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To panic or not to panic?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When you're in college, you'll take any job you can get.

Which is why during my senior year, I took a gig out in Skaneateles, New York (pronounced Skinny-atlas) as a public address announcer for a high school football team.

For $50 a game, it was hardly worth the price of gas (Skaneateles ain't exactly a stone's throw away from Syracuse), but I knew it would be good for my resume. So I said, "Why not?"

So at about 6 p.m. on a Friday night, I set out for Skaneateles. I was hoping to get there a half-hour early so I'd have a little time to get settled.

"Skinny-atlas, skinny-atlas," I repeated to myself as I walked to the car. And that's when chaos ensued.

The car wouldn't start.

For 10 minutes I struggled, turning my key a thousand different ways with no success. Meanwhile, I've never even been to Skaneateles and I have no idea how long it's going to take to get there.

My roommates were MIA and I knew I didn't have time to get a jump or call AAA.

So, I did the only thing I could do.

I ran.

Not all the way to Skaneateles. Even an Olympic marathoner wouldn't be able to get there before kickoff.

Finally, after about seven blocks I arrived at 814 Lancaster Avenue, the house where my old roommate Dean lived. I knocked on the door, still out of breath from my impromptu sprint across campus.

"What's up, Jesse?"

"Dean, I need your car. No time to explain. I'll have it back to you by nine, I promise."

I thought about it for a second.

"Maybe 10."

"Of course, man. If it's an emergency, go right ahead. We'll have a beer when you get back."

Dean saved my butt that day.

I made it to Skaneateles just in time for kickoff and the whole experience actually ended up being a lot of fun. Well, until the team's perfect season was wiped away because of an eligibility scandal. But that's a story for another day.

The point is, I panicked.

Somehow, by the grace of God, things worked out for me. But most of the time, that's not the right course of action. Especially in fantasy.

It's easy to lose your mind when it's August 9th and your team still has tons of ground to make up. Trust me, there have been days when I wanted to blow my whole team apart. But I've found that small, subtle changes are always better than moves of the flashy, knee-jerk variety. Let me show you what I mean.

1. One man's trash is another man's treasure: It's crazy the kind of players you'll find on the waiver wire this time of year.

Jonathan Papelbon and Jeremy Hellickson were both dropped in my league this week. That, ladies and gentleman, is called panicking.

Yes, Hellickson has lost two straight. But what about his previous seven starts (6-0, 2.09 ERA)? And so what if Papelbon has blown his last two save chances? That doesn't erase his five All-Star appearances or his streak of seven consecutive 30-save seasons.

Two All-Star caliber talents with proven track records? I couldn't press the add button fast enough.

2. Who cares what everyone else thinks? Pablo Sandoval's recent struggles had me searching for a new corner infielder. Adam Dunn, Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie, David Freese ... none of them really did it for me.

Finally, I stumbled on Darin Ruf, a 27-year-old outfielder/first baseman with only 38 games of big league experience. All his numbers looked good: a .303 batting average, a slugging percentage north of .500, three home runs in his last six appearances. But he was only owned in about 13 percent of leagues, compared to 68 percent for Michael Young and 48 percent for Mike Moustakas.

What would the other owners say if I took Ruf when guys like Morneau and Dunn were still on the table?

But then it hit me ... does it really matter?

Of course not. It's my team and I can do what I want. I liked Ruf's numbers and he seemed like a good fit. There's no harm in giving him a chance, right? If it doesn't work out, most of the players I passed on will still be there if I want them.

3. More is better: The wise philosopher Christopher Wallace (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) once said, "More money, more problems." Well, technically he rapped it and the phrase was actually "mo' money, mo' problems," but you get the idea.

He's probably right. But in fantasy, more is ALWAYS better, at least when it comes to position eligibility.

That's what intrigued me so much about Edwin Encarnacion. He could play first base or he could play third. Last year he even played the outfield a few times. With Albert Pujols on the disabled list and Sandoval struggling, the ability to use Encarnacion in more than one spot really struck a chord with me. Which is why I decided to pursue him in a trade.

And I will now discuss this further in bullet point No. 4.

4. Know what you can afford to lose: Encarnacions don't grow on trees. To get him, I knew I'd have to give up a lot.

I did some inventory and eventually I settled on three players I could afford to lose: Jonathan Lucroy, Jim Johnson and Justin Verlander.

Lucroy was expendable because I already had Joe Mauer to play catcher. With a huge lead in the saves category and Sergio Romo and Glen Perkins humming along, I felt like losing Johnson wouldn't be the end of the world either.

But those two alone wouldn't be enough to land Encarnacion. I knew that for this trade to be accepted, I was going to need a big name.

Verlander was perfect. I knew his name still carried a ton of weight and the truth was, I had been looking to get rid of him for a while now. I was sick of the inconsistency.

Harnessing the power of Verlander's last name, I swapped Verlander, Lucroy and Johnson for Encarnacion and Patrick Corbin, a player with less fame but better numbers than Verlander.

Not bad, right? One last thing before I go ...

5. Wait and see: Mike Leake, one of my starters, has been dropped in 8.6 percent of fantasy leagues over the last week.

True, he was awful against the Cardinals on Sunday (7 ER in 5 IP), but everyone's entitled to a bad outing once in a while. Leake's been terrific for me, and I'm not going to throw him to the wolves after one bad start.

If one bad start turns into three or four bad starts, we may have a problem. But until that happens, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

When it's panic time, you'll know where to find me. I'll be at Dean's front door begging for the keys to his Chevy.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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