Last Monday, I laid out my strategy for this season's National League LABR on the Hotpage (The Kershaw Report, Part II), wherein I dropped $40 on Clayton Kershaw as the center of my LABR team's universe.
I am often asked who I like in a draft, or what I am going to do in an upcoming auction, and a lot of the time I don't really know till the moment hits, kind of like sometimes I am not sure if I will order salmon or a steak in a restaurant till the waiter looks at me in an irritated fashion, tapping his finger, while I decide on the spot.
But, in "real" (as in non-mock) auctions--where every owner has an equal chance of owning every player, at least going in--things are different. For, in those drafts I might have an idea of players I like, and while I try to never let a bargain get past me, for the most part I wait for others to nominate the players I want, at least at first.
However, sometimes, as with last Sunday, I have a clear plan in mind to try. Many years ago, in a mixed 12-team format, I froze $231 worth of roster, and then cleaned up on $2 players within the rich player pool (I won back-to-back titles that way), trading and planning and plotting long before the March auction.
My first Tout Wars--when the league went 5x5 from 4x4--I vowed to exploit saves (won that time, too), and in the XFL a couple of years back, in an effort to rebuild in a deep dynasty-type format, I purposely bought the two most expensive players (Albert Pujols for $61 and Roy Halladay for $41) and then left $40 on the table. In this instance, since I knew I was going to waste a season trading the stars and rebuilding, I knew going in leaving a bunch of money would similarly skew the values at the end-draft, and throw my opponents off their game a little.
I had been theorizing the Kershaw $40 bid since last December--when I started to look carefully at the Dodger Southpaw's totals as compared to those of Pedro Martinez--and I knew I simply had to try the jump bid to $40 (which was actually my opening nomination price, after which I heard crickets).
Though I had a list of players I liked to build out my offense, the truth is that I was not exactly sure what I would do after collecting Kershaw (aside from, as noted, I would not bid $42, should someone bid $41).
What was odd was I don't remember being as nervous about keeping to a strategy, or making a bid like that, in all the years I have been playing fantasy and roto ball, and trying to figure out some parallel path to championship nirvana.
I did clearly hear Lenny Melnick nominate first (Craig Kimbrel, $19), followed Derek Carty naming Giancarlo Stanton ($36), Carlos Gomez ($32), Joey Votto ($23), Angel Pagan ($12), Buster Posey ($24), Andrew McCutchen ($39), Ken Giles ($6), Billy Hamilton ($27), Javier Baez ($11), and then all of a sudden it was my turn.
So, the whole thing felt very out of body. I remember thinking, "here we go" (I similarly remember thinking this when I got Keith Foulke and Derek Lowe as my closers for under a collective $60 back during my first Tout Wars in 2000), and hearing that sort of white noise that Al Pacino hears in The Godfather, before he comes out of the bathroom in Louie's Restaurant, shoots Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey in the head and flees for Sicily.
As my body sat there, my voice declared, "Clayton Kershaw, $40," a series of mumbles followed, the pitcher was mine and I had to figure out what to do next. (Note too that in leagues like LABR and Tout, I really don't like to even pay $30 for a particular player.)
I am not sure why this particular time felt so out-of-time: it was like asking someone out for the first time when you are not sure if the other person likes you. I am pretty used to not just drafting and auctions by now, but to my picks and teams being public, and questioned and/or whatever.
For the most part, I try to take any external fallout with indifference, because the objective here is to assemble the team I think will win, as opposed to the squad everyone else thinks I should have built. Which really means the team they would have built, and in that sense, this is sort of like listening to people without children trying to explain how they would fix other people's seemingly out-of-control kids.
I must say that I am not sure if I made mistakes in letting Pagan ($12) and Giles ($6) get past me as I was distracted by my pending Kershaw bid. I wanted both, yet both were a buck more than I anticipated spending on them at the time, and as I noted, my focus for some crazy reason was on the Kershaw conundrum, and whether the whole plan would work.
Which brings me to the second part of that drafting postulate: I can get Kershaw, but my team will be worthless if I cannot build a good supporting cast beneath him.
I did buy Brandon McCarthy nine players later, but then waited a long time (64 players) before I took my third player (Sergio Romo, $3) and then another six before taking my first hitter (Kolten Wong, $25). Meaning 90 players had been purchased before I rostered a position player.
From there, it was pretty easy to grab what I hope is a balanced enough roster to be competitive. Of course, I hope my plan works, although I am resigned to the fact that if it doesn't, there is a lesson learned there as well.
So, in that sense, nothing has really changed. Save, I cannot tell why in god's name I was so nervous about this?
For the complete results of the NL LABR draft, click here.