To answer your first question, no, I am not dead.  Secondly, sorry to disappoint you.  As we count down the days to draft and when pitchers/catchers report, it’s a virtual ‘pins and needles’ fest for some of the closer battles that could be looming.  Some of these battles are going to be very interesting, ’cause battles are awesome and make fools of everyone.  Let’s dive into some of those battles, shall we? The Cubs and their smoke-show of a bullpen is first and foremost. Jose Veras looks to be the guy, until Pedro Strop‘s me-mah gets all free paella for every manager named Sveum.  The Orioles still really don’t have a closer, and until free agency is kaput, Tommy Hunter is the guy. And the other one to keep an eye on is Colorado… I mean my name is Smokey… so I am firmly entrenched in the bumper crop going on there.  LaTroy Hawkins has been called the “closer” for now.  I have a feeling that the Rockies, at some point, get all nepotistic and gives it to Rex Brothers. The last situation I would monitor is the effectiveness and trust level that Pittsburgh has with Grilli, who is getting back into the saddle.  Mark Melancon is arguably the first non-definite closer for me that is draft worthy over some guys who are low on this list that have the job.  So stay tuned conclusionary fans, it’s early and things are always a changin’.  Like last year, I will be doing an off-week Holds post to keep all things relievers up to date.

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This is a true story. In 1981, the St. Louis Cardinals bought a barrel of oil for $12, then sold that barrel of oil to OPEC for $13, netting the Cardinals one dollar. That one dollar was used by the Cardinals to buy a pack of gum that was used to repair a broken condom that was used by Albert Pujols’s father so there would be only one Albert Pujols and no competition for the best 1st baseman from 2001 thru 2011. Marxists and Capitalists have argued for years about the right of the Cardinals to use that dollar to stunt natural selection and why didn’t they just buy Albert Pujols’s dad one new condom rather than a pack of gum. This illustrates a very important point. You and I may want David Freese due to his position eligibility, but never underestimate the Cardinals ability to get the better side of a trade. If they’re smarter than OPEC, they’re smarter than us. Peter Bourjos is in the pile of scraps in mind that includes Brett Gardner and Michael Brantley as guys that I like a lot, maybe more than is reasonable. (BTW, my 2nd album that critics called ‘very emo’ is also called, Scraps In Mind. That’s purely coincidental.) Bourjos got a sleeper post from me for about three years in a row, though he had the misfortune of playing under The Sciosciapath, and The Sciosciapath doesn’t play the hitters he should — hello, Napoli. Bourjos had a 50-steal season in the minors one year. You don’t just lose that kind of speed, and, if you’ve ever seen him run out a triple, you know how crazy fast he is. Oh, and he’s not just SAGNOF. He also had 12 homers one year for the Angels. If he put together a 15-homer, 35-steal season, I wouldn’t be shocked. For 2014, I’ll give him the line of 74/12/58/.263/20 with a chance for much more. He’ll definitely be someone I’ll be looking at in all leagues. Anyway, here’s some more offseason moves for 2014 fantasy baseball:

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Heading into the stretch run you are either on the playoff bus or it turned you into roadkill three weeks ago. Somebody get a shovel, please. Imagine the playoff bus looking like the Partridge Family multi-colored ride, fantasy baseball is our family band and I’m your David Cassidy. I think I love you and we’re about to win you your fantasy league. If you lost Carlos Gonzalez or own a hurtin’ Miggy, let your humble Guru find you some late season power. Need some steals, some saves? Let the man in the shiny turban lead you to cheap SAGNOF. Still searching for solid starting pitching? Follow your Goo as we consult the oracle known as the SON. Just don’t interrupt his “private time” with my Roomba. The playoffs are coming, bragging rights are on the line and there’s room on the bus. Just don’t sit next to Danny Bonaduce and keep your filthy paws off Susan Dey. She’s mine! It’s time to jam it or cram it.

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So, how’s your season? *connects hose to tailpipe* That good, huh? Well, the end is near my depressed Razzballin’ droogs. Some of us are prepared for the sprint to the finish and others are drinking too much Colt 45, screaming “Ike Davis” at confused strangers and assembling Fantasy Football draft boards in their tighty whities and Ken Stabler throwbacks. Speaking of which, everyone say hello to Sky. He’s our Fantasy Football Czar and would like to meet your acquaintance here. If you’ve enjoyed our weekly jammer crammer sessions, once we wrap up this here baseball season in a pretty little bow, your humble Guru will continue jamming and cramming on Fantasy Football Island. So join a RCL League now. As for our fake baseball teams, how did you do? Taking a look at The Guru’s collection of teams, I’d have to say it’s been a satisfying season. Currently I’m staring at 10 firsts, 5 seconds and a third. 16 teams? Yes, I admit I do have a problem with moderation. Excuse me while I pour another scotch. Good morning. The areas that have been problematic for me this year have been steals and saves. SAGNOF! Injuries to Jason Motte and Joel Hanrahan certainly didn’t help and had me scrambling to the waiver wire early and often for the likes of Koji Uehara and Rex Brothers. When it comes to steals, the early injury to Jose Reyes and now the suspension of Everth Cabrera put me in the SAGNOF hole. Ouch! Stay away from my SAGNOF hole, it’s an exit not an entrance. As we enter the final three weeks of the regular season, here’s hoping your season has been a success and all the credit can be heaped upon your motley crew of Razzballin’ scribes. If you are out of it, damn the fantasy gods, troll Tehol on Twitter and let me pour you a tumbler of Islay. Enjoy and leave a comment below on the state of your season. It’s time to jam it or cram it – SAGNOF! Part II: Red, White and Screwed.

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You know who’s happiest about Kolten Wong being called up? The Vatican. Finally, something non-Catholic related will show up in search results when you Google ‘Cardinal + Wong + 2nd base.’ Somewhere, Dan Brown is scribbling notes for a new thriller…the Catholic church took a page out of the playbook of the Native Americans, who having foreseen the Internet in a 1973 peyote-inspired dream, worked to make sure the practice of reselling tickets was known as scalping. So now you Google ‘Indians + scalping’ and the search results are just a way to get cheap seats in Progressive Field. Wong’s call-up crowds the Cardinals infield in the weirdest of ways. Wong can’t play shortstop. It says here. There. Where I just wrote here. He can’t play 3rd. Says there. Where I wrote it. Can’t play 1st. Says here. Next to where I wrote here. He plays 2nd, Carpenter goes to 3rd and Freese goes on ice. Sorta surprised by this because the Cardinals know that seriously reduces Freese’s trade value, but he was seriously reducing his trade value by playing. But, wait, why do we care? What can Wong do right? Here’s what Prospect Scott said just two days ago, “Wong has caught a heater at the right time, hitting .333/.429/.556 with 2 homers and 2 stolen bases through his last 10. Too bad Grey can’t catch a heater in his groin.” What? Why? On the year in the minors, Wong has a line of 10 HRs, 20 steals and a .303 average. That’s close to what I’d expect of him in the majors too. He has a great eye at the plate (60 Ks, 41 BBs) and nice speed. Maybe a handful of homers and steals in the last six weeks with a good average. In keepers, he’s a must have. In redrafts, I’d grab him in all leagues for upside. I’m excited. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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To misquote Lucinda Williams, “You don’t have to prove your manhood to me constantly, Jim Johnson.” Maybe prove it once in a while. Maybe once in a blue moon with a slice of orange to tie in your uniform. Yesterday, he blew his third save in a row and his league-leading ninth. As the Orioles vie for a pennant spot, the boo birds are probably out in full force in Baltimore. Or for the big-boned fans in Baltimore, the Boog birds. If it was simply based on performance or the will of my piercing brown eyes, Johnson would be doing mop duty dressed as a pelican and every time someone made a mess they’d point to Johnson and say, “I can’t clean it up, but Peli-can.” The Orioles really should give him a rest and turn it over to Francisco Rodriguez or Tommy Hunter. For those of you hoping to vulture some sweet, sweet saves, it’s not a clear cut case of Johnson about to be removed, Lorena Bobbit-style. He’s built up some goodwill over the last twelve months with 51 saves last year and 39 saves now. Also, the O’s are Confucius non gratis as to who is their set-up man. K-Rod, his goggles and his dyslexic dor-K lifestyle has plenty of experience, but the O’s have gone to Hunter to save a few games this year. I grabbed K-Rod in one league where I’m desperate, but this is a shituation that maybe even Peli-can’t handle. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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A Hill O’ Beans is back on top after a couple of weeks in 4th place, nudging MasterofGrond down to second. They hit .311 and scored an RCL-best 60 runs, and also had an ERA under 3. There are still many teams in contention with seven weeks to go, so it should be a fun stretch run.

Check out the Master Standings (you can also access them via the Leagues menu up top) to see where your team ranks in comparison to the other 767 teams through Sunday. The page now includes sortable stats.

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Common misconception, the A’s know what they’re doing. As of Thursday night, they didn’t even know who was pitching on Saturday. Billy Beane told me confidentially, “I’ve been winging it for fifteen years. I just have a sex tape of Michael Lewis with a contestant from Flavor of Love, so it was write Moneyball or him and Deelishis would be all over the internet.” A lot of sites are listing A.J. Griffin as Saturday’s starter, but I have it on good authority that that (stutterer!) is incorrect. A’s have Straily looking like a lesser-known Muppet Straggly, Alfredo Jettuccine has been getting creamed, Milone is in Sacramento saying to himself, “What have I done to deserve being sent to the Sacra-Ghetto?” and the whole staff needs a Colon cleanse. So, who’s left? My almost-name-sharer and all-around Bubb Rubb-extraordinaire, Sonny Gray. He has nearly a strikeout an inning in Triple-A and a 2.74 FIP. (Yes, I only use FIP when an ERA doesn’t back up my case as tidily. Leave me alone!) I don’t love a start in Toronto, but if he stays in the rotation, the A’s are about to get a great schedule at home. Even if it’s not Saturday, Gray should be up shortly, and no that’s not a height crack, but Gray is tiny. I will call him Mini Me even though he’s taller than me. What? My photo is actual size. So, grab Gray now, because mother says you should buy Gray Gardens– I mean, Gray’s starting. Anyway, here’s some more players to buy or sell this week in fantasy baseball:

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In the spring of 2013, Astro fans celebrated through the streets of Houston, shooting guns in the air and playing Houston’s own, Mind Playing Tricks On Me and Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits, because her last name hailed from there. Those fans (all 17 of them) were celebrating the Astros’ National League exodus. “Let my people go, NL!” That’s what they chanted for years. “We need a fresh start like our entire body is covered in deodorant.” That’s what they told each other. Unfortch, no one explained to them that they wouldn’t just be able to play split squad games in their own league, they would have to join the AL. Yesterday, the Sawx destroyed them for 15 runs. Jacoby Ellsbury hit two homers (6 & 7), scored four runs, knocked in three and went 2-for-4. David Ortiz went 4-for-4 with 2 runs, 2 RBIs and one big belly laugh at what A-Rod is going through. Shane Victorino went 3-for-5 with 4 runs and even walked once in honor of Jackie Bradley Jr. Jonny Gomes hit a homer and knocked in four runs and he didn’t even start. This was also a reminder to not go near any Lastro pitcher. A sad, sad reminder. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Yesterday, on Fifth Avenue, Bud Selig was seen going into a photo shoot. That photoshoot was for him to be dressed as Uncle Sam for posters that will go up around the country. Under Uncle Bud, it will read, “I Want You!” You see, MLB lost a lot of players yesterday to suspensions and now they need people to play baseball. Tryouts will begin early next week and no one will be turned away due to their sex or age. If back in the day your grandma used to don the rawhide in that baseball league of their own, pull up her knee-highs and get her out there! Everyone must do their part to keep baseball together and moving forward. We need some Rosie the Pivoters at middle infield in San Diego and Detroit with the loss of Everth Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta. We need some bombers with the loss of Nelson Cruz in Texas. We’re gonna have some fatherless children on our hands with the troops heading off to battle on the diamond, but ironically Antonio Bastardo‘s kids will have their dad because he’s being sent home. When we’re in the bunkers amongst enemy pitchers, we’ll need someone to believe in with the loss of Jesus Montero. We’ll be without any guys that sound like names from a Harry Potter Name Generator with the loss of Jordany Valdespin, and we won’t have anyone that looks like The Great Gazoo with the loss of Francisco Cervelli. It’ll be a trying time for all of us, but we need to come together as a nation of Razzballers and fight through. Plus, really, for fantasy, we only lost Everth and Cruz, so don’t get so bent out of shape. Logan Forsythe or Alexi Amarista will take over for Everth, probably a bit of both until one emerges. Neither have the value of Everth, but Amarista could have some speed and he knows how to make a great frappuccino. Forsythe has little speed and power, but is dealing with a knee problem, so he may not be at 100%. In Texas, Engel Beltre or Jurickson Profar could see more time, but so far in 49 games Profar has a .244 average and four homers and no steals, so I wouldn’t go dropping anyone great in redraft leagues for him. Rangers also have Berkman coming back at some point in the next few weeks, so they could get crowded again. In Detroit, Jose Iglesias is the Indians’ backup plan, but if I saw him on waivers, I’d back up. In all, a bad day to be a cheater, but a good day to be an American. Now everyone will have a shot to make it to the major leagues. Just don’t be shocked if your grammie tests positive for HGH. She does, after all, take a lot of meds. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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