Sunday, July 27, 2008

What if?

You've just won the opportunity of a lifetime. For one inning, you get to sit in the dugout with your favorite team during a Major League Baseball game. Yes, you, dressed in the home whites, sitting among your heroes. Sure, maybe some of the bigger stars won't pay you as much attention, but at least some of the journeymen are chatting you up, making sure you feel welcome and "part of the team." There's a lot of swearing, chewing, spitting, and scratching going on in that dugout, not to mention the smell of wooden bats and the dust coming in from the infield. You're right there in middle of it all with the best seat in the house.

As it turns out, one of the guys on the team discovers he went to the same college as you and offers to exchange cell phone numbers. You can't believe this is happening. And then, as if it couldn't get any better, your team's best player is now digging in at the plate. You're hoping he hits a homer. After all, he already hit one in his first AB of the game.

But something else happens. He gets drilled by a fastball in the shoulder. The reaction in the dugout is very negative--a lot of hollering at the pitcher. Your team's best player shakes it off, takes three steps toward first and then suddenly looks at the pitcher.

Then he charges the mound.

Now, I think we all know what happens next...

My question to you, the regular fan sitting in the dugout, is this: What would you do and why?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Q Word

You can bet your bottom dollar that there are thousands upon thousands of fantasy baseball team owners who by now have abandoned common decency and publicly engaged in a nasty, vile act represented in the English language by four-letter word best left unsaid in polite company.

They've quit.

Fortunately, in the UPL this hasn't been much of a problem. Aside from the guy in our league who picked all Red Sox players in March and then sat back and did nothing as his team has coasted to first, everyone else in our league seems to at least still be putting forth some effort in making roster moves.

Over at RotoAuthority, Tim Dierkes has made a list of 8 ways to avoid teams quitting your fantasy league. Here they are from Tim :

1. Make it a keeper league. This is a pretty obvious way to ensure everyone maintains interest in the league all year long. Just like in real baseball, the lousy out-of-contention teams can trade off expensive stars for affordable youngsters. This is more easily done if the draft is auction rather than snake draft style. The more keepers you allow, the more flexibility for poor teams to stockpile prospects. My league allows a healthy ten keepers.

2. Require a decent cash buy-in, and give prizes for the first three or four finishers. I suggest at least a $60 buy-in. Then you've got $720 to work with. $460 for first place, $200 for second, third gets their money back. Even if the first place team runs away with it, you might have a gaggle of teams fighting for second and third.

3. Give cash prizes to monthly winners. If your provider tracks leaders by month, you can dole out small cash prizes ($20 maybe) based on that. The previous incarnation of Fanball used to accomodate monthly stats; I'm not sure if any services do now. Monthly prizes can provide a little extra incentive.

4. Choose head-to-head over rotisserie style. I am not a fan of H2H leagues. A standard roto league already has plenty of luck involved, but with H2H you are slicing up the season 26 times into weekly matchups. I acknowledge that H2H has its own strategies, and it can certainly keep a person invested just for bragging rights over another team.

5. Kick out the worst four teams each year. If you've got enough people vying to be in the league, you can give the boot to x number of teams at the bottom of the standings while keeping the rest for next year. If it's the bottom four, this might create a battle to stay out of 9th place. We are trying this in the RotoAuthority league this year.

6. Periodically publicize the league results, with trash talk. This has worked well in one of my H2H leagues. Weekly matchup results are analyzed on a blog, and losers are good-naturedly insulted. Plus, it's always good to randomly mock a league member for a bad drop or trade. They'll remember that, and strive to prevent future embarrassments. Public shaming is useful, but be aware that trash talk can very easily cross the line and create animosity.

7. Don't play in a league with strangers. For your league, try to recruit friends, family members, coworkers, or other acquaintances. If you see league members in person regularly, they might feel ashamed about quitting on the league. If you join a random Yahoo league, people will have no such qualms.

8. Seek out league members who aren't always busy. The number one reason people give for quitting on a fantasy league is that they just didn't have time to manage their roster. Some people are truly busy, while others just pretend to be. It's a lot easier to say this than to admit they drafted a lousy team and lost interest. When possible, opt for people with a little time on their hands - college students, freelancers, coworkers at a laid-back job, retirees. If a prospective owner never has time to hang out because of work/family/whatever, they probably won't have time for a fantasy league either.

These all seem pretty reasonable to me. Although, I imagine most people would have difficulty finding a league that actually kicks out the bottom 4 each time. It seems that would be difficult to replenish every year.

HT: RotoAuthority

Monday, July 14, 2008


Oh, what a difference a single letter can make.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Win or die tryin'

Today I was very disappointed to see that my team has fallen all the way down to 7th place.

But I've got a plan. From here on out, I just need my starting pitchers to pitch, my closers to close, and my hitters to hit. If we do those three simple things, then we'll take back first place. If not, then I'm going to retire from fantasy baseball.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A storm is brewin'

So here in the midwest, the past few days major trades have been all the rage. Essentially, the top two teams in the NL Central both bolstered their starting rotations. First, the Brewers traded for CC Sabathia. Then the Cubs traded for Rich Harden.

Before this Harden deal, when I looked at the Cubs as a team, the biggest weakness I saw (aside from the Billy Goat Curse and the Bartman Ghost) was the top of their starting rotation. Now, I'm not knocking Carlos Zambrano/Ted Lilly/Ryan Dempster. Those guys are nice starters for the regular season. But I'm talking about the playoffs. Last year in the playoffs both Zambrano and Lilly got outpitched by their Arizona counterparts, and that was that. Season over.

In the offseason Arizona added another ace in Dan Haren, so you have to figure if they make the playoffs again they'll be even tougher. As such, it's been hard for me to look at Zambrano/Lilly/Dempster and feel as though the Cubs were somehow a heavy favorite to make the World Series.

Granted, now that the Cubs have dealt for Harden, this changes things. Provided that they can stay healthy, the Cubs should have four quality starters for the playoffs. Furthermore, if Zambrano were to go down with an injury, I think the Cubs still have a shot at the championship if Harden/Lilly/Dempster can pitch well in October.

But where things really get interesting is with Milwaukee. A small market team, the deal they've made for Sabathia is essentially a "now or never" move. If I'm not mistaken, Prince Fielder, Sabathia, and Ben Sheets are all free agents at season's end--and Milwaukee would likely lose at least two of them.

The Brewers have an explosive offense, but a suspect bullpen. Regarding their starting rotation, with a healthy Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia leading the way, their 1-2 punch is as good as any in the majors. The unfortunate thing for the Brewers is that Yovani Gallardo is hurt. He might be back in September, but it's hard to say how he'll perform. If the Brewers have Sheets, Sabathia, and Gallardo going strong in October, they'll be tough to beat.

The way I see it, the Cubs are the deepest, most talented team in the majors. Their batting lineup top to bottom, starting rotation top to bottom, and bullpen top to bottom match up very well with anyone else out there. However, while that's all nice for a 162-game regular season, it's not really what carries the day in a Best-of-7 (or Best-of-5) playoff series. In the playoffs, the biggest factor is starting pitching. If you can send a guy to the mound who's going to throw 9 shutout innings, then you've got a great shot at winning.

Look at what Josh Beckett did for Boston last year (or for Florida in 2003). Another great example is what Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did for Arizona in 2001. Or how about Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, and Freddy Garcia for the White Sox in 2005?

On paper, both the Brewers and Cubs have enough starting pitching to win the World Series. Now it's all about going out and proving it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

It's just a hat

I don't have many hats. In fact, when it comes to ball caps, I currently only have two. One is a white U. of I. hat which I put on my bed head when I wake up in the morning to go running (which usually only happens once or twice a week). My other cap is the one worn by the Cubs on the road (pictured above)--I got it last year at a Cubs game mainly because I needed something to keep the sun off me.

When I was getting ready to go to the Taste of Chicago on Saturday, I figured that I should wear a hat since I'd be outside all day. I would have liked to have worn my white U. of I. cap, but since it's not actually white but yellow and smells like it has six years' worth of sweat stains in it, I decided to go wtih my fresh Cubs hat. However, I didn't make this decision without some hesitation. After all, the emotions in this city are riding higher and higher with each passing week. For a brief moment, I pictured myself in the middle of 100 restaurant canopies at the Taste, holding a slice of deep dish pizza in one hand and an Italian beef in the other, happy as a kid in a candy store... but then somebody makes a comment about my Cubs hat and next thing you know a minor skirmish turns into a full-scale riot with even the restaurants taking sides (North and South) for a brutal "Black and Blue" Windy City brawl that makes national news.

But of course, I snapped out of it and told myself, "That could never happen. Nobody will say anything to you." So I put on my Cubs hat and went on my way.

I hadn't been at the Taste more than 20 minutes before some older guy walking past me said, "Like your hat." I wasn't really paying attention to him, so I wasn't sure if he was talking to me. But I looked up and realized he had to be talking to me, so I just muttered, "Thanks." Although, honestly, it felt weird. The only thing weirder would have been if the same guy had said the same thing about the same hat while I was at Wrigley Field.

Uh, thanks.

But I couldn't complain. It was better than having a White Sox fan taunt me. (Especially since I root for the White Sox too.)

So the day went on and things were going well, as planned. The crowds by now had swelled, so there were certainly more people walking in closer quarters. As I made my way toward the exit, there was a guy walking along, talking to a group of teenage girls nearby. I could tell they didn't want him around, but he kept talking, going on and on about how God loves them and such. (One of the girls sneered to another, "I just want to walk up, kick him in the butt and say, 'Shut up!'") But what was really funny was when the guy switched from trumpeting theology to wondering aloud, "Does anyone have any tickets they don't want?" (He was referring to the tickets used to buy food at the Taste.) Over and over, to nobody in particular, he would ask the same question, "Does anyone have any tickets they don't want?"

Everyone kept walking, but so did he. At one point I thought he had gone another direction, but when I looked over I saw him again--and he saw me.

And he noticed something.

"Oh, you're a Cubs fan. I'm a White Sox fan!"

Dang it. I can see the exit, but now this is happening.

He continues, "The Cubs are going to get theirs. We're gonna whup 'em!" And of course, as he was prone to doing, he couldn't just say something once. He had to say it five times with that crazy look in his eyes. "You're gonna get yours! You're gonna get yours!"

He seemed harmless enough, so I found the whole thing amusing. Although, if he had instead pointed at me and hollered, "That Cubs fan stole my tickets!" then that wouldn't have been quite as amusing. That would have made me a marked man among the White Sox fans and who knows, it might have even started a riot...