By Greg Price
It’s that time of the year again for us sports Dungeons and Dragons players out there — Fantasy Baseball season.
I’ve competed in a pool among southern Alberta media types for well over a decade now, and just last year I went in a pool among Taber/Medicine Hat people.
While I have finished in the money numerous times in my media pool along with a handful of championships, winning money isn’t the first incentive for me. That is painfully obvious when you see the number of magazines on the game I purchase prior to my draft, which I’ve already purchased two this year, with more sure to come with drafts still a couple of weeks away. The running joke at the media draft is that if anyone at the table had forgotten their research, there is a magazine or three that one could borrow off of me. At my worst, I’d say multiple magazine purchases have equaled about half of the prize money I’ve won in a given year in which I’ve finished in the money, putting an overall dent in making it rain.
I like to sluff it off as me just doing my part to encourage literacy by reading, but it is really just the stat geek coming through in which I love to crunch the numbers and see as many of the opinions that are out there as possible of who is the next big thing that I can snag with a late-round draft pick.
For those out there scratching their heads about ‘what’s a fantasy baseball team?’ It’s drafting a baseball team at the various positions and when the player you drafted gets a stat in an official Major League Baseball game, it goes into the pile of your whole team. The team that gets the most points in the standings with whatever categories the league has agreed on to track, wins the title after the 162-game season is finished. Categories in a lot of common leagues are batting average, home runs, runs, RBI, stolen bases, earned run average, WHIP, strikeouts, wins and saves. With more than 26 weeks of regular-season baseball, that’s a lot of numbers to be paying attention to as you set your lineup.
In some leagues, you are just as dedicated to picking the best team name as you are the best players for your team. Starting up many moons ago in the media pool when I had some Big Love for the Simpsons (not so much in recent years as even I’m thinking it’s getting ridiculous how long the series has been running), I chose my team name as the Springfield Upahs. To keep the same theme, I called my team the Springfield Isotopes in the league I played in last year.
I am of course sad of such vanilla names for my teams when I see some great ones out there that were highlighted in a recent article which have included such beauties as ‘The Bryce is Right’, ‘Mike Fiers Festival’, and ‘Rhys Lightning.’
Fantasy sports extends your interest in the game far past your favourite team in the respective sport. While I may cheer for the Penguins, Dodgers and Cowboys in hockey, baseball and football respectively, sometimes being a homer picking players from your favourite team can be the death knell in fantasy sports. Your favourite team may lose in the real world, but your fantasy team may have got lots of good stats in that loss, which infuriates some pursuits that fantasy sports has sullied the real thing.
I have to say it has made me pay more attention to the leagues overall and not just my narrowed favourite-team interest.
As I have discovered though as I get into my middle-aged years, I am not one of those fanatics of the hardcore variety when it comes to fantasy baseball as the two leagues I’ve been in have varying formats. One league has a bunch of extra players you can slip into and out of your lineup when an injury strikes and you only have to set your lineup once a week.
The other one was ultra competitive that saw no bench and unlimited waivers where you could make changes daily. Some teams were making multiple changes a day just to make sure of two-start pitchers. I also didn’t like it with there being no bench, as if you drafted a stud player that had a prolonged injury, say a month or so, you had to cut them if you wanted any chance of acquiring stats in that spot. I really did not have the time to keep up to others in the league who were making numerous daily changes, and with my team suffering a lot of injuries to start the season, I quickly lost interest and subsequently, my team sunk to the bottom of the standings. Luckily, team owners have been contemplating changes and interest in the league has been renewed.
However the season pans out for me in both of my leagues in Taber and Lethbridge, one will not be able to say I have not done my research in both my piles of magazines and Internet research… only to discover it will likely be the guy who autodrafts in the Taber league that wins.
Sometimes the best laid plans count for nothing in the twists and turns of a baseball season. Sometimes it’s injury, sometimes it’s managerial decisions, sometimes the season rests on a trade — and sometimes it’s reaching for your favourite player a few too many rounds early.
Good luck to all those fantasy baseball enthusiasts out there in your respective seasons. May your smack talk be just as plentiful as your statistics in your quest for a championship.