Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Confessions Of A Fantasy Baseball Failure

I had a short and unsuccessful career as a baseball player in junior high school. In the one game I started, I missed two out of four fly balls hit to me in right field, struck out once, flied out once, walked, and was picked off by the pitcher when I tried to emulate one of my favorite Dodgers, Maury Wills, by taking a big lead in order to steal second base. Needless to say, I didn't try out for my high school baseball team.
Despite being a crummy player, I was a big fan of major league baseball, ever since my dad took me to my first game at Dodger Stadium, where some guy named Sandy Koufax pitched for the home team that day. Growing up in Southern California in the 60s and 70s, I rooted for the veterans who had moved from Brooklyn, as well as the upstart LA Angels, who played in "the other Wrigley Field" until Anaheim Stadium was built. When I joined the Army and left Southern California for good, I kind of lost interest in baseball, until my new home team, the Seattle Mariners, drafted some guy named Ken Griffey, Jr. So now I'm a Mariners fan, with all of the perennial hope and ultimately disappointment that comes with it.

Fast forward to Baghdad, 2010. I was invited to join in a fantasy baseball league by one of my fellow agents. I had always thought fantasy sports stuff was for geeky dudes who spent most of their lives in their parent's basement playing "World of Warcraft". I soon learned that my preconception was invalid; normal folks, including women (!), really got into fantasy sports competition in a really big way.  I had really no idea of what I was doing, but managed to "Forrest Gump" my way into the playoffs that year.

I've been doing fantasy baseball ever since, and added football a couple of years ago. One of my best friends from high school invited me to join the leagues he runs, and so I was in two baseball and two football leagues every season. Through all this fantasy sports  activity, I learned a couple of things about myself:

1. Playing in fantasy leagues has added to my knowledge and enjoyment of both baseball and football, leading me to follow other teams outside of my region, and keep my interest going even when my home teams get bounced out of post-season contention on a regular basis. (Especially those damn Mariners!)

2. I absolutely suck at fantasy sports.

I'm sure a big reason for #2 is that I don't spend a lot of time tweaking my daily/weekly line-ups. I usually draft pretty good, even great players, but I hang on to them way too long after they go from "hero to zero", or I make the mistake of dumping someone who has underperformed, just in time for them to get picked up by another team at the start of the player's MVP comeback. Also, I'm really don't get too bummed out if my team loses. Don't get me wrong, I prefer to win as much as the next guy, but if I do my best, but my players stink at the wrong time, oh well, I did my best. There are undoubtedly lots of strategies I could study to improve my team's performance (that's why some guys usually win every year, even without a roster full of superstars), but I've got other things which interest me more.

This year's fantasy baseball season is drawing to a close, and once again my team isn't going to make the playoffs. I'm cool with that. Unfortunately, my "fantasy slacker" attitude led me to commit an apparent faux pas the other day. After realizing I was eliminated from playoff contention by my third straight loss, I figured I would help out the other teams still in contention by dumping most of the players I wasn't planning on keeping for next season, and replacing them with up-and-comers who may be the rookie sensations of 2014. Turns out that this approach is frowned upon in fantasy sports circles,
which my good friend was kind enough to let me know. So I guess there is even an etiquette to sucking at fantasy sports. (Which makes it more like golf than I previously realized!)

Oh, well...Lesson learned. Now it's time to get ready for fantasy football. Which, by the way, I've already set the tone for a dismal season by trading for an all-star receiver, who was arrested for murder the week after the trade went through. At least you can be assured I won't be dumping my players after we're eliminated from the post-season!

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