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Thursday 23rd Mar 2017

Diane and I spent last weekend with the rest of the family at our Soda Springs house, taking in our last chance at the Tahoe-area weather before the cold--and hopefully rain and snow--pelt us this coming winter.

As noted before, the house has no TV (we do have a couple of flat screens and a store of DVDs), nor do our cell phones work, although we do have Internet so we can work and track ball scores and other important aspects of the digital age.

I was sitting at the dining room table when the e-mail from the MidWest Strat-O-Matic league came in, announcing the final season standings, and lo-and-behold, my Berkeley Liberators grabbed the second National League Wild Card spot, meaning I got to face my friend Steve Belmont's Tempe d'Mets squad. 

2015 has been a rugged year for my season-long and keeper teams. I finished near or at the bottom in Tout Wars, LABR, and the XFL, and my Scoresheet team completely melted down for the first time in the six years I have played in the Murphy League.

But, in Strat, the sim league that lets us play out last year's totals in a head-to-head fashion this year, the Liberators squeaked 94 wins to grab the second Wild Card spot in a 30-team format that plays the same schedule and basic schedule and guidelines of Major League Baseball (save some standard usage rules).

Needless to say, a 30-team league is very tough with the only time I have made the post-season previously being in 2008 when Jason Grey's team brushed me aside on the way to a title. From 2009-2011, the Liberators won 263 games (no playoffs, though), but then the team began getting old, so I gutted them and began the rebuild process which was indeed brutal for the next years until now.

So, when I read the e-mail that I did make the playoffs, I was not only excited, but blurted it out to the bulk of family members who really had no clue what I was talking about. (They know I am in the Fantasy industry, but as for what I do, I might as well be a rocket scientist for NASA.)

I do think the XFL offers up the toughest competition within any league in which I play, but Strat-O-Matic, which I started playing in 1977, is my favorite.

Strat, for me, is a lot like listening to baseball on the radio, which is something I grew up with in a less enlightened electronic age than we have now. And, listening on the radio is still something I really love because a good announcer (the Bay Area is truly blessed there) will paint such a vivid picture that as listeners, we can truly visualize what is being conveyed in real time, making our imaginations as powerful, if not moreso, than watching a game on the tube.

When a Strat game is played out, the hitter does indeed step into the box, and we roll the dice, which is analogous to the pitch being delivered. That is followed by the results of the dice roll, which is tantamount to the batter swinging the bat, and then we move to the respective pitcher's/hitter's card, which tells us if the ball was fielded or booted or hit out of the yard or any of the million possibilities that lead to the final disposition of the play.

So, just like on the radio, I could see it tTuesday when my Marcell Ozuna clubbed a Garrett Richards pitch deep into the PetCo night, only to have the ball snagged by Justin Upton as Steve and I duked it out in my mind's eye just as clearly as if the late Bill King was calling the action.

While Strat is indeed my favorite of all formats, I do get the same kick and feel from playing in Tout Wars and the XFL and all the other formats of baseball simulations I have been playing since I got my very first Cadaco game in the early 1960's.

I do love baseball, and I do love playing games. I do love figuring things out as well, and I like running things, meaning pretending to be a Major League GM, assembling a squad for the long or short term, and then outwitting my league mates is so perfect that it is why I play.

I do love daily games too, mind you, but the bottom line is I don't play for money, and the incentive for me in any contest is that I want to win (though I try not to be obsessive about it) and the incentive to not finishing last is just that: I never want to be last in anything.

But, as fantasy sports grab attention and have become so mainstream, now causing issues concerning fine lines between gambling and skill, and what is better, daily or season long, the truth is for me the game and the play transcend all of that. Much like watching Game 1 of the World Series the other night told all of us why we watch and follow the goofy and wonderful game of baseball.

Steve and I did play our game out against the backdrop of the epic Tuesday contest between the Royals and the Mets, and in the end, my Liberators could not muster enough offense to whip Richards and d'Mets, and we lost 3-1.

It was tough, but I don't care, for I made the post-season and successfully rebuilt my team into a winner, outsmarting at least 22 other teams in the MidWest League.

Next week, I draft my XFL team for next year, and in a few months the spring cycles of leagues start all over again.

I cannot wait, because like I said, I love baseball and I love playing sim games. And THAT is the bottom line for me.

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