Taking a flier on Fiers

Posted on 02 August 2012 by Gary Perilloux

Sigh: 2012 has been one of those years. On my once-proud Fantasy roster, Clayton Kershaw is not the Clayton Kershaw of yesteryear. Chad Billingsley isn’t the Clayton Kershaw he was supposed to become this year. And Brian Wilson’s beard is less scary than his elbow.

In the pitchers paradise of Petco Park, Cameron Maybin continues to be all tools and no home improvement. He and my defenseless Dodgers shortstop, Dee Gordon, are creating new faults in the Mendoza Line.
After analyzing the heap of trouble Ryan Braun brewed for himself in the offseason, I concluded brilliantly that Braun would not be worth in 2012 what I paid for him in 2011 ($43). Sigh. Double sigh. (Braun’s hitting at a full-season clip of .310/45/113 with 27 SBs and an OPS of 0.991 that would virtually match the 0.994 of his MVP year. And in our classic 4×4 Roto league this year, he sold for – you guessed it – $43.
Sigh. I look at the lonely first base in Miami now, and my aching heart turns to song for consolation, “Where have you gone, Gaby Sa-a-anchez?” (To New Orleans, with a .202 average on his knee.)
The Five Commandments
This year, I simply succumbed to too many no-no’s at our league’s 29th annual live auction:
  • Thou shalt not participate in a draft en route to an out-of-state vacation.
  • Thou shalt not study the players so furiously that thou fails to devise a bona fide draft strategy.
  • Thou shalt not take a pass on the top players merely because they’re selling for as much or more as last year.
  • Thou shalt not pursue the perfectly balanced team to the exclusion of being great in any single category.
  • Thou shalt not replace a hurt player from the draft with a pitcher or batter merely because they impressed you during your vacation trip to live games.
OK, let’s call it quits at The Five Commandments of Fantasy Drafts. By now, you’ve gained a crystal clear view of my train wreck of a 2012 draft. No need to go to Ten Commandments when the first five guaranteed me the cellar through much of the first half of the season.
After finishing within a whisker of first place last year, I’ve found myself treading 30 points or more back for much of the season. For my beleaguered, rag-tag Fantasy team, the 2012 season has become – in the words of that sage Beltway scholar – a clown year, bro.
And yet I trudge on. I stumble toward October with delusions of red, white and blue bunting in my future and a cascade of brown chocolate Yoo-hoo over my head — the fantasy equivalent of the Gatorade shower. In my heart of hearts, I know those will be unfulfilled dreams this year and — you know what? — I’m OK with that.
What? Yes, you heard me right. Part of surviving a keeper league year after year, and it’s a big part, is knowing when to accept defeat gracefully. I saw the gravity of my mistakes early in the year and accepted the fact that 2012 would become for me a kind of Bryce Harper season, a year of dropped flies and stealing home and learning how to hit second and field questions about celebratory beer in Canada: in short, a teachable year.
It didn’t help that after experiencing an awful draft and watching the Royals stagger through a winless first homestand that I wandered down I-70 later in the week and became enamored of Bronson Arroyo’s masterful dismantling of the Cardinals. Man, the garage band rock star looked like his old self. So among my two dozen waiver moves to replace hurt and demoted draftees this year, I made one of my first picks Bronson Arroyo, who’s now on pace to go 7-10 and win the fewest games since he became a full-time Major League starter: a teachable moment.
Fliers and Hot Fiers
In these fantasy years that try men’s souls, the temptation to throw in the towel and find sweet success in simulation games is great – very great. But I’ll have to pat myself on the back for one thing.
I did the adult thing: I accepted at the outset that I was not going to win the league in 2012. It wasn’t going to happen. And with that pressure off my conscience, I set about building the best fourth-place team you’ve ever seen.
Starting out at rock bottom, I reasoned that getting to the middle of the pack should be reward enough for such a bad start. And if I got to the upper middle of the pack – fourth place – why I’d actually be in the money in our league, and that’s all right with me.
And while I’ve had teachable “bad” moments (see Arroyo) this year, I’ve also had teachable “good” moments. Just last week, when the latest of my pitchers succumbed to elbow badness (Billingsley), I was poised to concede wins, where I’m in next-lo-last place, and go with saves, where I could spring from third to second or even first with one more closer success story.
The timing seemed propitious. The Marlins had promoted Mike Dunn to closer for the struggling Heath Bell; and Dunn converted his first opportunity and was available in our league. No brainer, right?
But wait, here’s Ozzie Guillen talking about the dreaded “closer committee” and I’m not feeling so high on Dunn. And in another corner of the league, there’s this guy named Fiers who’s had five remarkable starts in a row as an under-the-radar prospect, a guy who once broke his back in four places, a guy who willed himself into firing a higher-speed fastball.
I’m a sucker for these guys. I need help in ERA and WHIP, too, so my gut says, “Take a flier on Fiers, take a flier on Fiers, take a flier on Fiers …”
I did, and what do you know? The viscera were right. Fiers pitched 6 innings, 5 hits, 0 BBs, 1 ER, 4 Ks and whittled his ERA to 1.96 in his first start for me. There are the moments you live for: In a season of discontent, where winning is out of the question, here is a mini-win with an additional reward: After a weekend away from baseball, I return home to find my team in fourth place!
And then – sigh – there’s this news: Chad Billingsley is coming back already to test that testy elbow, just as I’m feeling increasingly Fiers-friendly. Don’t you just love it? Here’s hoping the gut goes 2-for-2.

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