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Charging the Mound: Dominoes Falling

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

Note: The video begins with football content, but there's baseball content over the second half.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Erickson
Sent: Thursday, July 25, 2013 3:34am
To: Christopher Liss
Subject: Charging - When Does the Next Domino Fall?

I hate talking about Ryan Braun and PED's, but it's pretty difficult to brush it under the rug. I was wrong, dead wrong, about when he'd serve the suspension. Given his aggressive posture before Monday's announcement, I would have thought that he might have been the most likely to have a drawn-out appeal, if not even a lawsuit, to defend himself. So silly of me to buy his line that his connection to Biogenesis case was an advisor for his appeal on his previous positive test. As I told a friend of mine in an e-mail, you believe want you want to believe, I guess. Shame on me.

So what happens next? Given how wrong I was about Braun, I'm hesitant to try to predict what happens with the remaining known Biogenesis guys. I'm tempted to compare this to dominoes - with the first one falling, the others should fall in fairly rapid succession. Of course, every case is different, and each player faces different consequences. I suppose those players on teams that are in the race will feel some extra pressure to appeal, but if the evidence against Braun was so overwhelming, I can't imagine most of the players having materially stronger cases.

From MLB's point-of-view, I'm a little surprised other suspensions haven't been announced, unless they're waiting to sort out the A-Rod punishment first. By delaying the additional suspensions, they're ensuring the PED story stays out in the news cycle for a lot longer. Maybe this is part of Bud Selig's design, as he's hellbent to be known as the guy that cleaned up the game after first turning the other way. But I wouldn't think it's good for the overall health of the game to keep talking ad infinitum about this issue.

So ... do you sell low on Nelson Cruz? Gio Gonzalez? Jhonny Peralta? Is there any one of those three that you feel more confident that they'll finish the season? As always, what exactly is the price when you say buy low or sell low?

In keeper leagues, I'm trying to trade for Braun again and double-up on the notion of buying low, but apparently it's a wholly unoriginal plan - everyone else is doing the same. I'll try again in a few weeks if his respective owners start to trail off.

Switching to other topics, I asked this question of Joe Sheehan on Tuesday's show:

"True or False: Matt Garza will be the best player traded before the expiration of this year's trade deadline?"

What did you think of the trade? I love how it essentially got ignored, given that the Braun news was announced less than 30 minutes after the trade was finalized. I thought that the Cubs did well in the deal, but then again, I've liked most if not all of Theo Epstein's trades with the Cubs so far. But looking at this package, they gave up a half-season of Garza, who absent a change of heart by the Phillies and their willingness to trade Cliff Lee, will be the best starting pitcher available. They also give up the ability to offer him arbitration this offseason as a free agent, and get the resulting draft pick compensation if/when he signs elsewhere. For that, I think that the return price of Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and a PTBNL is pretty darn good. Maybe it's not the same as getting Jean Segura as the Brewers did with Zack Greinke, but I also think Greinke had more value at that point than Garza did this year. I want to get a few shares of Olt - Luis Valbuena hasn't exactly been "no buena," but his luster is also starting to fade. I don't view him as a blocker. Edwards has great numbers so far - with emphasis on "so far" - but there's certainly upside there. Grimm did well to get to the bigs by age 23, and he'll probably benefit from the move to the NL eventually.

The Nats have lost six in a row, nine of the last 10 and have lost as many games as the Mets. Their run differential is -29. I've carped enough about the Phillies and their refusal to be sellers. Shouldn't I be howling at the moon about the Nats, too? Does it matter that they had higher expectations than the Phillies? Does the extra 20 runs in differential matter for these sad sacks? Sure would be nice if one of the two teams bothered to show up against the Pirates and Cardinals this week, respectively.

Are the Nats the biggest disappointment of the season? Or are the collapsing Blue Jays even worse? Do the Angels merit inclusion here? Which one of the three is most capable of having a Dodgers-like resurgence?

I'll close with a rant, totally non-fantasy related. I can't help but pay attention to commercials when they come on. Almost all are annoying, but some are worse than others. I think I just discovered the worst of the bunch - it's seemingly always on during games, so it's registered with me.

In this commercial, a woman is looking at a live stream of a house's exterior, and tells her husband that this is the house she really likes, and suggests they should "... call a realtor and put a bid on it." He says no, let's wait - no reason given. Instantly after that, you see a realtor on the computer walk up and put a "Sold" sign up, which is followed by the somber narrator saying that inventory is low, you'd better act quickly and contact "... a realtor ..." and get buying fast.

- Did we not learn anything from the housing bubble? How irresponsible is it to create this sort of panic that you must buy now, buy fast, the supply is running out?

- Why is inventory supposedly low right now, anyhow? Is it solely because new construction has slowed down due to the previous bubble, or is something more artificial? I would almost guarantee you it's the latter. It's relatively common knowledge that many investment banks, having run out of traditional ways to screw potential homeowners, have created real estate mutual funds and are buying up houses preemptively, thus controlling the market. There is no natural supply-and-demand give-and-take right now. If one party can control how many houses become available and when, and for how much, the market is destroyed.

- I hate the commercial dynamic where every male adult is living in an episode of According to Jim - an oafish, bumbling male, marrying above his class while the commercial version of Courtney Thorne-Smith sets him straight. And the only way to make things right is to get his wife a material good - a house, a car, jewelry, etc.... It doesn't just make the male look bad, it usually makes the female materialistic, smug and patronizing. Look, advertising is what it is and always has been that way, but it drives me nuts seeing it over and over again. I need to find companies that don't pander to that dynamic. Oh, and the answer isn't to make a female the foil - the answer isn't to have a foil at all.

Ok, this ran longer than usual - thanks for putting up with my rant.

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Liss
Sent: Thursday, July 25, 2013 9:16pm
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging - When Does the Next Domino Fall?

The guy with the weakest hand always shows the most strength when he bluffs. I think the takeaway here is we should not have been cavalier about the possibility of a PED-related suspension when the news came out before the season. There were a lot of persuasive arguments as to why this would never happen, but you always want to avoid the trap of buying into one side of the case and closing yourself off to other plausible possibilities. Part of it is human nature - we have trouble quantifying the probability of certain events, so it's easier to ignore them. But that's a mistake. And when you think about it - of course Braun took the deal as the suspension comes at a time when it costs him far less money, doesn't impact the team and allows him to have it (to an extent) behind him over the offseason.

I assume other heads will roll. Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez, Bartolo Colon, Jhonny Peralta have been mentioned, but who knows - maybe some big names we hadn't suspected will come out as well. That would be the real shocker - key players in real-life and fantasy pennant races getting the ax totally out of the blue.

I do think there's a buying/selling opportunity in theory, but in practice, no one is likely to give you Cruz or Colon at enough of a discount, and if you're selling, you're unlikely to find 75 cents on the dollar. People are biased against making mistakes of commission, i.e., doing a bad trade, so they're much more likely to risk making ones of omission, i.e., doing nothing, when they could have traded their way out of disaster. It can't hurt to offer around though. If you're in fifth place in an AL-only and need wins, why not see if the Colon owner is panicking?

False - Garza is pretty good, but my guess is someone better will be moved, whether it's Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy or a player about whom there isn't much talk. And yes, I think Peavy is better than Garza, considering their respective environments this year.

The Cubs are suddenly developing quite a good young nucleus after Epstein inherited from Jim Hendry arguably a bigger disaster than the US economy in 2009. Plus, there's a good chance they get more when Alfonso Soriano is moved. For now they have Starlin Castro - who will play better - Anthony Rizzo (who also will be a good player), Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood (whom they got for Sean Marshall), Olt, Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. Plus "Senior Ocean" is crushing it in his first major-league go-round. (It's too good to keep to myself).

The Nats can't sell given their personnel and also given the Braves lost Tim Hudson, don't know yet what they'll get from Brandon Beachy, have Paul Maholm on the DL and might have to go easy on Julio Teheran innings-wise. Plus Kris Medlen is having just a so-so year, and B.J. Upton is hurt and awful, Jason Heyward has done nothing and Justin Upton has done nothing since April. They're vulnerable should the Nats have two strong final months. So I'd give the Nats the best chance of digging out (over the Angels and Jays) but mostly because the team(s) ahead of them are the weakest.

Love the rant. But before you get angry with the bankers who crashed the economy, were bailed out and are now buying back on the cheap the foreclosed homes of those whose credit and finances were permanently destroyed, remember: Braun CHEATED, and ARod SHAMED the game.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Erickson
Sent: Friday, July 26, 2013 12:22am
To: Christopher Liss
Subject: Re: Charging - When Does the Next Domino Fall?

One columnist compared Braun to Aaron Hernandez. Because taking steroids is clearly just as bad as killing someone.

We spent a lot of time talking about Braun's ADP in connection with the NFBC, and I was in the camp that advocated taking him third if he was there. Our friend Shawn Childs had that decision in our draft, and he got it right and wanted no part of Braun. He went with Tulo instead, and while the injury risk became reality, he's gotten a lot more mileage already from him than he would have with Braun.

You're right about the Braves being vulnerable. After beginning the year 12-1, they've gone 45-44 since. They've also lost Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty for the season, both key components from their bullpen. So they're the weakest division leader ahead of our underachievers. But besides the very weakness of the Phillies and Nats, they have one other thing in their favor. The Braves have played just 46 games at home, where they're 16 over .500, while having 56 on the road, where they're just 26-30.

I hate that Theo is a GM in my favorite team's division. Bring back Jim Hendry, Cam Bonifay and Ed Wade!

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Liss
Sent: Friday, July 26, 2013 1:08am
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging - When Does the Next Domino Fall?

The craziest part of the Hernandez story is that he might have committed a double murder *last year* - while he was playing for the Pats! While MLB has to deal with the fallout from the Biogenesis scandal, maybe the NFL is chock full of murderers! Who else is murdering people - Tony Romo, Sebastian Janikowski? Can't wait for the other shoe to drop.