Padres, Playoffs, & the Pure Joy of Boston’s Red Sox

Fenway Park (five hours prior to 2013 ALCS Game 1)

Fenway Park (five hours prior to 2013 ALCS Game 1) (Photo credit: misconmike)

Got an e-mail from my friend Will with his annual fall question: Do I want to continue as a season ticket holder for next season’s San Diego Padre games?

And against my better judgment, I said count me in.  2014 will mark the tenth consecutive year that I invest heavily in my Padres. These tickets are top shelf, and the beer is not at bargain prices either.

Okay, call me a glutton for punishment.  Here’s my rationale for spending big bucks every year on a perennial loser.  I’m not really investing just in the Padres.  I’m devoting time and money in live baseball, up close and personal.  Otherwise known to me as live theater.  Actually, it’s the best kind of live theater because it’s loosely scripted with a different ending for every performance.

Nothing beats being at the ballpark, taking in the action–both on and off the field.  The people watching never disappoints.  And perhaps the most fun of all is visiting with your friends and neighbors in your section.

Carlos Quentin

Carlos Quentin (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

For the past 20 years or so, the critics of Major League Baseball say the game is too slow.  This could not be further from the truth.  Nevertheless, the game is packed with plenty of action, some of it less evident to the novice.  There’s more to the game than hitting, pitching, and fielding.

But then if you are reading this blog post, you already know what I’m writing about.  On the other hand, it never hurts to defend America’s National Pastime.  Perhaps a baseball novice will peruse this post.  And who knows, maybe they will give baseball another chance.

As for the Padres, at least the home games are played at gorgeous Petco Park, making home defeats easier to swallow.  The place is a veritable playground.  Plenty to do and see in addition to paying close attention to what’s happening between the lines.

If a true baseball fan follows a perennial loser like the Padres, these aficionados still get much enjoyment from watching their favorite team play, despite all the losses.  That’s because people like us regard each game as a singular entity unto itself, meaning a true fan of the game is just that—an enthusiastic devotee of the game.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fanatic. You won’t catch me jumping off a bridge into one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S., like the nutcase in Pittsburgh after the Pirates took the one-game Wild Card match against the Cincinnati Reds.

Well, at least I have some I still have my Boston Red Sox to root for this season, albeit via long-distance.  Being a Boston transplant to San Diego since my teenage days, I am able to visit Fenway Park only on rare occasion.  Four times since that most magical BoSox season of 2004. Oh yeah, and one rain out (2011).

Detroit and Boston are certainly evenly matched in this year’s American League Championship Series, making for nail biting contests. Thus far, the main highlight for Boston fans has to be the David Ortiz granny in Game Two. It is for me. Found myself jumping out of my recliner and shouting approval at the TV.  Fortunately, no one was in the room to witness my moment of unadulterated joy.

When a team of Boston’s caliber makes the playoffs they are taken seriously. The Padres are another matter. The San Diego franchise usually is battling to avoid the cellar. And when they shocked the sports world in ’84 and ’98, the Padres received no respect outside of San Diego.

Those incredible, unbelievable Padre seasons of ’84 and ’98 are etched in my mind, having attended many games during those years, including both World Series (three games) and the phenomenal National League pennant three-game playoff run that catapulted the Pads over the Chicago Cubs and into the 1984 Series.

Unfortunately, the Padres picked the wrong seasons to excel. In 1984, they lost the series in five against the Detroit Tigers, which began the season with an astonishing 35-5 record. Fast forward to 1998, when the Padres were bulldozed four straight by perhaps the best New York Yankees team ever.

Maybe next year the Padres can make the playoffs.  After all, the ball club’s owners have announced they intend to increase player payroll

English: San Diego Padres Cap (1974 - 1984)

English: San Diego Padres Cap (1974 – 1984) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by $20 million.  One can always hope…  That Carlos Quentin is healthy…  That a legitimate number one or two starter is acquired…  That a power bat is added to the lineup.

Of course, if San Diego disappoints me and millions others yet again, next year’s Red Sox action should certainly boost my spirits.

Seattle’s Safeco Field versus San Diego’s Petco Park

How Many Major League Baseball Teams Do You Root For?

  Come July, the San Diego Padres travel to Fenway Park for a three-game series to take on the Boston Red Sox. That means I win and lose, no matter the outcome.

Let me explain. I root, root-root for the home teams—as in two.  Born in Boston, my childhood days were spent glued to our tiny TV set in the mid-to-late Fifties, idolizing an aging, yet still splendid Ted Williams, my childhood hero. Outfielders Jackie Jensen and Jimmy Piersall were also favorites. Hall of Fame sportscaster Curt Gowdy was the crisp voice of the Boston Red Sox.

Dustin in Houston

Dustin Pedroia (Photo: Wikipedia)

In 1960, our family moved to San Diego. Coincidentally, Williams was born, raised, and, while still in high school, began playing for the AAA Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres before signing with the Sox.

In 1969, the National League Padres were born. Within a couple of years, I found myself following the Padres with passion. Needless to say, a stark contrast to the BoSox.

Millions of baseball fans follow multiple teams. Some are also transplants, native to one Major League city, then moving to another MLB town where the team grows on you.  Or fans cheer on a team their transplanted parent(s) grew up with or their significant other persuades them to support yet another team.

If lucky, your teams are often contenders.  Or perhaps you find yourself stuck in schizophrenic situation similar to mine. Maybe you were born in St. LouisSan Francisco or New York, and now find yourself now living in Chicago, Pittsburgh or Houston. And depending on when the notorious Miami Marlins fire sales are conducted, this franchise also makes the loser list.

Of course, the New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles metropolitan areas are each blessed with two teams, while the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s are only about a 30-minute drive from one another. No doubt multitudes of fans residing in these giant metropolises often feel torn between two lovers.  But what about those rare seasons when both of their hometown clubs contend? Color me envious.

In its 44th year of existence, the perennial loser Padres franchise is even harder to swallow. Padre fans absolutely abhor the “small market” excuse that the various ownership groups rely on to continue their cheap ways. For at least the past 20 years, San Diego has ranked as one of the ten most populated cities in the nation.

Chase Headley Right handed swing

Chase Headley (Photo: Wikipedia)

In the early Seventies, I kept reminding myself that expansion teams take a while to develop into contenders. Well, other than the ballclub’s pathetic World Series performances in 1984 and 1998, the Pads have generally sucked.

On the bright side, there were a few great players starring on Padre losing teams that kept us thrilled. Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Tony Gwynn quickly come to mind. And closer extraordinaire Trevor Hoffman will likely be inducted into the famed Hall in 2015. Sinker ball phenom Randy Jones was also a favorite. Unfortunately for Randy, the  Cy Young Award winner pitched for the Pads in the Seventies, when those teams were downright embarrassing.

Thankfully, there are exciting moments during virtually all ballgames that bring us to our feet to either cheer or boo. Happens at every MLB ballpark.

As for the Padres this season? As of May 8, they have won 11 of their last 14, after a dismal 5 and 15 start of the season. Now, the Pads are hitting, throughout the line-up.  Nevertheless, the San Diego squads have teased us, decade after decade. Starting pitching is currently the main concern, but that story is for  another time.

Meanwhile, I take solace in my Sox. The overhauled Boston club is kicking butt in the American League, on top of the east division, making last year’s unusually pathetic performance a distant memory. How pathetic was Boston? They finished 2012 with the worst record in the Majors, losing a whopping 93 games! Ever think that would ever happen?

This season, the Red Sox have come out of the gate strong. David OrtizDustin Pedroia, and Clay Bucholz have ignited the team. As of May 8, they had 21 wins and only 13 losses.

On the other hand, we are less than two months into the 2013 season.

Yes, I admit to being a quasi-diehard San Diego Padres fan throughout my adulthood. Feel sorry for me. All of the owners since Ray and Joan Kroc have been cheapskates, specializing in fire sales. And recently, we had an owner who was forced to sell because he apparently couldn’t afford to keep the team.

Some good news: I continue to be a proud Boston Red Sox fan, having cheered them on since the age of seven. Rejoice. At least the Sox aren’t shy about spending player payroll. In fact, Sox management sometimes spends too much money on the wrong players. The team may not always come out on top, but they sure make it interesting, year after year. 2004 was magical.

In 2007, my beloved BoSox invaded Petco Park in San Diego. Made sure to attend one of the games in that three-game series. Not surprisingly, the always-rabid Red Sox fans out-cheered the laid back Padre fans. Even though the sun-soaked San Diegans made more noise than usual, they couldn’t come close to the continuous chants and rousing applause of Sox supporters.

Boston took two out of three that year. Fast forward to July 2, 2013, when the Padres  and Sox start a three-game series at Fenway. Highly doubtful Padre fans will make their presence known, save for a Padre blue ball cap or two. During July, Padre fans will hope to God that third baseman Chase Headley is still a member of the team. He’s a free agent at the end of this season.

Come July, the Red Sox will likely remain positioned well for the playoffs, and might even be in the process of acquiring a top talent or two for the stretch run.

So it goes..,

English: Boston Red Sox cap logo.

San Diego Padres: Primary Logo 2.0

Post Fantasy Draft Regrets, Luck and You

Austin Jackson and Derrek Lee

Austin Jackson and Derrek Lee (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Memo to Anxiety-Ridden Second-Guessers:

So you didn’t get most of the players you targeted to draft. So you overpaid for a few ballplayers. So you gave too much credence to the hype of a highly regarded prospect  who doesn’t have a clue at the plate. So you ended up with more speed guys than power hitters, more innings eaters than Ks guys.

Regrets are abundant, especially if your team starts out slow.

So what? It’s early. The season is barely two weeks old. So chill. Besides, this might be your lucky season.

Our auction draft took place the day before Texas took center stage on MLB’s opening day. Graded my performance a C-plus in our 14-member keeper mixed league, Blue Moon Mesa.

Here’s what happened. Armed with $177, after subtracting the cost of my eight keepers, I dropped out of the bidding for way too many top and middle tier guys, when I had the auction bucks to spend.  Plus I paid too much for Austin Jackson ($26), getting caught up in a bidding war.

Worse yet, I left six bucks on the table.  That six dollars could’ve helped get me another solid starting pitcher or another reliable power hitter. I coulda, shoulda…

Since the draft, second-guessing myself has been a daily occurrence. Anxiety over who I acquired and who I let slip through my mitt. Typical for me. How about you?

Why didn’t I go the extra couple of bucks to get Will Middlebrooks? And why didn’t I predict the phenomenal start by Chris Davis?  And…

Best way to calm down? Leave your ego on the bench. Better yet, banish it from the ballpark.  More importantly, remind yourself that this is just a game, a game that you enjoy, a game that expands your knowledge of pro baseball, enhancing the experience of watching ballgames on the tube and in person.

Trust me, fantasy baseball can be a godsend. I live in San Diego and root for the  home team, the perennial loser Padres.  Fantasy baseball provides me with something to cheer about when I take in games at Petco Park, and I go regularly.  I can at least cheer for my fantasy players on the visiting teams–silently, of course.  And thanks to the fantasy game, out-of-town scoreboard watching  is more fun. Incidentally, there are no Padres on my roster.

Another remedy, which for me is more of a band aid: join an online league. Later today, I’m snaking in a 12-team Yahoo! public league with unlimited add/drops. Perfect for a second-guesser.  Compared to an auction draft, snake drafting online is cake. If you can’t figure out which player to click on within 90 seconds, the draft software will pick for you from your pre-ranked player list.

English: A photo of San Diego Padres Petco Par...

English: A photo of San Diego Padres Petco Park as taken from overhead in a helicopter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beats going toe to toe for eight hours with friends. Or does it?  Four of us have competed against one another in the Blue Moon league for the past 15 or so years. And just a couple of years later, several more joined and are still with us.

Relationships that will no doubt continue for years to come. Can’t put an auction price on that.

Middle of the pack. That pretty much describes my Rotisserie team. Or…I could get lucky while others could have heavy doses of bad luck. After all, luck is a major factor in this game.

If I interpreted Ron Shandler correctly, luck factors big time in projecting player performance, given that human behavior and other non-statistical elements come into play.  In his thought-provoking 2013 Baseball Forecaster article, Shandler stated, “Research has shown that the best accuracy rate that can be attained by any (player forecasting) system is about 70 percent…”

So give yourself a break.

If you want more on luck, check out Richard Wiseman‘s book, The Luck Factor: Four Essential Principles. His research shows that  luck can be learned. It is available to anyone willing to pay attention to four principles:

  • Creating Chance Opportunities,
  • Thinking Lucky
  • Feeling Lucky
  • Denying Fate

And the British psychologist claims that people can determine their capacity for luck as well as learn to change their luck through exercises that appear throughout his book.

Well, time for a mock draft to familiarize myself with Yahoo’s game. My draft is scheduled for 5 pm.

After the online draft is completed, it’s a safe bet that I will suffer from post-draft anxiety.  Maybe I should sign up for a third league. Maybe this semi-retired guy should find another pastime.

No chance.

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Check out my new novel:  High Stakes FantasyAn Alternative Reality Sports Thriller

The Trouble With Elite

Dictionary.com defines “elite” as “the choice or best of anything considered collectively as of a group or class of persons.”

To fantasy baseball competitors, “elite” takes on an additional meaning: high risk, high reward.

English: Miguel Cabrera at Dodger Stadium.

English: Miguel Cabrera at Dodger Stadium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE RISK: Drafting elite players are a major investment, making draft day quite challenging, especially in deep salary cap auction leagues.

Draft a Miguel Cabrera or a Robinson Cano, better cross your fingers that your franchise player doesn’t get hurt nor has an off-year because elite players will eat up a major chunk of your $260 draft day budget.

This season, Triple Crowner Miggie typically has been going for $38 – $45, while winning bids for Cano are in the same ballpark.

And then there are the unproven, so-called “elite” players. Angel Mike Trout comes to mind. Sure, he made rookie history last year by performing on at a super elite level, but can he put up similar numbers in his sophomore season? Many fantasy experts have expressed doubts.

THE REWARD: Investing in proven elite studs can pay off big time in multiple categories. And late in the season for keeper leagues, an expensive elite player is irresistible trade bait that can fortify your keeper squad for the next season. Of course the trade could easily stir controversy, but that’s a hot topic for another time.

To finish first by investing in an elite Major Leaguer that costs a bundle, it’s imperative that the draft be finessed. In other words you better position yourself to acquire a few considerably under-valued/under-the-radar guys that produce great numbers. Plus you need to be prescient enough in your bidding to snag a couple of reasonably-priced ballplayers who have breakout seasons.

In other words, the stars have to align just right for you on draft day. To capture your league title, however, you also need to work the waiver wire at a near elite level throughout the season.

What about snake drafts? To me, the risk doesn’t seem to be as high. Let’s say your coveted first-round pick is considered elite but doesn’t pan out. Your picks during the next few rounds can make up for the mistake or bad luck.

In auction leagues, the early rounds often do not include legitimate early round picks. Get the other guys to spend money first. That’s the mantra followed by many.

In our deep, 14-member Blue Moon Mesa mixed league auction, Cabrera went for $37 last year. The team that drafted him, Milwaukee’s Best, captured the 2012 league title. He not only won it all last year, but his team’s first-place reign went wire to wire.

MB’s bidding prowess netted draft day bargains, but the real steals came in our league’s expansion draft, regarded by Mooners as a clearance sale. MB was the only new team to join our league in 2012, anointing him the sole participant in the expansion draft.

Nick Swisher batting in a game between the New...

Nick Swisher batting in a game between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles on 08/31/09. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His roster featured Johnny Cueto, $3, Nick Swisher, $6, Aroldis Chapman, $7, Jason Motte, $2, Jim Johnson, $5, Chris Sale, $10, and Edwin Encarnacion, $14.  Nice.

About our league’s expansion draft…Under Blue Moon’s rules, new owners were able to cherry pick seven players from the pool of ballplayers we didn’t keep.

Incidentally, we eliminated the expansion draft rule last fall after losing to the rookie owner last year AND a new member in 2011. (Actually, the “new” guy in 2011 competed in our league for several years before missing out on the 2010 season.)

For 2013, new owners will not start with keepers. They have to draft 23 players, while the remaining 13 teams will show up on draft day (March 30) with anywhere from five to eight keepers in tow.

The newbies realize it will make the draft considerably more challenging. For some, that means they will have to pay their dues.

On the other hand, we all know there is a plenty of luck in fantasy sports. Feeling lucky? Don’t bank on it.

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27)

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

By the way, we have four new owners this season. That’s a first for the Blue Moon Mesa league. Should shake things up on draft day.

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Check out my new novel:  High Stakes FantasyAn Alternative Reality Sports Thriller

Wise Guys/Gals Been Burning Midnight Oil for Draft Day

If smart, you have been knee deep in early pitching and hitting reports since the Super Bowl ended with a 49er whimper. If procrastinating, now is the time to get serious about performance evaluations, who’s moving on up in value, on their downside, breaking out, bouncing back, in a more potent line-up, and who’s hurt and how bad.

Joey Votto

Joey Votto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Me, I almost always place little to no credence on statistical player projections. No one has a foolproof crystal ball, not even a Bill James or a Ron Shandler.

After all, you get only one chance at Draft Day. Pitchers and catchers reported this week, while position players trickled in during the following February days. Even the bad boys set to serve PEDs-induced suspensions. They are permitted to play minor league spring training exhibitions but forbidden to take part in Major League spring contests.

Right now, it’s all about research, research, research. Knowledge is key, and there’s already plenty of info out there in cyberspace. Because life always gets in the way, time management is critical.

Me, I’m always concerned about my auction performance. Will I make the same mistakes? Will I bid someone up to sucker a fellow fantasy leaguer only to be the one suckered, leaving me stuck with a player I paid too much for and didn’t really want?

Will I bid with my heart and not my head? Will I give too much credence to Spring Training performances? Will I get overly distracted by worrying about the amount of auction money I have left? Will I screw up the math?

Will I spend too much time talking smack and not enough time on critical last-minute decisions? Will I repeat the same mistakes? Will I pop open a brewski before I complete my roster?

Will I (fill in the blank­­­­­­­­       )?

IMG_0490

IMG_0490 (Photo credit: bridgetds)

Admit it, you all have committed such elementary errors.

Often, the simple things are overlooked, like not bringing enough food to get through an eight-hour draft day and bringing too much information to sift through. Or deviate so far from the draft plan that internal chaos renders you ineffective.               Our Blue Moon league draft will hold its auction March 30, a Saturday. Gives me close to eight precious weeks to be ready to dominate. Okay, I’ll settle for a draft performance that reaps respectable rewards come the October payout.

Blue Moon is a keeper league, and we draft from both the NL and AL. There are 14 league owners competing in a dozen categories, six offensive and six pitching. We maintain 23-man rosters and each have six players in reserve. Transactions are daily. Competition is serious.

Meanwhile, I have until March 15 to declare seven keepers, (includes two pitchers minimum), and it doesn’t look pretty. Two of them are dirt cheap to keep. That’s the good news. But circumstances beyond my control have both may start the season riding the bench, relegated to spot starts. The guys in question are outfielder Bret Gardner at $4 and middle infielder Jed Lowrie for a measly three bucks.

In the meantime, the so-called experts disagree on Lowrie. A sampling…ESPN, MLB.com, Rotoworld, and CBSsports.com have Gardner penciled in left field.  Encouraging news. As for Lowrie, there is plenty of disagreement. ESPN predicts he’s starting at the hot corner, Rotoworld says he’s slotted for second, but MLB.com and CBS have Lowrie as a backup infielder.

Muddying the waters: MLB Tonight TV program figure Lowrie to start the season at third base. Huh?

Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (51)

Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (51) (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Gardner is a virtual lock to steal 35-plus bags and believed to have sufficiently healed from elbow surgery, but there’s a future Hall of Famer named Ichiro that could stand in his way. The ageless Japanese import is now 39, and a full season as a Yankee should bump up his numbers across the board. Ichiro is also a box office draw at Yankee Stadium. Not to mention the right field porch is well suited for the lefty’s occasional home run swats. Gardner, 29, is powerless.

And then there’s Lowrie, who smacked 16 HRs in only 340 at bats for Houston. Impressive. He was an everyday player with his season cut short by injuries. Injury prone he is. To make matters worse, Lowrie was traded in January to Oakland, where management plans to use him as a backup infielder. Furthermore, Oakland’s cavernous coliseum is a far cry from hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.

On the bright side, Lowrie is expected to eventually take over this season at short or second base,  maybe even third. Lowrie’s advantage: the A’s proposed starting infielders leave much to be desired.

And what about the remaining five I plan to keep? So far, no problem. They are Cliff Lee, $11, Matt Harrison, $2, Mike Adams, $4, Adam Dunn, $8, and Joey Votto, $32. All at bargain prices, except Votto, but the elite first baseman is worth every auction dollar.

From where I sit, Lowrie and Gardner are worth such low-dollar risk. Otherwise, my options are bleak. The rest of my hitters are PED-suspended Yasmani Grandal, $11, Jesus Montero, $15, Logan Forsythe, $11, Kevin Youkilus, $24, Jhonny Peralta, $12, Justin Morneau, $14, Michael Brantley, $11,Michael  Cuddyer, $28, Dexter Fowler, $11, Jeff Francouer, $11, Matt Joyce, $14, and Pedro Ciriaco, $11. Ugh.

My remaining pitching staff (keep in mind that we score Holds) includes Ogando, $11, Broxton, $5, Brett Myers, $4, Jake McGee, $11, Jon Rauch, $11, Dave Robertson, $11, Craig Stammen, $11, Pedro Strop, $11, Beckett, $13, and Jonathan Niese, $4.

What would you do? Do you see anyone in the above two paragraphs that I should keep in place of Lowrie and Gardner? Incidentally, I’ll avoid Beckett as much as Boston Red Sox fans would like to tar and feather Bobby Valentine.

Speaking of Valentine, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Better be prepared for V-Day, too…If I’m truly a wise guy.

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Check out my new novel:  High Stakes FantasyAn Alternative Reality Sports Thriller

The Monty Python Award goes to this season’s Losers

Joey Votto - Cincinnati - 2009 Home

Joey Votto – Cincinnati – 2009 Home (Photo credit: BaseballBacks)

Eric Idle Blowin' Up

Eric Idle Blowin’ Up (Photo credit: VTscapes)

  “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”                                                                                

—  Eric Idle

It was August 20, and my fantasy baseball team was, and still is, in the cellar.

That evening, instead of dwelling on my cellar status, I watched most of the closing ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Fortunately, I caught the event’s top performance. Veteran comedian/actor Eric Idle sang his 1979 classic from Monty Python‘s “Life of Brian:  Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Sage advice for all earthlings. While Idle performed, many in the massive London audience sang along—even the Royals. No, not the loser Kansas City ballclub. We’re talking the first place Buckingham Palace Royals.

I sang along that night, too. And the next morning … woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, and then I went downstairs and reprised Idle’s catchy tune. My lady wasn’t thrilled, but it made me feel a lot better about the reality of my fantasy failure. With only six weeks left in the fantasy season, my team was doomed.

Fast forward to late September. Now, let’s take a look at the bright spots that make losers feel like winners:

  1. No matter how my fantasy sucked this season, I will always love baseball. After all, our love of the real game is  what got us into fantasy. And as we all know, our passion for fantasy has resulted in a deeper appreciation of The Show.
  2. Throughout September and the post-season, MLB games carry considerably more weight, raising the level of excitement.  Pleasant distractions while licking our alternate reality wounds, for sure.
  3. Many Roto leagues offer consolation prizes. Our league provides payoffs for win ning individual scoring categories. I won Holds this year.
  4. It’s a safe bet that most of us managed to acquire bargain, breakout, and/or bounce-back players, making us feel like geniuses. And for keeper league guys and gals, some of those genius acquisitions will remain on our rosters for next season.

My genius auction picks and in-season acquisitions likely to be kept are listed below. Ten percent inflation for keepers has been added.

Adam Dunn – $8, Jed Lowrie – $3, Bret Gardner – $4, Matt Harrison ($2),  Jonathan Niese – $4, Cliff Lee – $11,  and Mike Adams – $4. (We score Holds, and Adams is one of the best, pitching for a perennial contender.)

I traded $11 Craig Kimbrel for $2 Harrison. Tough to let go of the best closer in the business, but in order to draft strong next spring, I require plenty of auction money.  Gardner was a July 29 free agent pickup. The $4 Yankee speedster had been tossed back in the free agent pool after a serious elbow injury required surgery in July.

Lee was a third-year keeper, while the other four bargain players were acquired in our draft last March.

Niese is on the bubble because I can keep Joey Votto, but he will cost me $32.  Votto is worth a major investment, but I’m undecided. I have a half-year to agonize over what to do.

  1. Football season is here. For diehards, fantasy football provides us with a few more months of pretending we own and manage a sports franchise. Tried it twice, but discovered I needed a break from alternate reality before gearing up for baseball.

So, how’d your season go? That bad? Well, don’t crucify yourself. Just remember…

…If life seems jolly rotten there’s something you’ve forgotten

And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing

When you’re feeling in the dumps don’t be silly chumps

Just purse your lips and whistle, that’s the thing

And always look on the bright side of life…

##

Check out my new novel:  High Stakes FantasyAn Alternative Reality Sports Thriller

Reality Trumps Fantasy So Trade Now for Next Year

The Swinging Friar, the mascot for the San Die...
The Swinging Friar, the mascot for the San Diego Padres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sure, both the Padres and yours truly will have decent keepers, but the advantage goes to the real Major League team because they now have brand new owners and never ending revenue streams. Meanwhile, I remain the sole owner of my fantasy squad with no plans of selling out and stuck with a salary cap. Even selling beer and peanuts on draft day doesn’t increase my fantasy player payroll.

And thanks to the O’Malley family of Dodgers fame, champion golfer Phil Mickelson (a San Diegan), and an extremely wealthy beer and bottled water distributor, the National League franchise in San Diego is expected to soon sport a significantly larger budget. New owners, of course, typically try to impress their fans by increasing player payroll, especially during the first couple of seasons.

Me, I’m stuck with a $260 salary cap, like countless others cavorting in fantasyland. No additional revenue streams for player payroll. Just the draft day play money. Sound familiar?

Fortunately, keeper leagues such as mine provide motivators to play for the next season. The key: trade now for next year. Unload expensive, proven studs in exchange for bargain-priced players that contenders are willing to part with in their quest for the holy grail. In short, the contenders are all about seizing the moment. Next season is barely on their radar.

And what about the apparent bargains you just acquired? In most cases, these guys are not studs, but they are the kind of ballplayers that rack up solid numbers in multiple categories. Better yet, fantasy contenders may be willing to give up a cheaply-priced studs because they perceive a way to pick up ground in categories they are lagging in.

Remember, at season’s end, it’s all about the points.

In our league, there is another motivator for late season cellar dwellers: categories. We award pay outs to those who win categories. In our league, we have 6 offensive and 6 pitching categories. Currently, I’m in a hotly contested race to capture the Holds category. Doesn’t matter that I’m next to last overall.

You can also mine the free agent pool for top players who are out for most or rest of the season with injuries or PEDs suspensions. (Melky comes to mind.)

Bottom line, the overriding strategy is to head into next year’s draft with more money to spend, thus more opportunity to draft more quality guys.

In late July, I picked up Yankee outfielder Brett Gardner, who had been tossed back into the free agent pile after suffering what appeared to be a season-ending injury. Under our league rules, drafted players that are cut retain their draft day auction cost.

In speedster Gardner’s case, he was auctioned off at three bucks. With inflation, the stolen base stud will cost me only $4 to keep. Sure, he’s essentially a one-category guy, but he swiped 49 bags in 2011 and 47 in 2010. Plus the Yank is only 28 and shouldn’t inflict much damage to your team’s batting average.

Turning to snake leagues…Those of us in snake draft leagues that allow attaching draft pick to player trades also have considerable motivation to play for next season. I won a snake league championship back in the day when fantasy sports web sites did not exist.

To take first place, I spent the bulk of the prior season preparing. Traded away players in demand for lesser guys, but also made sure high draft pickswere included in the deal. Ended up with three Number One and Four Number Two picks, plus a couple of third and fourth rounders. Sweet.

Brett Gardner

Brett Gardner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My roster was full about an hour while  some of the other league members were scrounging for promising platoon players. In 20 years of fantasy, that was my only championship year.

Yeah, playing for next year doesn’t even come close to contending right now, but we still find ways to have fun, right? Otherwise, why do those of us out of contention keep on swinging away?

Watching Reality Baseball a Real Pain in the Fantasy

Billy Beane - Oakland - 1989 Home

Billy Beane – Oakland – 1989 Home (Photo credit: BaseballBacks)

Okay, so my Blue Moon League team is out of the running, and could (gasp) finish in the cellar! Had  figured a middle-of-the-pack finish, but wouldn’t bet on it.

Besides, somebody’s got to finish last, right? Might say I’m taking one for the League.

Alas, there is hope for us losers. For me, the following sage advice came, ironically, from a perennial fantasy champ back in the pre-Internet, pre-software days.  After the end of the 1994 or ’95 season, this fantasy champion walked away from the fantasy game because “I want to watch baseball the way it was meant to  be watched.”

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that losers quit fantasy forever (although the above mentioned winner did).  Just saying that it makes good sense to salvage a losing fantasy season by relishing the reality of Major League Baseball. In other words, if you’re going to bring up the rear in fantasy, then why not sit back and enjoy reality without a thought about fantasy player performance. It’s tough to do, but doable.

Here’s how. First, select a Major League game featuring one of your favorite teams. If you can’t get one of them on the tube or can’t make it to the ballpark, then find an available game that features teams you don’t like and root against them. In my case, it’s the Yankees and the Dodgers.

Before first pitch, remind yourself that you fell in love with the game of baseball long before you got hooked on the virtual version. And take sick pleasure in knowing that those still in contention in your fantasy league are probably sweating over virtually every pitch. This should minimize the dreaded fantasy-fueled inner conflict when viewing baseball.

We all know that it’s tough to watch guys on our Roto-rosters during MLB action. And the inner conflict intensifies while watching a game in which your fantasy players are up against your home team or another ballclub you root for.

If it’s a hitter in a close game, I want him to get a hit and steal a base, but not score or knock in a run. On the other hand, if my reality team is winning or losing by a wide margin, then I want my fantasy guy to score in as many categories as possible. Well, maybe not hit or give up a grand slam. My mindset pretty much follows the same pattern for pitching.

Then there’s another stress-reducing solution made famous by Oakland GM Billy Beane. Simply don’t watch the game.

Emotional Rollercoaster Takes Toll, But…

Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Every baseball fan has his favorite players. You pull for your guys. You raise the roof when they excel and you wallow in deep sorrow when they fail.

In fantasy, the emotional rollercoaster is worse.  How can this be? Shouldn’t the emotional attachments made in fantasy be on par with reality baseball? Inarguably, the agony and ecstasy goes much deeper in fantasy sports because the investment goes beyond the emotional investment. The fantasy owner also has his ego and money on the line.  Months of preparation and of hopes and aspirations are invested in members of your fantasy line-up.

And the situation is especially intense when the ballplayer in question is not only on your fantasy roster but is also a member of your home team. Double your pleasure, double your depression.

How many of you out there are or have been emotionally attached to certain players on your rosters? No doubt everyone.  After all, we own our fantasy teams, right? No matter how certain players disappoint, day after day, game after game, you hang on to them. I plead guilty.

The auction amount paid often equates to how much you become attached to a player. Year after year, I stubbornly refuse to release or trade someone who cost a bundle on draft day—except this season—no matter how I plummet in the standings. How about you? How about giving up on a guy?

Around three or four seasons ago, C. C. Sabathia had a horrible start, losing something like 8 or 9 games before notching a win. Unfortunately, I drafted him for big bucks that year. As he kept losing, the vultures circled with trade bait. But I stuck with C.C. who eventually came around to salvage the season.

This season has been particularly trying for yours truly. Think 2011 American League MVP Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Doug Fister, Nick Hundley, and Cliff Lee (yes, Lee). It’s June 20 and Lee can’t even buy a win, despite his 1.21 WHIP and 3.48 ERA! Last year, he won 17 games for Philly and fanned 238 while pitching 232.2 innings. His 2011 WHIP— a dominating 1.027.

Hard to take. Wicked hahd!

In the 2012 draft, Hundley cost me only $4, but doubt he has been worth that much. For the bulk of this young season, he batting average has remained under the dreaded Medoza Line. Before game time today, Hundley was batting a miserable .169 with 44 strikeouts in 177 at bats.  Last year, the young Padre catcher provided me with a breakout season, hitting .288 with nine HRs and 29 RBI in 281 at bats. Hundley missed close to half the season due to injuries. So what happened this year? Bud Black is clueless and apparently so is Hundley.

Meanwhile, Fister and Youk have landed on and off, and on, the disabled list and have had their share of day-to-day throughout 2012. Fister, listed as Number Two in Detroit’s starting rotation before the season’s start, has been particularly frustrating. I had a chance to trade him for Sabathia in late April, but passed. What was I thinking?  After all, the highly touted Fister began the season on the disabled list while big bad C.C. started the season somewhat slow.

Of course, it didn’t help that big bad Sabathia hurls for the hated Yanks. As a native of theBostonarea, I remain a diehard Sox fan. This bias, unfortunately, spills over into my fantasy game. Have had Bronx Bombers on my teams in the past, but they have been few and far between.

As a serious fantasy player, I’m supposed to put emotional attachments aside. Yet after 20 years of living in fantasyland, I occasionally lose my objectivity when drafting. To be more specific, I typically draft one or two guys from the two MLB teams that are based in the two cities I call home: Beantown andSan Diego. Also have difficulty trading them.

This brings us to my biggest heartbreak of the 2012 season: Ellsbury (see earlier blog, Old Draft Day Habits Die Hard).Boston’s coveted five-tool center fielder was seriously injured after playing only seven games into the season.

To make matters worse, Ellsbury had cost me 31 bucks.  Devastated, I traded my most prized player a week later for none other than injury prone Youkilis, who is very publicly having his worst season.  Ugh!

To my credit, I actually traded Ellsbury but dread his return to action, which could come in a couple of weeks.  On the other hand, I’m anxious for Ellsbury to be activated to help the Sox turn around a lousy couple of months. Not used to seeing Boston at the bottom of its division. Heavy sigh.

Should’ve fled fantasy right after the 1993 season, my rookie year playing this infuriating game. That year, rapidly rising star Gary Sheffield broke my heart. He’d just come off an incredibly productive season in which he finished third in the National League MVP vote.  The bonus: he was actually a San Diego Padre!

Tragically, Sheff went down only a couple of weeks into the season and was done for the rest of the year. My first taste of how cruel fantasy can be. Heavy, heavy sigh.

Whew, I need to get off this rollercoaster, but that won’t happen. I remain hooked, and that’s a good thing.

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Check out my new novel, High Stakes Fantasy—An Alternative Reality Sports Thriller:  www.createspace.com/3825436