Fantasy sports is all about value.
OK, that's not true. It's about winning. And humiliating your friends. And feeling superior. And talking trash. And having a rooting interest in even the most dog-ugly of games. And having something to take your mind off the fact that you hate your job, you can't surf certain Web sites at work, your boss is a moron and it's either this or actually attempting to earn your paycheck.
But the way you win and do all the other stuff is value. There's an old saying: You can't win your league in the first round, but you can lose it. It doesn't take a genius to draft Jose Reyes with your first pick. Chances are, everyone is going to have a good team after the first few rounds. It's finding the next Cliff Lees, Ryan Ludwicks and Geovany Sotos late in your draft/auction that make you a winner.
You know this. I mean, is there anything better than believing in an obscure guy and then seeing him go off? That I can print? I take great pride in the sleepers that I call that pan out (and have lovely folks on the message boards to remind me when they don't) and I know it's the same everywhere. You snag Carlos Quentin late last year ("He just needs to stay healthy and get regular playing time!") and you beam all year when he hits everything in sight.
As I was thinking of this column, I realized that what's true in fantasy baseball is often true in life. There are annoying people in your league, there are annoying people in life. You need some skill and some luck to win at fantasy, you need both in life as well. And there is nothing quite like finding a little bit of something special in what others overlook. As such, I present the current edition of
All Under-Valued Team: The Fantasy and Life edition
Catcher: Ramon Hernandez, Reds. Currently going 15th among catchers, it's a contract year for Hernandez (the Reds have an option on him). He hit 15 home runs last year, has 47 home runs over the last three years and now is playing in Cincy, where the Great American Launching Pad was fourth in home runs per game last season.
First Base: Paul Konerko, White Sox. Currently going 17th among first basemen. He's no longer elite but he's not dead yet, either. Let's play a quick game. I'm gonna give you three sets of second-half stats, OK?
Player A: 13 home runs, .270 average
Player B: 13 home runs, .254 average
Player C: 14 home runs, .313 average
Player A is Paul Konerko after the All-Star break in '08. Player B is Konerko after the All-Star break in '07 and "C" is Konerko in '06, after, you guessed, the All-Star break. Traditionally a slow starter, the days of 35 to 40 homers for Konerko are long gone. But he'll hit 20 and 80 with a .260 average. And that can be useful when you are scrounging around the end of the draft for a corner infielder.
Stimulant: Diet Coke. I'm gonna need a ton of it on Monday, March 9 as I attempt to break the ESPN.com chat record. I'll be chatting all day, starting at 10 a.m. ET, answering every question you have, from fantasy baseball to pop culture to my life to anything else you may have. Come join, it'll be fun to see how loopy I get after a few hours.
Fast Food Restaurant: Chick-fil-A. There's a lot of things that are depressing about living in the bitter cold of the Northeast, but perhaps none as much as the fact that we don't have Chick-fil-A here. It's so simple yet so good. The crispy and flavor-filled chicken sandwich is basically heaven between two buns. It's a party in your mouth and everyone's invited.
Second base; Jose Lopez, Mariners. Currently 11th among second basemen despite the fact that last year he was a top-four second baseman in the majors in both batting average and RBIs. He hit .297 with 17 home runs, 89 RBIs and he's only 25.
Hot "Girl Next Door" Joanna Garcia. Apparently I have a thing for girl-next-door types. Because while Anne Hathaway gets tons of pub, Joanna Garcia is a crazy hot hottie McHotterson who sneaks up on you. She currently stars in the CW show "Privileged" which is one of my secret guilty pleasures. Apparently, I'm a 15-year-old girl trapped in a 30-something-man's body. Joanna is adorable, sexy, funny and should be a much bigger deal than she is. Same for the show, actually. Watch it with your wife/girlfriend. You'll get points and she doesn't have to know you only care about Joanna.
Third Base:: Melvin Mora, Orioles. He's the 16th third baseman being taken, he's old as dirt and he's named Melvin. I hear you. But, as I mentioned in "Love/Hate," he's had at least 80 RBIs in three of his past four seasons. Hit at least 20 home runs in three of his past five. He's coming off a season in which he had 23 home runs, 104 RBIs and hit .285. His numbers aren't that much off from the upper-tier guys but he'll go a lot cheaper.
Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo, Indians. He's going 60th among outfielders but he's a guy I've always liked. He finally put it together after the break last year, hitting .343 with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs. He finished with a .309 batting average, and Buster Olney told me at an event at the Weekend that they are raving about him in Indians camp. This is the last year you'll get him cheap.
Foods that don't belong together. French fries dipped in a vanilla milk shake. Try it. You'll like it.
iPhone application: ESPN's new Cameraman! It's free and totally addicting. Can you spot the five differences between the two sports photos before time runs out? You won't be able to play only once.
iPhone application that my co-worker Bimal didn't ask me to pimp in my column. Lots to choose from but Shazam is the shiznit. (It is too a word). You hold it up to any recorded music, it tells you what the title and artist of the song is and then gives you a one-touch button if you want to buy and download it to your iPod. Genius. Use it all the time.
Outfield: Elijah Dukes, Nationals. He's the 69th outfielder off the board right now. Yes, he's crazy. Yes, he's injury-prone. Yes, there's a lotta risk, question marks and police records there. But I keep looking at two things: He went 13 and 13 in just 276 at-bats (basically half a season) and he's only 25. If he can put it together -- and I realize that's a huge if -- he's a poor man's Grady Sizemore. He's got those kind of skills, and when you are that deep into a draft or auction I'll take that upside every single time.
Outfield: Raul Ibanez, Phillies. He's going 32nd among outfielders, so he's not as undervalued as the other guys on this list, but as a No. 3 outfielder, he'll put up the same numbers as a very solid No. 2. He's had at least 20 home runs and 100 RBIs for three straight years. But here's the crazy stat. From April 1, 2006 until Oct. 1, 2008, there have only been nine -- count them, nine -- players in MLB with more RBIs than Raul Ibanez. He's had more over the past three years than Manny Ramirez, Carlos Lee or Mark Teixeira, among others. And now he goes to a Phillies team that was tied for eighth-best in the majors last year in terms of runs scored. (Seattle was 26th). Ridiculously undervalued.
Concert Experience: Neil Diamond. I admit, I have an unhealthy obsession with the Jewish Elvis, but even if you weren't raised on his music like I was, two very important facts remain: Whether you realize it or not, you know the words to every song he sings. Seriously, he's got like 40 top-40 hits or something. It's insane. You'll be amazed. Second, he's been performing for over 30 years. He's a master showman. You'll go as a lark, you'll leave a fan. That's what happened to me the first time.
Outfield: Brad Hawpe, Rockies. He's hit 76 home runs with a .289 average over the last three seasons and he's been remarkably consistent. He'll hit you between 25 to 30 home runs, somewhere in the .285-.290 average, around 90 RBIs. Nice numbers. And then you realize he's currently going in the 14th round of ESPN average drafts and you don't get it.
Outfield: Mike Cameron, Brewers. Like things that are fried and all the "Die Hard" movies, I love me the power-speed guys. Mike Cameron has hit at least 20 home runs and stolen 15 bases in seven of the past 10 seasons and in each of the past three. He hit 25 and 17 last year and I expect more of the same. No, he won't help your batting average at all (a career .250 hitter) but in Round 17, getting a 25/15 guy is fantastic, regardless of batting average.
Musician: Longtime readers already know that my friend Jude (www.judemusic.com) is the best singer/songwriter you've never heard of. Those who know of him? Worship him. If you like Paul Simon, Dave Matthews or any singer/songwriter-with-a-guitar type, Jude is for you.
1980s Movie: "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" Long before "Beavis and Butt-Head," "Wayne's World," "Harold & Kumar" or other "two moron buddies" adventures, there was Bill and Ted. Still very funny and smarter than folks give it credit for. Dude, strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
Starting pitcher: Lots of choices here and many are already in my Love/Hate article. The Rockies' rotation (specifically Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa), Brandon Morrow, Paul Maholm but I'm going with Ricky Nolasco as undervalued. Look, you know what he did last year. He was very good. But I'm saying he's undervalued as an elite guy. He'll be a top-10 pitcher by the end of the year, yet he's currently going in the 15th round, 32nd among pitchers and after guys like Ted Lilly and Carlos "ERA worse than 5, post-All-Star break last year" Zambrano. Nolasco was fourth in strikeouts after the All-Star break last year with an insane 98-to-12 strikeout-to-walk rate in just 95 innings.
Facebook application: Well, if you enjoy fantasy games, all of the fantasy moguls stuff is terrific. Search for that. But I also love "someecards," which you can also find at someecards.com. It's basically online greeting cards you can send that say what you really want to. They're funny, they're crass, some of them are a bit adult in nature, so be forewarned. Here's one I can print: Your Facebook friend request was more conversation than we had in high school.
Relief Pitcher: Jose Arredondo, Angels. Mentioned him on the Simmons podcast, he is lights-out regardless of role. He went 10-2 last year with a 1.62 ERA and 55 strikeouts in just 61 innings pitched.
Some more undervalued things
U2 song: "When Love Comes To Town"
Head Coach: Phil Jackson. Nine rings, just one Coach of the Year award.
Piece of advice: We're all just trying to do the best we can. People are prone to mistakes and errors in judgment. None of us are perfect, but as long as you're doing the best you can, you don't beat yourself -- or anyone else -- up.
Courtesy on an airplane: Not using my headrest for support. Seriously, when I am sleeping, don't just grab my headrest to help your fat butt up out of the seat, OK? Use your own body weight. Or at least be aware that I'm resting/sleeping. Don't grab at it like a clumsy ham hock, you sloth.
Quickly, I asked my friends on Facebook (don't bother adding me, I only use it for friends) and those who follow me on Twitter (as TheRealTMR) what they thought were undervalued. Multiple votes for E-ZPass, the TV shows "Damages" and "Friday Night Lights," our podcast producer Jay "Podvader" Soderberg and, because they are fans of me, I guess multiple votes for me being undervalued. (I can direct you outraged folks to message boards that feel the exact opposite, incidentally).
But here's some of the best that folks came up with: Who and what are on your list?
Jon McDaid has two:
Philo T. Farnsworth. Dude invented television, nobody knows his name. Every schoolkid in America knows Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. How many schoolkids spend six hours a day watching the cotton gin?
RC Cola. Never engaged in the Cola Wars. The Switzerland of semi off-brand colas.
Chris Lindsay: Tico Torres. The Jovi isn't just Jon and Richie.
ESPN.com fantasy football columnist Ken Daube: ESPN cafeteria food. Reruns of old Simpsons. My columns. Pierre Becquey's MRI Strategy for fantasy baseball. Kate Beckinsale. A navy blue sport coat. Rock salt.
Carolyn Cocanougher: The relaxing power of a good dirty martini.
Ggoodwin8 (on Twitter): Ben Stiller, Neil Diamond, NBA Jam for Genesis, The Un-Tier. (TMR note: The Un-Tier is Xavier Nady. Listen to the podcast!)
Craig Codlin: Wireless Internet. Everyone bitches and moans when it's not available or if the connection isn't perfect. You are getting the Internet through the air! That's, like, Harry Potter-crazy magic as far as I'm concerned.
Tdhurst (Twitter): Natalie Portman. Visors. A good pair of low-rise, boot-cut jeans. A go-to shirt. Personality.
iDews (Twitter): I think some of the royals are undervalued. Jose Guillen, David DeJesus, and Mike Aviles were helpful to me last fantasy season. (TMR Note: I agree -- there's a lot of undervalued fantasy goodness to be had in KC, including Gil Meche and Mike Jacobs. Bill Simmons and I discussed on his podcast recently).
CFederer (Twitter): Grape flavor is totally undervalued. It's not cherry, but it's not lemon either. Like Derek Lowe, grape will get it done.
Jlove1982 (Twitter): Chester A. Arthur is undervalued. Not great on immigration, but reformed civil service, and had best mutton chops of US Prezes.
ndeezlo (Twitter): Kristen Bell should be on all undervalued lists.
Jason Oremland: How dare this list go any further without the inclusion of "Lobot," Lando Calrissian's aide on Bespin. He's the one who worked his behind-the-scenes magic so that Leia and Chewie could escape from the storm troopers. Idiots.
Well said, Jason. Well said.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- would seriously kill for a Chick-fil-A in Bristol. He is a five-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend