IN 2008, ERIC HINSKE sent rabid Phillies fans dancing into the streets by making the final out of the World Series. In 2012, an Eagles rookie is returning the favor.
Bryce Brown has been the talk of the fantasy world the last few weeks and Hinske is among those who have profited greatly. If Hinske would have hit that Brad Lidge slider like he has hit on Brown, the World Series would have gone back to Tampa.
Hinske, who won World Series rings with the Red Sox in 2007 and the Yankees in 2009, is in seven fantasy leagues. Yep, seven. He'll make the playoffs in four of them, including two with Brown as his starting running back and another with Brown on his bench.
"The guy's a beast," said Hinske, who played in Atlanta last season and recently signed with Arizona. "If a starting running back gets hurt and I know the next guy up is going to get 20 touches, I pick him up. It doesn't always work; look at a guy like [Indianapolis'] Vick Ballard."
Brown has run for 347 yards and four touchdowns since LeSean McCoy went down and he is just the second player since 1970 with at least 150 yards rushing in his first two starts. Gary Brown, of 1993 Houston Oilers fame, was the other. (Gary Brown??!!)
Hinske owns Bryce Brown in one league run by the Brewers' Geoff Jenkins, who coincidentally had a huge hit for the Phillies the same 2008 night Hinske struck out to cement the title.
"Every time I come to Philly I get reminded," Hinske said. "Fans tell me all the time, 'Thanks for '08.' They can be really rude, but really passionate. I love Philly fans."
Hinske said he has been in some fantasy leagues with Lidge, who recently announced his retirement. The two often would trade barbs.
"I told him once, 'I will never forgive you for striking me out in '08,' " Hinske said, laughing. "He told me, politely, I 'had no chance. It was cold, the place was loud, and you were pinch-hitting.' "
Then, Lidge added slyly, "Plus, I was lights-out."
The annual fantasy ballot will be published next week. It's where readers get to pick Most Valuable Players and roast the least valuable ones. We usually give away a T-shirt or two, so be on the lookout.
Quarterbacks: Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger is expected to play Sunday after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury. The last time Big Ben missed multiple weeks was in 2010 when he was suspended for the first four games for personal conduct. The game he returned he threw for 257 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in a win over Cleveland. The obvious difference this year is that he missed time with an injury, not a suspension . . . If you've made boneheaded moves that have not worked, remember that it could be worse. The Jets owe Mark Sanchez $8.25 million guaranteed in 2013. Taking Darren McFadden in the first round of a fantasy draft suddenly doesn't feel as bad, does it? . . . Matt Ryan has torched the Panthers with 10 touchdown passes and one pick in their last four meetings.
* Running backs: Green Bay's Alex Green definitely should be scooped up and stored on the bench. Green figures to see a major bump in carries with James Starks out with a knee injury. Green, in his second season out of Hawaii, is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. In the three games he had at least 20 carries, Green averaged a meager 2.4 per and his next touchdown will be his first. So keep him inactive for now . . . As good as DeMarco Murray looked against the Eagles, the second game back after a long layoff is often a better indication of how healthy a running back is. Dallas is at Cincinnati, ranked 11th against the run.
* Wide receivers: The season-ending injuries to Detroit's Ryan Broyles and Titus Young means Mike Thomas is next in line to be Calvin Johnson's sidekick. Thomas, who was acquired at the trade deadline, had 66 catches and five touchdowns for Jacksonville 2 years ago . . . Dwayne Bowe needs four catches to become the Chiefs all-time leader among wide receivers. Tight end Tony Gonzalez (916) is the club's leader. Henry Marshall (1976-87) is a mere 500 catches behind Gonzo, then Bowe at 413.
From a fantasy standpoint, San Diego's Danario Alexander is on the best run of his career with 406 receiving yards over his last four games and should be considered a high-end WR3. From a reality standpoint, his teams are 1-16 over the last 17 games he has played. The Rams dropped 11 in a row while he was in the lineup the previous 2 years and the Chargers are 1-5 with him on the field.