Monday, March 10, 2008

It's Just a Fantasy...

Fantasy baseball might possibly be killing baseball. It won't be one of the main things that are killing baseball like steroids, HGH, the increasing popularity of football, Scott Boras, and the lack of parity for small market teams; but it contributes in its own little way. What began as an obscure basement hobby by a bunch of statheads looking to take Strat-O-Matic baseball to the next level has grown into this massive national activity that runs rampant in our schools, offices, and the internet.

Sure, on one hand it all seems positive, there's an interest in the game and a chance for the fan to get more involved with the up coming season. On the other hand, it reduces a beautiful sport into cold numbers and figures. All nuances fall off to the side and the information about if somebody stole a base becomes more important than what team actually won (this is unless you have pitcher going that night). This national hunger for numbers can be evidenced anytime you tune into a cable sports network and witness the cramped real estate on your screen, bursting with streaming numbers and statistics. Then there are those people who just take it way too far, organizing massive drafts, with custom made boards and faux trophies and rings, stuffing themselves into another coronary; thinking they're Theo Epstein when most of it really comes down to if your players randomly don't blow out their knees out. It's the antithesis of the team nature of the sport. It encourages reckless gambling. And most of all its inherent complexity makes it a tremendous time sink.

But, hey, I still do it. It's fun. You know I love wasting time. And in the end I stand a good chance of winning some nice scratch and bragging rights. Besides, how else am I going to make a worthless September match up between the Marlins and the Nationals seem interesting?

With that being said. I present the first of my three annual fantasy draft teams with exclusive round by round coverage:

League: The Champs Are Here
My Team: The Chan Ho Parks
Draft order: 10th pick out of 12
Previous Year's Rank: 8 of 13

This is one of my two Yahoo! baseball drafts. It's a standard 5x5 roto draft (and if I have to explain that to you, you're probably not interested in the answer) with 5 pitchers and 2 relief pitchers, etc. My team last year was down right schizophrenic. I was in the top or near the top of every offensive category, however my pitching was last or second to last in nearly every pitching category. All this led to a team that was firmly established just south of the muddled middle. This year I hope for a more balanced effort.

Rd 1. Jimmy Rollins SS - What can I say? He was the best player available at my position in the draft. While there's little doubt he'll give me elite production at SS, I'm still torn about depending on the leader of the arch rivals to my Mets.

Rd2. Carlos Beltran OF - I seem to end up with him every other year. While he's one of the best fantasy OFs around, I always feel like he could be playing better and he's just being lazy out there.

Rd3. C.C. Sabathia SP - Usually I hold off on my pitching until it's too late and I'm relying on Bronson Arroyo to be my staff ace, but this year I made an affirmative move to get a star. It's a shame though that average pitcher weight isn't a category.

Rd4. Adam Dunn OF - He's like a real life, white, Pedro Cerrano. Basically it's a Faustian deal to sacrifice batting average for a guaranteed 40 home runs. Oh and is that a handful of stolen bases I see?

Rd5. Carlos Guillen 1B/SS - I'll be playing him at 1B. I think he's one of the most underrated fantasy players around. In that juiced Tigers offense he'll hit .300, have at least 20 HRs, 100 RBIs, and have double digit steals. Now that's the kind of five category production I like.

Rd6. Chris Young SP - Needed a quality number two pitcher and on a bunch of teams he's as good enough to be a number one. The last two years I've picked him, he has never let me down. Which means he'll probably suck this year.

Rd7. Ryan Zimmerman 3B - I don't like turning to players from the Nationals for offense, but Zim's a solid 2nd tier 3B option. I'm hoping his stats go up a bit since with the new stadium they don't have to play in that pitcher friendly canyon known as RFK.

Rd8. Corey Hart OF - He wears his sunglasses at night and provides five category production in a stacked Milwaukee lineup.

Rd9. Trevor Hoffman RP - This was a knee jerk reaction to other owners gobbling up closers. I panicked and picked the most established name out there. Sure he's a 100, sure his numbers have been going down as of late, but....

Rd10. Rich Hill SP - Solid third starter. He's young and has good numbers. He does play for the Cubs so freak injuries or sudden loss of ability to play is not uncommon.

Rd11. Rafael Soriano RP - He's in a great situation and should have great success closing for the Braves. Of course, that was the exact same thought I had when I drafted Dan Kolb in 2005.

Rd12. Chad Billingsley SP - He was a real surprise for one of my teams last year and has all the stuff to be a real ace for the Dodgers. One my favorite picks in the draft.

Rd13. Oliver Perez SP - A walking land mine of a pitcher; don't know if he'll pitch a complete game shut out or get shelled for 10 in the first inning. I think it averages out to fairly decent pitcher in the end.

Rd14. Matt Kemp OF - Another young Dodger that helped me out this year. Outfield's a little crowded out there in LA, but I'm sure his talents will keep him in consistently.

Rd15. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C/1B - You have to pick a catcher sometime. I figure he won't hurt the team too much and he does hit home runs, which everybody loves.

Rd16. Aaron Rowand OF - Everybody's saying he's going to hit the wall (literally and figuratively) in San Francisco this year. As a lower round backup outfielder, I'll take a lesser version of his 2007 campaign.

Rd17. Mark Buehrle SP - Figured the team needed a veteran clubhouse presence.

Rd18. Willy Tavares OF - He steals bases.

Rd19. Felipe Lopez 2B/SS - Let this be a lesson. Don't hold off on drafting your second baseman until the last few rounds. This would have been a great option in 2005 before he joined the Nationals and lost his talent.

Rd20. Yunel Escobar 2B/3B/SS - Nice young prospect with sweet three position versatility. He could end up being the Braves lead off guy.

Rd21. Aaron Heilman RP - Mr. Irrelevant. I figure if the one of the Mets starters gets injured he could fill in or if Wagner gets injured he could close; so he's at a good position to capitalize.

So in the end I think it was a decent first draft, good but not great. This doesn't look like a first place team off the bat, but the thing about fantasy baseball is the capricious and arbitrary nature of the game. I'm sure some of these guys (I'm looking at you Felipe) will be dealt and replaced by the next breakout star waiting on the waiver wire or through a trade as the season progresses.

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