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Friday 23rd Feb 2018

It is not much of a secret that I am a big fan of Strat-O-Matic, the delicious sim game created by Hal Richman. Strat, which I began playing in 1977, was indeed the game that whetted my appetite for Fantasy Baseball and all the craziness that has ensued both in my life, and that of the development of Fantasy Sports over the 40 years since.

Similarly, I like to play in tough leagues. Surely AL Tout and LABR are some fairly stiff leagues, and the mixed XFL might be the toughest roto format of all, a league in which I struggle to finish sixth no matter how many years or angles I am willing to sacrifice. My Scoresheet League boasts 24 teams, allowing just eight freezes, and that can be difficult, but my two Strat Leagues are the ones that I love managing.

There is something about playing out the games, for though there are no actual dice the way my leagues play out, there is still an active punching of the enter key to force play, and thought before each "pitch" for me.

Of the two leagues in which I play, one, the MidWest Strat League is a keeper format that allows us to freeze up to 28 players from year-to-year. As the game sims the previous year, there are usage rules so penalties can be invoked for overage and other infractions that cut into freezes, something that can hurt in a league where every at-bat and player is needed.

That contemporary player league is a 30-team configuration where each of us plays in the home park of a Major League team, playing out that team's schedule. For example, I play in ATT Park, so my Berkeley Liberators play the Giants home and road games, accordingly,

It is good fun, and I am more than excited about the prospects for my team next year for it includes surprises like Leury Garcia, Ariel Miranda, Jimmy Nelson and Ervin Santana.

But, nothing is as wild and crazy as my other league, the Summer League of Champions (SLOC) that is comprised of 24 teams, with each rostering 10 players drafted from the Hall of Fame set, and the remaining HOF players go into a player pool of a specific year the league agrees upon. 

This year, our 10-man freezes were augmented by 1961, meaning the likes of Rocky Colavito, Norm Cash and Roger Maris got tossed into the draft pool (remember, Mantle, Mays, et al were in the HOF set, so they were already drafted and not eligible out of the 1961 set).

I have struggled hard in this league over my five years in, trying to figure out how to win when Ralph Kiner is a bench player and Eli Gerba can face and whiff the Pirates great.

There are a couple of things that work out funny in a league with such strange personnel as Elio Chacoan and Bill Dickey sharing roster time, for all 24 teams have similar constructs, and what that means is hitting is largely everything, and no one is really out of it.

For either of my league's games are usually due a certain day of the month, and since Di and I had some airplane time going to New York and back, I played my dozen remaining games in the air coming home from the FSTA.

Playing these games out can be exhilirating, depressing, hypnotizing, and generally a lot of fun, But, the thing about these games is no one is really out of it, and getting those last three outs is indeed so difficult.

At least twice during my 12 contests, which started brightly with a pair of wins, then a pair of losses, then five straight strong and satisfying wins, which led into a brutal sweeping by the Mayberry Bullet, who bested me 5-4, 20-4, and then 13-1 to take any wind out of any sails I might have had.

At least twice during the home series my teams held six-run leads going into the seventh inning, and neither time could they hold it, and that is with Al Hrabosky and the great Webster McDonald topping my bullpen. 

I do see that hitting is everything, but over the years, especially with Strat, pitching always trumps the batters, so I am having a hard time giving up old habits that tell me having Bob Gibson is more important than having Stan Musial. 

But figuring this all out, and in the end being successful with it, is quite a reward when there are 23 other guys trying to do the same, no?

If you don't know Strat, and love the nuance of the game--Strat accounts for stealing and baserunning along with range and arm skills, the ability to hold runners and hit in the clutch, and a myriad of other micro plays within the game. Give it a try. Strat is pretty tough to give up once it's in your blood!

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

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