As major league baseball players everywhere start reporting to camp, I'm starting my fantasy baseball research for this year. I'd be the first one to admit that the categories in fantasy baseball (BA, R, HR, RBI, SB for hitters, W, ERA, WHIP, SV, K for pitchers) don't correlate very well to real-life success, but I can adapt. Plus there's money and trash-talking involved.
Here's what my favorite fantasy baseball magazine has to say about the 2006 Astros:
"By standing pat over the winter, the NL champs have weakened themselves. Houston needed a combined 675 innings from their top 3 starters at a 2.43 ERA to win the wildcard. Roger Clemens claims he's not returning...If the Big Three can't repeat, another starter has to step up...Brandon Backe is not recommended...The back end of the rotation only needs to reach the sixth inning because of Houston's excellent bullpen. Minute Maid Park makes any righty hitter a good bet...Craig Biggio looks like he's had it, as evidenced by his age and his .235 - 7 - 20 line away from home...Don't expect Jason Lane or Willy Taveras to get much better."
Well, I may be pessimistic, but I have to agree with most of their comments. We certainly haven't gotten better this offseason - even if Clemens returns, the Big Three can't be as good as last year and we're still looking at Taveras, Everett, and Ausmus in the lineup. If everything breaks right for us we could still be right there in the hunt, but that could be a big if. An injury to Berkman or Ensberg or Oswalt or Pettitte spells doom, and we need Jason Lane, Wandy Rodriguez, and Ezequiel Astacio to be solid all year. Don't get me wrong, I'll root like hell for this team, and watch as many games as I can, but it will be an uphill climb. Then again, that seems to be our preference these last few years.
I was supposed to fly down to Baton Rouge for a reunion with some old friends this weekend. I got about 30 miles from Flagstaff (I was flying out of Phoenix) when my front left tire blew out and took a hefty chunk of my front left fender (directly above the tire) with it. I called AAA, and they said it wasn't safe to drive - too much exposed wiring. I had to get towed back to Flagstaff. I called the folks to see if there were any later flights, but nothing worked out well and I still would have had to figure out a way to get back to Flagstaff at midnight on Sunday night. On the bright side, it's been time for me to get a new-ish car for a while now - no more putting it off.
It's a beautiful day outside (up to 55/60 degrees in Flagstaff these days), so off I go.