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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

The very title of this column series, Articles of Configuration, is intended to inform the reader of my interest in writing about the intricacies of fantasy baseball rules and practices and how you might benefit from them in your own leagues.

Unfortunately, too often I find myself using my own missteps as examples of what not to do. Here is another such case, with this blunder having occurred well before the first pitch on Opening Day.

While what follows may sound like an excuse, I am considering it an explanation, instead. If you are like me, your week immediately preceding Opening Day is filled with various league drafts. After all, most everyone prefers to wait as long as possible before picking teams.

Though I am a long-time fantasy industry member, we have our own local leagues as well to incorporate into busy calendars. Many travel to central locales such as Las Vegas or New York for the NFBC Main Event Drafts. And so on.

Yet, one of my industry leagues, LABR, traditionally drafts very early, offering one data point to readers interested in how those who devote long hours to fantasy baseball select our own teams.

Of course, a lot has changed since the LABR drafts held way back on March 5-6. That greatly increases the importance of the first waiver period – not only to fill injured player gaps, but also to seize spring training sensations – in hopes they can stem the tide and actually keep it up when the games really matter.

My week was further complicated by two dead laptops, only one of which was due to my negligence. The anger, confusion and scrambling to try to recover data from a failed hard drive had to have taken a couple of years off my life.

Against this backdrop, I mentally prepared to get through my final drafts on Saturday and use Sunday morning to finalize my approach for waiver pickups in both LABR and Tout Wars.

Earlier, I had analyzed my rosters and plotted out which holes I wanted to fill - along with identifying which players would either be disabled or released from my rosters. I decided to wait until the last moment for the final step – to identify my target free agents and determine my maximum bid prices.

With all MLB clubs not required to finalize their opening 25-man rosters until noon Eastern on Sunday, there could still be some surprises ahead, I assumed.

I knew I needed fill four holes. Not fully well this spring, Giants reserve catcher Andrew Susac was sent down to Triple-A to play every day, so I needed a short-term fill-in. I also hoped to find a better utility player than Pittsburgh’s Matt Joyce and had an open spot. During our reserve draft, I gambled that then-free agent Marlon Byrd would sign with an NL team. Since it did not turn out that way, I had to drop him.

On draft day, I made a stash move for Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford, then taking as a reserve Alen Hanson of the Pirates to cover. Since then, the Bucs’ signing of David Freese led to a chain reaction that included Hanson going back down to Triple-A. Hence an unexpected opening.

Finally, my early March bet on the Phillies’ closer carousel was Luis Garcia. Though many names were mentioned during March, Garcia was not among them. In fact, he opened the season in Triple-A, making him worthless as my projected fill-in for another stashee, Washington’s Lucas Giolito.

As an aside, one nice touch was applied in LABR to remove the timing challenges and conflicts between when players are placed on the disabled list and fantasy waiver deadlines for week 1. LABR pre-defined and shared with all participants a list of players sure to go on the DL to start the season, then made the preemptive move to designate all of them as disabled on the league’s website well before the first deadline. That wise decision removed randomness and owner angst.

This all would have worked out perfectly for me – except for one thing – my negligence.

LABR also did another smart move, but something that none of my other leagues did. For the first week only, the waiver deadline was moved up to Saturday night, April 2 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That way, opening fantasy rosters could be set before Sunday’s games.

I would have loved the approach – had I not waited until Sunday morning to thoroughly read the series of pre-season emails from the commissioner.

There is no one to blame but myself for missing this most important news. At least misery loves company, it appears. Only five of the 12 NL LABR owners entered waiver bids by the Saturday deadline, picking up 10 players. So, six others joined me in inaction.

Being new to LABR this year is no excuse whatsoever. By my inaction, I put myself further behind the curve in a league where no mistakes can be tolerated.

Next week, I will have to be in catch-up mode, looking for nuggets in an already incredibly shallow player pool that will have 10 fewer players in it and almost nothing new to offer.

The message to you is simple – pay attention. After spending perhaps weeks in preparation for the draft, don’t lose your hard-earned edge in the days following.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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