Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's one of the favorite refrains from a losing fantasy owner - "If only so-and-so were healthy, I'd have won my league. Doesn't matter the sport - football, baseball or basketball, the refrain is the same.
Last football season it was the Tom Brady owners. Over the winter it was the Al Jefferson, Danny Granger, Michael Redd and Amare Stoudemire crowd.
Here with the "Boys of Summer" we have owners crying already and it's not even the All-Star break. But in the marathon which is the major baseball season, there are some players who just don't seem to be able to get their names on the lineup card day in day out. Sure there are the serious knee injuries, hamstring tears, elbow and shoulder injuries to pitchers, but there are also the guys who always seem to have a cold or a migraine or a broken finger nail.
It's the later group which drives a fantasy owner crazy. We know and understand the seriousness of "Tommy John Surgery" and can build strategies around it. What kills owners is the player who is seemingly healthy, but still can't get on the diamond. We put them in our lineup and then when we look at the boxscore the next day, their name is missing.
Let's look at five of these guys. Their names are well known and if on the field could certainly help our squads. But for some unknown reason, they just can't get out there. Certainly none of these guys will every be confused with Cal Ripken Jr. or Lou Gehrig.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets - Beltran might be the president of this club, always suffering from one ailment or another. Although he has played in 140-or-more games every season since 2001, when he's hurting his game suffers a lot. After stealing 30+ bases from 2001-2004, he's averaged just 21 the last four years. Worse, he is always dealing with injuries and you have to read the injury reports every day to get the latest information update. Here is a list of the ailments he's dealt with since 2005: strained right quadriceps (two times), left shoulder, right hamstring, right knee (four times), left quadriceps, left knee (two times), oblique strain (two times), flu, stiff neck, and stomach virus. Currently he's on the DL and yesterday was scheduled to be in Colorado at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic to examine the bone bruise under his right knee.
Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Seattle - In his heyday he was the most valuable player in fantasy baseball, hitting 40+ homers, knocking in 100+ runs, stealing bases and batting over .300. But since 2001 Griffey's been part of the walking wounded and not able to play very often. He's only had 500 at-bats once in the last eight years and he doesn't run anymore because of all the leg and knee injuries. The once great "Junior" is no longer fantasy relevant.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta - Between 1996-2003 Jones played in 153-or-more games every season. He also drove in more than 100 runs in each of those years and hit over .300 seven times. Unfortunately, the past five years have been filled with trips to the DL and days off. Despite winning a batting title and hitting for decent power in 2008, he played in just 128 games which made it difficult to game plan. This year Jones is playing more but hitting for less average and power.
Eric Byrnes, OF, Arizona - When healthy he is an interesting combination of power and speed. In 2007, his best fantasy season, he hit 21 HRs and stole 50 bases. But since then he has barely been able to get on the field. He tore both of his hamstrings in 2008 leading to a disastrous season when fantasy owners had counted on him to be a main cog in their offense and he's again on the DL with a broken left hand in 2009.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati - First it was the flu, then inner ear infection and then dizziness. Then he went on the DL for "stress-related issues." Please - General George S. Patton wouldn't accept the "stress excuse" and neither do fantasy owners. What's stressful about being paid millions of dollars to play a kids game? If I had him in any league, I'd be trading him away for the first available offer. Too bad too, because the guy can hit a baseball. But reliability is very important too.
The bottom line is it's impossible to produce fantasy statistics while sitting on the sidelines or in the dugout and even worse for owners is uncertainty.