Winick’s 1997 "Pippen’s Nothin But A Dog" Prognostications

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      Jeff Winick

      At long last, I am finally able to put fingers to keys and prepare the official "Pippen’s Nothing But A Dog – 1997 Version." First, a couple of preliminaries.

      1. Is it just me or is this league more fun this year than ever before. I’m not sure why, but I’m having a blast. Having survived the Delgado Debacle, the Rothman Ruckus and the Strike, it appears that the league has emerged stronger than ever. To those who have been part of the league for awhile – we ought to congratulate ourselves on putting together and maintaining the finest rotisserie league I can imagine. To the new members – I welcome you to the Big Leagues.
      2. All commentary within this document is intended to be taken in good humor. If I unintentionally cross the line, I didn’t mean it. Just take it out on me the next time we attempt a deal.
      3. Given the vagaries of an Ultra league, I reserve the right to make adjustments to my picks at the All-Star break. If I need to take advantage of this loophole, I will justify any change in my predictions by reference to the different circumstances that necessitated the adjustment.

      Now – on to the prognosticating. Well, two more preliminaries – I can’t help but address the comments of Pippen and the RipTorns. First, after three years of silently allowing Pippen to extol the virtues of her prognosticating technique, I must finally address the utter hogwash that Pippin spews. For example, about that fabulous track record. Well, lets take a look. In 1996 Pippin abstained. In 1995 Pippin made the following picks:

      1. Blocker
      2. Klein
      3. Red Hots
      4. Rip Torns
      5. Hoosiers
      6. Berliners
      7. Angry Young Men
      8. Rothmaniacs
      9. Nukes
      10. Marked to the Market

      The actual standings weren’t close:

      1. Red Hots (3)
      2. Berliners (6)
      3. Marked to the Market (10)
      4. Rip Torns (4)
      5. Nukes (9)
      6. Blocker (1)
      7. Angry Young Men (7)
      8. Klein (2)
      9. Hoosiers (5)
      10. Rothmaniacs (8)

      Is it just me – or are those predictions downright pathetic. Okay, so he got the RipTorns and the Angry Young Men in the right place. But he missed Marked to the Market by 7 slots, he missed the Berliners by 4, he missed the Klein Nine by 6, etc., etc. Doesn’t seem like much to brag about. But let’s take a closer look at the analysis. Who did Pippin single out as the Berliners worst offensive selection – Tom Goodwin!?!?! Recognize the name – its the same guy that Klein used to pry Otis Nixon and Rafael Palmeiro away from Blocker. His criticism of the Angry Young Men – well, he draws particular attention to the Angry Young Men’s selection of two Valentin’s at the ridiculous price of $24 for the two. Heck, John Valentin went for nearly $24 alone in this year’s draft. The Rothmaniacs – well, Pippin noted that an outfield including Jim Edmonds – "couldn’t scare a little league pitcher." Oops!

      Just so you don’t think I’m ignoring Pippin’s 1994 effort, let me point out a couple of the highlights from that laugher: Pippin loved Hoosier’s "good" prospects – Jeff Hammonds and TROY NEEL!!; derided the Berliners silly expenditure of $17 on Ramirez and $18 on Thome and lauded Alex "Farmteam" Liberman for acquiring Joe Grahe for the bargain price of $16. Like I said, Pippin’s nothing but a dog.

      The only consistent pattern that I could discern from Pippin’s sorry track record is a penchant for underestimating the fortunes of the two Winick boys and the Nukes. It would appear that Pippin has done so once again in 1997.

      And how about the RipTorns and their "Six Degrees." Well, I applaud the RipTorns for their extraordinary good humor and wit. Its their baseball judgment I question. The Berliners in 9th place? Frantic? Bereft of first rate talent? When the Torns dismiss Ramirez, Belle, Anderson, Cirillo and Vizquel as 2nd rate talent, its easier to understand their $28 bid on Darrin Erstad and their decision to retain Shannon Stewart at $15. As for their bold proclamation regarding the start of the RipTorns dynasty, I offer the following advise from one self proclaimed genius to another: I’ve found it best to capture that first crown before clearing the mantle for the second. Trust me – you’ve got plenty of time to prepare. I don’t think you’ll need that mantle space for the second crown for a good long time (and you may not need it for the first!).

      The Predictions

      11. Flaming Brats
      10. Block’s Bombers
      9. Joseph’s Red Hots
      8. Nukes
      7. The Gimps
      6. Angry Young Men
      5. Hoosier Daddies
      4. Marked to the Market
      3. Win Ick Ben Ein Berliners
      2. Klein Nine
      1. RipTorns

      The Flaming Brats

      Well, noone said it was going to be easy! As with any expansion team that is forced to start from scratch – the building of a contender will take time. In this case, it might be a long time. The present prospects are poor – the highlights of this roster are Bragg, the Davis boys, Travis Fryman and Mike Cameron on offense and Fassero, Pichardo and Mike Jackson on the pitching side. And that’s about it. The good news is that with that talent (especially Fassero), the Brats may be able to add to their returning roster. The problem is that as I see it the keepers are few and far between: Bragg, Cameron, Jackson and Pichardo. Hang in there – and beware of Andy – in this game the last people you want to trust are your friends!

      Best Prospect: Mike Cameron
      Best Keeper: Hippolito Pichardo ($10)

      Block’s Bombers

      Kudos to the Bombers for making the early assessment that 1997 was not going to mark the return of the Bombers to their past glory. Face it – the Bombers had an uncharacteristically poor draft – Franco at 21!!; Greene at 6??; Acre at $7. But that’s not the real problem with this team. No, this team was cursed on the day that Mr. Blocker decided to build his 97 squad around 6 young pitchers. As Mr. Blocker no doubt now understands – that doesn’t work. This team has at least a few more moves to make in building toward the 98 season. Don’t expect to see Thome, Myers, Canseco, Franco, Valentin or Doug Jones on this squad come the end of the season. If Mark holds out for the good stuff, I think there may be a bright future in store for the Bombers. Building around a nucleus of Cordova ($18), Edmonds ($9), Goodwin ($11), Rosado ($6) and Jose Cruz ($5) – this team looks good – NEXT YEAR!

      Best Prospect: Jose Cruz
      Best Keeper: Tom Goodwin ($11)

      Joseph’s Red Hots

      Now here’s a team that’s interesting. I believe that by striking quickly, Mr. Robbins has put himself in excellent position to contend in 98. The real mystery is how he ended up in the position of needing to strike so quickly. When I reviewed the draft, I was absolutely puzzled by the Robbins draft moves. Gentlemen, this is an experienced owner – so how do you explain $10 on Ruben Rivera? or how about the huge amount of draft dollars left on the table? Frankly, I can’t explain it – any more than I can explain why I blurted out $18 after Mr. Robbins raised the ante to $17 on Rudy Pemberton. Nonetheless, the recent moves of this team have wiped out any doubts about the mental health of Mr. Robbins. Vizquel for Clark – brilliant! Pettite for McGwire – outstanding! Picking up Nieves, Justice and Timlin for an overpriced Salmon, an overpriced Nilsson and a near crippled Aguilera – cunning. This team will have to put together a pitching squad for next year – but short of repeating 1997’s draft performance – this team has to be one of the favorites for 1998.

      Best Prospect: Miguel Tejada
      Best Keeper: Tony Clark ($6)/Mark McGwire ($8)

      The Nukes

      You input the teams into the Benson softward program and what happens? Nukes in 2nd place!?!?! What, you say, how can that be? This is a BAD team. And so it is – but its the sort of bad team that John Benson just loves. And one can only assume that that is precisely how Mr. Kerber ended up in this mess. He did everything right – he followed right along – buying players for less than they were supposedly worth. But look at the players: Will "The Thrill Is Gone" Clark; Brian "There Ain’t No Justice" Giles; Jose "I" Mesa "With Your Daughter"; Scott "Oh How I Miss the NL" Sanders, etc., etc. Now – this team is nowhere near as bad as the RipTorns or Klein would have you believe. There’s a fair amount of talent here, but only enough for a middle of the pack finish. I’m placing Kerber this low because I’m betting he folds his cards early this year rather than wait for the typical Kerber stretch run. If I’m wrong about his intentions, move him up a slot or two. Expect to see Bernie Williams, David Cone, Jose Mesa, Marquis Grissom and Will Clark toiling for another team before the year is out.

      Best Prospect: Hidecki Irabu
      Best Keeper: Jeremy Burnitz ($3)

      The Gimps

      Count me among the non-believers. I’m pleased that Evan got such a long moment in the sun. He’s a nice guy and he deserves it. But this is a team headed for a fall – like off the Niagara Falls kinda fall. This is an offense that has more holes than Pippin’s mangy coat. Count them off – Bordick, Russ Davis, Haselman, Hayes, O’Leary, Seitzer, Stahoviak. And remember – there’s noone to back these guys up – just 15 pitchers, Lyle Mouton and Jack Howell. No – this team’s days are numbered. And the pitching is due for a splash of cold water as well. We all know what’s coming for Bobby Witt – and it won’t be pretty. Hentgen and Appier are great pitchers, but both are injury prone. And after that, the starting staff is downright scary. Moreover, after Wetteland, the relief staff is pretty damn scary too. I admire the brash cockiness, but me thinks that Mr. Krause’s comeuppance is coming and coming SOON. Mr. Krause deserves special congratulations for beating the master at his own game. Mr. Klein approached Mr. Krause eager to steal candy from the rotisserie baby and ended up walking away with a smelly diaper. If there’s a worse trade than Buhner for Slocumb before the year is over – I hope I’m not one of the parties.

      Best Prospect: None
      Best Keeper:

      Angry Young Men

      I really want to like this team. Wouldn’t there be something poetic about Mr. Shabelman stepping into the shoes of Linton and immediately achieving the kind of results that we’d expected from Linton all of these years? Well, I looked hard and then I looked again. But I just don’t see it. Don’t get me wrong – there are some nice players on this team – Cordero, Gonzalez, Jaha, Surhoff, Vaughn, Clemens , Johnson and Hernandez.. The problem is the large number of not so nice players on this squad – Carr, Disarcina, Duncan, Hollins, Incaviglia, Karkovice, Sprague, Boskie, Harris, Karl, Vosberg…… Well, you see what I mean. I can’t help but wonder what might have been if the overly exuberant Mr. Shabelman hadn’t spent so much money extending the contracts of Jaha, Surhoff and Gonzalez. Given his evidently solid drafting skills I think we might have seen something special. In any event – Mr. Shabelman shows all the signs of being a perennial contender. Now, if he’s just smart enough to ignore the "advice" of his soon to be brother-in-law.

      Best Prospect: Rod Myers
      Best Keeper: Roger Clemens ($18)

      Hoosier Daddies

      I know I’m supposed to like this team – Pippin proclaims 97 the year of the Hoosiers and the RipTorns figure the Daddies are good for third place. So how come I don’t see fit to place them any higher than fifth? Well, here’s why: a starting rotation of Dickson, Erickson, Finley and Rogers. As if that weren’t enough, the stoppers for this team are the mercurial (if not just plain BAD) Todd Jones and the injured and presently struggling Mike Fetters. Moreover, the offense just isn’t producing the way it was expected to: Easley hasn’t hit since the day he left the Berliners roster, Becker and Garcia are struggling mightily to stay above the Mendoza line, Higginson and Palmer have gotton off to uncharacteristically slow starts and Young and Trammell played themselves out of jobs. So, how is it that he’s presently in first place: Griffey and Martinez are hitting a ton. He’s also getting great pitching from Dickson and Erickson. While I do believe that Griffey will hit 62+ HR’s this year – we’re already witnessing the return to earth of the other three.

      Best Prospect: Danny Patterson
      Best Keeper: Rich Becker ($6)

      Marked to the Market

      Say what you will about his older brother – this kid can play. Other than Blocker and the senior Winick, no other team has ever placed in the money its first two years in the league. There’s every reason to believe that he’ll make it three for three. Despite a shaky start in 97 – the future looks bright. The key to his season will be injuries – Guzman and Tettleton need to get healthy. If they do – a sure money finish and maybe more. The pitching is terrific (even if it hasn’t shown to date) – Guzman, Kamienicki, Nagy, Navarro and Ogea make up the deepest rotation in the USML. And while the relievers won’t get you too excited – that works both way – i.e. there’s not too much potential for trouble either. The offense is nicely balanced although possibly still a bit too SB heavy. But, when Brosius, Merced, Fielder and Rodriguez turn it on (and they will) this team will be on its way.

      Best Prospect: Yamil Benitez
      Best Keeper: Juan Guzman ($5)

      Win Ick Ben Ein Berliners

      Rather than wax poetic about the Berliners (as the RipTorns and Pippin did about their own squads in their comments), I will cut to the chase. This is a solid team that has been enhanced by a couple of nice trades. The pitching is rock solid – with a starting rotation of Burkett, Hershiser, Key, McDowell and Wells. The relief ought to be a source of strength down the stretch – Taylor has been terrific, Montgomery shows signs of a return to form and James, Naulty and Villone will all pick up a few saves here and there. The hitting won’t lead the league, but it will also be quite solid – Anderson, Belle, Cirillo, Ramirez, Sorrento, Vizquel and Durham will all produce. Bottom line – this team can win it all, but only if Klein and the RipTorns stumble or I’m able to work a little trading magic. It could happen?!? However, despite the curse – I wouldn’t count on it. And yes – I admit it – Pemberton at $18 has to go down as one of the worst draft selections in the history of USML – I blame it on the trial – I have no other explanation.

      Best Prospect: Ricky Ledee ($10)
      Best Keeper: Billy Taylor ($7)

      Klein Nine

      The Nine deserve credit for suffering the slings and arrows of the curse and coming back with a strong squad for 97. The reason that the Nine won’t win is simple: pitching. You see, in 1994, Klein adopted the $1 pitching strategy. Through nothing short of divine intervention (and the Strike) – it worked and the Klein Nine achieved their second asterisk championship (some day they’ll get a real, unadulterated win). Short of further divine intervention and/or another strike – it’s not likely to work again. Despite recent improvements, this is still a pitching staff comprised of a mix and match of Belcher, Watson, Williams, Hill, Oliver, McDonald, Drabek and Darwin. Other than McDonald and Hill (if he’s healthy), there’s not much value here whatsoever. Belcher will fade and the rest of the bunch sucks. The relief pitching isn’t much better – Slocumb’s a dog – last time I checked he’d given up at least one earned run every time he’s appeared for the Nine – and Aguilera is literally on his last leg. So, why 2nd place? OFFENSE, OFFENSE and MORE OFFENSE. Despite losing Ventura, and trading away Justice and Nieves this team has offense coming out of its ears. Its the one redeeming feature of the $1 pitching strategy. By my estimate, this team will win HR’s, win RBI’s, win BA and finish near the top in stolen bases. When you’re building from a base of 40+ points of offense, a money finish seems secure. But you don’t win – and isn’t that what its all about?

      Best Prospect: Michael Coleman
      Best Keeper: None

      The RipTorns

      Okay – I admit it – it pains me to make this prediction. But it appears to be inescapable. Despite a slew of inexplicably stupid moves (Thomas and Knoblauch for Damon, $28 for Darrin Erstad, $15 for Shannon Stewart and $18 for Wilson Alvarez), this team is still poised to achieve its first USML crown. They came into the year with too much to fail: Delgado, Garciaparra, Greer, A Rodriguez, McGwire, Percival and Rivera were all underpriced A+ quality talents. Even with their ridiculous preoccupation with looking to next year (even while in the midst of a potential winning season) – this team is too good to screw up. The offense will be more than good enough – even while waiting for all of its youngsters to grow up – to win. The pitching staff is built upon Mussina and Pettite as starters and Percival and Rivera as relievers. Doesn’t that say it all? They won’t run away with it – and they may need to trade away a little more of the future to ensure the victory, but barring a total brain cramp by the only true self proclaimed geniuses in the league – the RipTorns will use their multitude of tools to bolster whatever needs bolstering and claim their first crown.

      Best Prospect: Donnie Sadler
      Best Keeper: Nomar Garciaparra ($10)/Rusty Greer
      ($3)/Alex Rodriguez ($20)/Todd Walker ($1)/Troy Percival
      ($11)/Mariano Rivera ($3)

      That is all!

      Jeff Winick

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