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It was bad, no matter how you spell it

When things go south, the natural response is to lash out at those we feel are most at fault.

Call me a natural guy.

Ye olde Fantasy Baseball team veered from the script from Day One, performing like a dog obsessed with chasing its own tail, never finding a groove or an identity and taking 10 steps back for every step forward.

But rather than placing a bat in Jose Offerman's hands and unleashing his fury upon my inconsistent crew, I must accept full responsibility for this mess I've created.

Here's the A-to-Z rundown on my season of wither, what little has gone right and how and why things went so wrong:

A is for Armando Benitez, the mercurial closer I once vowed never to allow within two continents of my roster.

Taking my "I'm an optimist" credo beyond the lines of reason and sanity that were clearly drawn in the sand, I opened the door to Giants fans' favorite punching bag, then watched him infect my roster like a virus.

B is for Michael Barrett, whose bark was bigger than his bat, eventually causing then-Cubs teammate Carlos Zambrano to ring his catcher's bell in the name of all that is holy. Somewhere, A.J. Pierzynski is laughing.

C is for cookie, that's good enough for me ... and Jose Contreras, who has stunk a mighty stink in 2007. Had I not allowed Contreras to clown his way through nine ratio-destroying starts, I still might be a contender.

Note to self: WAKE UP!

D is for the damage done by Ray Durham's .224 batting average, which appears to have a better chance of falling than rising before the dust settles.

E is for Eric Chavez and the errant decision to trade for the oldest 29-year-old on the planet. On the flip side, E is also for Eric Byrnes, who has been my Mr. Everything.

Good call, Ken Macha.

F is for football season, which kicks off in three weeks. Yee haw!

G is for Eric Gagne, who has taken to his new role as setup man the same way my cats take to soap and water.

H is for Ramon Hernandez, who has gone from power-hitting catcher to Kirt Manwaring.

I ... can't believe I drafted Brandon McCarthy two years in a row.

J is for J.J. Hardy. The Brewers' shortstop was Cal Ripken Jr. in May, but he's been Cal Naughton Jr. since (if you don't know, look it up).

K is for Casey Kotchman, who was a nifty 1 for 17 his only week in the lineup. He then poured salt in my eyes by hitting a grand slam (off one of my pitchers, no less) in his first at-bat for his new owner.

L is for Carlos Lee, the only player other than Byrnes I'd invite back to the party next season. El Caballo, ride on.

M is for Kevin Millwood, who began his fourth '07 tour of duty for me on Monday (go ahead and laugh, it's funny).

N is for Nomar Garciaparra, who will be mine no more since, you'll never believe this, landing on the disabled list with a strained or pulled left something or other.

O is for I'm kicking myself over not making a sincere trade offer for Roy Oswalt.

P is for Peyton Manning — the reigning Super Bowl MVP will be mine with the fifth overall pick in our Fantasy Football draft, fellas, go ahead and write it down.

Q is for the fact that I have to quit giving Matt Morris chances.

R is for Ryan Shealy, my late round "steal" who opened the season a smokin' 3 for 33, which is totally misleading because he didn't swing the bat nearly that well.

S is for Huston Street, my oft-injured stud closer who has fewer saves than Salomon Torres, Joakim Soria, Dan Wheeler, Mike Capps and Alan Embree.

Huston, you better believe we have a problem.

T is for Mark Teixeira and wishing I could cash in all the at-bats that were lost (about 100 or so) when my top pick was knocked out of action for 27 games by a strained quad.

U is for my ugly ERA and WHIP. Stop me if you've heard that before.

V is for Van Halen. They're back! ... And this continues to be the greatest summer ever!

W is for Brandon Webb, who had matched last season's walk total at the All-Star break but hasn't allowed a walk or a run since I traded him over a month ago.

The Third Round Curse lives!

X is for Xavier Nady, who was twice offered in trades and would have been a better draft choice than half my active lineup.

Y is for not being able to pin any of this on Yhency Brazoban.

Z is for Barry Zito, the $126 million flop the Giants and I banked on.

What we got for our investment: Zero. Zilch.

Zoinks!

Coming next week: It's NFL mock draft time.

Stu Rosenberg's fantasy sports column runs Fridays. He can be reached at srosenberg@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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