Hopewell Is…Well…Hoping to Rise

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.


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