Hey, I'm the new guy here at FSE. I'll be carrying the equipment bags onto the FSE team bus and writing the Hot or Not column once a week.
We haven't had a Hot or Not since Spring Training, so there's a lot to catch up on. Let's get to it...
The Sophia Lorens of Fantasy Baseball. They've started hot, and they'll most likely stay hot, even when they're old and making movies with Walter Matthau. (It's never too late to make Grumpier Old Men references, right?)
What's not to like? He's on pace to break the record for home runs by a second baseman in a season (Davey Johnson and Rogers Hornsby both cranked 42; Utley's on pace for 56), has a .417 OBP and, according to his website, is a proud environmentalist and an avid supporter of the Pennsylvania chapter of the ASPCA.
Who holds the NL record for most homers by a designated hitter? None other than Mr.
Rocky Balboa Jim Thome, who put four balls in the seats for the Phils during interleague play in 2004.
For years, Lance Berkman has been the best hitter in baseball with a double chin - a proud title passed down from greats like Cecil Fielder and Rosie O'Donnell in A League of their Own. This season, though, Berkman has arguably been the best hitter, period.
My brother Matt insists on calling Lance Berkman "The Flying White Dutchman." The nickname, of course, makes zero sense, but still...there's something catchy about it.
Brandon Webb eats innings for breakfast and induces ground ball outs for lunch. I'm not sure what he has for dinner, but I'll bet it's pitching-related and very good.
A Message for Hank Steinbrenner
Brandon Webb, currently the best pitcher in baseball, was 7-16 in his second full season. Young pitchers need time to develop. They are not thoroughbred horses. They will not automatically reach their full potential in two years. And you cannot euthanize them if they underperform.
Shoot me in the face hot
A special section dedicated to the high-performing players you could have had if you weren't too busy drafting vegan first basemen (more on him later).
Hi, I'm Cliff Lee. I was owned in just 21% of Sportsline Roto leagues during the first two weeks of this season. Now I'm the new Orel Hersheiser. That is all.
Born to be a ballplayer or a Civil War General
Cliff Lee's full name is Clifton Phifer Lee.
A bitter selection for anyone who counted on Santana last season, when he was 7-14 with an ERA of almost 6.
I had Ervin Santana last season.
Was only a semi-sleeper at the beginning of the season, but few people could have expected him to lead the Majors in RBIs.
Obligatory "Josh Hamilton is a recovering substance abuser" reference
Can never decide whether I like or dislike Jeff Pearlman as a writer. Is he a legitimate Good Guy, or a self-important crybaby? This article about Hamilton furthers my ambivalence.
Captain of the cheerleading team hot
Sure, these players look great now, but there's no telling what'll happen over time. Maybe they stay hot, maybe they show up at the ten-year reunion with stretch marks and a tooth missing. Either way, you're intrigued.
Seems like the Pirates should have more players named Nate, doesn't it? Anyway, Nate's hitting 100 points better in the daytime than he is the nightime. Let's see how he does once pitchers get another look at him.
Nate McLouth is the third most popular "Nate" on Google, behind only Nate Robinson and Nate Diaz, the MMA fighter.
Saunders, who's been pretty lucky all season, finally lost on Saturday night. I feel a 12-10, 4.50 ERA kind of season coming on.
Did You Know (with special guest writer Chris Berman)
Saunders' career record is 21-9. Only John "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" Candelaria had a better winning percentage after his first 40 starts with the Angels.
Forget that Volquez has frontline starter kind of stuff. His nickname is "Voltron." His future is in film, specifically buddy movies with Shia Labeouf.
Where are they now?
Volquez, along with John Danks and Thomas Diamond, was one third of Texas' highly-touted "DVD" trio of pitching prospects. Danks and Volquez are both productive big-leaguers today. But only Thomas Diamond has a website.
A few things that would make the 2008 MLB season Hotter:
Bobby Cox managing games in a bathrobe. No good reason why.
More players blogging. (Check out the guest post from Morgan Ensberg. It's great that he loves reading "non-fiction." Just wish he was as big a fan of "getting hits.")
A late-night talk show hosted by John Kruk.
And now, on to the Not-so-Hots...
Like a timid lover, these slow starters just need a little time and attention before they reveal their secret gardens of potential.
The big man has had no luck so far, going 1-5 with a 3.09 ERA. The strikeouts are still there, as is the awkward facial hair. He'll turn it around.
No Mets were harmed in this trade
As a minor leaguer, Harang was traded from the Rangers to the A's for Randy Velarde. Strange to think such a lopsided trade happened without Steve Philips being involved.
He'll be back to his old tricks soon - hitting moonshots when the Yanks are up 7-2, sunbathing on large rocks like a lizard - and it'll be like he was never gone at all.
Reason #1,354 it's getting harder to be a Yankee fan
In a recent interview, A-Rod's wife said that A-Rod passed out during the birth of their first child. The guy's like the anti-Jack Bauer.
He might strike out 300 times this season, he might hit 60 homers. My guess is he does both.
The character Ryan Howard from The Office has a longer Wikipedia entry than Ryan Howard the ballplayer.
They're not dead yet, but they're not looking so great either.
Prince Fielder is an interesting experiment. If he's able to turn it around, scouts will be prowling the streets of Williamsburg and Greenpoint looking for gaunt, smelly vegan power hitters.
Public Service Announcement
Just in case Prince has any more big lifestyle changes up his sleeve - vegan moms' breast milk may lack the vitamins and nutrients developing babies need.
The Colorado Rockies of Denver
I went to Denver back in November, just after the Rockies lost the World Series. There were signs all over town that said things like, "Thanks for a Great Season, Rockies!" and "It was a Great Run!". At the time I wondered if all that relentless positivity would help or hurt a developing team. I'm still wondering.
Things to do in Denver
Check out the Buckhorn Exchange, a crazy steak house on the outskirts of town that serves rattlesnake and yak and has a dining room that looks like the physical manifestation of Teddy Roosevelt's dreams.
It's not your fault you drafted Jason Isringhausen. Really, it's not. A lot of guys drafted him. He'll be better, just stop focusing on it.
Nature of the beast
In case you didn't know, closers have little job security. Only eight pitchers have been their team's closer since 2005 or earlier - Mariano Rivera, Bobby Jenks, Joe Nathan, K-Rod, Huston Street, Chad Cordero, Isringhausen and Trevor Hoffman.
The worst of the worst.
And let's face it, there's only one player who could deserve such an insult...
It's easy to be angry at Barry Zito. He earns $13 million a year and is an utter failure at his job. But before you jump to anger, consider this: there are other professionals who commit far more egregious sins every day. CEOs run companies into the ground and get huge buyout packages. Politicians break the very laws they put into effect. Doctors and lawyers show up to work drunk or high, and cause real, irreparable damage to people who trusted them.
The point is: who would you rather have on your fantasy baseball team? Barry Zito or Eliot Spitzer? I rest my case.
Something by somebody who's actually good at his job
Here's a very funny essay by Jack Handey (of Saturday Night Live fame). Also check out Handey's hilarious new book, What I'd Say to the Martians: And Other Veiled Threats.
Ok, that's it for this week's installment. Check back next week for more analysis and fewer words. Later.