Well folks, we are headed into the All Star break and it’s time to take stock of the first half of the fantasy baseball season.  I am currently leading or in second place in all of my leagues, but I am in no mood to celebrate.

Why, you ask?

His name is Ryan Braun.

Ryan BraunI was unlucky enough to pick third or fourth in four different leagues this year, and you guessed it…I drafted Braun across the board.  I reassured myself with every draft that Braun is a beast.  “Don’t worry Dennis, even if anything comes of this PED stuff it won’t be until after the season,” I said to myself.  My mutterings became like white noise in the background as I was walking out of drafts with an ACME sized anvil hanging over my head.

You are probably saying, “Hey buddy you knew the risk.  Why should I listen to you complain?”

You don’t have to listen.  You can go back to your cozy beds filled with the Miguel Cabrera’s of the world.  I’ll just be tossing some of my worthless Barry Bonds 1987 Fleer Rookie cards on the fire and reminiscing about times gone by when fantasy owners didn’t have to also be labor lawyers in their spare time.

It’s true that I knew the risk when I drafted him, but who can blame me?  I’m a gambler at heart and I have the ATM receipts from Atlantic City to prove it (NOTE: I seem to have misplaced the massive deposit slips I promised my wife though).  I saw a mark and I took it down.  How could I turn down the clear cut 2nd or 3rd best player at #3 or #4 overall in every draft?  It’s like Braun and I were destined to be together.

That last part scares me a little.

The entire reason I stopped doing fantasy baseball back in the late 1990’s in the first place was because of guys like Bret Boone and Barry Bonds.  Drafting back then was like playing a dart toss carnival game at the Jersey shore.  You would show up to a draft and toss a dart and hope the balloon (player) was filled with juice.  Your eighth round pick might break records that were set during the Deadball era.  They were wild times.

Now you have to check in Vegas’s black book as well as your draft day cheat sheets just to make a pick.  (I think only NBA players are in that actually – see Charles Barkley and Antoine Walker).

I wouldn’t even be sweating the Biogenesis stuff so much if Braun could just play.  When he was playing early in the season he wasn’t himself, but he was still very useful.  Since then he’s been on every list possible.  The disabled list, the bereavement list, the cheating-lying scumbag list.  Oh wait that list hasn’t been announced yet, but has been leaked more times than if Pam and Tommy did another sex tape.

Braun has his injured thumb for an excuse, but it’s his head I’m worried about.  How do you stare down a 90 MPH fastball when you know your entire legacy and life’s work hangs in the balance of an ongoing investigation?  If it is proven that he cheated, Braun will face the biggest backlash the sport has ever seen, hands down.  The common fan will never forgive Braun for going after his specimen collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr at a press conference when he happened to win his appeal.

I am more worried about the Brewers than my own fantasy baseball teams.  It’s not like they can whip out a Yankee-sized checkbook and replace him.  The way their farm system looks makes Mets’ fans pump out their chests.  A season-long suspension might single-handedly kill baseball in Milwaukee.  The Brewers chose to make him the face of the franchise.  He rewarded them with an MVP and they rewarded him with the biggest contract in their history.  Now he may kill their playoff hopes for the next ten years.

Don’t cry for me Argentina!  Oops, I meant fantasy baseball gods.  My fantasy teams won’t be in as bad a shape as the Brewers if Braun gets suspended.  I made back-up plans.  I even made back-up plans for my back-up plans and should at least keep my head above water.  I traded for Chris Davis in the leagues that I could get him early and at a reasonable rate to make up for the homeruns and RBIs.  I traded for Desmond Jennings and Starling Marte to make up for the stolen bases.  I even took a shot on Jason Heyward using an ultimate buy low package where I sent two waiver wire pick-ups for Cole Hamels and Heyward.

I may be able to fill out a line-up, but I was much happier when Braun was stashed on my disabled list and I didn’t have to think about him every day (like the Yankees with Alex Rodriguez rehabbing in Tampa).  Now he’s on the bereavement list and I can’t even clear a bench spot.  In my three daily lineup change leagues that has become a big problem.

Braun is in fantasy roster limbo.  He could come back after the break and play like an angel delivering my team to a championship while he fights to defend his name.  He could be a demon that gets cast off of my roster when his appeal goes down in flames.  Or he could just hang around my bench popping his head in and out of my lineup from day to day resembling a shell of his former self.

Either way, the torture of fielding terrible trade offers for Braun has put me in my own little circle of hell.  You wouldn’t believe the names that have filled my inbox.  At this point I would be happy if I got offered B.J. Upton for Ryan Braun.  Not that I would take it.  It would just be nice to be offered someone that was actually drafted instead of picked up off the waiver wire the day before.


This article originally appeared at www.fantasyjudgment.com as part of an ongoing diary series.

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