Anyone who’s ever played fantasy sports has come across one of those players. The one who picks just a few too many Detroit Lions on his football team, or maybe it’s the prevalence of Royals on the baseball team. Whatever the city, the story’s the same, folks who know they should pick with their head just can’t seem to get their hometown hearts out of it.
Well, we here at PressBox decided to take it one step further… Well, maybe it’s enough steps further to officially cross the line. Forget the days of bidding more than we should on a past-his-prime Cal Ripken. Forget the days of passing over generation after generation of Yankee sluggers just on principle. We wanted to go all out, no bones about it. Throw out any pretense of “best man available,” thank you very much. We were going to go hometown players all the way.
What would happen, what could happen, if we entered an unsuspecting public league and proceeded to stock our team with Orioles and Orioles alone?
Here’s the story, week by week, of how we became Baltimore’s Ultimate Homer.
March 15: Putting the Wheels in Motion
O.K., so we went to a few sites until we found the all-free draft-based fantasy baseball we were looking for. Team icon? Orange jersey. Check. Team name? The Ultimate Homer. Check. (“Believe” just seemed to be asking too much.) Rotisserie or head-to-head? Head-to-head, no question. And then came the moment we’d been waiting for – the chance to set our draft order. Opting out of the site’s pre-set rankings… I mean, Rodriguez? Pujols? Guerrero? Come on, who needs ‘em?
Tejada came up first at No. 15. Not too shabby, we’re thinking, this Orioles-only team might be tops after all. Scroll a little further, and a little further, and further some more. Javy Lopez came in at No. 98. By the time we had 16 players (enough to complete a starting roster, provided no one else got to one of our players first), we were looking at No. 426 Corey Patterson. Alright, a .215 hitter last season. We can work with that. So he’s dropped an average of 41.5 points each year? We can work with that.
Makes us think of a new team motto, bring it on.
To all those who’ve said that draft day is the best day of the fantasy season, we’re right there with you. And in the world of auto-pick drafts, setting the draft order selections might be that next best thing. And it was done. The 27 Orioles available for selection were lined up and ready for drafting… like a twisted schoolyard kickball game, here was the field we’d put in the queue:
1. M. Tejada – SS
2. J. Lopez – C
3. B. Roberts – 2B
4. M. Mora – 3B
5. C. Ray – RP
6. R. Hernandez – C
7. B. Chen – SP
8. R. Lopez – SP
9. K. Benson – SP
10. D. Cabrera – SP
11. J. Gibbons – 1B, OF
12. E. Bedard – SP
13. L. Hawkins – RP
14. K. Millar – 1B, OF
15. T. Williams – RP
16. C. Patterson – OF
17. J. Conine – 1B, OF
18. L. Matos – OF
19. C. Gomez – 1B, 2B, 3B, SS
20. E. DuBose – SP, RP
21. D. Newhan – OF
22. T. Bydrak – RP
23. A. Rakers – RP
24. G. Gil – C
25. J. Fiorentino – OF
26. E. Whitesdale – C
27. H. Penn – SP
And once again, bring it on.
When last we left our still-undefeated homers, they were nothing more than a carefully ordered list of draft choices without even a league to call home. Fast forward a few days, sitting in the office, no NCAA games to watch, brackets have all been checked and re-checked, compared and mocked. So we figured, why not switch over to baseball-land and see if perhaps our team had been slotted into a league.
Well, this internet is something else. Not only does our team have a league, our team is in fact a team. We successfully drafted each and every one of our top 21 selections. That may very well be the team’s first entry in the record book. The first of many, no doubt.
Ah, opening day. The freshly cut green grass, the bright sunshine of spring… Or, maybe just a drizzle or two with a friendly forecast of strong thunderstorms. Not to fear. The Ultimate Homer is ready to go.
This week, the opposing team includes Carlos Beltran, Jim Edmonds, and a few other All-Stars that might intimidate a lesser team.
C - Ivan Rodriguez
1B - Ryan Howard
2B - Marcus Giles
3B - Troy Glaus
SS - Jhonny Peralta
OF - Carlos Beltran
OF - Jim Edmonds
OF - Randy Winn
Util. - Brady Clark
And on the mound:
SP - Roy Halladay
SP - Bronson Arroyo
RP - Mariano Rivera
RP - Francisco Cordero
P - Zach Duke
P - Javier Vazquez
P - Joe Borowski
The league we're playing in uses Runs, Homers, RBI, Stolen Bases, Average, Wins, Saves, Strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) as the categories. With Sunday night games, we're already down 4-0 as Peralta and Thome provided a run, a homer, three RBI's and a .400 batting average, but hey, we've got a clean slate and an unblemished record.
We gather the guys around for a brief pep-talk -- one day at a time, 110-percent, nobody believes in us but us, you've got to have it in here (point to heart) and in here (point to head), yada, yada -- and then let them get down to the business of pre-game rituals, and hey, we do have a real job to do too.
Oh, and there's no "I" in team -- or in homer.
There is something magical about opening day. And we all know that magic can't last forever.
Week one is in the books, and that's probably for the best. Opening the season against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Orioles -- and the Ultimate Homer -- may have gotten a bit of a false sense of security, and most certainly a fleeting sense of domination.
With seven homeruns in the first two days, we might have gotten a bit ahead of ourselves. We bragged, we boasted, we envisioned the fortune that would be ours for cracking a mysterious fantasy code. And then, things returned to normal. Four losses in a row, with pitching that seemed to unravel before our eyes.
To look on the bright side, we didn't get swept. And, hey, there's always next week.
Opponent's roster includes Torii Hunter, Chris Carpenter, Adam Dunn and a clubhouse full of sluggers, aces and closers. Is it too early to say that this could be a very long year?
Rank: 12 of 12
After a record of 1-8-1 in week one, things could only get better. (That's not exactly true, but they did, so who's to argue with a little April optimism?)
With another series against the Devil Rays to help pad the bottom line and some darn-right inspired play against the Angels at home, we were ready for big things.
Drum roll, please… Week two produced a rousing record of 2-6-2. Improvement. We'll take it.
MVP of the week? Corey Patterson, whose stolen base against Tampa Bay on April 11 was all the Ultimate Homer needed to win the category. And truth be told, if you enter the game as a pinch runner in the eighth inning, you'd darn well better steal a base, right?
Honorable mention? A stellar pitching staff that won the Wins category 4-2 and delivered ties in both saves and strikeouts.
fantasy sluggers and aces who have compiled a 15-3-2 record over the first two weeks, thanks in part to stellar performances from Lance Berkman, Edgar Renteria and Vernon Wells.
Rank: 12 of 12
Glass half full? Are you kidding? The stupid thing's dripping on the counter. Well, if anyone should be happy about a week three victory, why not us? Forget the silver lining of going 2-6-2, the Ultimate Homer produced an all-around solid performance, knocking off the league's top team by a score of 6-4.
MVP of the week? Sorry, Corey, but no there's no question here. Miguel Tejada delivered three homeruns, 10 RBI, and six runs.
Honorable mention? Brian Roberts posted six stolen bases on the week to nail down what has quietly become the Ultimate Homer's favorite category. Roberts recorded only 27 steals in 143 games all of last season. Fluke? We'll see, but we'll take it. And you've got to like a 5-9 kid playing in the majors.
Up next, yet another tough matchup with David Ortiz and Derek Jeter at the plate, and the likes of Tim Hudson and Jake Westbrook on the mound. But the team's just at 12-17-1, and the Ultimate Homer fears no one.
Rank: 10 of 1
Well, you can't win 'em all. The Ultimate Homer finished the Week 4-6 in a nail-biter, losing out in WHIP by a measly 0.02.
And while we knew that Chris Ray couldn't go the whole season without giving up an earned run, his 13.0 ERA for the week sure didn't help matters, but we try to keep things positive here in the Ultimate Homer clubhouse.
We're holding steady in 10th place. We posted our best batting average of the season at .308. Hopes remain high.
MVP of the week? What can we say? Forget jumping on, we're driving the Corey Patterson bandwagon. The kid batted .529 on the week, with two homeruns, four runs, six RBI's and three stolen bases. Forget the naysayers who are going on and on about how Patterson won't be able to handle the leadoff spot while Brian Roberts is on the DL. Go Corey, go!
Up next freshly coiffed A.J. Pierzynski and his .342 average, Eric Chavez and his 9 homeruns and 20 RBI's in the month of April. But hey, there's also Keith Foulke on the mound and with that there's always a chance he'll lose it, right? Another to keep an eye on is Todd Helton, returning from the 15-day DL. Hopefully for our sake it takes him a bit to return to the .347 form he had going on before the stomach ailment.
In other news: The Ultimate Homer made its first roster move of the season, adding Nick Markakis to the team. Who's to say a .182 batter has no place on a fantasy team? Welcome aboard, rookie.
Coming soon: Ultimate Homer cracks the top 10. Believe.
Rank: 10 of 12
Well, we knew it wasn't going to be pretty.
The Orioles went 2-8 in their last 10 games, losing five in a row to go 0-fer the road series in Texas and Boston. And not just losing, but really losing. The three losses to the Red Sox were by a combined 16 runs.
You know it's not a good sign when the other team has a 5.64 ERA and takes the category by more than two points. And while it doesn't all fall to the bullpen -- It's hard (in fact, pretty darn impossible) to get saves when you're not winning ball games. -- LaTroy Hawkins didn't help fantasy matters by posting a 22.50 ERA for the week.
And PressBox is right -- injuries sure are slowing the O's. This was the first week that the Ultimate Homer failed to grab a stolen base. After winning the category for three weeks in a row, it had almost started to feel like a given.
Sad to say, for the first time all season, Ultimate Homer is in last place. With a good pair of binoculars, we can see the leader, 18 games ahead in first place, but on the bright side (and we are the optimist, aren't we?) it's just a small two and a half games that separates the cellar from the oh-so-respectable 11th place.
So maybe we were just too greedy, aiming for the Top 10 and all. For now, the focus is a little narrower. Just like our editor here who reeling from the new calendar of a weekly publication has vowed to take it one issue at a time, the Ultimate Homer will do its best to take it one rung of the ladder at a time.
Up next, as the Orioles face Detroit and Kansas City, the Ultimate Homer faces yet another slugger/ace combo with the Indians' Victor Martiner (.364, 5 HR, 21 RBI), the Cardinals' Albert Pujols (.314, 16 HR, 38 RBI) and the Devil Rays' Johnny Gomes (.308, 11 HR, 27 RBI) on the offensive end and Boston's Jonathan Papelbox (0.50 ERA, 17K (against 2 walks, mind you), 12 Saves) and Detroit's Fernando Rodney (0.00 ERA, 12 K, 5 Saves) staring us down from the mound.
Rank: 12 of 12
Well, we're still in last place. And the Red Sox are coming in to town. Is that mysterious "home field advantage" enough to turn things around from that still fresh wound of three straight losses by a combined score of 25-9? We shall see. We shall see.
If we didn't have tickets to tonight's game, we might view the forecast of showers, showers and more showers as something of a blessing.
But, on the positive side -- and we are all positive sides -- let's take a look back at the week that was for the Ultimate Homer.
We finished the week 3-5-2. Three wins is pretty good. There were, in fact, three other teams in the league that couldn't pull that off (a 2-6-2, a 1-8-1 and a 1-9-0), so we're feeling o.k. about ourselves. It's only three and a half games to 11th place.
In the clubhouse: With Chris Gomez off to the 60-day DL, we've added rookie Brandon Fahey to the team and are hoping that the kid can continue to deliver.
MVP of the Week: Miguel Tejada delivered three homeruns and five runs to help the Ultimate Homer take both of those categories in a powerful offensive week. We also came up big, winning batting average for only the second time this season, and by a whopping 35 points, .321 to .286. Not too shabby when the other team has Albert Pujols.
And from a personal improvement standpoint, the week was a success -- we actually performed better in every single category -- all 10.
Chris Ray continues his stellar showing, even though pitching remains a tough area to convert on the fantasy side. For the week, he delivered two saves with a perfect 0.00 ERA.
Up Next: Detroit's Chris Shelton (who thought we'd be fearing a Tiger?), Boston's Manny Ramirez (a potential double whammy for the Ultimate Homer as the upcoming three game series means any Manny batting prowess will help their offensive stats and hurt our pitching numbers) and save machine Jason Isringhausen.
Rank: 12 of 12
Geez. Didn't see this coming. Well, not entirely.
The worst week yet. 1-9-0. And yet another week in last place. It's getting lonely down here.
The Ultimate Homer's winning percentage has dropped to a pitiful .300. We're starting to feel like the Knicks over here.
Corey Patterson. To those who mocked the Ultimate Homer for naming the speedy outfielder MVP of the week back in week two, we would like to take this moment to point out that CP batted .348 last week (the only member of the Ultimate Homer squad to break the .300 mark), while adding three stolen bases to save us from an 0-10 week. And really, now, isn't 1-9 a heck of a lot better?
Enough with the past. One game, one issue at a time, right?
Up next? A team whose only Yankee is the .261-hitting Jason Giambi. Things might be looking up.
Rank: 12 of 12
Well, we all know it was a holiday weekend. And we had a barbeque here, some lounging on the deck there. And maybe fantasy baseball wasn't the first thing on our minds -- unthinkable as that may be.
Anyways, management takes full responsibility for slacking on the job and being a bit slow in getting the re-activated Brian Roberts back in the Ultimate Homer lineup.
But this past week can't be blamed on the absence of Roberts alone.
The score we'd dreaded, the result we'd hoped would never come... well, it came.
Never mind the three saves by Chris Ray or the four stolen bases by Corey Patterson, the Ultimate Homer laid a big 'ol fat egg and went 0-10 on the week.
It's not even June and the Ultimate Homer is 28 games back from first.
On the bright side, Melvin Mora batted .355, with a homerun, five runs and six RBIs.
And on the somewhat bright side, the Orioles play their next 10 games at home, with three against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. And then the "somewhat" comes to town, in the pinstripe unis of the New York Yankees.
Up next for the Ultimate Homer, A-Rod, Ichiro, the Big Unit and more. Can't get any worse, so bring it on.
Rank: 12 of 12
We kind of had an inkling that this might be a good week a few days ago. As of Saturday morning, we were in a 5-5 draw. The Ultimate Homer had the lead in four out of five offensive categories (HR, RBI, SB and average), while conceding all the pitching categories except saves.
All this despite Ichiro posting some stellar numbers -- .438 with six runs and a stolen base ain't bad, is it?
Feeling the prospect of a victory so close, we headed down to Camden Yards to cheer on the boys in person Sunday afternoon. Yes, it was purely for the sake of Ultimate Homer business. Do not believe what others may tell you about the simple joys of a ballpark hot dog and a refreshing beverage on a sunny June afternoon.
Enough of the scenery... or maybe it's the savoring of the rare opportunity to build up anticipation to the report of a winning week.
Yes, folks, it's true. Ultimate Homer won the week's series, going 6-4, for the team's second wining week of the season. Not since week three have we been on the plus side. And back in week three, did we really know how much to appreciate it? Heck, back then I think the Orioles had a better record than the Yankees.
After the Orioles blasted the Yankees in an 11-4, four-homerun rout on Sunday, the Ultimate Homer swept all five offensive categories, tacking on Saves as well for good measure.
Corey Patterson had eight stolen bases on the week, as he leads the American League in the category and has had a successful swipe in each of the past eight games, the longest streak in the majors since 1996. Getting that extra base also helped C.P. lead the Ultimate Homer with seven runs on the week.
But the MVP of the week may have been Miguel Tejada, who was a true team leader, batting .423 with six runs and six RBI's (and a homerun and a stolen base for good measure). Nice work. Nice work.
Up next: Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, and Matt Holliday. Oh, and let the taunts begin. We're also facing a man perhaps you've heard of -- Barry Bonds, the Giant from San Francisco. And a stacked pitching staff that includes Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and a series of other studs -- not one of whom has an ERA above 1.93.
Don't let the ticker tape fool you. There is still work to be done. The Ultimate Homer is 29.5 games out of first place, and a daunting 12.5 out of next-to-last place.
Let's get to it.
Rank: 12 of 12