If you play in a deep enough fantasy league, you know the moves that win championships aren't necessarily the ones that put the superstars on your roster. More often, they're the ones that fill the holes.
There are various superstars out there, everybody pretty much knows who they are, and everybody knows you usually have to have at least one or two of them to have a real crack at winning it all. Getting a superstar is like getting a really nice car. There's no trick to it. You just need enough money.
But once you've done that -- the superstar thing, not the car thing -- the real craft is filling out the rest of the roster, finding solid players to play the positions your superstars don't and getting them at the right price so you can keep them happy, keep the superstars happy and pay the electric bill.
When you get down to those last few spots, those fifth outfielders and middle relievers, you're really talking about art, because who the hell are these guys? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Alex Rodriguez is a really good ballplayer, though it does seem to take someone smarter than the average Yankees fan or New York writer.
But trying to figure out which of three 21-year-old pitchers at Double-A are going to make it, or whether that lefty relief specialist is worth that backup catcher, that's really something. It's an art good general managers have to be good at, because the difference between any two teams' best players isn't as great as the difference between their worst players.
Someone's going to study that last point and prove me wrong. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Meanwhile, I'm sticking to my theory, on the theory that you've got to have theories, and the theory (stop saying theory) is that superstars give you a chance to win the championship, but it's the scrubs who actually win it for you.
All this is a big part of what makes the trading deadline, which passed Tuesday afternoon, so fascinating for baseball wonks. Sure, Mark Teixeira to Atlanta and Eric Gagne to Boston get the headlines, and those deals may win a pennant for the Braves and Red Sox. But it's just as likely, maybe more likely, that one of the smaller deals that has gone down in the past few days will have a bigger impact.
Hard as it is to imagine anything happening around Fenway Park without drawing much comment, nobody said a whole lot about the deadline deal that sent reserve outfielder Dave Roberts from Los Angeles to Boston in 2004. All anybody wanted to talk about was that four-team Nomar Garciappara-Orlando Cabrera-Doug Mientkewicz fandango and that Dodgers-Marlins trade where the Dodgers gave up their heart and soul.
But would the Red Sox have won that fateful A.L. Championship Series over the New York Yankees had that trade not happened? A butterfly flapping its wings in Sri Lanka changes the course of history or something, so you can't assume everything would have happened the same way if not for that trade, only no Dave Roberts in Boston, but it's fun to do that so let's do it anyway: Who steals that base in Game 4?
And by the way how come nobody talks anymore about how stupid the then sabermetrically inclined Dodgers were to trade away heart-and-soul Paul Lo Duca in that deal? Maybe it has something to do with Brad Penny, who went to Los Angeles in that trade, being 13-2 with a 2.60 ERA this year.
It looks like the Red Sox, already with the best record in baseball, solidified their position as the team to beat by getting Gagne. They now have him, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen at the back of their bullpen.
And the front of their bullpen hasn't been bad either, with Kyle Snyder, Javier Lopez and Mike Timlin. Those three have combined for a 3.04 ERA in 100 and two-thirds innings. How are the worst three relievers on your favorite team doing? See what I mean?
Looking back in a few years, the most significant trade of the past few days may end up being some pipsqueak deal that's being mostly ignored at the moment.
Maybe Mark Teixeira will slug the Braves to the Eastern Division title, just the way they're hoping he will. Then again, maybe lefty reliever Royce Ring, picked up from the Padres and ticketed for the minors, will somehow be the key down the stretch.
Maybe outfielder Scott Hairston, whom the Padres got from Arizona for an injured minor-league reliever, about the most value-free creature in the universe, will start hitting and become an unlikely hero in San Diego.
Not likely, but one of these little deals might seem a lot bigger someday. It probably won't be the head-scratcher in which the Pittsburgh Pirates went out and got Matt Morris from the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Rajai Davis. Here was ESPN.com's headline on that one:
"Giants Deal Aging Pitcher Morris to Slumping Bucs"
Gee, put it that way and it really sounds exciting!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Bad day for people with 10 fingers [PERMALINK]
We could have had a big milestone day Tuesday, with Tom Glavine of the New York Mets going for his 300th career victory and Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees going for his 500th home run. Both figures are significant because we have 10 fingers. If we had nine we'd have just been making a big deal over Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez both hitting magical home run No. 486.
It could have been a milestone trifecta if Rodriguez, Glavine and Barry Bonds, one short of all-time home run king Hank Aaron, had all come through. None did.
The Yankees scored 16 runs on 16 hits and four walks in a rout of Chicago, but A-Rod went 0-for-5. He's now 0-for-16 since home run No. 499. Do you believe that bum? Does he even know how to play baseball? They should have traded him at the deadline for Morgan Ensberg.
Glavine pitched beautifully in Milwaukee but the Mets bullpen couldn't hold the one-run lead he handed off. Bonds went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks in Los Angeles.
The good news is that if Bonds and A-Rod stay in their home run slumps, we get to watch for a big milestone day the next time Glavine starts, which figures to be Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Previous column: Bill Walsh
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -