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Friday 22nd Sep 2017

Assorted Rants, Rumblings and Ruminations from the Mind of a “So-Called” Expert

Hi gang, long time no cyber-see. Sorry, been head over heels wrapped up in Platinum content. The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) has already begun drafting so we released our Platinum product earlier than ever before. Then came the winter meetings to be followed by all the trades and signings this week. But, pending the R.A. Dickey deal, we're all up to date so I get to take a beat and watch a little football today, though I may sneak in a profile or two.

Speaking of football, this is going to be a fun day for the Mastersball staff as I square off against Lawr in the semi-finals of one league and against Rob in another. I'm also in the semis in a third league, playing long time roto-buddy Michael Cox. We have been playing in each other's leagues for twelve years.

Yeah, head to head leagues are wrought with luck and sometimes the better team, at least in terms of seasonal points scored doesn't always advance, but there is something to be said about having Tom Brady while your opponent has the Niner's defense. Or having to sweat out the Monday Night match-up before a winner is decided. Besides, how many teams in professional sports win championships with inferior season records? Quite a few.

Anyway, no one cares about your team but you, so I'll leave it at that.

Something you may care about is my early take on the 2013 baseball season. I have already completed drafts in two leagues that "count" as well as participating in two magazine mock drafts. Here are some thoughts.

With the first pick, I'm taking Ryan Braun. Every time.

With the second pick, I'm taking Miguel Cabrera. Every time.

With the third pick I'm taking....

With the third pick I'm taking...

This is where it gets fuzzy. My projections say Mike Trout. And I factored in some pretty heavy regression. The numbers say .280 with 26 HR and 42 steals. Remember he missed April last year so he's devoid more than 4 HR and 7 SB. But here's the thing. I know I need to introduce more risk into my game, but with Robinson Cano sitting at number four on my projections, my lean is to go safe and take chances later. So...

With the third pick I'm taking Robinson Cano.

Unless I'm feeling frisky.

Buster Posey is worthy of a first round pick, and I predict his ADP will be 10-12, but I'm not investing in a catcher that early. At least thus far, according to my numbers, catchers are being undervalued all the way down the board. Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer can be had in the 4th, 5th or 6th which means you can build a solid foundation before taking one. But like I said, my numbers suggest all the catchers are lasting a round or two longer than the rankings dictate so waiting and snagging Miguel Montero, Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy etc. is perfectly viable. Matt Wieters will cost, as will Yadier Molina. Check out how similar Molina's and Posey's numbers were last season:

AVG R HR RBI SB
Buster Posey 0.336 78 24 103 1
Yadier Molina 0.315 65 22 76 12

Yeah, Posey's were better, but especially when you consider Yadi's steals, it may be closer than you realized. That said, while I believe Molina has definitely improved as a hitter, I am more confident Posey approaches last season's numbers than I am Molina. 

Paul Goldschmidt is a hot commodity, and his projection corroborates that, but I'm not completely sold. The key will be if he keeps the gains he made in contact rate. At a position as flush as first, I need to see it another year before I pay for it, especially at the 4th/5th round ticket.

While on the topic of first basemen, make a mental note that after a late season string of games where he toted the leather, Billy Butler qualifies at the position and not just designated hitter. For what it's worth, while I won't chase him, I do believe Eric Hosmer is in line for a bounce-back season and I can see him as my corner in a couple of leagues.

I'm sure this will change as some of the situations in flux flesh out, but I am finding the spot I like to take closers to be weaker than normal. I prefer to pass on the upper echelon, but I don't like to toss my line in the speculative seas either. If I were to list the guys I can comfortably target, it would be one name -- Jason Motte. I'm not going to be the guy that takes Craig Kimbrel. I'm probably going to pass on Jonathan Papelbon as well, but maybe not. That's really it for the "sure things." Motte would be the next safest, but since he doesn't have the reputation yet, he is still sliding a bit.

Think about it. Will Mariano Rivera be his old self? Can Joe Nathan stay healthy? Will Joel Hanrahan and John Axford get their walks back in check? Can Huston Street and Andrew Bailey stay healthy? For that matter, has anyone actually seen Street and Bailey together? My theory is they are actually one guy and this is a ruse to pull two salaries. What about Steve Cishek, Tom Wilhelmsen, Addison Reed, Greg Holland and Glen Perkins - can they hold the gig for 162? Is Sergio Romo durable enough? Where will Rafael Soriano sign and what will his role be? Brandon League -- really? Will Chris Perez and Hanrahan be traded? If you think Jim Johnson will repeat, I have a bridge I'd like you to look at. If you think Fernando Rodney will repeat --well, he just may, with an ERA correction, but are you willing to pay for it? How long before Kyuji Fujikawa (and the horse he rode in on) supplants Carlos Marmol? What happens if Jonathan Broxton struggles and so does Aroldis Chapman? Brandon League -- REALLY?!?!?! I've been in two drafts where Kenley Jansen was taken before Broxton and this was AFTER the announcement that League was the closer. Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard? Who will get both of the Astro saves? Will Brian Wilson and Ryan Madson regain form after Tommy John surgery?

You know, Grant Balfour is looking pretty good right now.

I have no idea what I’ll be doing tomorrow, let alone five years from now. But, as part of the recent First Pitch Arizona Fantasy Baseball Conference, I was among 12 soothsayers tasked with assembling a fantasy baseball team under the provision that whoever we picked would be on the squad through the 2017 season.

I was joined in this Five-Year Futures Draft by site partners Lawr Michaels and Brian Walton, with staffers Perry Van Hook and Don Drooker in the audience. The instructions were a bit vague (the only rule was as stated, whoever we pick we are married to until our fifth anniversary). Obviously, since this was a fantasy baseball symposium we drafted assuming this was a standard 5x5 roto league, but that was the extent of the boundaries.

I’ve been playing fantasy baseball since 1989 and have participated in exactly 4,216 drafts, without ever having the first pick. Guess who got the first pick in number 4,217? Here is a synopsis of my fellow combatants in order of initial pick:

2. Rob Gordon, co-author of Baseball HQ’s Minor League Baseball Analyst
3. Tim Heaney, KFFL Managing Editor and author of Rounding the Bases
4. Lawr Michaels, needs no introduction
5. Derek Van Riper, Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com and co-host of RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio
6. Brian Walton, neither does he
7. Steve Gardner, Senior Fantasy Editor for USA TODAY Sports
8. Matthew Cederholm, Baseball HQ Analyst
9. Steve Moyer, former President of Baseball Info Solutions
10. Nicholas Minnix, KFFL Managing Editor and author of Finger Nickin’ Good
11. Andy Andres, Baseball HQ Analyst
12. Jock Thompson, Baseball HQ Analyst

My strategy was buoyed by being awarded the initial selection. In real leagues of this nature, I selfishly try to win the first season as well as build a foundation for future championships. Admittedly, this is hard to do with a later first round pick and is anti to the advice I offer for those is keeper leagues – either go for it or rebuild, else you end up doing a half-ass job at both. Having the first pick gives me a head start at multi-tasking.

Going in, I was aiming for balance. I wanted a nice combination of established players versus prospects. While injury risk would be a consideration, with so many players visiting the disabled list nowadays, I would not shy away from a player with an injury history to take a less talented player. With respect to pitching, I did factor in this was a 12-team league, therefore I did not feel strategically it was necessary to secure one of the elite arms (either present or future), relying on my ability to piece together a contending staff starting a tier or two lower. If the draft went long enough, I would not shy away from taking a chucker, I just wanted to focus on a hitting base early.

Here is the draft. We completed six rounds:

1.01 Zola Ryan Braun
1.02 Gordon Mike Trout
1.03 Heaney Miguel Cabrera
1.04 Michaels Mike Stanton
1.05 Van Riper Jason Heyward
1.06 Walton Andrew McCutchen
1.07 Gardner Carlos Gonzalez
1.08 Cederholm Joey Votto
1.09 Moyer Bryce Harper
1.10 Minnix Starlin Castro
1.11 Andres Justin Upton
1.12 Thompson Matt Kemp
2.01 Thompson Albert Pujols
2.02 Andres Robinson Cano
2.03 Minnix Buster Posey
2.04 Moyer Elvis Andrus
2.05 Cederholm Stephen Strasburg
2.06 Gardner Clayton Kershaw
2.07 Walton Evan Longoria
2.08 Van Riper Troy Tulowitzki
2.09 Michaels Matt Wieters
2.10 Heaney Jay Bruce
2.11 Gordon Prince Fielder
2.12 Zola Ian Kinsler
3.01 Zola Brett Lawrie
3.02 Gordon Justin Verlander
3.03 Heaney Adam Jones
3.04 Michaels Desmond Jennings
3.05 Van Riper Yoenis Cespedes
3.06 Walton Felix Hernandez
3.07 Gardner David Wright
3.08 Cederholm Ian Desmond
3.09 Moyer Melky Cabrera
3.10 Minnix Hanley Ramirez
3.11 Andres Anthony Rizzo
3.12 Thompson Wilin Rosario
4.01 Thompson David Price
4.02 Andres Madison Bumgarner
4.03 Minnix B.J. Upton
4.04 Moyer Chase Headley
4.05 Cederholm Paul Goldschmidt
4.06 Gardner Eric Hosmer
4.07 Walton Jurickson Profar
4.08 Van Riper Billy Hamilton
4.09 Michaels Ryan Zimmerman
4.10 Heaney Billy Butler
4.11 Gordon Josh Hamilton
4.12 Zola Manny Machado
5.01 Zola Jose Reyes
5.02 Gordon Chris Sale
5.03 Heaney Dustin Pedroia
5.04 Michaels Matt Moore
5.05 Van Riper Pablo Sandoval
5.06 Walton Aroldis Chapman
5.07 Gardner Craig Kimbrel
5.08 Cederholm Gio Gonzalez
5.09 Moyer Carlos Santana
5.10 Minnix Matt Cain
5.11 Andres Edwin Encarnacion
5.12 Thompson Yu Darvish
6.01 Thompson Freddie Freeman
6.02 Andres Dylan Bundy
6.03 Minnix Johnny Cueto
6.04 Moyer Dee Gordon
6.05 Cederholm Ike Davis
6.06 Gardner Jesus Montero
6.07 Walton Allen Craig
6.08 Van Riper Adrian Gonzalez
6.09 Michaels Jason Kipnis
6.10 Heaney Austin Jackson
6.11 Gordon Joe Mauer
6.12 Zola Cole Hamels

Click HERE for the draft listed by team on a spreadsheet.

Here is a brief review of the thought process for my picks as well as some comments on other picks I favored or disagreed with. Please feel free to comment below and we will try to reply back as soon as possible.

1.01 Ryan Braun: More a pro-Braun than anti-Trout pick (see this MASTERSBLOG post), I just favor the tried and true over the up and coming. Braun has a proven track record that combines durability with excellence and is still relatively young, turning 29 in mid-November.

2.12 Ian Kinsler: I admit to fashioning the proverbial man-crush on Kinsler so I understand this pick could raise some eyebrows. The problem with Kinsler is inconsistency. His floor is Howard “don’t call me Howie” Kendrick while his ceiling is Carlos Gonzalez with second base eligibility. Age is a concern as Kinsler turned 30 in June, but he still should have a handful of solid campaigns left. Durability is also an issue, but my feelings about not worrying about health much aside, Kinsler has played 155 and 157 games the previous two seasons.

3.01 Brett Lawrie: Time to start adding some youth as well as (hopefully) shoring up an improving but still suspect fantasy position at the hot corner. In March, Lawrie, along with Eric Hosmer and Desmond Jennings, rocketed up in ADP as there is always a faction of drafters lusting after the shiny new toy. None of the three were worthy of their lofty draft status, but all remain candidates to be solid fantasy contributors and I like Lawrie to do it sooner than later.

4.12 Manny Machado: If this were a real draft, I just locked up my corner, but I would have done so anticipating Machado is moved back to shortstop right away. I admit this is a bit of a chance as he is not assured of a spot on the Orioles’ opening day roster, but it would take quite a confluence of events to send the surprise call-up back to the farm for more seasoning. Prospecting is not my niche, but the comp I’ve heard quite frequently from those I trust is Hanley Ramirez without the attitude. The main reason I was willing to chance such an unproven commodity is if this were a real draft, at some point we would be taking the older players. It is my experience that in a draft of this nature, there will be a couple of owners looking at youth from the get-go, eschewing the players a bit longer in the tooth, but yet still productive to help for the next couple of years, if not longer. I’d be the guy willing to pick up those scraps and fortify my chances to win sooner as well as later.

5.01 Jose Reyes: OK, so now I’ve locked up either my middle or corner, but I’ll somehow manage to piece together a legal lineup. Reyes turned 29 in June so I hope to squeeze at least three but hopefully more stellar years out of him. The injuries are a concern, but like I said when I picked him, it’s not like everyone else has a roster replete with guys that will go 162. I’ll take the chance, especially knowing I have Machado also on the team, meaning I can use either a second baseman or shortstop to replace him if he were to go down.

6.12 Cole Hamels: Coming into the draft, I wanted to choose one from Matt Moore, Yu Darvish, Jered Weaver or Hamels as my first pitcher. At the 3/4 turn, I sensed at least one would be available if I waited so I did just that and alas, both Hamels and Weaver were there. As I announced when I made this pick, it was actually a coin flip between Hamels and Weaver with the loser being my first pick in the next round, which was the very next pick.

Overall, I feel I balanced a couple of older vets (Kinsler and Reyes) with a pair of emerging stars (Lawrie and Machado), glued together by Braun. I love starting my staff with the proven but still relatively youthful Weaver and Hamels. In a real draft of this nature, my guess is I’d be more willing than most to jump on the older but still productive starters to fill out the middle of the staff while saving the darts for the end.

COMMENTS ON OTHER PICKS

Giancarlo Stanton: This is a matter of philosophy more than anything and is also apropos to how I will treat him in 2013 redraft leagues. While I concede he has the most power potential in the league, I am still leery of the excessive strikeout rate with health being a secondary concern. If your philosophy is second place is first loser, then Stanton’s your man.

Joey Votto: Out of sight, out of mind. Votto’s injury has made a few people forget how good he is (myself included) and could actually be a value play come the spring.

Bryce Harper: I have no issues with taking Harper this early, so long as the plan is to win in 2015-2017. Heck, it wasn’t that long ago that the debate was Trout versus Harper. Presently, the debate is Trout versus Miggy for MVP and it will soon be a ménage-a-trios with Braun for the first overall pick.

Starlin Castro: Love the pick Nick, just maybe not the spot. I think this over indulges the scarcity element. On the other hand, like I alluded to with Harper, if your intention is to win in 2015-2017, I can see taking him here to lock him up and then making up for the lost stats later as even with the positional bump accounted for, I just don’t see Castro’s numbers as first round quality for the next couple of seasons, maybe in ’15.

Justin Upton: Would have taken him third, after only Braun and Trout. Guess you could say I’m still a believer. I hope to snag him in the second round in a bunch of drafts this upcoming season, perhaps even late first.

Buster Posey: Will have an NFBC ADP between 8-12 this spring, just you watch. I think it is warranted, but strategically, I’m not taking a catcher that early. In this draft, my concern would be if Posey is still catching in a couple of years.

Melky Cabrera: I’m assuming this will be questioned so I’ll just say that my gut says Steve just wanted to make the point that in his opinion, Cabrera’s numbers will not fall much as opposed to thinking he is a top-36 player overall, although with Steve you never know. Using the latter as the presumption, from a strategic perspective, I prefer to garner more counting stats from my hitting cornerstones and not realize so much of his value from batting average.

Wilin Rosario: Selfishly, I hope Jock is right as he is a keeper on my XFL squad. My concern is not just his unsightly strikeout rate, but there is some question as to whether he can stick at receiver defensively. That said, I am going to put together a list of names that will be “NFBC darlings” and Rosario will be the poster child.

Paul Goldschmidt: Another example of an NFBC darling, Goldschmidt is getting some serious love. Granted, my recent track record is anything but staunch, but it was not all that long ago that Goldschmidt was losing at-bats to Lyle Overbay.

LYLE OVERBAY!!!!

I don’t like to write much about baseball publicly in a non-fantasy sense, since it has led about 99% of the flame wars I have been involved in over the years and quite frankly, I’m too old to argue with asstards who aren’t smart enough to know how dumb they are so I stick to fantasy. While I didn’t necessarily agree with the Nationals decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg, I respected it and assumed there was information I (and everyone else) wasn’t privy to so I privately trusted that Mike Rizzo made the right decision. So maybe that’s in the back of my mind when I roll my eyes at those that contend Washington would have won the NLDS had Strasburg been active. They were one strike away on a pair of occasions, thus more than capable of defeating the Cardinals without their phenom.

Speaking of which, to those that are laying into Drew Storen since it was obvious he was a deer in the headlights, I say “really?” REALLY?!?!?! For years, my pet peeve when watching games has been how great commentators are at telling us what happened, occasionally veering into the psyche of the athlete’s minds. Well, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, this now extends to fans as well. Really? It was obvious? You could tell Storen was afraid of the Cardinals? Sigh.

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For the record, despite the above, I think Facebook and Twitter are great, even though their evolution has rendered the message forum all but useless. I’m still in the lurker stage, but the combination of information, humor and opinion sharing – all in real time – is a blast.

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Good thing I’m not running for office because I’d suck at a debate.

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On a few different occasions, I have hinted that I plan to alter my drafting style, specifically to introduce more risk. Apparently, it is going to be tough to teach this old dog new tricks. I’m involved in the kick-off NFBC draft, appropriately deemed the Pre-Mature League. My recent track record is such that I will not denigrate any pick or call it bad. Instead, I will respectfully disagree with it.

Mike Trout was the first pick and although the person making the pick is one of the favorite people I have met in the NFBC, I would not make Trout the first pick. Some are going to use Trout to make their point that repeating performance is hard and somewhat hyperbolically espouse he is not worthy of a first round pick. I’ll take the stance that I would definitely draft Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera before Trout. I would probably take Robinson Cano next. Then all bets are off. I would start deciding between Trout and Joey Votto. By spring, I will have a more definitive analysis, but as of now, Trout just may sneak into the back end of my top-5.

Buster Posey went 15th overall and you know what? I have no issues with that pick. I would not take him that early, but that’s more strategy than potential related. I bet he approaches an ADP of 10-12 by springtime.

The last thing you want to see at this point of the season is an analysis of someone else’s draft, so I will just share my first 16 picks: Prince Fielder, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Corey Hart, Brandon Phillips, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Napoli, Matt Moore, Dan Haren, Addison Reed, Tom Wilhelmsen, Brian McCann, Neil Walker, Mike Moustakas, Dayan Viciedo and Cody Ross. So much for living on the edge – lather, rinse, repeat. But, I feel the chances taken by others are too extreme, pushing more reliable players my way so I’ll have to wait a bit before I walk on the wild side.

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Last week, I was contacted By Greg Ambrosius of the NFBC who asked Baseball HQ’s Ron Shandler and me our opinions on what to do with standard AL and NL only formats with Houston moving to the AL (standard being 12 team AL and 13 team NL). Keeper leagues obviously have to come up with something that preserves the salary dynamic. However, in redraft leagues, assuming you can drop the NL ownership to twelve without causing a stir, I think the perfect solution is a 12-team league but adding a 24th roster spot with this catch: the spot can be filled with a hitter or pitcher. In terms of player pool penetration, previous to the Astros move, 79% of active American Leaguers are on a fantasy roster with 78% of their National league counterparts active. With my suggestion, the penetration would be 77% and allow for some fun strategy in terms of using a hitter or pitcher as the 24th player.

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Not to get too political, but I have what I believe to be the best means to narrow down the candidates. I refuse to vote for anyone whose name I see toted around on a stick at a busy intersection. Don’t those people know how distracting that is to those driving and texting at the same time?

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While I realize football is more popular that baseball in the mainstream, I did find it a little odd how there was so much water cooler talk about a replacement referee’s decision in an early season NFL game as compared to how an MLB team was eliminated from the playoffs on a questionable infield-fly rule call. I’m not talking about on Twitter or the radio; I’m talking at work and about town. My co-workers (sorry, if you didn’t already know, I don’t do this fantasy stuff for a living) barely mentioned it. Not a sole at my gym brought it up but were talking about the football call for a week. Bringing this to fantasy, I understand that one was a regular season game with fantasy implications while the other was a playoff game, but the dichotomy in the level of scuttlebutt I encountered speaks towards how much the NFL has embraced fantasy and has made it a significant part of marketing and the overall NFL experience while MLB still lags behind. It’s getting better, but there’s still work to do. This will be no more evident than the day Miguel Cabrera is announced as the landslide winner of the AL MVP.

It’s T-12 hours until my flight to Phoenix, Arizona is scheduled to take off. I don’t know whether to be giddy I’m getting away from the mess that Hurricane Sandy has left my East Coast brethren or guilty that I’m not going to have to deal with the inevitable aftermath.

Truth be told, this trip means a lot to me. I am heading to the First Pitch Arizona Fantasy Baseball Symposium put on by Baseball HQ’s Ron Shandler and Rick Wilton. It’s at this event that I first met Rob Leibowitz and Lawr Michaels, some twelve years ago. Jason Grey would be on the list as well though I technically met him earlier that summer at his wedding reception.

If I had to list the top-ten weekends in my life, that first conference would no doubt be front and center. I’m still not exactly sure why, perhaps because Ron advertised the event more, but there was a plethora of fledgling fantasy baseball web sites along with Mastersball and CREATiVE SPORTS that attended the 2000 symposium. Trace Wood of LongGandhi.com, John Mosey of John Mosey Baseball along with Bob Kohm and Byron Cox of Rotojunkies.com were also there.

Jason, Rob, Lawr, Mosey, Trace and I comprised what came to be called “The Evil Panel.” Part of the festivities was a unique auction that was the brainchild of Ron. Instead of the participants tabling names for bid, in essence controlling the flow of the auction, Ron thought it would be interesting if players were instead nominated by an independent panel not participating in the actual bidding. Furthermore, in order to really alter the dynamic of the auction, there was to be a bit of madness to the method of the nomination order. Basically, Ron’s instructions were “I want you to <insert naughty word here> with them.”

So the Evil Panel convened and concocted several schemes to incur the wrath of the unsuspecting participants. The initial irritant was waiting to nominate an upper echelon player. As you know, the early stage of an auction is replete with the better players. Not this time. Part of the majesty of this experiment was not only being unsure of when we would call out a player, but also IF we would do so. The bidders had to decide whether to jump on what appeared to be an early bargain or save their funds for someone they liked, taking the chance we would opt to make him available. If nothing else, waiting to bring out a top player sent the message this was not going to be your normal day at the office.

Some of the participants figured out we were instructed to be bastards, others were downright pissed at us. My role on the Panel was to track the winning bids, announcing the team purchasing the player and the amount. To further the consternation, without even letting my fellow Evil Panelists in on the ploy, I purposely “forgot” or “mispronounced” the names as I called out the winning bids, which further irked some the participants, even putting a couple of teams on tilt. Some other means of tweaking the participants were calling out about twenty injury riddled players in succession then tabling every Pedro in the Majors before finally offering up Pedro Martinez, then the consensus best pitcher, if not best player in fantasy baseball.

The auction took place in three stages and after the second stage, we literally had half the assembled conference members upset with us. Keeping in mind we all were trying to establish web sites and earn credibility and reputations, perhaps we went a bit overboard, but we were only doing as we were told. Fortunately, Ron sensed what was occurring and defused the situation setting the stage for a much more comfortable final stage where we could focus on making sure we were able to fill everyone’s roster within the allotted time. But that didn’t stop us from one last gag, as we had purposely withheld nominating a single New York Yankee, making the participants ponder if the plan was to continue to shun the Bronx Bombers the whole time or save them for the end. The initial plan was to indeed omit the Yankees, but we eventually relented and the last twenty or so names auctioned were Yanks.

As it turned out, doing the Evil Panel ended up being beneficial as by the end, everyone understood this was as much of a laboratory as it was a draft. It was a fantastic way for my fellow panelists and I to get to know some people and in effect put our web sites on their radar. Though, I am pretty sure most of them still think I’m a moron for continually forgetting and mispronouncing their names.

While I have preferred to take a passive approach when it comes to building a reputation and making a name in the industry, I would be lying if I said I was not a little proud about the fact I was the first one of “my crowd” to be asked to speak at and not just attend the conference. I have always sort of relished if not enjoyed playing the role of the trusty sidekick, but it meant a lot to me to be asked to be a speaker before my buddies Jason and Lawr. Of course, we are all now regular speakers and are psyched to finally welcome Brian Walton to the fraternity as he will be participating as well.

There have been many other special personal moments over the past twelve years. Attending the seventh game of the 2001 World Series with Jason is a memory I’ll never forget. Being asked to take John Hunt’s spot in the inaugural XFL draft was a thrill. Having “my own table” at the tenth anniversary symposium was really neat. The set-up was each speaker was assigned to a table and was joined for dinner by a group that wanted to meet him. I am anticipating another very special moment this year as Rick Wilton, who has been battling cancer is expected to make his anxiously awaited return after missing the last couple of years.

Looks like I answered my own question – giddiness trumps guilt.

As you likely know many of my staff brethren and I participate in the XFL, administered by our friend and colleague Ron Shandler from BaseballHQ. While not an industry league in the sense of Tout Wars and LABR, the XFL is certainly a showcase league featuring a stalwart group of industry veterans. Hmm, enough of us write about the league and the auction was covered live on SiriusXM satellite radio so maybe we are at least close to being on a par with LABR and Tout Wars.

Other than some rules quirks like OBP replacing batting average and not having any materials other than depth charts at the auction, what sets the XFL apart from the others is we are a keeper/dynasty league. There are 15 teams and each of us is allowed to freeze 15 players which can be a combination of active Major Leaguers or farm prospects.

Another quirk is we will hold the auction quite early, during the First Pitch Forum Arizona Symposium which will occur the first weekend in November. Here is my keeper list heading into the 2013 season.

Buster Posey $10
Jonathan Lucroy $10
Freddie Freeman $7
Mike Moustakas $7
Mike Trout $7
Jose Bautista $16
Corey Hart $23
Alex Rios $7
Clayton Kershaw $16
Drew Storen $10
Michael Pineda $7
Danny Hultzen farm
James Paxton farm

That’s 11 players for $120 and two farm guys (we have a combo reverse/farm roster with 17 spots whom we draft in March).

Well, this would have been my freeze list had I not opted to make some deals the past three seasons as I felt I had a chance to win. The problem is, I have fallen short and am left with just Bautista, Hart, Rios and Kershaw to actually carry over to next year, though I do have others that I will also protect.

Yes, that means I very well may have traded away the American and National League 2012 Most Valuable Players (Trout and Posey) along with the still maturing Freeman, Moustakas and Lucroy.

And you know what? I’d do it all over again if I was in the same situation. I’ve been asked if I really believe in the “Flags Fly Forever” mantra we preach and the above is proof positive that I do.

Long story short is I consider the XFL to be a hybrid keeper and dynasty format. In my way of thinking, a pure keeper league has rules which replenish the player pool every season, making rebuilding as fast as a one-year process. A pure dynasty league allows you to keep your entire, or close to your entire roster ad infinitum, so the turnover is extremely limited and consists of primarily fringe players. This makes building a team that will perpetually compete (i.e. a dynasty) a very long and arduous journey. The XFL is in between. We can keep players as long as we desire, but each year they incur either a $5 or $3 salary bump, with players drafted as prospects getting the very modest $3 raise. This forces some higher priced players into the pool but using Kershaw as an example, I drafted him as a prospect so he is only going to cost me $16 next year even though he would go for over twice than that on the open market. The potential MVP duo of Trout and Posey will be just $17 combined since I originally scooped them both as prospects.

My rule of thumb in leagues of this nature is I am willing to sacrifice competing and rebuild for multiple seasons, but I want to construct a foundation allowing me to compete for at least that many more years until I embark on the rebuilding process again. To that end, my endeavor was pseudo-successful as I wallowed in less than mediocrity from 2007-2009, leading to an ensuing 2nd, 3rd and likely 5th place finish this season with one more legit shot next year to go for it before I likely have to dismantle and focus on another youthful foundation.

If I fail to win the XFL next season, some may question my decisions to deal away such valuable entities as Trout and Posey. But as I mentioned, I would do it all over again if I felt I could win the title. I obviously didn’t win, some of which was my own doing with poor managerial decisions, some of which was injuries and trusting Jon Lester and Ricky Romero to support Kershaw this season. But next time I advise you to deal away a significant part of your future if you objectively feel it gives you an honest shot of winning, please take heed knowing I have done so myself – with no regrets.

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