Oddly, the e-mail question was one I've gotten before.
Adam (Indianapolis, Ind.): Mr. Berry, I just happened to catch the opening credits of "Con Air" yesterday, and under casting one of the names was Matthew Berry ... is this the great TMR they are referring to?
TMR: I wish. If it was up to me, I would never have cast John Cusack as U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin. John Cusack should be in movies where he's funny and slightly sensitive. Let him hold a boom box up outside a window, let him jump in a hot tub that sends people through time, but if I need someone to throw down a folder and explain the plot of the movie with a worried look, he's not the guy. My personal favorite for that is Dame Judi Dench in the Bond movies. You can't deny, she classes it up a bit and has that required "This is against regulations and you're an uncontrollable wild card who is gonna be the death of me but fine, you can go at this alone one more time" look down pat. If you watch closely, you can actually see her counting her paycheck in her head during the scenes.
As I said, I've actually gotten this question a decent amount, especially back in my Hollywood days. But he spells his name Matthew Barry and he is a phenomenally well-respected and successful casting director. I apologize to him for sullying his good name.
But, if it makes him feel better (I've never met the man), he is not the only Matthew Berry I'm sure I've devalued.
Tripp Whitbeck (Arlington, Virg.): Challenge for you. My boss, Matthew Berry, keeps getting mistaken for you on the campaign trail. You see, he is running for congress. For fun, we were hoping to have a "Matthew Berry Face-Off" in the upcoming March Madness. Would you be interested in setting up a bracket challenge, pitting you against Matthew Berry (the future Congressman)? This would be a great deal of fun and good publicity all the way around. Please advise!
TMR: I ignored this as I've got plenty of ways to tick people off without delving into politics. Besides, everyone knows I never sell myself out on stupid publicity stunts unless they are for me. Regardless, he issued a press release announcing he beat me in Tournament Challenge. Hah! Joke's on him. Everybody beat me in Tournament Challenge. Stupid Big East.
I feel bad for the guy. It's hard enough getting your message out there as a politician, but if he keeps getting mistaken for me? He's got guys asking him about Donovan McNabb's fantasy value and what to do with Big Ben? Brutal. All of this could be avoided, of course, if my folks had just given me a cool name like Tripp Whitbeck. But did that happen? Of course not.
I'm just one of a million Matthew Berrys, it seems. And it's not just Matthew Berrys. Lotta Matt Berrys, as well. There is a famous British actor/comedian/musician named Matt Berry, and he's all over YouTube. There's a former BYU quarterback with the name. And, perhaps worst of all, especially when I was working in Hollywood, there was another sitcom writer named Matt Berry. A former stand-up, he is really funny and has written on such hits shows as "Roseanne," "Reba" and most recently served as one of the executive producers of "Desperate Housewives."
Don't Call Me Matt
My very first sitcom job was writing for something called "Kirk," starring former teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron on a network that doesn't exist anymore, the WB. I was all excited when I got to finally join the Writers Guild. But there was a problem. I couldn't use the name "Matthew Berry." There was another writer with that name already, a story editor on "Roseanne" named Matt Berry. They wanted me to use my middle initial.
I really didn't want to do that. First, I never used it in real life. Second, I thought "Kirk" written by Matthew J. Berry sounded really pretentious. It's a kids sitcom and not a good one, you know? As I was wrestling with this, they called back. I can't use "J" anyway because the other Matt Berry's middle initial was also J. I'd have to invent a new one or use a fake name.
Now I'm really depressed. I've been working so hard to make it, I finally get my chance and now I have to change my name? Eventually, I'll write something I'll be proud of and I'm gonna want my name -- my real name -- on it. They tell me it's guild rules and there's nothing I can do. I try one last desperation thing. I've seen this guy's credits on "Roseanne." He always uses Matt Berry. What if, I say, he agrees to always use Matt Berry and I'll always use Matthew Berry? They say they will ask.
Now imagine you're this guy. You've never met me. You owe me nothing. You're established and on a huge hit show like "Roseanne." You get the call out of the blue. My feeling is most people would say: "Tough. I was here first. Get your own name. Not my problem." But despite not knowing me from a hole in the wall, Matt Berry agreed and I got to use my name.
I met him years later and told him how much that meant to me. He waved it off as no big deal but I've always felt the need to honor that. Even after I left show business, I'm Matthew (not Matt) Berry. Podcast listeners know I get nuts when I'm credited or referred to as Matt Berry. It is in deference to this man that I do that. Friends in real life call me Matt, Matty or Matthew. I answer to all. But in case you were wondering why I go ballistic when someone on ESPN refers to me professionally as Matt Berry, that's why.
We got confused for each other all the time, getting each other's residuals checks (his were always much bigger), Writers Guild mailings and, perhaps worst of all, he once had to suffer through an awkward call from Paul Hogan. True story.
During the "Friends" craze, if I called to make a reservation or appointment or something, I'd say my name and often get "Did you say Matthew Perry? Is this Chandler?" they'd joke hilariously. My two standard responses: "Lady, if I was Matthew Perry, would I really have just asked how much cheaper is it if I switched planes in Dallas?" or "Yes. Yes I am."
According to the website Howmanyofme.com, there are 486 people named Matthew or Matt Berry in the United States. A listing on the site of famous people with the last name Berry suggests none of us.
Even when they've correctly identified me, people often get facts about me wrong. I am flattered but mostly embarrassed that 9 percent of the people who took this quiz think I invented fantasy sports, because I did no such thing. I've never dated Danni Boatwright, had my dog do her business at work or left show business because I failed at it. It was my choice; and if you'll allow me to get defensive for a moment, I was finishing a rewrite on a Tim Allen Disney comedy and turned down a Jessica Simpson romantic comedy rewrite when I made the move to ESPN. But those are all things I have read about myself online. Not to mention that every story I've read about myself and women or dating (successful or not) that doesn't come from me has yet to be accurate.
Anyway, with all this which Matthew Berry is the real one talk, it occurred to me that I wasn't the only one suffering from identity crisis. Is Vernon Wells seriously no longer a fantasy succubus? Jon Lester's not really gonna finish the year with an ERA over eight, is he? When will Scott Podsednik realize he is Scott Podsednik?
No one wants to be sucked into, as it is known by scientists, The Dave Bush Vortex. Bush, of course, is currently sporting a nifty 2.41 ERA and 1.07 WHIP through his first three starts. You might be thinking about adding him. You wouldn't be the first. He has performed well and sucked in many an owner over the years. We've all been there. Eric Karabell still has emotional scars. But just when he strings together enough good outings that you finally decided to add him, he blows your fantasy team's ERA to tiny bits. In a world of uncertainty, the only things we can count on are death, taxes and Dave Bush will break your heart.
So who among the hot starters are legit and who will crush your will to live? Which slow starters will rebound and which should induce widespread "Outbreak"-levels of panic. (The monkey in "Outbreak" remains, to this day, the worst use of a monkey in a motion picture, ever. Monkeys should be helping dorky kids win championships in sports movies where confused people look in a book and say things like "Well, there's no rule that says a monkey can't play …," not inducing widespread panic.)
Hmm. Maybe I could do Matthew-Barry-the-casting-director's job after all. Either way, this much I do know: No one writes a run-on sentence or a long-winded, egocentric intro to a fantasy column like this Matthew Berry.
So here are, in no particular order, 20 guys suffering from identity crisis. Note that Tristan Cockcroft already covered some similar players in Tuesday's "Hit Parade" and I'm not going to repeat those guys here, so those of you eager to call me out on not calling out Vernon Wells, there you go. And in my continuing quest to make this column all about me, I'll set the record straight on who this Matthew Berry is by responding to some actual questions from my Twitter followers.
Is this the real …
... Jon Lester, SP, Boston Red Sox: Might as well start here and I'm not in the slightest bit worried. He gave up 11 earned runs in his first two starts ... in 2009. So we've seen the slow start before. He's still striking guys out, his velocity is the same as last year. He's had bad luck, as suggested by a .379 batting average on balls in play. That'll happen sometimes over the course of a couple of games but it's not nearly enough of a sample size to panic about. He needs to watch the walks and homers, but don't we all? His history suggests that he will.
... Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: I'm buying this. Now, I don't think he gets to the 81 steals he is currently on pace for, which would almost double his career high of 46. But the Dodgers are running (their 19 steal attempts are tied for third most in baseball; James Loney has three!) and Furcal is healthy. He won't hit for this high an average (currently .330 with a .410 OBP) but a .285 season with 25-plus steals and 90 runs is more than reasonable, with upside for more.
From @AdamSmitheee: How did you break into screenwriting? What was your 1st spec script? How did you meet your agent?
@MatthewBerryTMR: I wrote with a partner, my college friend Eric Abrams. Our first spec was an episode of "The Simpsons," but we didn't get our first job until spec No. 8, a "Mad About You." Paul Hogan hiring us for "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" was our very first movie script (spec or otherwise), but we broke into sitcom writing through a program called the Warner Brothers Writers' Workshop. We had many agents over the years, but my current agent, Andy Elkin at CAA, I met through my ex-wife many years ago.
... Chad Billingsley, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: Here's the thing. My gut says not to trust him, so when I see him struggle, I'm quick to think: "Yup, there we go, this is the Billingsley I'm afraid of. The guy who probably ought to give up more homers than he does and who just doesn't pitch deep enough in games to be a staff ace, leaving all those potential strikeouts on the table." Best-case scenario, he rights whatever it is that's not been working the past two games and gives you 180 innings of decent ERA and not-kill-you WHIP. Worst-case, he still gets you K's but continues to get hit and you end up with a more expensive, slightly less soul-crushing version of Oliver Perez. And since I'm not convinced which one will show up, I want no part of him at all
... Mike Pelfrey, SP, New York Mets: I could talk about the improved use of his splitter and how, as our "Baseball Tonight" researcher Mark Simon points out, he has yet to allow a hit on that pitch this year, but why do heavy lifting when Eric Karabell has already done it? I'm a believer and so is my friend EK, so I'll just link to his article and say we're both on board with a guy who has not only been lights out, but is available in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues and is the fifth-highest rated starting pitcher on our player rater so far.
@WalpolePorkers: Are you near- or farsighted? Those glasses you wore in your first draft must've gotten used in the Hubble telescope design!
@MatthewBerryTMR: I might as well be a bat. I'm nearsighted, but I also have stigmatism and am slightly color blind. I wear contacts but am thinking I need to look into some laser eye surgery.
.... B.J. Upton, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: Currently on a 40 homer pace, I'm actually buying this somewhat, as I expected him to get back to 24-homer neighborhood he was in in 2007. He looks healthy and I'm not only on board, I looked up his Z% number on Fangraphs, and was delighted to see he's swinging at more pitches in the strike zone this year. That said, I promise to never use Z percentage in a column again, especially not in the meaningless context of just a few weeks. Seriously, who am I?
... Scott Kazmir, SP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: People are all excited about his last start, where he struck out seven, walked none and gave up only two earned runs to the Tigers in 5 2/3 innings. Hells no. I've never been a believer, even when he was pitching well. Too inconsistent, injury prone and when he's ugly, he is UG-LY. I want no part of him as I believe he will be up and down all season.
... Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees: The poster boy for "Don't Panic," he's also a frood who really knows where his towel is. Points if you get the reference, but bottom line is that Mark is always a slow starter. And if there's a newbie in your league who doesn't know that, trade for Big Tex and teach that owner the lesson in a way he'll always remember. You're only doing it for his own good.
@jberry100: (my kid brother) Did you or did you not use to beat me up? I can't remember.
@MatthewBerryTMR: Since you can't remember, um, I never touched you. I was the perfect brother.
@chrisjob1021: In the interest of setting the record straight, what is your most weasely moment ever?
@MatthewBerryTMR: You mean other than lying to my brother in front of a national readership? Great question. I don't want to go into specifics, because it involves "innocent" people but I'll just say this. When I was a lot younger, I used to take things much more personally and if I felt I had been wronged, I would be mean and vindictive and not think twice about it. I was never the instigator, but I definitely have done some things that I'm not proud of in the name of "revenge."
.... Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers: Hells no. Currently hitting .311, he's a career .288 hitter in the minors. He's only 24, so he's obviously got room to grow, but I don't expect a rookie to continue to hit better in the bigs than he did in the minors. The speed is legit but I'd be shocked if he hits more than 10 home runs, the league will get a book on him soon, and he won't continue to get a hit for every two times he puts the ball in play. And for a guy without a homer yet, 23 strikeouts in 61 at-bats is a lot. Any way you slice it, he's coming back down to earth very soon. Sell high while you can.
... Kevin Gregg, RP, Toronto Blue Jays: Regular listeners of the podcast know all about Nate's hate and frankly, I've never been much of a fan, but it's worth pointing out that Gregg has saved at least 23 games each of the past three years. I say he gets that many this year, as well.
@IggyFenton: Were you at fault in your marriage?
@MatthewBerryTMR: I assume you mean in the marriage breaking up and yes, I was. So was she. I was 25 and she was 23 when we met and we were basically married from day one. No one cheated on anyone or anything scandalous. We just grew apart. That probably would have happened anyways, but we both contributed to that. I won't get into the things she did or didn't do, but for my part, I was doing all my screenwriting during the day and then working on the Talented Mr. Roto site at night. I didn't spend nearly enough time with her and she went to bed alone way too many nights while I stayed on the computer.
... Placido Polanco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies: Yeah, you betcha. OK, the average will come down from his crazy .383, but here's what I wrote in my preseason "Love/Hate" article about him: "A career .303 hitter will have third base eligibility three weeks into a season in which he will hit between a few guys named Rollins, Utley and Howard. Lotta runs scored and a high average." Well, I'm standing by it.
... Scott Podsednik, OF, Kansas City Royals: Sign me up for bobblehead night and note that he's still available in more than 30 percent of leagues and, among outfielders, is currently top 10 on the player rater. Fact is, he's always had the speed and he doesn't need to keep up the crazy .526 on-base percentage to keep running. If he's anywhere close to his career mark of .343, he's shown in the past that it's good enough to allow him anywhere from 30 to 70 steals. And frankly, at what it cost to get him, you'd take either number.
... Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles: I was down on Markakis based on average draft position and high on both Jones and Reimold in the preseason, but all have been brutal so far, just like most of the Orioles. I'm not worried and actually like all three to rebound. Getting Brian Roberts back will help this offense, as will replacing Garrett Atkins with Ty Wigginton, which is what I expect will happen once everyone is back and healthy. Matt Wieters will continue to heat up, as will the rest of this lineup. The Orioles aren't a great team, but they are also not nearly this bad.
... Brad Penny and Jaime Garcia, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: I believe in the soul, roosters, cats, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curveball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet Dave Duncan.
... Jonathan Sanchez, SP, San Francisco Giants: Another guy from my preseason "Love" list, you know I'm all in on him. The key is the control and clearly, something kicked in for him last year when he threw that no-hitter. Since July 10 of last year, Sanchez is 7-5 with a 3.19 ERA, a crazy-good 1.09 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 113 innings, and most importantly for him, only 50 walks, a 3.98 walks-per-nine rate which isn't excellent, but that you can live with when it comes with that many strikeouts. Move over Mark, there's a new Sanchize.
Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians: A study in contrasts as Choo has been everything you ever wanted in a fantasy player and yes, I'll say it, a man. Scouts love him and nothing stats-wise suggests this is anything less than legit. You'd have thought I got a nickel every time I said his name during the preseason, the way I was up in his business, and so far, he's done nothing to make me look like an idiot. Many others have, of course, but Choo and I are good. As Jeff Erickson tweeted the other day -- Shin Soo Choo? I choo choo choose you!
On the other hand … Grady, Grady, Grady. He's now hitting below the Mendoza Line. He won't finish there, so maybe he represents a buy-low opportunity and certainly, you expect some rust considering the injury-plagued season last year, but his batting average has now dropped for three straight years prior to this one and, with speed more plentiful than ever, his power/speed combo is not necessary when it comes with lots of batting average risk. And Grady has it in spades. I think both guys are playing like they will for the season. If someone would trade me Choo for Sizemore I'd do that deal in a heartbeat.
@BillZeiders: If your hometown is in Texas, how do you justify being an Angels fan?
@MatthewBerryTMR: I never loved the Astros or any particular team. (Remember, I've been playing fantasy since I was 14). My first job with ESPN was in 2004, when (thanks to Steve Mason) I started doing stuff for 710 ESPN in Los Angeles. I did a bunch of fantasy stuff, of course, but I also did a bunch of fill-in work as well. Among the things I did was filling in on the Angels' postgame show when it was a getaway day (and the guys had to catch the plane). So I did that once a week or so for a few years. As a result, I had to watch the Angels really closely and they became my team. Before that, I was at Game 6 of their World Series win as well, so ... what can I say? High-five, rally monkey! Let's get you in a movie where you help a geeky kid win a championship.
I lived in Virginia until I was 12, so that's where the Redskins fandom come from. And I've had Lakers season tickets since before Phil Jackson started coaching them.
... Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: What? Joey Votto has speed? Well, yeah, actually. He's up to four steals on the season and it's not totally out of nowhere as he stole 40 bases in the minors in 2006-07. He was also caught 18 times, which is why he wasn't hailed as the second coming of Derrek Lee, but he does have the ability to take a base here and there. The Reds are running (second in baseball in stolen base attempts) and I bet Votto wins up with 15 or so steals.
@TheOtherAriGold: Last time you went to synagogue?
@MatthewBerryTMR: Every time I watch a ballgame, Ari. Every time.
Matthew Berry - The Talented Mr. Roto - really wanted to use Francisco Liriano and some I told you so's, but managed, for once, to control himself.He is 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