This is more of a Kicking Rocks sort of piece, but it’s Memorial Day Weekend, so let’s have some fun…
Perhaps the title is a bit inflammatory. In all likelihood, Russell Branyan has no idea who you are and couldn’t care less about who’s on your fantasy team or where you are in your standings. He’s just a guy out there trying to make a living playing a game that he loves. But in the spirit of being a mock GM and the need to release some of our angst and frustration with hopes of giving the bleeding ulcer a rest, we vent about players as if we’ve known them for years and that their negative performances are actually stemming from some sort of a personal attack. That being said, I would like to share my deep-seeded hate for the 35 year old Branyan and the fact that he does everything in his power to ruin my fantasy seasons.
It all began back in early 2000 for me when I was looking for some depth in a 17 team keeper league and was reading about a highly touted prospect in the Indians system nicknamed “The Muscle” and often being compared to Mark McGwire. After a couple of cups of coffee in the two years prior, Branyan was primed to make an impact and after drafting him late, I stashed him away on my bench.
He did an admirable job for a rookie, batting .238 with 16 HR in just 215 plate appearances and I thought I was on the verge of adding a colossus to my stable of protects. In 2001, after an injury to incumbent third baseman Travis Fryman, Branyan was moved to the hot corner which increased his potential fantasy value. Love that added position eligibility!
However, the average was still a disaster (.232) and the HR total dropped off a bit. He still plugged 20, but in almost 150 plate appearances more. He was still young though and I opted to give him one more shot the following season. After all, he was now getting a little pricey to keep given my league’s protect system. When he continued as a utility player, I lost my affectation for him, and when he was shipped off to Cincinnati after hitting just .208 with 8 home runs, I was ready to wash my hands and my feet of him. But while he was finished as a member of my fantasy teams, Branyan still found a way to hurt me, year in and year out.
In 2004, I was hoping for a second half rebound from Wes Helms when suddenly Branyan was dealt to the Brewers and started stealing at bats away. Helms never got into any kind of groove while Branyan started hitting enough dingers to keep garnering playing time. When it looked like he was going to win the job outright the following season, I drank the Kool-Aid again and, well, he did nothing for me. After this, he would never reside on my roster again, but still, he continued to abuse my team somehow.
During his 4 team run between 2006 and 2007, he seemed to always pop up somewhere I had a player and somehow managed to worm his way into the lineup and steal at bats from a guy or two that I owned. In 2009, during his “breakout” campaign with the Mariners, the guy who edged me out of first during the final week of the season, not only had Branyan on his roster, but named him his team MVP as the player who’s contribution most helped him win the title. In 2010 I owned Matt LaPorta who lost significant time due to Branyan’s presence and this year, I had drafted both Juan Miranda and Brandon Allen, hoping that one of them would land the first base gig. That was, of course, until the club signed Branyan and he ruined everything.
And finally, most recently, Branyan has wormed his way onto the Angels roster, and yes, I own Mark Trumbo. His average and OBP may be lacking, but with a solid .198 ISO and decent history of developing power, he’s been a fairly good option at the corner infield spot. Now with Branyan on the team, it’s more than likely that his consistent at bats will decrease as veteran-lover Mike Scioscia has already said that he intends to platoon Branyan regularly.
Now while that’s just me and my history with Branyan, I’m sure there are plenty of you as well that have been hustled by The Muscle. The guy sucks you in with all sorts of power potential and then doesn’t hit his mark until his 10th year in the majors. He doesn’t produce enough to stay with any one team and between the heavy strikeout totals, the low average and weak OBP, he doesn’t have what it takes to be a full time player. He shows flashes of talent every now and again, but it’s always just enough to force a developing player into a platoon and never enough to make for a worthwhile fantasy pick up. Well, just once, but my therapist says it’s actually healthier for me to block that year out.
So maybe Branyan has no idea who I am and, in all likelihood, couldn’t care less about what he’s done to my fantasy teams over the years. But if it makes me feel better to hate on the guy, the mediocrity he brings to the table, and the way he seemingly stunts the growth of developing, young players I like, well then dammit, that’s what I’m going to do.
If you’re looking at young, up and coming first basemen, then beware The Muscle. He’ll be on a new team ruining one of your guys real soon.