retired dudes, getting Woody Williams in order to play canasta in our fantasy clubhouse, and Javy Lopez to give Williams someone to play with. Despite this, we feel that we drafted the adequate depth to complement our all-stars and make us a strong contender for all the Yoo-hoo in 2008.

Josh Levin & Steven Ehrenberg(back to top)
Charity: Sweet Home New Orleans, a collective of non-profit agencies serving New Orleans musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, and Social Aid & Pleasure Club members.
Draft Comments: Last year we lost in the NL Championship Series. This year we added Rajai Davis. Do the math.

Jay Jaffe(back to top)
Charity: Planned Parenthood of Utah (my native state)

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