The XFL is the toughest league in which I play.
Part of it is the guys in the league are tough. And, yeah, I play in some tough leagues, but most of the guys in the XFL are in the same leagues. Second, we basically have ultra rules, and it is very difficult to discover, let alone hide any kind of up-and-coming player irrespective of age or country of origin.
The XFL is a 5x5 with 15 teams, making it just deep enough to be thorough, and just shallow enough to fall into a false sense of security.
I have finished last in four of the past five years despite any number of more and less conventional methods. One year I purposely copped Albert Pujols and Roy Halladay with the idea of flipping them for prospects as quickly as I could within reason.
All these gyrations seemed to be giving me some favor, as in 2014 my squad not only finished out of last but moved up to sixth and things seemed so rosy. But no, as injuries and bad investments did me in, back into the cellar we tumbled.
I can deal with banging my head against a wall in a tough league, but what kills me is this format used to be my best: one in which I won back-to-back titles in the mid-90's. But, no more.
Still, I had a good and cheap keeper list when we convened at the XFL at First Pitch Arizona. I thought I had a great draft, augmenting my keeper list of Nick Castellanos, Yoenis Cespedes, Marcus Semien all cheap, and Zack Greinke and Kyle Seager moderately priced, I felt optimistic as we convened last November.
In previous seasons, I faded closers and tried to then pick them out of the free agent pool once spring training began and roles shook out. But this year, I bagged Craig Kimbrel ($16) and Roberto Osuna ($14). Then, during the draft, I kept an eye on balances while I tried to exploit the three "S's"--steals, strikeouts and saves--and needing an outfielder, when Jacoby Ellsbury was nominated, and bidding seemed to slow around $8, I put in a bid for $10 and no one challenged. I was stunned, never expecting to land the Yankees outfielder for such a moderate price.
But, awhile later, Prince Fielder was nominated, and with the focus on those three "S's", I realized I needed some pop, and Fielder was perfect at helping to solve that riddle.
Even more, I was stunned when the bidding stopped after I called out $26 for the guy who played in 158 games in 2015, hitting .305-23-98 with a .378 OBP. I couldn't believe that in the XFL I walked away with Ellsbury and Fielder for a total of $36.
Surely, this was going to be the year, with pitching anchored around Greinke, and two solid closers coupled with the pop of Fielder, Cespedes and Matt Kemp. How much better could we get? How about adding Travis Shaw as a reserve pick, and Gerardo Parra ($1) along with Marco Estrada ($6) and Brandon Finnegan ($4)?
Well, three months into the season, the question is how much worse could we be? And, the answer is two places in the standings, for at present my squad languishes in 13th place.
What did go wrong? I cannot honestly say I know, save my team is just not deep enough. Or, at least that is what I am telling myself.
The reality, whether I choose to admit it or not, was after the draft, I was happy to exclaim that Fielder and Ellsbury were going to lead my team to uncharted territory this coming season.
Since the season is now almost half over, this is mostly true. They led me, alright, just to the bottom, not the top. Unfortunately, I have charted the seas at the bottom of the XFL standings a lot more than I wished.