Owners must have a mean streak in order to be a contender

If there’s one aspect of fantasy baseball I truly enjoy, it’s kicking a fellow owner while he’s down.

I know it sounds pretty mean-spirited, but this game isn’t for the weak of heart. I’ve been in some leagues with some pretty hardcore guys over the years, and some of them took true pleasure in the misfortunes of other owners. I’ve learned you have to have a bit of a mean streak if you want to be a contender — whether that means making ridiculously one-sided trade offers in the hopes of hosing someone or using your waiver claim to beat someone out for a free agent they covet.

For instance, consider Raul Ibanez’s recent groin injury. Let’s say one of my leaguemates just lost one of this year’s premier hitters to the disabled list. How can I use that to my advantage? Well, the first thing I’m going to do is send him a lowball trade offer in the hopes he’ll panic over missing Ibanez’s stellar average and home run and RBI totals for the next few weeks. How does David Ortiz for Ibanez sound? Maybe it’ll be a slap in the face — or maybe he’ll take it. And then I’ll be the one laughing when Ibanez is healed in a few weeks and resuming his charge toward a .300/45/120 season.

If your league’s Ibanez owner isn’t that gullible and decides to simply ride out the storm with the Philadelphia Phillies slugger on his DL, there’s another way you can still tweak him and make his loss your gain. Go ahead and pick up John Mayberry Jr., the youngster who will replace Ibanez on the Phils’ roster. Mayberry isn’t exactly a super-prospect, but at 6-foot-6 and 234 pounds he certainly passes the “looks” test, and he’s got some pop in his bat — he hit a homer in a nine-at bat cameo in the majors in May and went yard again Thursday in his first game back up from Triple-A. He probably doesn’t have much long-term value, but every homer Mayberry hits from here on out will be a tiny dagger into the heart of an Ibanez owner. What could be more enjoyable?

If you’re looking for more ways to get under the skin of your fellow fantasy competitors, try adding these guys to your team as reinforcements:

Remember John Smoltz? Of course you do. He’s the guy who, up until last year, was a fantasy stud as both a starter and reliever with the Atlanta Braves. But you may not realize Smoltz is on the verge of returning to the big leagues in a Boston Red Sox uniform. The 42-year-old is slated to make his 2009 debut this Thursday at Washington — and if comes back with any of the stuff he used to have and mows down the Nationals as he should, it’ll be too late to still pick him up. Grab the veteran now while you can.

Tommy Hanson is hoping to follow Smoltz in the pantheon of great Braves pitchers. The prized prospect has won two straight starts after a rocky major league debut earlier this month.

While there are bound to be growing pains, his dominance in Triple-A this year (90/17 K/BB ratio) and the fact Atlanta was willing to release future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in part to make room for Hanson on the 40-man roster bode well for his future, both in the short and long terms.

Outfielder Scott Podsednik’s been a secret weapon for years in fantasy, and he’s become a hot commodity again, raising his average above .300 while hitting at the top of the Chicago White Sox order.

He offers no power to speak of (eight homers in the past 4 1/2 seasons) but the real reason to own him is his legs — 10 steals, seven of those in June. Expect the average to eventually regress to his .273 career average, but until it does, keep starting him.

Jason Bartolone, can be reached at 745-7016.