It had been a good first date. This is a few years ago now, when I lived in L.A., and set-ups are always a mixed bag. But she was smart, fun, cute and could drink me under the table. Don't be impressed with that last bit -- if you can handle half a glass of chardonnay, you can, too -- but she earned points for mocking me about it just the right amount.
On the first date the subject of dogs comes up and I show her a picture of Macy, my 14 pound "girly dog," that, Lord help me, is the love of my life. She wants a dog, she says, but doesn't have time. She's never home, etc., etc. I say to her what I say to you now: rescue one. I used to say the same thing. I'm so busy, not fair to the dog, blah blah blah until a friend said to me: Just rescue a dog from a shelter. Whatever life you give the dog, trust me, it's better than the one it has at an overcrowded shelter. Rescued dogs are so sweet, so thankful, it's the best feeling.
I explain all this to the date and tell her if she wants one, she should rescue. Dates two, three and four each go well enough that we keep deciding to go out. We're taking it slow and have plans for date five on a Saturday night. I get a call that morning.
Her: Guess what I just did?
Me: What? (I'm a master conversationalist.)
Her: I just got a dog!
Me: What? Really?
Her: I was walking by a pet adoption fair and I saw him and he was so cute and I remembered what you said and I just did it!
Me: Awesome! Congrats! (Told you. I'm a regular raconteur.)
Her: I've got to go to the pet store and the vet and all sorts of things so let me deal with this and I'll call you later to figure out tonight.
Me: OK. (Admit it, you're impressed.)
I haven't heard from her all day when I finally call her at 6:30.
Me: Hey, was just gonna leave to come get you. You in the mood for Chinese?
Her: Well, I don't know. The dog is acting weird and quiet and I'm worried.
Me: That's natural. It's scared. It's a new environment for it and it's not sure what's going on yet. Macy was the same way the first few days.
Her: I think I should just say with him tonight. I'm sorry.
Me: No worries. I totally understand.
Her: I mean, I guess you could come over if you want. But the dog's also been getting sick a little. Not very romantic. I just want to be here with him.
Me: Totally understand, I've been there, we'll do it another night.
A week later, we are talking and she says "You know, my girlfriends say I should never talk to you again."
Me: What? Why? (I should have been an investigative journalist.)
Her: Because of last week when we didn't go out.
Me: What are you talking about? You bailed on me. At 6:30 on a Saturday night. I thought I was actually being really understanding.
Her: But you didn't come over. I invited you over to share something special, the first night with my dog and you rejected me.
Me: You didn't seem very enthusiastic when you invited me over. I figured you were just being polite because we had plans.
Her: I don't know, Matthew. I just feel like you're not being emotionally supportive of my dog.
Me: What?! We've gone out four times. Four. What are you talking about?!?
Her: It's OK. I'm willing to forgive you this time.
Me: Are you nuts? There's nothing to forgive. You bailed on me. I love dogs but ... what? Seriously, what?!? Emotionally supportive? Is that even a real phrase when it comes to dogs?
Her: Don't take that tone with me! You know my therapist says ...
The break-up is never easy and rarely pretty. When it happens, it needs to be over quick and without wavering. It needs to be definitive and crystal clear to all involved.
Me: Listen, I think you're a great girl but we're not right for each other. We look at the world really differently. Good luck but never call me again.
As is often the case, fantasy baseball mirrors life. There are players on your team, in your life, that don't see things the way you do. And by that, of course, I mean they're no good. More importantly, they are not going to get any better. I understand wanting to hold on to them. You drafted them with high hopes. You've invested four dates, er, four months in them and you hope to see the fruits of your patience.
But it's not worth it. The damage they have inflicted on your team so far, and will continue to inflict, is not worth it. You need to man (or woman) up and cut the cord. I discussed on Thursday's Fantasy Focus show that Francisco Liriano needs to be dumped. Still owned in 85 percent of leagues, he's got a 6.23 ERA in his past four starts and is in danger of losing his rotation spot. He's rosterable only in the deepest of AL-only leagues.
Who else needs to be dropped? Who else needs to get a postcard from Gordie "Woodrow" Howe to tell them "Welcome to Dumpsville, Population: You."? As we enter the final two months of the season, here's 10 guys that need to be set free in all ESPN.com standard leagues. As always, ownership percentages are in parentheses.
Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels (95 percent): It kills me to write this, as I love my Halos. But I got a lot of flack in the preseason for saying Vlad was a bust this year. It's been a long time since he's stolen anything and five home runs in 187 at-bats is, um ... what's the word? Not good. I realize he just came back from injury but "healthy" or not, there are a lot of other outfielders out there that will hit for more power, with a higher average than Guerrero. (Josh Willingham anyone?) Vlad's isolated power numbers are at a career low and it's not even close. Big name, but you can do better than marginal power with a .280 average. And that's what he is.
Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays (92 percent): Same deal as Guerrero. Big name, little production and, in 10-team mixed leagues, there's much more productive players available on the waiver wire. In 85 at-bats in July, he had three RBIs. Three! Do you have any idea how hard it is to not drive in more than three runs in a month? He had 85 at bats and got ... three RBIs. And they were all on home runs, too. That's horrific. Do you know who Eli Whiteside is? He's a backup catcher with the Giants currently hitting .226. And he had four RBIs on Wednesday. Currently hitting .256 through 104 games, VW's increased speed (14 steals, three off his career high) is not enough to make up for, frankly, everything else.
Matt Wieters, C, Orioles (73 percent): This is why, every preseason, guys like myself and Eric Karabell say things like "don't get all excited about rookies." With no power so far (three home runs in his first 46 games) and a poor average (.265), Wieters should not be owned in any ESPN standard league that isn't a keeper league. Remember, we play only one catcher in 10-team mixed leagues and a quick glance at our Player Rater shows, among catchers, Wieters is 35th (35th!) over the past 30 days, just barely beating out number 36, our good friend Eli Whiteside. He's behind such names as Brad Ausmus and Omir Santos. For the season he's been the 36th best fantasy catcher and yet he is still owned in basically three quarters of leagues.
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers (82 percent): It was fun while it lasted, Mags. But Jimmy Leyland bailed on you and I'm not sure what fantasy owners are waiting for. No longer playing every day, the things you drafted Mags for (average, RBIs, solid power) haven't been there all season (.265, only four home runs since June 1) and they aren't going to happen on the bench. He hit one out on Wednesday and it was his first since July 21. Since July 8, the Tigers have played 23 games. Mags has nine DNPs and one game with one at-bat. Basically, he's only playing every other day and not doing much with it when he does.
Johnny Cueto, P, Reds (84 percent): When you've got guys like J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, Joel Pineiro and Jarrod Washburn available in tons of leagues, there's no excuse for hanging onto a guy like Cueto in a non-keeper league. A 7.24 ERA and 2-6 record in his past 10 starts should convince even the biggest Cueto fan that it's just not there anymore this season.
Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners (81 percent): I can forgive this one a bit because he was a popular pickup early in the season when he was mashing everything in sight. You knew the average would drop, you were just hoping it wouldn't bottom out. The power has waned a bit (only three home runs since July 11 and his last one was July 22) but more importantly, he is killing you, Smalls, in batting average. A .171 average since July 1, he has just 12 walks in his past 27 games. And if you're going to be taking that huge a batting average hit, he needs a lot more than just five home runs since July 1.
Willy Taveras, OF, Reds (62 percent): The argument against Tavares at the start of the year was the fact it was empty speed. But now you're barely even getting that. Twenty three steals is fine but not amazing, and when it comes attached to a .242 average, it's a problem. Not when there are guys like Scott Podsednik (21 percent) or Rajai Davis (.285, five steals in his past nine games, playing every day) available in tons of leagues. I've seen Nyjer Morgan still out there in some places. Speed is no longer scarce and as such, you don't have to settle for such a terrible average to get it.
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (35 percent): At least the majority of folks have finally caught on, but there are still some that hold out hope that he's not a total fraud. You're wrong. He is. A .242 hitter this year, he has two home runs since July 1. Two homers and eight RBIs. He's Vernon Wells-kind of terrible, but at least Vernon steals bases occasionally. Did you know the Red Sox are fourth in baseball in runs scored? The fourth-most runs scored in baseball and you have eight RBIs in your past 89 at-bats? I hate you, J.D. Drew, and everything you stand for. There, I said it.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers (72 percent): Not to pick on Milwaukee, but Felipe Lopez (75 percent) was the other candidate for this list. I'd lose both Lopez and Cameron along with Hardy, who is hitting .226 and somehow still has a job in seven out of every 10 leagues. I understand wanting the power, but it's only 11 home runs, and when Gordon Beckham qualifies at shortstop in ESPN leagues and is available in almost half of them, it boggles the mind. How about Erick Aybar? Not as much power as Hardy, of course, but he'll actually be a positive in most categories. Hitting .203 post All-Star break, if you keep Hardy on your team, you get what you deserve.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- 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