Monday, April 07, 2014

The Wisdom of the Aged, Fantasy Baseball Edition

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 Jim Vatcher Memorial League participants.
Not pictured: The guy smart enough not to show up for the game
As noted in this space last year, I play fantasy baseball. More specifically, I've been playing fantasy baseball with largely the same unlikely bunch of guys for a very long time; to wit, we just had our 24th annual draft.

In other words, I have coworkers younger than my fantasy baseball league. Which is exactly the sort of thing you say around the table at your 24th annual draft if you want everyone there to suddenly feel very old. 

Be that as it may, for 24 years we have in fact been gathering to do this thing. We play very basic 4x4 rotisserie baseball, National League only, auction-style draft (which is a nice way of saying that someone mentions a player's name, everyone goes scrambling for his stats online, and then we agonize for twenty minutes over who's willing to pay the most imaginary money for the honor of having his stats count for - or against - our team. Repeat that for 23 roster spots for 10 teams, and you begin to understand why the reservation for our annual league dinner gets pushed back every year). It's not the most accurate simulation of running a baseball team, but it's not supposed to be. It's a game, a game we all understand and enjoy enough to keep coming back for. 

That being said, after 24 years, you learn a few things. Things about yourself, things about your friends, things about where to hide when the two avowed Nationals fans at the table get into it over whether to bid $3 or $4 on Tanner Roark. Below, the accrued wisdom of the ages.

  • It doesn't matter what you've been doing for the last 2 decades or what your tendencies have been since the Clinton administration, you will still take crap for the way you drafted 22 years ago.
  • The first person to break out the booze at the draft loses. 
  • Explaining in great detail why the guy you just passed on sucks more than a Dyson in a lab-grade vacuum while other people are still trying to decide whether or not to spend auction dollars on him is probably counterproductive, at least in a competitive sense.
  • If you throw out a player for bidding and the league's official obsessive-compulsive scouting fanatic says "Who?", you may have made a tactical error.
  • The amount of time any one league member spends agonizing over whether to increment their bid one whole dollar is inversely proportional to the likelihood that A)their bid will ultimately be successful and B)the player in question will actually contribute anything.
  • More time gets spent poring over the last $1 pitcher in the draft and his projected stats than on the likely Cy Young winner.
  • "Spaghettification" is the process that occurs when matter crosses the event horizon of a black hole. It is also what happens to the bidding when four guys who still have money realize there's only one catcher/shortstop/relief pitcher with a pulse left in the draft.
  • Somebody is still mad about that trade you made with them in 1998.
  • Somebody is still mad about that rules change you proposed in 2003.
  • There will always be a valiant effort made to provide healthy snacks, usually in the form of a crudit├ęs tray, for munching on during the day-long ritual. As soon as the first person breaks out a bag of M&Ms, the healthy snacks might as well be on Mars.
  • At least half the members of the league at any given time will have a detailed spreadsheet or other app that projects the full-season statistics for each team and predicts the winner. None of these highly scientific projections will agree, and everyone who has one of these things will note that their spreadsheet/app/crystal ball has them winning the whole shebang. With, you know. Science.
  • No matter how hard you stare at them, you can't make Chris Heisey's stats from last season magically get better.
  • You will get a friendlier, more rational conversation if your criticize someone's children and/or politics than you will if you suggest a rules change the night before the draft.
  • You will fall in love with a player. You will spend too much money on him at the auction. You will bitterly regret the decision to do so when he single-handedly torpedoes your season. You will let him go before the next roster freeze. And you will find yourself drafting him again because this year, this year is the one he's going to finally put it all together.
  • Everybody reads the same analyses. Everyone looks at the same projected stats. Everyone reads Baseball Prospectus. You are about as likely to get a "sleeper" past the rest of the league as you are to suddenly demonstrate a previously hidden skill at parkour.
  • The spouses, significant others, and children of fantasy baseball players are, by and large, saints.
  • Making sure the tickets you've purchased for the traditional post-draft ballgame are in fact for the right day is always important. 
  • Wearing a team t-shirt or jersey to the draft is a bad idea, as it provides a bit of a tell as to whom you're likely to bid higher on.
  • Wearing a team t-shirt or jersey of a team that you're not actively rooting for in hopes of tricking the rest of the league into thinking you've suddenly converted to Padres fandom and bidding accordingly is a worse idea. Because Padres jerseys are ugly.
  • Someone just farted. Someone always just farted.
  • After 24 years, you know the drafting tendencies of everyone else in the league. And they know yours, which is why they're going to jack you up to $24 for Mark Trumbo whether you like it or not.
  • There is a time to come up with wacky props, t-shirts, and sound effects for your team while drafting. That time is twenty years ago.
  • Beer will not help your drafting. It may, however, make you more tolerable to your fellow drafters.

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