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Friday 24th Nov 2017

In 1988, the first year I played fantasy ball, in an AL only format, one of the owners during our first draft--and it was a new league for all of us--blew most of his money the first 20 minutes.

So, by the end of the auction, he was filling his roster with filler dreck like Pat Sheridan and Ron Kittle, ok players who were on the downside of their respective careers. They were $1 pickups, and I remember thinking, "there goes money left on the table."

Well, that guy won, largely because Sheridan and Kittle did well enough to earn a profit, an after that first season (I did finish third), I learned two valuable lessons.

  • Never dismiss another's roster as you never know how a team will do, no matter how good or bad the team looks on paper.
  • Never dismiss $1 players, in fact the player who can come up with the best combination of cheap players is likely to win.

The next year I actually did win that league, and I won on guys like Mike Gallego for a buck.

So, over the years, one of my real strengths, and I believe the essence of my fantasy success, is in doing a good job of identifying those throw-away players towards the end of the draft for a few bucks here and there.

Last year, for example, it was Carl Pavano and Ryan Sweeney for a couple of bucks who did as much to help my Tout team, as did CC Sabathia ($28) and Chone Figgins ($24), in fact Pavano and Sweeney turned better profits than their counterparts, so in a way, they did contribute more.

So, this year I really did the same basic thing, in fact I got Figgins ($23) and Jason Kubel (also $23, who also was on my team last year) augmenting with Pat Burrell ($2), Eric Byrnes ($5), and of course, the guy who whacked 77 homers for the Athletics the past three years, Jack Cust ($14).

At one point this season, my point total was a palindrome of last year, when I had 39 points. Since then I have lost 14 more, so that going into this morning (that would be Friday, the 21st) I had 24.5 of them.

So, the question is, how fine is that line, between picking Pavano from the scrapheap of the dead and it worked, and pick Burrell, off the same heap a year later and the failure is epic?

As I have noted to my friends of late, who have heard the genesis of this column, it is a such a fine line between success and failure. That is what drives me crazy, but as clearly as anything else, that is also what keeps me coming back.

If you checked out my Zen Zone piece on Sunday, you might have noted that I wrote about Dallas Braden's perfect game, and how amazing that is, but also noted that I went to a little league game. And, the end result is that the beauty of baseball is it is all the same game, and you never really know what you will get.

So, let's play a little "good game/bad game," for certainly, last Sunday, was the best game I have ever attented.

I say that because technically it was the best defended, and as a perfect game, that is a logical choice. I mean, no one got on base. But, the whole thing was so surreal, unfurling, pitch by pitch, out by out, before those of us in attendence. And then that rarest of rare feats came to fruition.

I write that noting that I have seen some other pretty good games. And, players.

I saw Rickey Henderson break Lou Brock's stolen base record. I have attended a couple each of All Star Games (both went extra innings) and World Series games. I got to see Mays and Mantle and Aaron and McCovey and Marichal and Musial and Killabrew and Koufax and Drysdale, pretty much all in their prime, in person.

But, the perfeco had magic.

So, for many of us who worked Tuesday's Giants/Padres affair last Tuesday, the high was still there (both local teams were off Monday) as generally the folks you see in one pressbox are the folks you would see in any other  local press box.

Making the game more promising was the matchup of Barry Zito (5-0, 1.49 ) and Wade LeBlanc (20, 1.16), two starters who have been excellent this year. It was a nice spring night. Both teams battling for first place. What better set-up could there be?

Well, set-up is the word, for just as the outcome of the Braden/Fields match-up Sunday because for the most part the Tuesday game was one of the worst I have ever attended.

For example, during his perfect game, Braden tossed a total of 107 pitches during his appearance last Sunday. Well, Zito, who in fairness had been terrific so far this year, threw 106 pitches through five innings, walking seven, when he as mercifully yanked, down 3-2.

As is LeBlanc, who had thrown 96 over 4.2 innings when he was yanked, was much more efficient.

If you are counting, that makes over 200 pitches over less than five innings, and, well, the only word I can describe what a game like this is like is torture.

Between the two teams, over nine innings, 26 runners were left on base, and yet, amazingly the final score remained  somewhat anemic 3-2 that existed when both of the starters were pulled.

Maybe the most emblamatic play was an error charged to Pablo Sandoval in the eighth. It was barely a pop fly that he somehow lost in the lights and then Juan Uribe flubbed.

When the game was over,  it was requested that the OS review that play again to see if perhaps the ball was a hit. After reviewing the play,  David Bush said "That might not have been an error, but it certainly was not a hit."

Dead on.

It is kind of funny to me that after seeing the best game ever, I saw the worst game ever. But, again, it does illustrate again that beauty of baseball, that you never know what you will see.

In fact, now that I think about it, Tuesday was an awful game, but I still had a great time.

Twice in a month now, I will have made reference to Groucho Marx' brilliant line, "I would not belong to a club that would have me for a member."

This time, it has to do with the anti-immigration law passed and signed into effect in Arizona a few weeks past.

I am not sure how people become so fearful or high and mighty, considering we are indeed a country of immigrants. That is save the Native Americans, from whom we took the country in the first place.

But, I find it ironic that the same folks who seem to worry so much about protecting the constitution think about how freely they are willing to destroy the same document.

I mean, it is easy enough to say that racial profiling is not allowed, but, I have to wonder if the same number of Caucasians will be queried for their papers, as will Latinos. And, when one thinks about it, they should. After all, we are bordered from Canada to the north, just as Mexico from the south, and there could be undocumented Canadians living here too, right?

Laugh if you will at the suggestion, but to be fair, the same possibility exists, and really, to prove no profiling, that means either everyone is carded, or no one is.

Because we live in an open society, and for better or worse, with the privileges of freedom, so come risks.

But, I wonder too about the same folks who again had compared the current administration to that of the Nazis, and who are in favor of laws where we have to prove our citizenship will remember that is indeed how the Nazis started.

I know because my parents were among those loyal German citizens, who because they were Jewish, suddenly were identified by their yellow cards noting their Semitic origins. All four of my grandparents--including both my grandfathers who were physicians and who had been officers on the German side during World War I--had to flee that along with my few remaining aunts and uncles.

The rest, such as my Uncle Leo, did not make it out and perished.

So, I can say this as not only the progeny of people who were persecuted, but as one of then immigrants, like everyone else here save those Native Americans, who love and value our laws and constitution, and who understand that the freedoms those laws represent need to be open to be alive and vibrant, not restricted.

That is why I loved the statement made by the Phoenix Suns the other day, acknowledging Cinco de Mayo and protesting this un-American law with one swift stroke. It is why I hope the All-Star game for next year is pulled from Arizona, and why the trip Diane and I were going to take in a few weeks, driving back to the Bay Area from Chicago, via Route 66, will no longer follow that path.

We are bagging the Painted Desert and Petrified Forrest and Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, as much as I hate to, because in a small way I can let the business community of Arizona know that I don't think what they did is right or fair or American.

This is tough because I also have to think that undocumented folks are the ones who do many of the tough tasks in restaurants and hotels, so I am vicariously punishing them and that is the last thing I want to do.

But it is just not right. And it is easy to look at the comparison between Jews in the 30's and Latinos today and say, "It is ok, that cannot happen here," but with the law, it already has started.

Like my parents, chances are your ancestors left their home, maybe in Europe, maybe Asia, or maybe Africa, and came here with hope of a better life, and probably were able to realize that dream. And, now you are in the club. The same one that Groucho does not want a part of.

Because, well, for some reason once we are members, we judge all those who are not, and we tend to forget our own past and humanity.

We might need laws and some structure surrounding immigration and legitimizing the undocumented, but please, not like this. It is a slippery slope and with the laws also passed in the last few years regarding habeas corpus, well, we are already sliding down it in my view. 

My teams almost always start out slow. I mean slow.

Sometimes they continue to be slow all the way through the end of September. Sometimes they start fast, but in that event as with most front-runners, they usually fade into the middle of the standings and an ignominious finale.

But, most of the time, they start slow. Really slow. Excrutiatingly so, or, so it seems. Last year, for example, my Tout Wars team was in last place this time of the year, and not coincidentally, this year my Tout Wars team is also in last place. And, well, I did ok last year, as did I in 2001, when I was a rookie, and wound up winning after scraping the bottom of the standings for what seemed to be an eternity.

Compounding this slow torture, I never know which teams will get better till they do, if they do.

In addition to my Tout team chugging along at the bottom of the standings, my NFBC team is in last place (of 15), my Bloomberg team in 11th (of 12), and my LABR squad is in ninth (of 12). Only my XFL squad, humming along at sixth (of 15) is performing adequately, but surprisingly, they are the one that worries me most.

"Why," you might ask.

Well, a couple of reasons. More times than not my teams do get hot. They all do. Even the Royals and Pirates have streaks.

And, in some cases, like my LABR team, my bats are slowly awakening, and now I get Ian Kinsler and DiceK back. In Tout my hitters are also picking it up, though I do have my concerns about Jake Peavy, whom I also have on my NFBC team. So, kicking it in gear would be a good thing.

But, either I read it wrong, or that same NFBC team will also pick it up like my Bloomberg team, and the reason I think they will pick it up is that I got everyday players, who still have their jobs and probably will through the course of the season. And, as long as they perform, they will improve, and I know this because I am getting the at-bats.

In these leagues that means somewhere between 35-40 at-bats, per team, a day, and I am getting 40-plus innings a week from my pitchers, and the reality is the best you can hope is to get everyday players--ideally the best possible combination at a given time--and throw them out there each day.

That said, ideally my guys will do their thing and my team will rise accordingly. And, that tells me not to trade or shake things up (if I am still running on empty at the end of June, then acts of desparation can be considered). The principle reason for that is if Jason Kubel hits three-quarters as well as he did last year, should I trade him now, I will be swapping his primary production, which I paid for $23.

On the other hand, my XFL team is starting out well enough, largely on the nice power surge of Vernon Wells, and, though I think Wells will have a nice season, I don't expect him to finish with a .300-30-100 season, and, even if he does, that is say 23 more homers between now and October, which is just over four a month. Which means someone else needs to get hot to continue driving the squad. In other words there is a lot of upside on my remaining players who need to step up.

So, try to hang onto that patience for a while longer. I am, and I am feeling ok about it. Most of the time.

 

I think I am one of those ultimately middle-of-the-road Americans, despite the fact that my political beliefs might be considered to the left, who wants to smack his forehead with the extremes to which political correctness is executed.

Not that I don't totally think we are a wonderful trifle of cultures in this country, that makes for all the spiciness and sweetness that life has to offer. And, I always want to respect the origins and preservation of all cultures and languages because that is what sparks not just the spice, but that is what makes us successful.

I also am really proud I live in the Bay Area, where we might be considered off-kilter, but where we are happy to embrace openess and tolerance as looney as that might seem to some. In writing this, I understand home is where the heart is, and that for the most part wherever one grows up and lives is wonderful simply because it is home. I mean, just the word home is comforting, is it not?

Still, I was a little stunned the other day, when performing my morning toilette, on the radio, the KFOG morning show's Peter Finch reported that the San Francisco Gay Men's Softball Team had been stripped of the second place title they won last year at the Gay World Series.

Why?

Well, according to the rules, a gay team may only have only two straight players. You know, kind of like Japanese teams can only have two Americans, or maybe more immediately, how your company coed softball team had to alternate the batting order between men and women and stuff?

Well, I guess after some examination following what I have to assume was a complaint, the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) determined that three of the players from the San Francisco squad "were not gay enough."

Uh, I swear, I did not realize there was a Gay World Series, let alone the NAGAAA. I mean, who knew?

Apparently, and I could only dig up a couple of articles to glean the rest of Mr. Finch's story, the three players in question, Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles, and Jon Russ and their team, D2 were disqualified from participating they were "nongay." 

So, they sued the NAGAAA for $75,000 each for "emotional stress" alledging that they were not straight, but rather bisexual.

The response of the NAGAAA was a cogent, "This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series," after asking "personal and invasive" questions, and then disqualifying the team.

Hmmmm, let me get this straight (pun intended). 

Gays are one of those groups that has been long discriminated against, so, when given the opportunity to show what open-mindedness is, they act as pathetically as their persecutors.

Once again reminding us of the power of Groucho Marx' brilliant line, "I would not belong to a club that would have me for a member."

As I often try to remind myself when I get obsessive about my team's statistics, or place in the standings, "this is about a game where we watch a guy try to hit a ball with a stick for pleasure."

Right D2, and Steven, LaRon, and Jon? And NAGAAA?

A game. All this craziness about a game. Nice going.

Keep it up everyone, and I am not just talking NAGAAA and D2, but with enough self rightousness, we will wring the fun out of just about everything.

I had a bunch of arguments on why I think we really needed to have the Health Care Bill.

First, it is just the right thing to do. If you are pro life, well, what is more basic to that than making sure your citizens are healthy?

If you believe that one of the duties of a government is to protect its citizens, again, how can taking care of basic health not be part of that equation.

But, I have another reason: I think by adding 30 or so million people to a customer base, well, that is going to fuel a lot of money changing hands. And, it is also going to mean that there will be a lot of great job opportunities. We will need clinics and lab techs and x-ray machines and nurses of all kinds to support that growth in the industry.

And, if you think I am wrong, think about the last time we got pulled out of a recession, back when the dot-com boom pulled us out with an economic boost that was, well, a lot of fun and posed opportunities all over the place.

In fact if you think about it, an entire wave of industry that is critical to our current economy was developed during, and perfected since the mid-90's when the Internet and personal computers took off.

Of course, at first we all though computers were too expensive, and no average Joe would ever be able to own one, and for a few years that proved to be true. But, with competition, and improved competitive technologies, well, even a laptop is cheap these days.

Not to mention companies like Oracle and Dell and Intel and Microsoft, which did not exist 20 years ago, are principle contributors to the economy now. And, they provide just a few of the products no one imagined could exist just a generation ago. And, of course now there is spyware and Facebook and Twitter and the field keeps growing and changing, with new products and companies.

So, I personally think the Health Care industry will pull us firmly out of this recession and give us some prosperity till we milk it dry and take some recession lumps in the eternal circle of life and money and health and wealth.

I am optimistic, though, because America's genius is indeed not so much developing an industry, as it is exploiting it. We have Snuggies and Shamois as common pop items, and well, I just think that will continue, and I can confirm this by an email I got this week from my NFBC League.

In that email it noted that since I had paid for my NFBC entry by check, that I was entitled to insurance on one of my players (they gave me a list). I had to choose one player (I picked Mariano Rivera because he was the most vulnerable guy I had) and should Mo miss more than 60 days on the DL, well, I get a $260 refund from my entry fee. Not the whole magilla, but, well, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Especially if I can win despite the injury.

Anyway, that is such an example of the genius that is America as any of us will ever find, for surely 20 years ago none of us imagined fantasy baseball in its current state, let alone that such an insurance service would exist.

So, there is hope, not only for my (and of course Lord Zola's) team, but, well, our country if you think about it. At least I am feeling pretty good about it.

1960 was really the first year I collected baseball cards. Prior to 1960, I had a few, mostly the former collection of Richie Israel who had outgrown his cards from the mid-50's, which he not only gave me, but which I now wish I still had.

And, my favorite cards are still, and will always be Topps 1959, but in 1960 I first started buying, starting with a pack in the spring of that year that yielded Jim Davenport atop the pack, dusted with the white powder of bubble gum. I still remember his card was #154 in the series (sigh, I remember from back then) and that though I had never watched a complete major league game then, at age seven, I was completely drawn into the universe the back of the card promised (though I remember the number, I don't remember anything from the back of Jimmy D's).

I continued to buy them here and there that year, and by the next year my brother Peter and I were addicted enough to get a complete set in 1961 and then for several more years, until it became uncool for a few years, though I continued to watch and go to games.

In that magical 1960 I think (sad I cannot remember this but I can remember Davenport's card number) I attended my first game, then a minor league affair with the local Sacramento Solons who played someone, though again I cannot recall against. But, I did know the Solons had Al Heist as a star, and Heist eventually wound up a Chicago Cub. Clay Dalrymple was the Solons backstop, and he went on to the Phillies, and his back-up, Cuno Barragan, not only moved on to play for the Cubs, but he augmented his income during the off-season as a teacher, and for a couple of days he was the substitute in my seventh grade math class.

In 1960 my very, very favorite baseball card belonged to the Reds pitcher, Mike Ceuller, which shows the pitcher in his follow through. The cards that year featured two pics (you can click on his name to see the card), one large and rectangular with a smaller pic, usually of a different pose. Except in Ceuller's case, both pictures were exactly the same.

But, there was something about the picture and the yellow and blue colors at the bottom of the card where his name and the Reds logo are located.

Funny thing about Ceuler is that his rookie card was in 1959, but after 1961, he did not have another card until 1965 when Ceuller resurfaced as a member of the Cards, then the Astros, and finally, in 1969 with the Orioles. In fact he was among the four O's hurlers who   won 20 games in 1971 (along with Jim Palmer, Pat Dobson, and Dave McNally).

Mr.Ceuller passed away last week, and his death precipitated the Proustian memories of 1960 and his card and when I truly fell in love with baseball.

I did, by the way, see one full game on TV in 1960. Remember that back then, for the most part baseball on television was restricted pretty much to the Saturday game with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese on CBS, at least till the post season.

Somehow, on the final day of the 1960 World Series, my mother kept me home from school, and while she was performing her motherly chores, she parked me in front of the television, so the first game I really viewed, end-to-end, was game No. 7, when Hal Smith hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie and send the game to extra innings, and Bill Virdon made his great catch, and Bill Mazeroski pulled his walk-off.

From then on I was hooked.

Things started to crank in gear and get exciting a couple of weeks back when I traveled to Vegas for the NFBC first weekend. From there it was off to NYC for Tout, then home and a couple of days later Diane flew out to spend Passover with me. For that holiday I go to my friends Mark and Debbie Berenberg, a tradition that now dates back almost 35 years.

Of course in the throes of all this the baseball season begins, and in the bay area the Giants and Athletics usually wind up the spring season by playing a handful of games back home. So, Thursday night I got to score the match-up between the two local teams to get in scoring practice for the actual season when along with my mates we will cover all the games of the local teams, counting pitches and double switches and strikeouts and so on.

Well, there are two times of the year when it is really difficult to score. One is during September when there is roster expansion and players pop in and out. But, that is nothing compared to the spring when literally anyone can show up and play anywhere, any time.

Ideally the forty-man roster to check against, but, there is no official scorer for the game, and tracking of who goes in where is not so careful, at least on behalf of the ballclubs.

Since I was scoring the game, and MLB.com and the statistics base actually keep an eye on the stats, I had to try and get it as right as rain, however. Truth is, I was having a pretty good game, cruising along until the seventh inning when suddenly the wheels came off.

The Giants made five roster moves when they took the field, but no one from the Giants media side was clear who was going into which spot in the batting order. I made the substitutions as best as I could, and started scoring, catching up marking in the balls and strikes and outs until and thought I was ok till the bottom of the inning when it was discovered that Jeremy Affeldt was actually batting fifth, not first, and that leadoff was actually now Travis Ishikawa and that he was not batting fourth. Don't as about Ryan Rohlinger or even Eugenio Velez, whom no one save the Athletics brain trust noticed went in. And, forget about anyone announcing in the booth who was playing or batting in what spot.

Suddenly, it was the bottom of the eighth of a game that, due to a 23-MPH wind had all of us freezing and wishing the game was moving at a faster pace, and I had become so woefully behind that I lost track of the pitches of every kind. During the official season, should I get in such a bind, I always have a back-up to take over remotely watching the game on the tube. Although such a meltdown is rare, and generally reserved for computer and network malfunctions at the home park. Still, we stay put and report changes and anything we see to the back up.

But, no such luxury in pre-season, and as the game rocketed to an end while I was furiously trying to figure things out with my support bud, Hank Widmar, we both found ourselves cursing the pre-season and rosters and being grateful that there is no such volatility once the games begin in earnest.

Truth is I stayed behind for a good forty minutes after the game, translating the box and plays from David Feldman who was tracking for the Athletics, reading the plays, pitch-by-pitch, to Hank as he updated the boxes and caught up where the craziness had begun.

I remember the first time I scored a game I came home and Cathy asked me if it was hard. "The most difficult multi-tasking I have ever done" I replied, noting it was much harder than playing guitar and singing. That is because with one hand I am entering code, and with another manually writing the score, while watching the field the whole time to make sure I see everything.

I think I have even gotten pretty good at the scoring, paying attention in a focused way, learning even more deeply the subtleties and nuances of the game and its rules.

But, well, there is no way to prep for players going in without warning or tracking, let alone the meltdown that occurs post holocaust.

Thank goodness by Sunday all this madness will be completed and we can move forward with boxes and games, in earnest!

 

Sorry all for the late post, but, well, it has been a busy bunch of days in New York preparing for both defending my Tour Wars AL title, and then my first foray into the NFBC Classic event.

It was sort of a whirlwind thanks to Jet Blue, to start, who cancelled my flight from Oakland to JFK at 8:30 at night, via email, when my plane was lifting off at 8:00 a.m. the following morning. Lucky I had my handheld, and I am still wondering. I was told my flight to New York was cancelled because of weather, but I am unsure why my return flight, five days later, was also cancelled?

OK, enough of a diatribe, for once I got here, well, if you know New York and how alive it is, it is a pretty good tonic. This year Tout is partnering with the NFBC, so we are staying in the Chinatown--although that is a misnomer as Asian, a more comprehensive word, really describes it better--and it is great.

To the point there are Chinese and Thai and Japanese restaurants all over, as well as a burger joint which claims both The Times and The Post declared theirs the best in the New York Area. And The New Flushing Bakery had deadly pork and red bean buns which are a terrific breakfast munchie.

Thursday I went into Manhattan for lunch with Andy Regal at one of my favorite places, Virgils, where my favorite wings are spicily and smokily present (man, are they good). It was a nice day, with sun, so I sat at Times Square for a while watching the world go by, and then went to my favorite music store in the city, Rudy's Music on W. 48th and ogled Rickenbackers and pedals and vintage Teles, striking up fun conversations with my fellow oglers.

In the evening I hooked with Dean Peterson and his partner, Angie, and with JP, we went back into town and met Jed Latkin and his wife Amy at Five Napkin Burger for a killer burger, and some amazingly good sushi, onion rings, and more wings (what is it about wings?).

Yesterday (Friday) I met Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano for breakfast and finished some work at MLB.com until the afternoon when Mike and I toddled back to Flushing for the AL Tout Auction at Citi Field (it's nice).

Now it is the NFBC that looms, followed by the premiere of Fantasyland, and tomorrow are the Tout Mixed and NL auctions.

As with going to the AFL, this is just a fun time drafting. I am sure you all have similar experiences reconvening with your league mates at auction time each year.

Springtime is really about renewal. The weather days get longer and we can stretch out to the warm sun, just like the new blooming flowers. And, a new season of baseball looms, fresh and new. A time when even the Pirates and Royals are in the hunt.

How can you miss?

Funny how the universe tosses us stuff. In fact, a few weeks ago, I even wrote a column on how things do indeed happen in threes.

Well, two weeks ago there was the LABR 12-team mixed draft, and a week later the Bloomberg 12-team mixed, and as I strolled into the NFBC draft room yesterday morning at the Bellagio, in Las Vegas, I stumbled into the double play which featured a 12-team mixed.

So, I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast. Not that it means anything other than who values whom, when.

Rd 1. LABR Bloomberg NFBC
1. Hanley Ramirez Hanley Ramirez Albert Pujols
2. Albert Pujols Albert Pujols Hanley Ramirez
3. Ryan Braun Alex Rodriquez Alex Rodriguez
4. Alex Rodriguez Ryan Braun Ryan Braun
5. Matt Kemp Chase Utley Mark Teixeira
6. Chase Utley Mark Teixeira Joe Mauer
7. Miguel Cabrera Prince Fielder Carl Crawford
8. Tim Lincecum Matt Kemp Chase Utley
9. Mark Teixeira Evan Longoria Prince Fielder
10. Evan Longoria Joe Mauer Evan Longoria
11. Prince Fielder Carl Crawford Tim Lincecum
12. Kevin Youkilis Ian Kinsler Miguel Cabrera

 

Ok, so no surprises, but, it is interesting to see how differently we can concoct a team relative to what we are thrown. Which is largely the point, and why wedding ourselves to ADP is not a good idea. Sure, we can use ADP to judge who might be chosen at a given time, but, there is indeed the question of "what is left?" balanced against "what do I need?"

But, just for grins, let's also take a peak at round 23, the round which ostensibly completes a standard roster and see how that shakes out?

Rd. 23 LABR Bloomberg NFBC
1. Jame McDonald Cody Ross Ryan Thierot
2. Brett Gardner Josh Willingham Daisuke Matsuzaka
3. Matt Lindstrom Wade Davis Ryan Madson
4. Carlos Santana Chris Young (P) Carlos Gomez
5. Travis Snider Conor Jackson Austin Jackson
6. Dioner Navarro Carlos Santana Chris Perez
7. Bronson Arroyo Miguel Olivo Chris Young (OF)
8. Ryan Thierot Buster Posey Joba Chamberlain
9. Randy Wolf Lastings Milledge JJ Hardy
10. Ryan Rowand-Smith Cameron Maybin Gerald Laird
11. John Buck John Baker Garrett Atkins
12. Justin Masterson Elijah Dukes Josh Willingham

 Interesting, no?  Which means for the most part, leagues wind up at the same place at basically the same time. It is how the deck is shuffled that determines the winning hand. So, the trick is to try and get the deck stacked in your favor.

It is a lot of work. And, it is a lot of fun. Happy drafting this week.

As I noted in my LABR article of earlier in the week, when I bid $17 on Joe Nathan last Saturday, I had not seen that he tweaked his elbow, and was removed from the game just a few hours earlier. It was a whirlwind day, and I am not making excuses, but, this is a good lesson to at least check the latest news before you enter your draft or auction.

That aside, earlier in the day my freeze list for my Scoresheet was due and in that 24-team league Nathan also made my freezes. What was I to do as he has been arguably the best closer in the Bigs over the past five years, and Nathan helped me coax the best W/L record out of that same Scoresheet team last year. Not to mention he was on my winning Tout Wars team last season as well.

So, a $17 bid right out of the chute seemed like owners just being a little cautious with one of the early nominees (he went second).

In LABR I did pick up  Brian Fuentes later in the auction to spell Nathan, but I always prefer to get two closers if I can anyway in a deep league, partially as insurance, but mostly so I can build a surplus--for there is always someone scrounging for saves mid-season--and then trade when I have a solid enough stockpile.

The reality is generally one good closer and a couple of middle relievers who can earn -4-5 saves each is enough to keep you competitive in that category, so in LABR, I do need to find a couple of those guys, but despite the loss of those $17, I should be able to compensate because, well, my bets are covered and the season has not yet begun.

In Scoresheet obviously I wasted a freeze pick, but there will be a lot of closers available after the 192 frozen players, not to mention one can get by in that format with a couple of good middle relievers, I should be ok and able again to field a pretty good team despite the draft handicap.

The thing is, the season has not yet started and we all know there will be surprises all around, especially in mixed leagues, so if you find yourself in a similar position, remember that and whatever you do, don't panic.

Because the season has not yet started, so there is no reason to panic. Lots of games ahead, and lots of opportunities.

More important, even if your league is so deep that the possibility of picking up someone to fill the closer hole is remote, that also means there are enough points and numbers left that for now, you can live with the hit of freezing Nathan.

I have pretty much calculated that you can indeed be competitive making mistakes. Those errors might be in overspending on David Price last year, or spending on Erivn Santana or Alex Gordon (both of whom I paid for in LABR last year), but they don't necessarily spend the end of the season (I did not win, but I did finish a respectable sixth).

But, back to the original premise, the worst thing you can do during a draft, or over the course of the season is panic, for decisions made out of panic are generally bad ones, and well, that is the way to kiss your season goodbye. And worse, not have any fun.

Baseball is indeed a game of patience, and baseball is also a game where the unexpected certainly does happen. Of course, as the season progresses, and the strengths and limitations of your team(s) are revealed, there will be opportunities to compensate and get points back that are needed.

But taking action, and building or fleshing out your team has to be as concerted as your focus when you draft in the first place.

So, once again, remember. If you are stuck with a problematic player now, be he Nathan, or Gordon, or Russell Martin, take a deep breath, do your best to hedge your bets in the draft, and play your best game.

Because, once again, the entire season is indeed before us. And, well, its baseball. Anything can happen.

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