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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fantasy baseball: The laughable Pujols panic, plus Damon and Ramirez updates

If you ever want to strike for a major, lopsided trade, wait until a superstar gets off to a slow start in the fantasy baseball season's first week and look for an owner who seems on the verge of panic.

This year's target: the best player in the game, Albert Pujols.

Pujols is off to a slow start -- 4-for-22 (.182) with two runs scored, one home run, one extra-base hit, three RBI and a .558 OPS this season.

To show the lengths of desperation some owners reach, check out the message board on the right of Pujols' player page.

This concerning a player who averaged 41 homers, 123 RBI, 119 runs and eight stolen bases in his first 10 major-league seasons. A player who is a .331 career hitter with a 1.048 OPS.

A sign Pujols might not be scuffling as much as you might think: He has one more walk (two) than strikeouts (one) this season.

Yes, his impending free agency could be on his mind, though he would never admit it. But that shouldn't worry you in the least.

Last July, the Cardinals first baseman hit an un-Pujols-like .267 and had six homers and 15 RBI in 101 at-bats.

The next month, he batted .379 with 11 homers, 23 RBI, 29 runs and a 1.230 OPS in 103 at-bats.

You might point to the fact that Pujols doesn't normally struggle in April (from 2008 to 2010, he was a .350 hitter this month). Keep in mind, those numbers are from a much larger sample size -- an average of 89 at-bats per April in that span, not 22.

Pujols will begin to rake soon. If you're not convinced, offer him up on your league message board and see how many willing trade partners you have.

No Rays of hope

When Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez were introduced to the Tampa Bay media on Feb. 1, Ramirez, when asked about playing 162 games, said to Damon: "You play 100 and I'll play 62."

Everyone laughed.

Now? Not so much.

Ramirez missed Wednesday and Thursday for personal reasons. He is expected to be back Friday to attempt to improve upon an .059 batting average (1-for-17, one RBI, .118 OPS).

Damon has been even worse -- 1-for-19 (.053) with zero runs scored, zero RBI, seven strikeouts, one steal and a .153 OPS.

Damon is owned in almost 42 percent of the leagues on, and Ramirez a surprisingly high 94.3. I was astounded how early Ramirez was drafted in two of the leagues in which I participate, and he's considered a starting option by many owners.

I would consider Ramirez, at best, a fifth outfielder at age 38. He's best suited to be a part-time player (a combined 617 at-bats in 2009 and 2010).

Damon, 37, is a fifth or sixth outfielder who no longer steals many bases (a combined 23 in 2009 and '10), which severely damages his value.

If you are in a deep league, there is no need to release either player. If you are in a 10-team league, I couldn't argue against dropping Damon and/or Ramirez.

Yes, it's early. But Pujols is an all-timer.

Damon and Ramirez are old-timers.

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