March 16, 2006

Fantasy Baseball: Be Gentle, I'm New Here

Fantasy sports, never really got them. I could never figure out the fascination that some people have pouring over stats and names, obsessively watching as many games as they could, it all seemed a little crazy. Then I thought about how I watch television and movies and then it struck me as not so crazy. This crazed state usually came into sharp focus at the start of the football season, but that is obviously not the case now. I am starting to understand a little bit of the mania that takes over these people.

A few weeks back I got an invitation from a co-worker to join a fantasy baseball league he was starting at Yahoo. Baseball is the only sport that I even remotely follow, my team being the "other" New York team, the Mets. This year they look to be fielding a pretty good team, on paper anyway. It seems like I've said that for the past 3 or 4 years. Anyway, I figured why not, I'd do it. Who knows, it could turn out to be fun.

As Draft Day drew closer, I had this gnawing anxiety at the back of my brain. While I follow the Mets, my following of the sport is only peripheral, it has deteriorated over the years as I started following more directors and actors. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, who I was going to pick, no idea.

The pre Draft Day came and I ventured, with much fear to the draft pre-ranking page. Here I was faced with a list of players, some names I recognized, and many more I didn't. Worse still, I didn't know how good these guys are, I was blindly relying on the built in Yahoo rankings. I took a few of the names I recognized and ordered them for myself, in the hope, that impossible dream, that they would still be available by the time my picks came around. I gave up, the effort was sure to prove futile.

Draft Day arrived, I still had no idea what I was going to do. As the end of the work day approached, a couple of the other guys were talking about their teams. The league organizer boasting that he had never lost one, another guy saying he had the perfect strategy for selections and how he had been pre ranking for the past few weeks. Great, no doubt in my mind, I'm going to lose, I'm going to end up with the dregs of the league.

The evening wore on and draft time approached. I made a last ditch effort to try and pick out names. There was only one name that I knew I had to have on my team. He is becoming a fast favorite of mine, a player with a bright future, and hopefully a big year ahead of him, Mets third baseman David Wright. That was the only name in my head as the pre-rank deadline ran out.

I entered the live draft, and found myself right in the middle of the 8 team league. There was a timer in the upper right, counting down the time to start of the draft. I anxiously looked at all the names I hadn't heard of, and all the stars I was sure not to get. Then the draft started.

Well, my original first pick, Albert Pujols, didn't even make it to me. So, not wanting my initial pick to go to waste, I got that one name I wanted on my team, David Wright. Whatever was to come, I'd be OK, I got the one guy I wanted. All the big names went quick, with a number of guys I wanted picked right out from under me. You'd never guess how many times, I highlighted the next guy I was going to draft, only to have him get picked right before my turn. Quite annoying, as I quickly rushed to find a suitable replacement.

Then, halfway through, tragedy struck. I was just going to choose Aaron Heilman as one of my backup pitchers and my browser locked up. I clicked the draft button and nothing happened. I clicked it again, still nothing. My first thought was that someone else had picked him, but I quickly realized I couldn't click on anything, I tried clicking another name, I tried closing the browser, nothing worked. Panic set in, I was going to get some random choices of people I'd never heard of, wonderful. I finally got my task manager opened and was able to end Internet Explorer. Then I realized I didn't have the URL saved, so I frantically looked for the email with the address and got the page loaded back up. When I got back in, I found that I did get Heilman, but I missed a round. The system automatically had picked a pitcher, Noah Lowry, for me.

As the later rounds came, I was scouring the position players, looking for recognizable names to choose as my backups. This was not an easy task, but I muddled through. I watched as names unknown to me were selected, and other guys commented on them no longer being available. I felt rather small for not knowing who they were. Anyway, the draft ended.

Now, all I need to do is wait the few weeks for the season to start and pray that I made some decent choices. This is what it's like, obsessing over the performances of others. I looked over the 2005 stats of my selections, I made a few status changes, and looked at the stats some more. Man, I hope I have a good team, the last thing I want is to finish last.

What do you think? Here are my draftees:
  • Catcher: Jason Varitek (Bos)
  • 1st Base: Lance Berkman (Hou)
  • 2nd Base: Tadahito Iguchi (CWS)
  • 3rd Base: David Wright (NYM)
  • Shortstop: Derek Jeter (NYY)
  • Outfield: Andrue Jones (Atl)
  • Outfield: Johnny Damon (NYY)
  • Outfield: Cliff Floyd (NYM)
  • Utility: Jim Edmonds (StL)
  • Utility: Preston Wilson (Hou)
  • Bench: Melvin Mora (Bal)
  • Bench: Bobby Crosby (Oak)
  • Bench: Placido Polanco (Det)
  • Bench: Paul Lo Duca (NYM)
  • Bench: Nick Johnson (Was)
  • Starting Pitcher: Dontrelle Willis (Fla)
  • Starting Pitcher: Roger Clemens (Hou)
  • Starting Pitcher: Tim Wakefield (Bos)
  • Relief Pitcher: Trevor Hoffman (SD)
  • Relief Pitcher: Aaron Heilman (NYM)
  • Pitcher: Ben Sheets (Mil)
  • Pitcher: Noah Lowry (SF)
  • Pitcher: Kevin Millwood (Tex)
  • Pitcher: Matt Cain (SF)
  • Pitcher: Joe Borowski (Fla)

Actually, that doesn't look too bad. I think I am weakest in the closer hole, with only 1 real closer in Trevor Hoffman. If my outfield stays healthy, it could be very good, Floyd is the biggest question mark. The infield looks OK, although I am not so sure about Iguchi. Then there are my starting pitchers, hopefully Willis will be able to continue his success from last year. I guess time will tell if I made prudent choices, or if I make any trades to improve my bullpen, or maybe 2nd base.

So, this is what it's like to obsess over stats. I think I'm, in for a long summer. Do you think I stand a chance?

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