I often joke that I'm capable of ruining the career of any player in Major League Baseball. All I have to do to send even the best of players into a crippling tailspin is pick them in the early rounds of my fantasy draft.
Don't believe me? Ask Grady Sizemore how he's been doing since I selected him in the second round of my 2009 draft.
Sizemore isn't the only one. Florida Marlins infielder Hanley Ramirez was a fantasy superstar from his rookie year of 2006 through 2010. He batted over .300 for four straight years and led the National League in hitting in 2009.
Then, I took him in the first round of my 2011 draft. Last year, Ramirez slumped to a .243 average and appeared in a career-low 92 games due to assorted injuries. Judging by his .209 average here in 2012, he still hasn't recovered.
Adam Dunn must not have been too happy when I selected him in the fifth round last year. "The Big Donkey" hit 38 or more home runs every year from 2004 until 2010. As a member of my fantasy team in 2011, he batted .159 with just 11 homers. Now that Dunn is no longer on my roster, he's performing closer to his career norms this year.
You want to know who isn't performing close to his career norms? Albert Pujols.
Naturally, I selected Pujols in the first round of my draft this year with the third overall pick. We're talking about maybe the best hitter of his generation. This is a player who has never hit below .299 in his 12 big league seasons. He's never hit fewer than 32 home runs. He's had but one season where he failed to knock in 100 runs, and that was last year when he drove in "only" 99.
This year? Through 24 games Pujols is batting .208 with no home runs and just five RBI in 96 at-bats. He is mired in the worst slump of his career -- 4-for-42 with only one RBI and one extra-base hit in that span. Is it possible I've ruined another superstar player?
It's a wonder the Cub fans in my league didn't make me select Pujols sometime in previous years. If Pujols had been on my fantasy team when he was with the Cardinals, he probably would have never hit those 53 homers in 174 games against that Cubbie team. It's amazing how I can turn even prolific sluggers into Nick Punto overnight. Poof! Your career is over, Pujols!
The pity of it is I'm usually very good at finding value guys in the middle rounds of my draft. This year, people in my league scoffed when I drafted Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Corey Hart. Now that Hart is off to a good start this season with six April home runs, nobody is laughing anymore.
Every single year, my team gets a boost from players that nobody else wants -- guys like Corey Hart. Yet, I inevitably finish out of the money in my league because whatever "sure thing" superstar I draft is destined to have the sorriest year of his career.
Sorry Angels fans. I have ruined Albert Pujols for you.