By Jonathan Lasken, GM Clifton Clams


            Like a game of rock-paper-scissors, since 2009, the top spot in the JLB has generally had three components:  Foxes-Clams-Grenades.  The past 7 winter and midseason reports have been written by the Clams (2), Grenades (1), or Foxes (4).  But this year the league has been more competitive, and several upstarts are seeking to crash this elusive party. 


            The old guard, however, still reigns.  Built on exceptional pitching, the Foxes are the closest thing to a dynasty the JLB has seen in a while.  The Grenades have the best balance, containing elite hitters like Albert Pujols and elite pitchers like Justin Verlander, but lacking the top to bottom quality on either side of the ball that their rivals have.  The Clams, composed entirely of awful players piloted by a terrible manager (known for overvaluing his players), are built entirely on “repeated luck” that every year allows their players to “overproduce” and places the Clams in the top spot for a while (and they would finish there, but for Lasken’s September commitments).


            This season has been more of the same from Lasken, Moss, and Davis.  Since the end of May, JLB has been the same three-horse race it has been for the better part of the last half-decade.  But with time comes new challengers.  The once prominent 66ers have made a comeback and are looking to challenge for a spot in the money.  And the Alleycats, backed by an elite pitching staff and a combined 15 yahoo medals, are taking aim at the big boys.  Can the old guard hold on?   Will the newcomers scratch their way into the top?  We’ll have to wait for the second half of the season to see.  One thing is for certain, however, with the top three teams separated by less than 5 points, this year is the most competitive JLB we’ve seen in a long time.


            With that I present to you your All-Star and All-Bust teams:


All Bust


Catcher.  Carlos Santana, Arlington Arsenal:  After last season one thing was clear about Carlos Santana, he was either going to be great (27 Home Runs) or lousy (.239 Batting Average).  The batting average stayed and the power went.  A disappointment for the Arsenal who will be hoping that this year is the fluke.  (Honorable Mention: Mike Napoli, Clifton Clams)


First Base.  Adrian Gonzalez, Alexandria Alleycats:  When the Alleycats decided to give it a shot after taking over the team from Dan Fleeter, they surely did so with the expectation that Adrian Gonzalez would have more than 6 home runs after the first half of the season.  The collapse of Gonzalez makes the current ranking of the Alleycats all the more impressive.  (Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer.)


Second Base.  Dustin Pedroia, Reston Roundabouts:  Another disappointing Red Sox, the failures of Pedroia have played a major role in the collapse of this year’s Roundabout team.  Apparently, short, balding, angry old men are not the way to win a fantasy championship.  (Honorable Mention: Dan Uggla, Great Falls Grenades)


Third Base.  Evan Longoria, Herndon Heroes:  The danger in basing part of your team on a single star player without an adequate backup is that when that player gets hurt, your team collapses.  For an example of this phenomenon please see the 2012 Herndon Heroes and Evan Longoria.  (Honorable Mention: Ryan Zimmerman, Manassas Manatees; Alex Liddi, Alexandria Alleycats.)


Shortstop.  Jose Reyes, Centerville 66ers:  The easy pick here would be Troy Tulowitzki due to his injuries, but that would be letting Reyes—who has been absolutely terrible despite having a fulsome 341 at bats—off the hook.  Centreville was betting that Reyes had recaptured his mojo after an elite season last year, but thanks to fine managerial skills of Ozzie Guillen Reyes has been able to prove the Sixers wrong, returning to mediocrity.  (Honorable Mention: Troy Tulowitzki, Falls Church Foxes)


Outfield 1.  Dayan Viciedo, Alexandria Alleycats:  The Alleycats famously discussed the elite players they received for one of the most valuable JLB assets in existence, a cheap, elite pitcher (Jon Lester).  Viciedo has shocked the Alleycats by being exactly as worthless as Yahoo, all fantasy baseball experts, Jon Lasken, other league members, all world wide web articles, and all newspapers predicted.  Congratulations to the Alleycats on their prize.    


Outfield 2.  Michael Brantley, Alexandria Alleycats: The other key cog in the Lester trade, Brantley has performed above everyone’s expectations, everyone except the Alleycats.  Rather than being completely useless, Brantley is only marginally useless as the Yahoo! 37th ranked outfielder and the 134 player overall.  Ironically, Brantley finds himself on this list not due to his baseball acumen, but due to the foolish statements of his owners. 


Outfield 3.  Kyle Blanks, Alexandria Alleycats:  Another player acquired in the Lester deal on the all bust team?  Blanks, who has not looked like a quality player to anyone but the Alleycats since 2008, has continued to show his uselessness.  Although the rest of the league understands that the Lester deal was one of the worst in league history (ameliorated somewhat by Lester’s epic collapse, which we may understand as karma attacking the Roundabouts), it remains to be seen whether the Alleycats learn from their mistakes, or continue to pretend as if they did not make one.  (Honorable Mentions: Jacoby Ellsbury, Arlington Arsenal; Michael Morse, Sterling Starfish.)


Designated Hitter.  Pablo Sandoval, Great Falls Grenades.  While Sandoval is not a designated hitter by trade, “panda,” who appears to eat more than the entire Moss family on any given night, sure looks like one.   Injuries have hurt the panda’s season, who otherwise might well have avoided this list.  (Honorable Mention: Lance Berkman, Arlington Arsenal.)


All Stars


Catcher.  Carlos Ruiz, Alexandria Alleycats:  At age 33, an unnamed offseason program (HGH?) has caused Ruiz to blossom into the top fantasy catcher.  Carlos Ruiz has more home runs (14) this year than he hit in the last two years combined, and his first half of the season has put him in a position to eclipse his total run and rbi numbers for each of the past two years by the end of July.  (Backup: Yadier Molina, Manassas Manatees)


First Base.  Mark Trumbo, Arlington Arsenal:  Sometimes you find a player whose success is so shocking that flummoxes even the smartest of experts.  Rotoworld, on May 31, 3012 declared that “[h]e [Mark Trumbo] appears poised to hold his value in even the shallowest of mixed leagues.”  Less than a week later rotoworld explained that “we strongly believe he is going to tail off. Sell high if you can.”  For a full history of rotoworld’s inability to believe and not-believe in Mark Trumbo’s success, please check the website.  (Backup: Adam Dunn, Arlington Arsenal)


Second Base.   Jose Altuve, Fairfax Firemen:  Helping to make up for the legacy of David Eckstein, Altuve is proving that size does not matter after all.    (Backup: Mike Aviles, Herndon Heroes)


Third Base.  Edwin Encarnacion, Reston Roundabouts/Sterling Starfish:  Every year for what seems like forever, pundits have predicting that Encarnacion will break out.  Whether this year’s beast-mode version is here to stay will determine whether the Roundabouts or Starfish end up happy.  (Backup: Martin Prado, Great Falls Grenades.)


Shortstop.  Trevor Plouffe, Falls Church Foxes:  Of all the all stars, Plouffe may be the player that has been the greatest shock of all.  Plouffe came out of absolutely nowhere to hit 19 home runs in his first 237 at bats this year.  A great add for the Foxes.  (Backup:  Starlin Castro, Clifton Clams)


Outfield 1.  Andrew McCutchen, Centerville 66ers:  Several years ago, the Clams told the 66ers that they were greatly overvaluing McCtuchen.  And the Clams were wrong. 


Outfield 2.  Carlos Beltran, Arlington Arsenal:  Suffering from a knee injury that hampered his production for the past few years, Beltran was viewed as one of the worst signings in JLB.  He was thus cited as the primary reason why the Arsenal would be better next year.  But Beltran has shown that even with all the pieces clicking the Arsenal are still worse than the Clams. 


Outfield 3.  Adam Jones, Reston Roundabouts:  Adam Jones has quietly gotten better each year until this year, when he noisily reached elite status.  He is likely to be a Roundabout cornerstone for many years.  (Backups: Jason Kubel, Reston Robots; Michael Bourne, Herndon Heroes; Mike Trout, Manassas Manatees.[1])


Designated Hitter.  David Ortiz, Clifton Clams: Signed for approximately 1/9 of the value of Hanley Ramirez, Ortiz is an example of how the Clams continue to find underappreciated talent in the oddest of places.  Ortiz, still looking as mean as ever, but having shed a lot of pounds, has returned with a vengeance.  (Backups:  Melky Cabrera, Great Falls Grenades.)


Starting Pitcher 1.  James McDonald, Clifton Clams: McDonald was picked up from the trash heap and has worked his way towards becoming one of the best fantasy pitchers in the league.  Whether McDonald can continue his success will be an important question for the clams going forward.


Starting Pitcher 2.  R.A. Dickey, Arlington Arsenal:  What is a fast knuckle ball?  The league, confused by the speedy, 80-mile per hour knuckleball of R.A. Dickey, has been consistently mowed down—until recently that is.  It may be that the league has figured out Mr. Dickey and the Arsenal need to pull out.


Starting Pitcher 3.  Chris Sale, Alexandria Alleycats:  Despite Ozzie Guillen’s best efforts to destroy his career, Chris Sale has persevered.  With a new manager in Robin Ventura, Sale has become one of the truly elite pitchers in baseball.


Starting Pitcher 4.  Jake Peavy, Clifton Clams:  Peavy is another example of Ozzie Guillen’s ineptness.  After years of mismanagement by Guillen, Peavy has returned to elite status. 


Starting Pitcher 5.   Ryan Dempster, Herdon Heroes:  The general rule of thumb is that if you pitch for the Cubs, you need to be really good for anyone to pay attention to you.  An ERA of approximately 2, however, will do the trick.  Congratulations Ryan, we are finally looking your way.


Relief Pitcher 1.  Fernando Rodney, Falls Church Foxes:  Fernando Rodney is a terrible pitcher.  But for one half of one year he was able to be the best closer in baseball.   And thus he deserved a place on this squad even though it makes me cringe to write these sentences.


Relief Pitcher 2.  Aroldis Chapman, Sterling Starfish:  Is Aroldis Chapman playing the same game as everyone else?  Who strikes out two out of every three batters they face?  Sick.


Relief Pitcher 3.  Kenley Jansen, Great Falls Grenades:  If you are going to strike out an obscene number of batters, it is best to have a bizarre first name.  Kenley and Aroldis demonstrate that the weirder your name, the more batters you K (potentially batters are distracted trying to make sense of the clearly misspelled name on the jumbotron). 


*          *          *


Starting Lineup


Andrew McCutchen, OF

Adam Jones, OF

David Ortiz, DH

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B

Mark Trumbo, 1B

Carlos Beltran, OF

Trevor Plouffe, SS

Carlos Ruiz, C

Jose Altuve, 2B


James McDonald, SP

[1] Just because his current owners refuse to actually play their best player shouldn’t mean that the JLB all star squad should suffer.  So, screw you Manatees, Mike Trout is on the club.