It's what you've waited for all year long, and now the time has arrived.
With the regular season concluding Sunday and fantasy leagues anointing a champion that same day, we present the inaugural All-Kramer Team.
That is, the top fantasy players by position, including one at each infield position, three outfielders, a rotation of five starting pitchers and two relievers. The players have been selected using a statistical index that is based on 2003 numbers in a standard 5-by-5 league R, RBI, AVG., SB, R, W, ERA, WHIP, SO, saves).
C Javy Lopez, Atlanta (42 HR, 106 RBI, .326). Lopez blows away runner-up Jorge Posada by a wider margin than anyone at any position. He should be an MVP candidate.
1B Todd Helton, Colorado (33 HR, 117 RBI, .357, 133 R). Call it the Coors Field advantage, but Helton easily tops Carlos Delgado.
2B Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees (36 HR, 86 RBI, .291, 34 SB). This year's only 30-30 man just edges out Mariners slugger Bret Boone.
3B Scott Rolen, St. Louis (28 HR, 104 RBI, .288, 13 SB). Despite being the lowest-rated player on this team, Rolen gets in, because of Mike Lowell's broken hand.
SS Alex Rodriguez, Texas (47 HR, 117 RBI, .295, 16 SB, 122 R). Again, A-Rod outshines Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada and Edgar Renteria.
OF Albert Pujols, St. Louis (43 HR, 124 RBI, .363, 134 R). Pujols narrowly misses out on the first triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
OF Gary Sheffield, Atlanta (38 HR, 130 RBI, .328, 18 SB, 124 R). Sheffield recovers from last year's subpar performance.
OF Barry Bonds, San Francisco (44 HR, 88 RBI, .336). Bonds doesn't have to drill 73 homers a year to make an impact.
P Mark Prior, Chicago Cubs (17-6, 2.42 ERA, 235 SO). The top-rated starting pitcher on this list, Prior was a fifth- or sixth-round bargain in many drafts.
P Jason Schmidt, San Francisco (17-5, 2.34, 208 SO). Was it a career year or the start of something bigger for the former Brave?
P Roy Halladay, Toronto (21-7, 3.22, 195 SO). The 26-year-old proves last year's stellar showing was not a fluke.
P Esteban Loaiza, Chicago White Sox (20-9, 2.96, 199 SO). Amazing what a new pitch can do for your confidence.
P Pedro Martinez, Boston (14-4, 2.25, 204 SO). Martinez will complete his seventh-straight season with a sub-3.00 ERA.
P Eric Gagne, Los Angeles (55 saves, 1.25, 136 SO). This was probably the greatest fantasy performance ever for a closer. Can you say Cy Young?
P John Smoltz, Atlanta (45 saves, 0.85 ERA, 70 SO). Smoltz would have challenged for the single-season saves record (57) like Gagne if not for the late-season injury.
Until next spring, or perhaps the winter meetings, we bid a fond farewell, and to borrow a phrase from the great Casey Kasem: Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.
Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106.
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