You stay classy, Kansas City!

I get it, I think. Robby Cano didn’t pick your boy, Billy Big Country Butler for the Homerun Derby.  Instead of selecting your tubby golden boy he went with: Mark Trumbo, the 6’4” mountain of a man right fielder who knocked 29 homers last year and already has 22 this year; Jose Bautista, the guy that has averaged 49 HRs the last two years and is on pace for 54 this year; and Prince Fielder, your 2011 (and now 2012) homerun derby champ!  Not to mention the slew of worthy candidates that were snubbed, including Josh Hamilton (27 HRs), Adam Dunn (25 HRs) and David Ortiz (22 HRs) just to mention a few.

But no, you wanted to see Billy freaking Butler and his 16 HR power bat.  Billy currently checks in behind Josh Reddick, Trevor Plouffe and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the AL homeruns this year.  While Billy’s physique may represent that of a power hitter (and that’s being kind), the comparison ends there.  He has topped 20 HRs in a season exactly ONE time (21 in 2009).  I don’t care if the derby was held at the house Butler grew up in, with so many potent bats he simply didn’t deserve to step up to the plate.


So while the first couple rounds of booing were half expected, and somehow a show of support for your guy, you just couldn’t let it go.  The toothless inbreed gene took over and you found something, anything, to cheer for.  It must have felt great, because lets be honest, what have the Royals brought to the table in the last few (27) years?

The silver lining is that you had Bud Selig throwing up in his mouth, all but ensuring it will be another 39 years (at least) before you get a sniff of hosting duties!  Crawl back into your prairie huts and keep telling yourself you have the best BBQ (when the rest of us know that Texas,  Memphis, and maybe even Carolina have got you beat)!

Speaking of Bud, when are you going to take The Machines advice and give the derby the jolt it really needs: metal bats!  We don’t want to see guys hit homers into McCovey Cove; we want guys clearing San Francisco Bay.  We want Prince Fielder hitting balls from Kauffman Stadium to Arrowhead Stadium.  Just think about it Bud and ask yourself this simple question: What Would Roger Do?

2012 Top 10 Fantasy RBs

While The Machine may have been slow to recognize the housing bubble burst (anyone looking for a $900k, 700 square-foot condo in the greater San Francisco area?) we were all over the Running Back Bubble! While the other “experts” were ramming the RB-RB Theory down your throat, The Machine was collecting stud QBs, WRs, TEs, and – most importantly – Championships! Because of the pass happy, spread look, 2-RB offensive systems it is more critical than ever to hit homeruns with your tailbacks. Here’s the Top 10 heading into the 2012 season (Total Yards/Total TDs/Receptions)

1. Arian Foster (1841/10/53) – Consider The Machine part of the Arian Nation! What’s not to love? Strength between the tackles, burst to turn the corner, soft hands, nimble feet, just enough wiggle to make people miss and he tweets pictures of his injuries! That’s my definition of an all purpose back. That looming hamstring injury at the start of the regular season scared some people away. But the “gamblers” (The Machine faithful) undoubtedly rode this beast to the playoffs. Time to double-down and grab this stud early (like first overall) and watch the wins pile up.

2. LeSean McCoy (1624/20/48) – Andy Reid will never win a Super bowl, but man this guy has the Midas touch for producing uber-productive fantasy tailbacks; from Brian Westbrook to LeSean McCoy. Hell, even Duce Staley was relevant! While it will be hard for LaShady to top last years numbers (come on, 20 TDs!), he’ll make up for it with an increase in receptions and receiving yards. Philly’s offense is reminiscent of a Tecmo Bowl squad, with LaShady playing the roll of Bo Jackson. As a bonus their offensive line coach is back for another year as the defense coordinator. This team will have to score a lot of points to have a chance.

3. Ray Rice (2068/15/76) – The Ravens are going to have a major identity crisis this year. They’ve had a ton of success as a ground and pound offense, with a dominating defense to back them up. However, the defense has some glaring holes (namely their senor citizen line backing corps and secondary) and is going to be a liability this year, putting the offense in a bad spot: playing from behind. The Machine has little faith in Joe Flacco and his merry crew: Bolden (slow), Evans (crusty), Smith (Mr. Go-Route). The silver lining to all of this is that Ray Rice will be a major part of every game plan and the production will continue. His fantasy floor is high (in standard scoring leagues he scored 14+ fantasy points in 13 of 16 games), and his durability is a fantasy asset (has played in every game for 3 straight years); being able to plug in your studs each and every week is huge.

4. Chris Johnson (1465/4/57) – Which CJ28 is going to show up, the 2009-10 sensational speedster or the 2011 oft-maligned version? With a top 5 ranking The Machines stance is pretty clear; we’re willing to bet on a 27 year old feature back that already has two 1600+ yards from scrimmage seasons under his belt, 42 trips to pay dirt, and sub 4.3 speed. Sign us up for the 1500 yards and double-digit scores please!

5. Daren McFadden (768/5/19) – What do we love about Run DMC (other than his ridiculously awesome nickname)? That stat line is for 7 games. Extrapolated over a full season that’s some of the charts production (1755, 11, 43). What do we hate about Run DMC? That stat line is for 7 games. Homeboy is currently the biggest tease in the fantasy world. He burned a lot of bridges for fantasy teams in the second half of last year. So why the aggressive ranking when the injury whistle is blaring? Because The Machine is concerned with one thing: Winning Championships. Run DMC has two things going for him this year that he has never had before: a competent front office and an empowered coaching staff. No more Big Al calling the ‘H-back sweep left’ from the Owners Box play after play, series after series. Sure, it might mean fewer touches per game, but more games overall. Run DMC Run!

6. Ryan Mathews (1646/6/42) – Mathews 2011 season went a long way to prove that he isn’t as big of a pussy as we thought he was after 2010. He fully showcased his skills and justified the Chargers move up to grab him 12 overall in 2010. Despite his propensity to put the ball on the ground at a Tiki Barberesque pace (13:10 TD to fumble ratio), his head coach hasn’t updated the playbook since 1996 (read: run heavy) and Mike Tolbert is now a Panther. Mathews is primed to take the next step.

7. Maurice Jones-Drew (1980/11/43) – One of The Machines all time favorites, and your 2011 NFL Rushing Title Champ. MJD is built like a brick house and can squat a Volkswagen. So what’s holding him back from claiming a higher spot on this list? Well, in alphabetical order: Bratkowski (Bob), Eben (Britton), Gabbert (Blaine), Gabbert (Blaine), Gabbert (Blaine), Monroe (Eugene), Mularky (Mike), Smith (Gene)….

8. Trent Richardson (Rookie) – When I die I hope I’m reincarnated as a 1950’s NFL Hall of Fame running back so that I can get a free pass to be a terrible actor and say as much horseshit to the media as Jim Brown does. Seriously Jim, do yourself a favor, toss the League of Nations hat in the washing machine and check yourself into a retirement home. I’m sure you’ll be a real terror on the shuffleboard court. This ranking alone tells you everything you need to know about this Richardson. He is special running back and is going to be a workhorse from day one.

9. Matt Forte (1487/4/52) – The Machine can’t blame Matt Forte for wanting to get paid; he’s among the league leaders in touches per game (21.25 touches/game) and makes the most of his touches (117 yards/game). He has produced (in fantasy & reality) like a franchise caliber running back and now he wants his bank. The Machine also can’t blame the Bears for not wanting to pay him. Sure, the production outpaced the Contract, but isn’t that the point?! Has hit the 1000 touches mile marker and broke down at the end of next year. The Bears made a leverage play with the Michael Bush signing (4 years, $14M…..$7M guaranteed), so this situation could get real ugly. We love what Forte brings to the field, but this ranking comes with a giant asterisk next to it. Stay tuned.

10. Adrian Peterson (1109/13/18) – We all know what ‘All Day’ was capable of BEFORE reconstructive knee surgery. Over the last two seasons AP has averaged a healthy 16 fantasy points per game despite playing behind arguably the worst offensive line in football, and dealing with the Brett Favre-Donovan McNabb-Christian Ponder experiment. This is another situation worth monitoring, but if Peterson is running and cutting in training camp and/or preseason The Machine has no qualms tabbing him the #10 fantasy running back.

2012 Top 10 Fantasy QBs

The Machine has researched, reviewed, watched game tape and watched it again to provide you with the Top 10 Fantasy QBs (note: this is fantasy, not real life.  That’s why Tony Romo’s in the Top 10).  Note, next to each player’s name is their 2011 stats (yards/tds/ints).

1. Aaron Rodgers (4,643/45/6).  A-Rod (you know, the clutch, non-steroid A-Rod) stands on top of the fantasy football world.  Not only are his 2011 stats phenomenal (don’t forget he also had 3 rushing tds…that’s nearly 50 tds of production), but the 2012 Pack should be much like the 2011 Pack…a powerhouse pass first offense with multiple weapons.  The running game continues to be mediocre, leaving little room for doubt as to what drives this team.

2.  Tom Brady (5235/39/12).  In real life, as long as Tom Tom’s not playing the G-Men, he’s a winner.  In fantasyland, he’s a winner every day (arguably, with 3 superbowl victories and Gisele as a wife, he’s a winner in real life too).  Much like the Packers, the Patriots are loaded at receiving weapons and have an almost non-existent rushing game.  5,000+ yards again is not out of the question.   Perhaps most impressive, in clutch time (defined in fantasy as Weeks 14-16) he averaged 327 yards and 2 touchdowns per game.

3.  Matthew Stafford (5,038/41/16).  Is it possible to quietly throw for over 5,000 yards and 40+ tds?  It is if you’re Matthew Stafford.  Stafford showed what he could when healthy.  Playing a full season for the first time in his pro career, Stafford shattered all doubts that he’s a franchise QB.  He’s only 24 years old, and hasn’t even reached his prime.  The only concern with him is his health, and he showed last season that he can play through pain.  If healthy, the sky’s the limit.  And with Megatron, he’s a threat to post huge numbers week in and week out.

4.  Eli Manning (4,933/29/16).  This ain’t yo daddy’s New York Giants.  Gone are the ground and pound Giants.  The G-Men are unquestionably a pass-heavy offense.  It only took 2 Superbowl MVPs, but Eli is finally getting recognition as a Top 5 QB.  Fantasy-wise, he’s also getting respect as a baller.  Averaging more than 300 yards per game last year, there’s no reason to believe why he won’t provide the same amount of fantasy success in 2012.  The running game has not improved from last year, which, for the record, was the worst in the NFL.  However, the passing game is still solid.  Nicks is a stud.  Same with Cruz.  And the G-Men will find others to step up to replace Manningham and Ballard (just like they did when Steve Smith and Kevin Boss left).  The only knock on Fantasy-Eli is his interceptions, which he did cut down by 9 when compared to 2010.  Look for that trend to continue this year.

5.  Drew Brees (5,476/46/14).  Like most people who were smart enough to have Brees on their team (like yours truly) he responded by almost single-handedly bringing you a fantasy championship.  He set the all-time record for passing yards, averaging a ridiculous 346 yards per game.  Why then, does the Machine have Drew rated the #5 QB?  Well, what a difference a few months make.  Thus far, Drew has been a no-show at OTAs…fist deep in an epic fight with management (seriously why haven’t they signed him to a long term deal yet?).  On top of that, the coaching staff (and team morale) have been gutted thanks to Bounty-gate, and Drew very well may not show up to work until August.  All this adds up to a down year for the reigning fantasy QB champ.  That said, he is Drew Brees, and should still be able to put up Top-5 stats, however many will overreach and take him as the first or second QB off the board.  Expectations must be tempered.

6. Cam Newton (4,051/21/17).  Cam was simply a stud in his rookie year, more than validating his selection as the #1 pick in the 2011 Draft.  He was even more impressive fantasy-wise.  What has most people salivating was his 14 rushing tds (and 735 rushing yards) to back up his solid passing numbers.  Double-digit rushing tds for a QB is fantasy crack, and Cam should continue to be a dual threat QB in year 2, thus more than worthy as the #6 fantasy QB.

7.  Tony Romo (4,184/31/10).  If you’re a real football fan, you don’t want Tony Romo under center.  He has this cavalier approach to quarterbacking that drives you crazy, as well as an ability to not show up when it matters most.  As a fantasy football fan, however, you have no problems with Tony at the helm.  The Cowboys are stacked with weapons, Bryant and Austin are a formidable 1-2 punch, and Witten is arguably the best safety valve in the league.  Tony should be able to consistently deliver solid fantasy numbers, just don’t expect that to equate to real success.

8.  Philip Rivers (4,624/27/20).  Rivers has averaged nearly 4,400 yards and 30 tds over the past 4 years.  This is an impressive display of high-level consistency.  However, there are some warning signs which indicate that that he may be south of those numbers this year.  Vincent Jackson is gone, and Antono Gates is a year older with lingering health issues.  They’ve added Roscoe Parrish and Robert Meacham, but neither of them have ever been (or are) #1 WRs.  Rivers is a gunslinger, he just doesn’t have the ammunition to be a Top-flight fantasy QB.

9.  Peyton Manning (0/0/0).  Is there a bigger risk/reward pick in fantasy football this year?  The fact that Peyton didn’t take a snap last year, but is still a consensus Top-10 fantasy QB, is proof of his greatness, and proof that people think he’s back (or as close to back as he can be) to the old Peyton.  We got to believe Peyton has too much pride to come back and not be in top form.  The ultimate professional and student of the game, changing teams shouldn’t affect him at all.  Emerging WR Demayrious Thomas should absolutely thrive with Peyton under center, and Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme will resemble Brandon Stokely and Dwight Clark, respectively.  Peyton simply makes those around him better.  Notwithstanding, dude’s had 4 neck surgeries in the last 18 months, and he’s just one bounty away from sipping applesauce through a straw.  If you draft him, make sure you have a serviceable back up.  Buyer beware.

10.  Ryan Fitzpatrick (3,832/24/23).  There are many QBs worthy of the #10 spot (Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan), but the Machine gives the nod to Fitz.  Call us a Bill-iever, but we like what’s going on in Buffalo.  We also like the pass-catching RBs in Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, who each caught 39 balls last year.  Over his first 8 games, before Fitz cracked two ribs in Week 8, he was averaging nearly 250 yards per game with 14 tds.  In the ensuing 9 games after rib-gate, Fitz dropped to 232 yards a game and 10 tds.  He needs to cut down on the ints (you would think an Ivy League grad wouldn’t make so many bad decisions) but another year and Chan’s offense should help to reduce that number.  Look for Fitz to return to his pre-cracked ribs form in 2012.