The Hopewell Highlanders landed Yankees’ ace CC Sabathia in a recent trade.
April has been a struggle for the up-and-down Hopewell Highlanders of the Nitecap Fantasy League (the real NFL in case you’re wondering). The Landers, who were the Sultans of Swat last year before a change in ownership and a move from suburban Connecticut to the bucolic fields of Hopewell Junction, New York. have bounced as high as second and as low as ninth in this 10-team league.
And despite a big trade that rocked the league, the Highlanders are currently stuck in the middle of the pack. Hopewell is hoping to reap the benefits of the headline deal, which sent Tigers fireballer Justin Verlander along with outfielder JD Drew and infielder Ty Wigginton to Evil Zito for CC Sabathia and Ichiro Suzuki.
The Junctioneers are looking for pitching consistency from the Yankees’ ace and more speed from the Mariners’ hit machine.
So far it’s been a season of inconsistency for the Highlanders, who miss the power of Albert Pujols and the pitching of Roy Halladay, two mainstays for last year’s Sultans. Of course neither is eligible to play in the 2010 NFL, which is American League only.
The Hopewell team is currently second in league in batting at .293, and Highlander pitchers are tied for second in strikeouts. But the team is next to last in steals and lagging in home runs, and ranks near the bottom of the league in both wins and saves.
Ordonez Leads in HRs
Only Magglio Ordonez with four has belted more than two home runs for the Landers, while Vlad Guerrero, hardly a speedster, led the team in steals until Ichiro arrived earlier this week. John Danks of the White Sox tops the team with three wins (CC also has three, but only one with the Highlanders) — in fact no other pitcher on the staff has more than a single victory.
And though Mariano Rivera has been his usual brilliant self with six saves and a 0.00 ERA, no other Highlander has recorded a save.
The left side of the Hopewell infield has been a drag. Third baseman Gordon Beckham, picked to win AL MVP by New York Daily News baseball writer Bill Madden, is barely hitting better than .200 with three RBIs. And shortstop Alexi Ramirez, a holdover from last year’s Sultans, isn’t doing much better.
The Highlanders are expecting big things from top pick Joe Mauer and first baseman Billy Butler, both of whom are hitting for average but have yet to display the power numbers they put up last season.
There’s still hope in Hopewell.
Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval, Kung Fu Panda, was a sleeper pick in fantasy baseball drafts this year. Now if he ever gets a couple more games at catcher…
It’s been a topsy-turvy first half for the Sultans of Swat in the Nightcap Fantasy League, or NFL, of baseball. The team, co-owned by Dr. Larry G and the SportsLifer, set the pace in the early going before slipping near the bottom of the 10-team league.
However, a series of waiver wire pickups and smart trades rallied the Swingers, who now stand second at the All-Star break, primed for a second-half run at the pennant.
Here are the best and worst moves of the Sultans’ first half.
Five Best Moves
Drafting Pablo Sandoval, Kung Fu Panda, in the 21st round. Pandas can be sleepers you know.
Drafting closer Heath Bell in the 23rd round. He leads the National League in saves.
Trading Brett Myers (out for the year) for Jon Lester, who is rounding into form after a rocky start.
Trading Carlos Pena for Prince Fielder, the Home Run Derby champion
Picking up 11-game winner Tim Wakefield, the ageless knuckleballer, on waivers.
Five Worst Moves
Drafting Matt Holliday in the second round — he went from stud to dud and is on the trading block.
Drafting Clint Barmes in the fourth round — Clint Freakin’ Barmes. What were we thinking?
Releasing Rick Nolasco, who is rounding into form after being farmed out to New Orleans for a spell.
Trading Yunel Escobar and Mike Cameron for Erik Bedard, who immediately went on the disabled list.
Picking up valuable free agents like Freddy Sanchez and Russell Branyan, and not finding room for them in a crowded infield.
Jury Still Out
Trading Jorge Posada and Ryan Ludwick for Dan Haren. Got an ace, but gave up two hot hitters.
Taking Albert Pujols third overall in the draft. Fantasy or not, the best player in baseball.
Like a 1970 Ford Pinto desperately in need of a tune-up, the Sultans of Swat have stalled out on the fantasy baseball highway. They’ve become the Sultans of Not.
Throughout April, the Sultans, co-owned and operated by Dr. G and yours truly, were the class of the Nightcap League.
But now the Sultans are sinking faster than a stone, with a red cross unit that looks like the 4077th M*A*S*H.
Five Sultans have already found the disabled list, the most recent being Troy Percival. He is threatening retirement, which might not be a bad idea considering the way he’s pitched lately
Three others are wearing the dreaded red cross label. And many of those injured Stallers got hurt early in the week, leaving the lineup down a man.
From Ace to Triple A
Adding insult to injury, another Sultan, Ricky Nolasco, who was supposed to be the ace of the Florida staff this year, has been shipped down to New Orleans, carrying his bruised ego and a 9.07 ERA to the Crescent City.
(Travel Note: If you’re going to be exiled, New Orleans is not a bad destination.)
(Mathematics Note: If you’re counting, that makes more than a third of the roster either rehabbing in the whirlpool or sampling the night life on Bourbon Street).
Nolasco isn’t the only bust in this Sultan-of-swing-and miss lineup. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto had a breakout season in 2008; this year he’s looked more like the second coming of Jake Gibbs.
Matt Holliday, who thrived on that thin Colorado air, has taken a holiday in Oakland. And shortstop Alexi Ramirez has been an automatic out for the White Sox.
The Sultans can’t seem to catch a break. On Sunday they had two of their starters, Felix Hernandez and Barry Zito, face off against one another.
Take away Blue Jays ace Ray Halladay and the incomparable Albert Pujols and this team is in the basement.. Problem is they keep walking Pujols, especially with Sultan/Cardinal Ryan Ludwick on the DL, and Halladay can’t pitch every day.
None of the other Stallers have lived up to the numbers on the back of their baseball cards
Such are the ups and downs of fantasy baseball.
This is Babe Ruth, Sultan of Swat, not Clint Barmes, shown fielding below.
Who is Clint Barmes?
I was wondering that myself when he wound up on my fantasy baseball team, the Sultans of Swat.
My partner in crime, the good doctor Larry G, and I picked Barmes in our Nightcap League fantasy baseball draft.
In the fourth round.
Among the scores of recognizable names picked after Barmes were Cole Hamels, Mariano Rivera, Vlad Guerrero, Russell Martin, BJ Upton and Josh Beckett…just to name a few.
This may have been the only fantasy draft in the country where Barmes went in the fourth round, 38th overall.
So who is this guy Barmes? He’s a 30-year-old utility infielder who’s played six seasons for the Colorado Rockies. He didn’t even start on Opening Day; Ian Stewart got the nod at second base.
Only twice has Barmes played more than 100 games in a season. He’s never hit more than 11 home runs or had more than 56 RBIs in a single season.
Barmes has a career batting average of ..263, with 30 homers and 159 RBIs, lifetime numbers that Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez could compile in a single season.
He was rated 23rd of 30 major league second baseman by CBS SportsLine and 25th by ESPN, which rated him 298. The Sporting News had him 34th among shortstops. Neither Sports Illustrated nor CBS had Barmes in its top 300 overall.
That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.
The Sultans nabbed Pujols, the best player in baseball, with the third overall pick in the draft. Their next two picks were Matt Holliday and Roy Halladay. They got depth throughout the middle rounds, and some real sleepers in the later rounds, including Giants phenom Pablo Sandoval (21st), Heath Bell (23rd) and Yunei Escobar (25th).
And best of all, the Sultans of Swat are in first place two days into the season.