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Saturday 20th Jan 2018

I play in some pretty tough fantasy leagues.

I am sure most people would consider AL Tout as hard as it comes, and no question, it is difficult. Though a little less storied, LABR, and I am in the National League there, is just as competitive.

I also play in a 30-team Strat-O-Matic league with strict usage rules, meaning the presence of George Kottaras is essential, and it is very hard as well, as is the 24-team Strat Hall of Fame set-up where Rogers Hornsby came off the bench to pinch hit against me the other day. Talk about tight.

But, the difficulty in all those formats pales to me in comparison to the Xperts Fantasy League, or XFL as we refer to it.


The XFL is a 15-team mixed format that is pretty much a straight forward dynasty set-up, save a couple of quirks.

We do--and always have used--OBP instead of batting average.

We can freeze up to 15 players from year-to-year, and keep players in our minors provided they tossed less than 20 innings or accumulated less than 50 at-bats. Once those numbers have been passed, the player must be activated or dropped, but the beauty is that they come up as $1 players, and increase in salary for just $3 thereafter, as long as promoted from within (these players can be swapped and if so, the salary rules remain intact).

Otherwise, players have a salary increase of $5 a year for the most part over the purchase price at the auction held at the Arizona Fall League each year.

We do have a monthly free agent pool draft--where players command a $10 base salary--rather than weekly moves. but since we get 17 reserves in addition to our 23-player roster, it is pretty easy to fill an injury hole.

Oh yeah, and league members must be at least 40-years of age, with at least 10 years in the fantasy industry.

What it means is that Ron Shandler, Doug Dennis, Todd Zola, Brian Walton, Trace Wood, Don Drooker, Perry Van Hook, Peter Kreutzer and Alex Patton, along with Greg Ambrosius, Gene McCaffrey, Jeff Winick, Brian Feldman and Steve Moyer are the fierce competition where over 12 seasons, I have finished as high as sixth a couple of times, but otherwise no better than ninth. Worse, I have owned the cellar five times since the league began, though in fairness I expected that result the last three seasons.

That is because following a failed 2011 season, I decided to radically change the approach in a format where I had always dominated, albeit to apparently lesser competition.

Because the minors are so shrewdly picked over, I sacrificed the past few years buying and then trading my expensive auction purchases for prospects, trying to bottom feed and freeze guys like Leonys Martin and Yan Gomes to go with franchise cheapies like Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Moore (who was a deal at $7 plus $3 a year until last week), Nick Castellanos, Yordano Ventura and Mike Zunino.

Truth is I had a great feeze list going into the draft last fall, but I did not really think my youth movement would really become mature and dangerous till next year, but still, I knew I was moving in the right direction.

So, nearly a month into the season, I am not last, but in 14th place, I am again dangerously close.

And while I have among the best pitching in the league, my hitting, at near the bottom in both OBP and logically runs scored, needs help.

What has become abundantly clear to me is that my team simply has to have a couple of serious power sources, like Mark Trumbo, or even Nelson Cruz if I hope to complement the good young players.

So, timing it so that I can get a few 30-homer guys in concert with my youngsters coming of age is the challenge now, and let me tell you, in this league it is very very hard.

One of the ways I have always tried to work my leagues is to observe and see what people do and come up with an angle no one else has exploited just yet.

The problem is that though I have had basics, and the framework of a strategy, playing against such tough customers has made playing a lot like whack-a-mole in that I plug one gap and another reveals itself.

I am still thinking about this, and cogitating how to approach the draft this coming fall to make sure that at least I can finish the season in the top five.

I'll let you know if I can figure something out, but should anyone out there have any ideas, I am more than open.

This league, like I said, is hard.,

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