Check out last month’s rankings here.
I am, if nothing else, a man of the people. This month, I am integrating reader feedback to improve upon both the helpfulness and the overall fun factor of this feature. Regarding the helpfulness, as commenters pointed out last month, I should probably rank Mookie Betts, even though he’s not eligible in all formats.
As commenters also pointed out last month, I could have just ranked him instead of explaining why I am or am not ranking him, thus saving myself both time and effort. Still, I felt compelled to account for my actions, and here we are, several possibly unnecessary sentences later.
Now, the fun factor. I was encouraged to come up with clever names for the tiers, as opposed to my previous yawn-inducing numerical system. Therefore, I am this month grouping players into tiers based upon the relative subjective quality of cities I’ve visited. I enjoy travel almost as much as baseball, and I have strong feelings about the places I’ve been — both good and bad — that are quite suitable for comparison to second basemen. Why not.
TIER ONE – ANNECY, FRANCE
Nestled in the French Alps, the town of Annecy is the most beautiful and perfect place on earth. Just look at some pictures of this magical locale. Oh, and if the city isn’t gorgeous enough, maybe the adjoining lake will convince you.
Nestled in the Houston infield, a man named Jose Altuve is the most beautiful and perfect second baseman in baseball. He’s done everything he can so far to silence anyone who thought his 2014 breakout was anything less than legitimate.
Altuve, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Wednesday, is hitting .339/.388/.483 — a strikingly similar line to his .341/.377/.453 from last year, except even better. He’s already stolen 10 bases and smacked three homers. His walk rate has risen dramatically, while his strikeout rate is still comfortably below 10%.
Jose Altuve is a symbol of all that is good and right in the world, and he is perched alone atop the second-base mountain.
New Orleans is my favorite American city, and it’s also the reason the piece you’re reading is publishing four days later than usual. I spent the last week in NoLa for Jazz Festival and the associated festivities, and quite frankly have no regrets regarding this slight delay.
If you find yourself in New Orleans, there is really no reason to leave, because New Orleans is awesome. That’s how you should view the players in this tier. If you’re a Kinsler owner, you can feel free to just be happy about where you are in life. There’s no need to fix what isn’t broken.
That’s pretty much the case with this entire tier from a writing standpoint as well — not much has changed here in the last month. I will say that I’m getting nervous about Rendon, but he’s still a top commodity when healthy. (Make sure to read Jeff Sullivan’s fantastic piece looking at how Gordon, in many ways, mirrors prime Ichiro.)
Look, Minneapolis is a great city. Lots of really good food, a plethora of entertainment options, cool architecture…Minneapolis has it all. However, Minneapolis sure isn’t New Orleans, and it’s a far cry from the likes of quaint little 700-year-old lake towns in the Alps.
Minneapolis isn’t anyone’s dream place to live — after all, it gets intolerably cold for five solid months every year — but it’s got enough going for it that it’s a satisfying city overall. Kind of like the players in this tier. Kipnis? Kendrick? Sure, why not. At least you’re not in Dayton, Ohio, right? (More on that later…)
Travis is the big upward mover here, as he’s been the No. 3 fantasy second baseman so far, behind Gordon and Altuve. With Jose Reyes out, Travis is leading off for the Jays. He already has at least 20 runs and RBI, with seven homers and a batting average hovering around .300. For more of my thoughts on him (and a couple other guys on this list) check out my recent Early-Season Risers column.
Wichita is the most nondescript city I’ve ever spent time in. The only major feature that’s stuck in my mind is the massive concrete drainage ditch that runs between the northbound and southbound lanes of the highway that runs through the center of town. Beautiful.
Russell is really tough to rank. He’s shown flashes of potential greatness, with two early homers, but he’s also struck out a horrifying 24 times in just 55 PA. He’s been regularly batting ninth in Joe Maddon’s lineup, which severely limits his R/RBI upside.
He’s one of the very best prospects in baseball, but I have a hard time putting too much stock into his ability to produce for fantasy owners in 2015. That could change if he shows improvement with his contact rate, or if he moves up in the lineup, but for now I’ve got to be bearish on Russell’s 2015.
TIER FIVE – DAYTON, OHIO
Jonathan Schoop (+)
I had to go to Dayton once for my ex-fiancee’s brother’s wedding. Anyone who has ever been to Dayton probably has a similar reason for having gone there. It’s a sad city, where forgettable experiences take place.
Every few years, the passing thought of “Hey, I went to Dayton once” glides through your mind. Then it’s gone again, only to resurface several years later, when you process a random memory of that pizza place you ate at in Dayton that was just okay.
The miles upon miles of abandoned factories on the outskirts of Dayton are a harsh reminder of a region struck by extreme financial hardship, much like Stephen Drew’s .163 batting average leaves him a hollow shell of the fantasy commodity he once was.
I recently wrote about my pessimistic outlook on Odor, which you can read here.
TIER UGGLA – MOUND CITY, MISSOURI
Much like Dan Uggla, the town of Mound City, MO is uniquely terrible. On a deceptively pleasant Saturday morning a little over a decade ago, I was driving through Missouri on Interstate 29. Suddenly, thick black smoke started pouring out from under the hood of my 1994 Chrysler Concorde (affectionately known as “Jesus Chrysler Supercar”). I pulled ol’ JCS over to the side of the road, called AAA, and got myself towed to the nearest town large enough to have a sizable auto-repair shop.
That town was Mound City, Missouri. According to Wikipedia, the only two notable people to ever come from Mound City were an actor from some old 1960’s TV Western, and a notorious serial killer. That seems about right.
It being Saturday morning, the mechanic told me the words I least wanted to hear in the entire world: “We can’t get that part ‘til Monday.” I don’t know much about cars, but something — made of plastic, perhaps? — had caught fire and melted onto something else, which had gotten all hot and ruined. (I told you I don’t know much about cars, give me a break.)
So, I walked across the street and checked into the misleadingly pleasant Super 8 motel, which was pretty much brand new at the time and did not suck, unlike the rest of Mound City. After settling into my room, I asked the front desk clerk where a guy could get a decent meal in town.
She pointed me toward Quacker’s Bar and Grill, an inauspicious building which I’m almost certain was just a gutted doublewide mobile home. Still, the sign said they had two things I never pass up, fried catfish and cold beer — ICE COLD, even, if the sign was to be believed.
It’s probably important to note that I was a bit of a hippie in my younger days. At the time, I had a wild mess of shaggy hair that flowed down well past my shoulders, along with a truly awful goatee that hung several inches below my chin. It wasn’t exactly like Jimmy Stewart stepped out of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and into Quacker’s that day.
Speaking of old movies, you know how the out-of-towner walks into the local place and time seems to stop, as everyone turns to stare at the weird outsider who dares support this business with his patronage? I’ve never experienced that more fully than I did at Quacker’s.
As the door creaked shut behind me, the only other sound was of Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away” playing on a crackling stereo. By this point, it was early evening, and the Saturday night crowd had packed Quacker’s with eager anticipation of the fried catfish to come. At this moment, however, the focus was entirely on me.
I meekly asked the waitress where I should sit, and she led me to the only empty table — a table for four, right smack in the middle of the
doublewide trailer fine-dining establishment. Seger encouraged me to roll him away, roll him away tonight, and I wanted to roll right on with him, straight out of Quacker’s. Unfortunately, it was far too late for that — leaving would have been the most awkward way to deal with the situation, as I was stuck in this town for at least another 36 hours.
I’ve been inside plenty of mobile homes in my day, and when I looked at the bar, I realized that it was most likely located where the bathroom would have been, before they gutted the trailer to build the temple of fine eats that was Quacker’s. I took a moment to appreciate the ingenuity, before pondering if Quacker’s had a restroom in its new and “improved” floor plan.
The waitress asked me what I’d like to drink, and I swiftly informed her of my entire order, consisting of fried catfish, a glass of water and a bottle of Coors Original. I placed heavy emphasis on my desire for a bottled beer, as I didn’t particularly want a beverage from the bathroom-bar. I was dismayed when I saw that my water was poured there, not at a hypothetical separate beverage station near the kitchen.
After a few minutes that felt like hours, the other patrons slowly resumed their conversations. My food came, the catfish was decent, the beer was cold, and all seemed right in the world again. Then it came time to pay the check.
AAA has a feature which covers your hotel, meals, etc., if you get stranded for a couple days like I was. Just keep your credit card receipts, and everything within reason is reimbursed. The waitress brought my check and I produced my Visa card, which Morgan Freeman had assured me is accepted everywhere. Morgan Freeman is a liar.
I kid you not, the waitress held my card high up in the air and exclaimed loudly enough for all of Quacker’s to hear, “A credit card?!” The restaurant was silent for a few moments. Then, every single person there burst into laughter, in near-perfect unison.
As if unearthed from some nightmare borne of a feverish mind, the entirety of Mound City stared and laughed. My panic broke quickly enough to wonder whether they cackled together out of habit, or if there was a greater power at play, pulling their strings behind the scenes. The panic immediately returned.
I threw a completely random amount of cash onto the table and departed Quacker’s posthaste. The eerie uniform chortling echoed through my ears as I retreated to the relative safety of the Super 8. I remained in my motel room until my car was ready on Monday morning, with the only exceptions being two trips to the McDonald’s across the parking lot.
As a result of this incident, I don’t really listen to Bob Seger anymore, and I have an unhealthy distrust of Morgan Freeman. At this point, you are most assuredly wondering why I’ve written in such detail about my experience in Mound City, Missouri.
I took the time to share this story because this is what it feels like to own Dan Uggla. Owning Uggla turns your league-mates into Quacker’s patrons, cackling maniacally in unison as you put yourself through the catfish dinner from hell.
You’ll end up emotionally scarred, and you’ll probably overpay for Brandon Phillips in a trade some owners consider vetoing. You will finish in the bottom third of your league, before quietly retiring from fantasy sports entirely a few months later.
Should you own Dan Uggla in a fantasy league? Should you visit Mound City, Missouri? The answer to each question is the same; now, tomorrow, and forever.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.