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Rotisserie Duck


Say What? PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 13 June 2014 00:00

There is little doubt that there are more golf jokes than in any other sport. After all, even the throw-away lines are funny because when you ask a golfer how he's been playing lately and he replies, "My game has improved dramatically since I had my ball retriever re-gripped", you can't help but laugh.

When it comes to quotes, however, baseball will always be at the pinnacle. Maybe it has to do with over 150 years of history or the fact that every American youth is exposed to the sport at an early age and understands the basics of the game. For us die-hard fans, we'd probably like to think that it's the result of the great characters who have captured our imagination over a lifetime. So, for today's visit, we'll look at some of the great quotes of the game and hope they bring a smile, cause an outright guffaw or put a quizzical look on your face.

> On hearing that Reggie Jackson was reported to have an IQ of 165, Yankee teammate Mickey Rivers snidely replied, "Out of what - a thousand?"

> "He's got power enough to hit home runs in any park, including Yellowstone." - Sparky Anderson on Willie Stargell

> "I gave (pitcher) Mike Cuellar more chances than I gave my first wife." - Earl Weaver

> "Hating the Yankees is as American as apple pie, unwed mothers and cheating on your income tax." - Mike Royko, Chicago newspaper columnist

> "Ninety feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection." - Red Smith, sportswriter

> "There are two theories on hitting the knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither of them work." - Charlie Lau, hitting coach

> "Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical." - Yogi Berra

> "For the parents of a Little Leaguer, a baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings." - Earl Wilson, former pitcher

> "Good pitching will beat good hitting anytime, and vice versa." - Bob Veale, former pitcher

> "The designated hitter rule is like letting someone else take Wilt Chamberlain's free throws." - Rick Wise, former pitcher

> "Trying to sneak a pitch past Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster." - Curt Simmons, former pitcher

> "In a way, an umpire is like a woman. He makes quick decisions, never reverses them, and doesn't think you're safe when you're out." - Larry Goetz, former umpire

> "You never save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain." - Leo Durocher

> "A good cigar is like a beautiful chick with a great body who also knows the American League box scores." - Klinger (from M*A*S*H)

> "I never threw an illegal pitch. The trouble is, once in a while I toss one that ain't never been seen by this generation." - Satchel Paige

> "Baseball is like a poker game, nobody wants to quit when he's losing: nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead." - Jackie Robinson

> "The difference between the old ballplayer and the new ballplayer is the jersey. The old ballplayer cared about the name on the front. The new ballplayer cares about the name on the back." - Steve Garvey

> "Baseball must be a great game to survive the fools who run it." - Bill Terry

> "Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel, not just to be as good as someone else but to be better than someone else. This is the nature of man and the name of the game." - Ted Williams

> "If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base." - Dave Barry, humorist

> "You can't sweep a series if you don't win the first game, and it's tougher to win two out of three if you lose the first one." - Todd Helton

> "Willie Mays' glove is where triples go to die." - Jim Murray, newspaper columnist

> "The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided." - Casey Stengel

> "The way to make coaches think you're in shape in the spring is to get a tan." - Whitey Ford

> "I watch a lot of baseball on radio." - Gerald Ford

> "I never took the game home with me. I always left it in some bar." - Bob Lemon

> "All I remember about my wedding day in 1967 is that the Cubs lost a doubleheader." - George Will, author

> "A hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz." - Humphrey Bogart

> "He looks like a greyhound but he runs like a bus." - George Brett on teammate Jamie Quirk

> "If Mike Scioscia was in a race with a pregnant woman, he'd finish third." - Tommy Lasorda

> Asked what it feels like to be the shortest player in the major leagues, 5' 4" Freddie Patek replied, "A heckuva lot better than being the shortest player in the minor leagues."

> "Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day...Aren't we all?" - Vin Scully

> "He once asked me if Beirut was named after that famous baseball player who hit home runs." - High School teacher

> Veteran pitcher Roger McDowell on taking a rookie under his wing - "I have to go to all the places he can't, to make sure he isn't there."

> In 1995, during the strike, a replacement pitcher who hadn't pitched professionally in nine years had a terrible outing. Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass said, "He should have been better, pitching on 3,195 days' rest."

> "Aw, c'mon, how could he lose a ball in the sun? He's from Mexico." - Harry Carey

Needless to say, we've just touched the surface of this glorious topic and there are scores of great quotes to come in future visits. For now, in honor of this Sunday, let's reflect on the wisdom of Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, who once said during a Mets broadcast...

"On this special Father's Day, we'd like to wish all of you a very Happy Birthday."

Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 02:25
 
The 60-Day WAR PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 06 June 2014 00:00

For baseball fans and fantasy team owners, looking at the standings on May 30th reveals a telling statistic - the major league season is 1/3 over. Just about 54 games are in the books and it's time for an honest evaluation of your team. No more excuses of slumps, shifts, off-season injuries, smoke and mirror performances and the like. As with most real-life situations, it's all about what you've done for me lately and what you project to do moving forward.

Some very predictable things have already happened. Emilio Bonifacio is no longer hitting .400 (or even .300), Chris Colabello is in the Minors, Jose Valverde isn't closing anywhere and Ryan Zimmerman is injured. On the other end of the spectrum, how about the best of the best? Who are really the top MLB players so far for 2014? Not just the obvious stars, but also the underrated contributors that help teams win but may not get the headlines. Where do we find an objective, unbiased determination to create this list? The answer is...we go to WAR.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a new-age metric developed by SABRmetricians to gauge the value of an individual player to his team. It creates a number that represents how many wins the player adds to his team's record above what a replacement player (Triple-A or Quad-A) would add. A one-season figure of 8 or better is MVP caliber, while 5 or better is All-Star level. Some "old-school" fans don't always buy into the stat, but the results tell you that it is very much on-target. The major league leader each of the last two years is Mike Trout and the lifetime leader is Babe Ruth. The all-time top five also includes Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron. So, with the help of baseball-reference.com, let's see where we are for the first third of 2014.

As your humble essayist is from the school of thought that hitters should win the MVP and pitchers should win the Cy Young, we'll list the offensive players first and then the hurlers.

Position Players

1) Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies SS  4.7 WAR - Off to an incredible start, the question of durability always hangs in the air. His OPS (On-Base Pct. + Slugging Pct.) is from another planet at 1.174 and he's walked more than he has struck out. He's had four previous seasons with a WAR over 6, but none since 2011.

2) Josh Donaldson, Athletics 3B  4.2 WAR - A small-market team on the West Coast doesn't help a player build a reputation, but if you think this is a fluke, you haven't been paying attention. He finished 4th in the AL MVP voting last year and was one of only four major league players with a WAR of 8 or better.

3) Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins OF  3.8 WAR - This slugger seems to have finally avoided the nagging injuries that interrupted some of his earlier campaigns. At age 24, he's asserting himself into MVP discussions with a 1.034 OPS.

4) Mike Trout, Angels OF  3.2 WAR - He's "only" hitting .291 and had a mediocre May, so everyone wants to know what's wrong. Ask yourself this question - would you trade him straight-up for any other player?

5) Carlos Gomez, Brewers OF  2.9 WAR - In 2013, his 8.9 WAR tied Trout for the best in baseball. With power, speed and Gold Glove defense, he's established himself as a consistent force in the game.

6) A.J. Pollock, D'Backs OF  2.8 WAR - If you're surprised, maybe you should be hanging out with Arizona's management. Even after a solid rookie season in 2013 with a 3.4 WAR, they still benched him early in 2014 when he struggled. This is what happens to players like him and Donaldson, who weren't top prospects...they have a very short leash. He can bat lead-off, hit some homers, steal some bases and play a good centerfield. Despite his recent injury, a current OPS of .890 gives you a window into the potential.

7) Jose Bautista, Blue Jays OF  2.7 WAR - Finally healthy, this late-bloomer hits bunches of home runs but walks more than he strikes out. His .969 OPS tells the story of his value in Toronto.

8) Seth Smith, Padres OF  2.6 WAR - Two years ago, he was traded for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman. In January, he was traded for Luke Gregerson. At age 31, he's never had a WAR number this high in any full season. Primarily a platoon player, San Diego has, for the moment, caught lightning in a bottle.

9) Yasiel Puig. Dodgers OF  2.6 WAR – Remember early in the season when those cynics were saying he might need some time at Triple-A? Maybe to improve on his .348 BA and 1.074 OPS? Get used to this name on the list.

10) Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers C  2.6 WAR - Another player that shouldn't take you by surprise. He's had WAR figures of 3.6 and 3.5 the last two years and this is his age-27 season. Good plate discipline and solid defensive metrics add to the skill set.

Pitchers

1T) Adam Wainwright, Cardinals 2.8 WAR - Veteran ace who knows how to pitch, this is merely a repeat of his 2013 WAR rating of 6.3.

1T) Dallas Keuchel, Astros 2.8 WAR - Pitches for a poor team in a market where even the local fans can't get the games on TV, so the fact that he's under the radar isn't surprising. 6-2 with a 2.55 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.

1T) Jeff Samardzija, Cubs 2.8 WAR - This may be the perfect case study for how baseball perceptions have changed. 25 years ago, a fan would look in the newspaper and see the Cubs coming to town starting a pitcher with a 1-4 record. Easy win, right? Not when the pitcher also has a 1.68 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP with a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. You'll see just how valuable he is around the trade deadline.

4) Johnny Cueto, Reds 2.6 WAR - Healthy so far, he's posted a 1.83 ERA and 0.75 WHIP but only has a 4-4 record to show for it. In his first 11 starts, he's struck out 85 batters.

5T) Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays 2.5 WAR - What is he, like 50 years old? His average fastball is less than 85 MPH, but he's 9-1 with a 2.33 ERA.

5T) Yu Darvish, Rangers 2.5 WAR - Has missed a couple of starts with some physical issues, but brings the most amazing repertoire to the mound. The velocity of the seven pitches in his arsenal ranges from 94 MPH to 67 MPH and he has 71 K's in 61 IP.

7T) Julio Teheran, Braves 2.4 WAR - Last year's rookie season wasn't a fluke. 1.77 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 11 starts shows you why.

7T) Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees 2.4 WAR - It's always easy to be skeptical about someone who has never played in the U.S. but these results are more than impressive. 7-1 with a 2.29 ERA and 0.98 WHIP makes it look like the New Yorkers made a good investment.

9T) Zack Greinke, Dodgers 2.2 WAR - Despite the big contract, this consistent performer doesn't seem to get much credit. The first third of the campaign produced a record of 8-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. This isn't new territory for the 30-year-old, as he had the best WAR in all of baseball in 2009 (10.4) when he won the AL Cy Young Award.

9T) Tim Hudson, Giants 2.2 WAR - The NL version of Buehrle, he's come back from a leg injury to be at the top of his game in San Francisco with an ERA under 2.00 and a WHIP less than 1.00.

Other surprises in the top 20 include Juan Lagares, Jason Hammel, Mike Leake and Phil Hughes. The question is if they'll still be there at the end of July when another 1/3 of the season is history. 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 02:49
 
Crash Davis & Mike Hessman PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 30 May 2014 00:00

"Why's he always calling me Meat? I'm the one drivin' a Porsche."

"Don't think: you can only hurt the ballclub."

"This is a simple game. You throw the ball; you hit the ball; you catch the ball."

"Man that ball got outta here in a hurry. I mean anything travels that far oughta have a damn stewardess on it, don't you think?"

"Don't try to strike everybody out! Strikeouts are boring, and besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls, it's more democratic."

Every great movie has iconic lines that viewers remember. It doesn't matter if you laugh every time Leslie Nielsen says "Don't call me Shirley" or tear up whenever Humphrey Bogart reminds Ingrid Bergman that "We'll always have Paris", you'll never tire of the moment. "Bull Durham" is that kind of film for baseball fans and the samples shown here are just the tip of the iceberg...and PG rated for our audience.

Kevin Costner's portrayal of Minor League Catcher Crash Davis came to mind once again recently and it has to do with some trivia from the movie. Susan Sarandon's Annie Savoy could certainly be described as an expert on minor league players and she knew her stats too because she was aware that Crash had 227 lifetime home runs when he joined the Durham Bulls and was only 20 away from the record. In the film, he hits 19 homers before being let go by the Bulls and joins the Ashville Tourists to hit one more (#247) before calling it a career.

Switching from the fantasy of movie scripts to the reality of actual baseball, on May 20th, Mike Hessman of the Toledo Mud Hens became only the fourth player in the history of U.S. based professional minor leagues to hit 400 home runs. He's actually in a 3rd place tie with Merv Conners, who played in the minor leagues from 1936-1953. The top two are Buzz Arlett with 432 (1918-1937) and Nick Cullop with 420 (1920-1944).

In the movie, Crash recalls his "cup of coffee" in the Major Leagues by saying, "I was in the majors for 21 days once - the greatest 21 days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags? It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service and the women all have long legs and brains!" Coincidentally, the four actual home run leaders also got to "the show."

> Russell "Buzz" Arlett was a 6' 3" outfielder who made his debut with the Oakland Oaks of the PCL in 1918. For the first five years of his career, he was primarily a starting pitcher, winning over 100 games. Once the dead-ball era ended, his great power as a hitter got him switched to the outfield and from 1923-1930, he averaged 29 home runs and 139 RBI for the Oaks. To give you an idea of his prowess, in 1929 he hit 39 homers along with 70 doubles and 189 RBI. In his one and only big league season, he played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1931 (at age 32) and hit .313 with 18 homers and 72 RBI in 121 games. In 1932, he joined the Baltimore Orioles of the International League and hit 141 home runs over the next three seasons.

> Henry Nicholas Cullop had the unenviable nickname of "Tomato Face" and broke into baseball at age 19 with the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. Nick was another player who pitched extensively early in his career and chalked up 49 victories from 1920-1924. After hitting 40 homers in 1924 and another 30 the following year, he got some sporadic opportunities in the major leagues. In 1927, he managed 104 at-bats in the American League with the Senators and Indians. Then, limited chances in 1929 and 1930 before getting his only regular playing time with the Reds in 1931. He batted .263 with eight homers and 48 RBI and despite only 334 at-bats, led the NL in strikeouts with 86. Back to the Minors in 1932, he averaged over 25 home runs for the next 10 seasons. After his playing days were over, Cullop managed in the minor leagues for 17 seasons.

> Merv Conners was a corner infielder who made his professional debut with the Beckley Black Knights of the Middle Atlantic League in 1934. He showed power potential almost immediately by hitting 30 homers in 1935 at age 21. By 1937, he had made it to the Majors with the Chicago White Sox but got only 165 at-bats in two seasons while hitting eight homers. All through the late 30's and early 40's, he was a source of power at numerous destinations including Shreveport, Texarkana and Dallas-Ft.Worth. Even after serving in the military and missing the 1944 and 1945 campaigns, he came back to hit another 200+ home runs, including 47 for the Amarillo Gold Sox in 1952 (at age 38).

> Mike Hessman was drafted out of high school in the 15th round of the 1996 Draft by the Atlanta Braves. He started hitting home runs right away and working his way up through the Braves system, hammered 135 long-balls in his first six seasons. Playing parts of five seasons at the big league level with the Braves, Tigers and Mets, he's managed only 223 at-bats with a .188 BA. He does, however, have 14 major league home runs, meaning one home run for every 16 at-bats, which gives him a better home run ratio than Miguel Cabrera. At age 36, this slugger isn't ready to quit and his slugging percentage and OPS in the Triple-A International League this season are second only to Pirates prospect Gregory Polanco. With 18 seasons in the Minors and one in Japan, Mike is a baseball "lifer" and the top choice for the mythical "Crash Davis" trophy. Who knows, maybe he'll make it back to the "show." After all, he'll be arbitration eligible in 2016 and a free agent in 2019. It's also a good bet he signs autographs for fans.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 May 2014 01:54
 
Revising Your Bucket List PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 23 May 2014 00:00

For those of you under the age of 50, the name George Plimpton might not be that familiar. If, however, you were coming of age in the 60's, the late author and editor was consistently in the limelight of pop culture and sports. Long before the idea of "Fantasy" sports, his books and articles were unique in that he invented a genre known as "participatory journalism." He used his connections and celebrity to take part as an amateur in professional sporting and entertainment events and then shared the experience with his readers in books and magazines. For old-school Rotisserie Baseball players, we even have him to thank for "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch", written for Sports Illustrated in 1985.

This past weekend, PBS aired a wonderful documentary on his life and it brought back so many memorable moments from his career. In the final segment, however, his son read a list of items from Plimpton's "Bucket List", including one about learning to throw a knuckleball. That exercise struck me as a little strange because if there was ever someone who spent their life living out a "Bucket List", it was George Plimpton. After all, he got in the boxing ring with Light-Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore, pitched to Willie Mays at the All-Star Game, played Quarterback in training camp for the Detroit Lions (creating the best-selling book "Paper Lion"), was in goal for the Boston Bruins in an exhibition game against the Flyers (stopping Reggie Leach on a penalty shot) and suited up for the Boston Celtics. As if sports weren't enough to fill his life, he was also close friends with most of the great writers of the era and was part of the inner circle of the Kennedy family. The one participatory event in his life that he never chronicled in print was the fact that he pried the gun from the hand of Sirhan Sirhan after Robert Kennedy was shot.

At a certain point in your life, creating a "Bucket List" will be a natural phenomenon. And, if you're a sports fan, many of the items will be self-explanatory. "Visit Augusta in early-April" might not mean much to some people, but it's a clear goal to many. With all that being said, unless you're Morgan Freeman and end up sharing a hospital room with multi-millionaire Jack Nicholson, you probably won't put a check-mark next to a significant number of items on your list. In thinking about Plimpton's list, maybe a better exercise is to review how many wonderful moments we've experienced up to now and not dwell so much on the ones not yet achieved. So, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to challenge each of you to make up a list of the items that already have that check-mark. And, to keep it light, utilize sports as your source for the project.

Being as I have the floor, the Old Duck will go first. Let's hope yours is even better.

> Watching Ted Williams hit a historic home run at Fenway Park ( #400 July 1956). Crossing home plate, he spit in the direction of the press box.

> Playing Pebble Beach on a beautiful Spring day with my best friend (May 2006).

> Bowling a perfect 300 game (1964, 1965, 1972, 1995).

> Receiving a Varsity letter in High School sports (Wheelchair Basketball, 1962). I was on crutches for a year due to hip surgery and attended a school for the physically handicapped.

> Traveling to Toronto and visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame (1994).

> Experience being "mooned" by rowdy fans at Yankee Stadium (1988). And I wasn't even wearing a Red Sox cap.

> Seeing a rookie named Bill Russell change the face of the NBA when he scored only two points but completely dominated the Knicks at Boston Garden in a 114-78 Celtic victory (January 1957).

> Collecting over 200 autographed Sports Illustrated covers and getting to meet some of the greatest athletes in the world during the process. Ernie Banks was the nicest and Dave Parker was the rudest (1985-2005).

> Walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge on a spectacular Summer night to watch the Pirates play at PNC Park (2006).

> Making a Hole-In-One (178 yard 7-Wood, June 2006).

> Traveling to Kansas City and visiting the Negro League Museum (2006).

> Being in the crowd at the Forum in Los Angeles on the night Wayne Gretzky scored his 802nd goal to break Gordie Howe's record (March 1994).

> Witnessing George Brett's 3,000th hit at Angel Stadium in Anaheim (September 1992).

> Traveling to St. Augustine, Florida and visiting the World Golf Hall of Fame (2008).

> Watching Sandy Koufax pitch a shutout at Dodger Stadium (1965).

> Attending MLB games at over 25 different ballparks (1959-2014).

> Completing a 1956 Topps Baseball Card Set (1990).

> Traveling to Cooperstown and visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame (2006).

> Doing volunteer work at the Los Angeles Urban League and having the thrill of meeting, and talking with, Ray Charles (1972). I know it's not sports-related, but c'mon...it was Ray Charles!

> Attending the opening game of a World Series (1974).

> Meeting Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion and telling him how much I hated the Montreal Canadiens when I was a kid growing up in Boston. He smiled and said, "We sure kicked their ass, didn't we?" (1986)

> Traveling to Springfield, Massachusetts and visiting the Basketball Hall of Fame (1998).

> Attending a Rose Bowl game (Wisconsin vs. UCLA 1999).

> Watching the Rams "Fearsome Foursome" scare the daylights out of QB's at the L.A. Coliseum (1966).

> Sitting in a luxury suite at Camden Yards on a night when Cal Ripken Jr. hit a home run (1993).

> Competing on the same lanes with bowling legends Dick Weber and Earl Anthony (1985).

> Going on the court at Staples Center prior to a Lakers game and shooting free-throws to help raise money for charity (2001).

> Being a participant in the first-pitch ceremony on the field at Dodger Stadium (2006)...I was the catcher. It was also "Old-Timers Day" and Maury Wills and Steve Garvey were not impressed with my skills.

> Witnessing Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Longden's last race as he brought home George Royal in a stretch duel at Santa Anita Park in the 1966 San Juan Capistrano Handicap. At age 59, that brought his win total to 6,032.

> Capturing a Fantasy Baseball Championship in competition with some of the best experts in the industry (2005, 2009, 2011, 2012). Honestly, just being in a league with these guys would have made the list.

> Being in Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus the night Lew Alcindor played his first collegiate basketball game (1965).

> Looking out over the rocky coastline along the Pacific while playing Poipu Bay Golf Club in Kauai (1996).

> Crossing the frozen tundra to tour the Packers Hall of Fame in Green Bay on a perfectly bleak Winter afternoon (1994).

> Attending the Olympic Games (1984).

> Spring Training road trips to Arizona with my baseball buddies, four games and eight teams in three days (1980's and 90's).

> Visiting the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame prior to a game at Great American Ball Park (2006).

> Taking in the unforgettable atmosphere of minor league baseball in places like San Antonio, Louisville, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Rancho Cucamonga.

> Getting to see both Bob Cousy and Magic Johnson pass the basketball (1958, 1985).

> Having lunch at Harry Carey's restaurant before an afternoon game at Wrigley Field (1991).

> Being a speaker on the same convention program with Billy Beane and talking with him about "Moneyball" (2005).

> Getting the opportunity to write about baseball and other topics that I love (2012-present).

> Becoming a member of the Dana-Farber Society, which raises money for "The Jimmy Fund." It is the official charity of the Red Sox and is dedicated to saving the lives of children with cancer (2011).

OK...your turn.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 May 2014 08:45
 
Do You Have A Literary Agent? PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 16 May 2014 00:00

Seemingly, sportswriters must always wonder if anyone enjoys, or even reads, their work. If a book is published, sales can be tracked, but for newspapers, magazines and this new-fangled Internet thingy, the level of interest can remain a mystery.

This humble column, however, doesn't seem to have that problem. Every weekend, readers send comments about Friday's article and most are complimentary. Then there are others who take issue with an opinion or position, but that means they're interested enough to take the time to disagree. Beyond those two categories, however, there is another group known as the "literary agents." The lead character wants to know when all of these stories will turn into a book because he thinks it would be a best seller. Another reader, who is only a casual baseball fan, regularly asks "non-expert" questions that suggest general topics for future pieces. One other fan only sends comments less than a sentence like "Didn't know that" and "Willie Mays was better." If he was Native American, he would be called "Man Who Speaks Without Punctuation." Now, a young Rotisserie player has ramped up the discussion by requesting a specific topic. After reading a recent offering about baseball card values of today's hot prospects, he suggested looking at the cards of the top prospects from ten years ago because he would "be intrigued to see how the value holds up as players reach the Majors and either succeed or fail."

The answer, of course, is "ask and you shall receive." From the 2004 Baseball America top prospect list, here are the values of an autographed rookie card from the best-rated youngsters of a decade ago.

1) Joe Mauer, C Twins - Three AL batting titles, one MVP award, a .322 BA and .405 OBP makes him the face of the Minnesota franchise. His RC Auto from 2002 Bowman Chrome (#391) is worth $100.

2) B.J. Upton, SS Devil Rays - A productive player in Tampa, his performance since signing a $75 million deal in Atlanta has been very disappointing. The RC Auto is from 2002 UD Prospect Premieres (#96) and books for $10.

3) Delmon Young, OF Devil Rays - Played his way out of Tampa after two seasons and now, at age 28, is barely hanging on as a part-time player in Baltimore. His 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft RC Auto (#176) is worth about $15.

4) Edwin Jackson, P Dodgers - A case study in expensive mediocrity, he's making $13 million per year with the Cubs after being on seven previous MLB rosters. His lifetime stats show a record of 80-91 with a 4.47 ERA and the RC Auto from 2003 Leaf Limited (#203) can be added to your collection for $10.

5) Rickie Weeks, 2B Brewers - He's played over 1,000 games with Milwaukee and sports a lifetime BA of .247. His RC Auto from 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft (#172) might set you back $5.

6) Alex Rios, OF Blue Jays - After being dumped by Toronto in 2009, he has flourished in his 30's and contributes both power and speed to a lineup. A RC Auto from 2003 Donruss Champions (#265) is worth $15.

7) Kazuo Matsui, SS Mets - Played nine seasons in Japan before signing with New York and another seven years in the Majors, hitting .267. Went back to Japanese baseball in 2011 and is still active today at age 38. He had numerous rookie cards in 2004, but none were autographed.

8) Greg Miller, P Dodgers - The only player in the top 25 to never play a game in the major leagues, he was still toiling in independent leagues last season.

9) Grady Sizemore, OF Indians - A productive player for Cleveland until injuries took their toll. Back in the Majors with the Red Sox this season, his 2000 Bowman Draft Auto (#38) is somewhat scarce and books for about $15.

10) Prince Fielder, 1B Brewers - Signed a huge free agent deal with Detroit after six productive years in Milwaukee, but has since been traded to the Rangers. He had 285 home runs going into 2014 and a 2002 UD Prospect Premieres RC Auto (#92) is worth $75.

11) Andy Marte, 3B Braves - There wasn't a single scout who didn't love this player's potential. He's played 301 major league games with a BA of .217. If you're trying to locate the 30-year-old now, he's on the roster of the Reno Aces in the PCL. A RC Auto from 2003 Topps Finest (#102) is less than $10.

12) Scott Kazmir, P Mets - Came all the way back from the independent leagues last season to have a solid year with the Indians and parlayed it into a two-year, $22 million deal with the Athletics. His 2002 UD Prospect Premieres RC Auto (#95) can be had for less than $10.

13) Adam Loewen, P Orioles - Won only eight games for the Orioles between 2006-2008 and eventually got back to the big leagues as an outfielder with the Blue Jays in 2011. Hit 15 homers in 2013 playing for New Hampshire in Double-A as a 1B/OF. The RC Auto from 2003 Donruss Champions (#303) was limited to 100 copies and still only books for $10.

14) Zack Greinke, P Royals - Signed one of the richest free agent contracts ever with the Dodgers in 2013. Owns a Cy Young award and was 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA for L.A. last season. His RC Auto from 2002 UD Prospect Premieres (#92) can still be found for less than $20.

15) Casey Kotchman, 1B Angels - Played 10 seasons in "the show" but never lived up to the hype with a .260 BA and 71 lifetime homers. A RC Auto from 2002 Bowman's Best (#141) is about $10.

16) Justin Morneau, 1B Twins - Won the AL MVP in '06 and made the All-Star team for the next four seasons. A serious concussion affected his performance for a number of seasons, but he's off to a great start in 2014 with the Rockies. His RC is from the 2001 Bowman set and the Auto version is worth $25-$30.

17) Cole Hamels, P Phillies - Like Greinke, this three-time All-Star has parlayed his skills into a $100+ million contract and is now in his 9th season with Philadelphia. His rookie card was from 2002 but the first Auto is 2003 Bowman and books for $25-$30.

18) Dustin McGowan, P Blue Jays - For every Greinke or Hamels, there are dozens of pitchers like this, who fight injuries their entire career. After essentially not pitching at all from 2009-2012, he's once again on the Toronto roster in 2014 trying to resurrect his skills. $5 will get you his RC Auto card from 2003 Bowman.

19) J.J. Hardy, SS Brewers - Not what you can describe as a star, he's nonetheless put together a solid 10-year career in the big leagues. Now the Orioles’ shortstop, he's hit 22 or more home runs five times and has two Gold Gloves. His RC is from 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft but his first Auto was in the 2004 SP Authentic USA set and books for about $25.

20) Josh Barfield, 2B Padres - Jesse's son only played two full seasons in the Majors and hit .264 in 309 games. Last season, he was a member of the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League. Of course, being a Duck at some point in your career is always a highlight. The 2002 RC Auto is from Bowman Chrome (#390) and books for around $5.

21) David Wright, 3B Mets - We've extended our top 20 to include this seven-time All-Star because his RC Auto is one of the most expensive on our list. It is from 2002 Bowman Chrome (#385) and will set you back almost $100.

You might wonder if there were any big misses by the well-informed baseball experts that put this list together. Let's allow you to decide, as we look at prospects outside the top 25.

29) Ervin Santana

30) Felix Hernandez

49) Adam Wainwright

52) Adrian Gonzalez

90) Nick Markakis

91) Matt Cain

96) Aaron Hill

There, now don't you feel better about your fantasy draft?

 
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