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This site was launched after the regular season, but we've had plenty to discuss, and so far, have neglected the topic of fantasy baseball. My gig as the Blue Jays fantasy correspondent on ESPN led to the creation of my Web site as a column archive, which spawned the Batter's Box, which seems to be taking on a life of its own. This entry returns to Square One.

Being an avid fan of real baseball can present minor conflicts for a fantasy owner. Some players have more Roto value than actual value (newest Marlin Juan Pierre, for example) while others I admire on the diamond (David Bell, Doug Mientkiewicz) are liabilities on most fantasy teams. There are an almost infinite number of possible variations on the original Rotisserie format, but they are nearly all based on comparing the stats "your" players accumulate in actual games to the numbers the other owners' rosters produce. If you're interested, or just curious, read on...

Without giving my opponents too much information, here's a strategy that works for me. I usually lead my leagues in transactions, as I like to fill my late round picks and/or bench spots with "possibilities." So I'll grab a setup man who I think might become a closer (I was so sure Escobar would be traded at the deadline last summer, I picked up Cliff Politte) or a sub who is thrust into a regular job, or a newcomer from the minors. The vast majority of these speculative moves don't work out, so I just try another. Every so often -- I've come to expect it two or three times a year in each league -- I get a very useful player this way. I prefer my 24th and 25th guys to have potential, unlike the mediocrities who clutter the free agent list, but I'm quick to cut the ones I guess wrong about, or "hot" ones who cool off. In one league, my 2B draftee (Luis Rivas) stiffed, but Mark Bellhorn, acquired via my oft-criticized revolving door policy, turned out just fine. I'll share a few other suggestions in future columns. Here's a partial list of fantasy teams in need of new ownership:


An excellent opportunity to test the waters if you're new to fantasy baseball. My 16-team Yahoo keeper league (you get to protect five players from the previous season's final roster) is looking for four new owners for 2003. Choose from the “dead” teams (first come, first served) and inherit an excellent position in the next draft. It’s a “head to head” league, where you match traditional Roto stats against a different rival each week. We play "5x5," which means five hitting categories (R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG) and five for pitching (W, K, SV, ERA, WHIP.) It’s free, and the returning owners are a friendly bunch. I check in for a few minutes every day, but it takes less than an hour a week to maintain your lineup.

The prize, reflecting the cost, is bragging rights. I’m the defending champion, thanks to A-Rod, my bargain pitching staff (Oswalt, Halladay, Mulder & Perez) and free agent Josh Phelps. Since I can’t keep everyone, I'm looking to make pre-draft 2-for-1 trades, offering the likes of Mike Sweeney, Garret Anderson, Kaz Sasaki and/or one of my young gun starters in a package for a “better” keeper. So new owners can improve their rosters even before we draft.

One team has a wealth of possible keepers among the hitters (Piazza, Boone, Koskie, Aurilia, Damon) but is thin on pitching (Clemens, Isringhausen.) What I consider the weakest overall lineup still has Pedro, Nen, LoDuca, Vina and Biggio as a decent nucleus.

If I was joining, I’d grab the team with Sosa, Konerko, Vidro, Chavez and the three best Mariners starters. There’s also one with Pujols, Pudge, Tejada, Buehrle, Beckett and Kim, among others. Send me an e-mail if you’re interested, and I’ll forward it to the Commish, who will contact you with the details.


Competitively a step up from Yahoo, with a $35 (US) entry fee and moderate transaction fees (all the dough goes into cash prizes for first and second place) the well-established Roto Junkies league has one vacancy, as far as I know. It's 10 teams, 5x5, restricted to AL players, and maintained by a dedicated Commisioner. RJ has features like the Prospects draft, where you can "stash" five players who don't break camp on an actual 25-man roster, and trading of future draft picks. Last year, as a rookie, I finished third, but in my push for a cheque, made a few midseason trades I'll "pay for" next year. After milking free agent Ben Weber for four saves while Percival was hurt, I traded him for Mark Mulder. Heck of a deal in the short term, but to make it happen, I swapped my #2 pick in 2003 for the other owner's #13 pick, so he begins next season's draft in a much stronger position than I do. (I also dealt Carlos Pena and my #4 for John Olerud and a #8, and got Eddie Guardado for the stretch drive in another move I might regret when the "bill" comes due.)

We have just three keepers, one each from the "A-B-C" categories, depending on the round they were drafted in last year. But if you traded away your #2 draft slot, as I did, you also lose the right to protect anyone in that slot. (Fortunately, I have 30-30 man Carlos Beltran, a third-rounder, as my "A" guy, but I couldn't "freeze" anyone in the second or fourth round, even if I wanted to, because I dealt away those picks.) The time commitment? Our live draft, on the Saturday after Opening Day, took about six hours, as compared to Yahoo drafts, which are rarely longer than 90 minutes, with the option of pre-ranking players if you can't attend. After that first long day, it's easy to maintain. Because of my "churn" strategy with my borderline players, I look at the free agent list several times a week, and getting involved in occasional e-mail trade discussions is half the fun.

This league is recommended for an experienced fantasy player, or one who wants to learn in fast company, and it will soon be filled. Let me know if you want an electronic introduction to the Commish.


STATS, Inc. has a challenging game ($49.95 US plus transaction fees) that was called "Bill James Fantasy Baseball" until last season. Not sure if I can give you my team, but I'm opting out, and when they sell "open" teams next February, you can purchase a dynasty in the Hack Wilson league. Owners can protect up to seven players, and I have plenty of young talent, including obvious keeper Lance Berkman at CF and two excellent RF in Magglio Ordonez and Bobby Abreu. In the draft, among 15 teams, you pick two at each position. Having two productive keepers at an important spot (the defending champ owns Jason Giambi and Todd Helton; I was second overall) means you get a star with a very late pick, a tremendous advantage. The team some lucky newcomer will take over also has Paul Konerko, Roy Halladay, Odalis Perez, Jason Schmidt, Eric Milton, Troy Percival and Trevor Hoffman, among others, so there's plenty of depth and flexibility for pre-draft juggling. I'm dropping this "pay" league for the NL version of Roto Junkies, as I simply can't afford to do both.

For me, the time and energy I devote to fantasy baseball utilizes the part of my brain that once scoured the Daily Racing Form for probable winners at the track. It's the same challenge of predicting the future, and has similar emotional risks and rewards, but I'm better at keeping the financial part under control with baseball than with horses. It allows me to enjoy the real games on more than one level -- Eric Hinske isn't just an intense competitor with a great eye, he was a solid producer at 3B on my fantasy teams, and I got him cheap in every draft. Roy Halladay, who I would love to watch pitch even if I didn't "own" him, gave me first-round numbers from a ninth-round pick. Now that the rest of the fantasy world knows about them, I will either have to "overpay" for the guys I admire, or move on to potential bargains like Mark Teixeira and Josh Beckett if I want to stay competitive.

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Coach - Tuesday, November 26 2002 @ 09:54 AM EST (#102220) #
The power of the Internet to condense space and time amazes me. Although this entry didn't attract a lot of public discussion, it spawned enough e-mail response that the GBL (openings 1-4) is full for next year, and RJ (#5) has a waiting list, pending the league's annual e-meetings. Thanks, guys.

The STATS team remains ownerless, and after all my hard work to build such a great lineup, it's hard to walk away. Wonder if Pat Gillick knows how I feel?
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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.