As much as the inner fantasy warlord loathes the four-day stay in purgatory called the All-Star break, I love the days and weeks leading up to the July 31 MLB trade deadline.
Baseball is in my blood and has been a way of life since Dad took me to that first A's game in the summer of 1978 I can still picture the bluest sky, the greenest grass and the sight of Hall of Famer Rod Carew picking grounders out of the dirt at first base as we emerged from the underbelly of the Coliseum but even I can admit a 162-game schedule can, at times, be a bit of a cakewalk.
The trade deadline provides a shot in the arm for fantasy geeks and can turn teams and leagues on their ears when players relocate and take to their new digs (see Fred McGriff 1993, Manny Ramirez 2008 and Doug Fister 2011).
Already this week we've seen potentially game-changing deals go down involving Hanley Ramirez, Ichiro Suzuki and Zack Greinke and that could be just the start as teams jockey for players in order to become players in pennant races.
On the local front, the Giants and A's both figure to be active at this year's deadline, with the A's in the market for a shortstop and the Giants, who acquired infielder Marco Scutaro from the Rockies on Friday, in need of a first baseman and always looking for help in the bullpen.
Speaking of the Giants, Brandon Belt's lost summer has actually made some fans yearn for the return of the invisible man that has been Aubrey Huff this season. Not this fan, of course, but some.
Belt has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone for the next decade. Unfortunately, pitchers have exploited the holes in his swing while shattering both his bats and his confidence.
Despite his troubles, I'm not completely ready to sell on Belt. Remember, Matt Williams had at least three false starts before finding his big-league groove. That's not to compare Belt to Williams, who become a perennial All-Star, but to show that one's fortunes can change in a hurry when things begin to click.
For now, though, Belt is not the answer at first base for San Francisco. But Cubs All-Star-turned benchwarmer Bryan LaHair, among others, could be.
LaHair, 29, won Chicago's starting first base job out of spring training, knowing that he would only be keeping the seat warm for top prospect Anthony Rizzo.
LaHair got off to a torrid start, which earned him a spot on the National League All-Star team. But with Rizzo having been promoted late last month from Triple-A Iowa and crushing the ball ever since, LaHair is grabbing pine.
With a change of scenery, however, the lefty-swinging LaHair batting .270 with 14 home runs, 31 RBIs could be the thumper the Giants need. And he wouldn't cost a lick, as he's making a paltry-by-baseball-standards $482,500, and could be had for a couple minor leaguers.
Anyone who follows the Giants knows they could use some right-handed muscle. Milwaukee's Corey Hart and the Philadelphia's Hunter Pence would be huge pickups, but their price tags could be too high (Hart is making roughly $9.3 million and Pence $10.4 million this season). Assuming Giants general manager Brian Sabean is unwilling to pony up the cash or prospects necessary to obtain Hart or Pence, LaHair could work.
The Giants could feed LaHair steady at-bats in what would amount to a two-month audition. If he produces, he stays, is compensated and everybody wins. If he doesn't hit, he can pull up a chair next to Pat Sheridan and Ricky Ledee on the next ferry out of Dodge.
The Giants simply can't afford to sit on their hands at this point. Not with the Dodgers making a huge splash with Ramirez and breathing down their necks.
Meanwhile, back at the wall of voodoo ...
A moment of silence for my 2012 fantasy baseball team, which imploded beyond repair this past week like a Sid and Marty Krofft production gone wrong.
The week began with my pitching staff serving all of my opponents' hitting needs. Next, I lost my hottest hitter (J.P. Arencibia) to a broken hand, before Pablo Sandoval's ill-advised Nadia Comaneci impression landed him on the disabled list with an extremely unhappy hamstring. To cap off the week, my offense pulled a soft, fuzzy, 7-for-49 bunny out of its hat on Saturday. Neato, gang!
From here on out we're all football, all the time. Which reminds me: Larry Fitzgerald, let's do lunch.
Bee fantasy sports columnist Stu Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.