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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

My first year of playing Fantasy Ball, in 1988, I learned a lot simply by going through the season-long process. 

The most important thing I got was baseball in your head is not baseball on the field, meaning Wade Boggs was just not as valuable on your roster as he was on the Red Sox.

Another thing I got was a team wins with great $1 values. Miguel Cabrera at $38 might give a stat base, but a $1 Mark Canha is what pushes the numbers over the top.

And, I also learned a slow start for a team, and some players with hot starts is not necessarily the best combination for those of us playing season long formats.

That first year, one of the cheap buys I dismissed was Tom Brookens, then with the Tigers. The third sacker started out that season red hot, hitting .346-1-10 with a steal and 11 runs over April, and all I could do was kick myself for thinking Jim Presley had any redeeming social value at all. 

In fact, Brookens' owner, Terry Shelley, had his team, "The Terry Cloth Jocks," in first place, a slot he held going into the All-Star break.

In the end, Brookens finished .243-5-38 with four steals and 62 runs, meaning the bulk of his production was done, and the Jocks slipped into the lower half of the standings, out of the moolah. Presley finished .230-14-62 with three swipes, by the way with both costing around $7, if memory serves.

Cut to 1994, when the Cubs' Tuffy Rhodes hit three Opening Day homers at a time when most drafts and auctions were still held the first weekend after the start of the season, jacking his auction salary to $17 in my local league. By season's end, Tuffy finished .234-8-19, and I cannot remember where his roto team placed, but I know I won that year and Rhodes was certainly not on my squad.

What about 2006, when Tiger Chris Shelton clobbered ten homers in April, completing the first month of play with a .326-10-20 mark, yet by the end of the season was .273-16-47?

How about last year when Nick Martinez was 4-0, 2.36 going into the final week of May over nine starts and 55 innings, but finished 7-7, 3.96, and in the pen?

Obviously, maintaining such a level of play over the grind of 162 games is beyond difficult, and certainly, numbers are numbers and it is as foolish to completely dismiss a hot streak a la Shelton as it is a cold streak a la Yonder Alonso. But, over the course of the season, things have a way of evening out and while a vigilant owner must keep eyes on the trees, similarly, the forest and relative environmental impacts must also be considered.

In fact, though it is tough to see one's team among those at the bottom of the pecking order, let me remind that this is the best time to be there, for this is exactly when players who are still in the free agent pool can be had with ideally a maximum of innings or at-bats ahead, at the lowest possible cost.

And, since your team might be floundering, you too will be looking to tweak your lineup and the big place to patch holes is within said free agent market, while a dominant team, like Terry Shelley's Brookens squad, tend to leave things along and let the players play and not fix what doesn't appear to be "broke."

The reality is if your team is in first, never sit back and take it for granted until the season is over, or by the time Brookens has chilled, it is too late, while if your squad is in last and you have a chance to plug a questionable hole with Nomar Mazara, well, now is the time.

Similarly, if you are a Miguel Sano owner, take a deep breath and give the investment a chance to do what you thought the Twin could do when you drafted him.

Cause it is indeed a long season.

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