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Toronto is snowed in today, and spring training is more than a month away. The stalemate continues between the agents of most free agents, and the newly-responsible, budget-conscious GMs who are more concerned with dumping their worst contracts on each other than filling their needs.

Fortunately, there's fantasy baseball to amuse a guy. The last time I posted something here, it didn't attract a lot of comments, but a couple of people e-mailed and joined me in leagues. So here's another heads-up. Shrike has already expressed an interest in Roto Junkies, an AL-only, 5x5 keeper league, and I've put him in touch with our Commissioner. Now there are two spots open, so here's an opportunity to join a well-run league of friendly guys. RJ has features like the Prospects draft, where you can "stash" five players who don't break camp on a 25-man roster, and trading of future draft picks. There's a $35 US annual fee, and transaction fees, even if you're a compulsive FA shopper like me, might be another $25 for the whole year, but all the money is awarded in prizes. One of the available teams has a cornerstone (A-Rod) and a stockpile of high draft picks, including my #2. The other has Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko and other excellent keeper possibilities.

So if you want to join Sean and me in a league that's competitive, but fun, let me know by e-mail, and I'll pass along inquiries to the Commish. And if Dan is reading this in the U.K., don't let the crown get too comfortable, pal. My 2002 expansion Toronto Walrus team is poised for a challenge.

My thoughts about the 2003 Blue Jays from the Roto point of view are posted in my ESPN column, so I won't go into detail here, but I'm extremely bullish on their hitters, and their pitching staff has advanced from "must avoid" (the company of Texas, K.C., Tampa and Baltimore) to including some potential draft-day bargains.

A lot of owners "punt" a category -- usually saves or steals -- in order to focus on the others. I try to stay competitive in SB by getting at least one or two multi-talented hitters (new Roto-god Alfonso Soriano, Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Beltran, Eric Hinske, etc.) but I'm officially giving up on saves. Call it the Keith Foulke strategy; last year I wasted a high draft pick on him, only to regret it all season. (In 2003, as the new A's closer, he will probably go at a more reasonable level and win his new owner a championship, but I'm not biting.) Other 2002 disappointments included previously-indestructible Mariano Rivera, Tigers heir-apparent Matt Anderson, and the Tribe's Bob Wickman. The position is volatile, and I refuse to overpay for something that speculative when there are more solid options on the board at other positions.

That doesn't mean I'm conceding a zero in the SV category. My strategy (wait, while Sean gets a pen) is to let my rivals battle over the "names" early, then take a few chances in the later rounds. Who knew a year ago that Eric Gagne was going to excel, or Eddie Guardado, or Jorge Julio? I'm also targeting "next-in-line" middle relievers: Cliff Politte will get me the odd W, lots of K's, and a handful of SV when Escobar has worked a few days straight, plus he's got a good chance to inherit the job if Kelvim is traded at the deadline. Octavio Dotel is a Billy Wagner hamstring or elbow twinge away from 40 saves, and will put up excellent numbers anyway in the setup role. And because teams panic, there will be plenty of surprises, as usual. I grabbed Francisco Cordero last year off the waiver list, and he got me 10 SV with good peripherals; even got 4 SV from FA Ben Weber in the two weeks Percival was on the DL. So it's possible to finish mid-pack in the category without over-committing to question marks.

I'm also inclined to punt an entire position this year -- catcher. Sure, if you own Mike Piazza, or a healthy Pudge, that's an edge, but not without risks. The talent level drops off sharply, and midrange C are snapped up by desperate owners, creating bargains among useful guys at other positions. In our AL league, you need to start two C every day, and I've realized that it's more about minimizing the damage there than trying to get production. A couple of platoon guys with occasional power (like Greg Myers) can be acquired in the end game, instead of wasting a higher pick on Ramon Hernandez or Einar Diaz and suffering through a Mendoza-line season, wishing they'd be benched.

If you're new to fantasy ball, forget what you know about the "defensive spectrum" -- the idea that anyone can play 1B or LF, and the positions progress in difficulty to SS and C on the other end -- because you get more from a stud 1B and OF paired with free agents at C and SS than the other way around. It's nice to have one of the Big 4 shortstops, but it's crippling to have five mediocre OF and an unproductive 1B/DH, so don't get too distracted by the position scarcity elsewhere and forget to draft a few sluggers where you need them.

A few other random thoughts: there's some really bad pitching in the AL Central, so I'm leaning to White Sox and Twins hitters, along with Blue Jays. I find that in almost every league, Yankees are overrated, so I rarely get any. Also off my radar are most "new" players, which includes touted rookies (more will break your heart than win you a pennant) and foreign imports (for every Ichiro, there are several Shinjos.) So you can imagine how I feel about Jose Contreras and Godzilla. Even though I'm pretty sure that Contreras will win 15 games, with decent ERA, WHIP and K numbers, and Matsui will hit .290 with 30 HR, I will let my opponents fight over them and "settle" for cheaper, safer alternatives.

Any interest in a Yahoo! free fantasy league for BB readers?
Flights of Fantasy | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_jason - Friday, January 03 2003 @ 04:45 PM EST (#100198) #
Yeah, Id defintley be intrested in the Yahoo fantasy league for BB readers, I have been in a yahoo fantasy league the last 2 seasons and the problem is that you end up with sometimes have the league abandoning ship when they realize they dont have a very good team. With BB readers that prospect would be less likely to happen, and we might have full participation.
_Geoff North - Friday, January 03 2003 @ 05:59 PM EST (#100199) #
Count me in as a second vote of interest in the Yahoo league... I'd also be interested in the keeper league... any more info available? I'm pretty much a rookie when it comes to Fantasy babeball.
Coach - Friday, January 03 2003 @ 06:40 PM EST (#100200) #
Geoff, I'm e-mailing you some more info about Roto Junkies. When Yahoo gets going in February, we'll revisit that idea, and discuss what kind of league we want -- AL-only or MLB, traditional Roto or head-to-head, number of teams, etc. -- and pick a draft date. I'd rather not be the commissioner, if someone else will take on that role.
_Sean - Friday, January 03 2003 @ 09:24 PM EST (#100201) #
Excellent, Geoff! Fresh victims for my ever-growing army of the undead...I mean, er, I hope you join me as a new owner in the RJ league. -)

I'm not sure if I can handle 3 leagues this year, but I'd be willing to participate in a BB Yahoo league. Since I'm already in an AL-only league [RJ] and a head-to-head league, I'd prefer a different format than those two.
_jason - Friday, January 03 2003 @ 09:50 PM EST (#100202) #
Yeah, a full MLB traditional roto is good by me.
_Jordan - Friday, January 03 2003 @ 11:29 PM EST (#100203) #
Kent, sorry I haven't gotten back to you before now on the Roto leagues ... I'm trying to limit my fantasy exposure (that phrase could get this site locked out of public-access terminals) this coming year; as I'm already committed to an ESPN league for next summer, the most I could manage would be one other league. However, I've always been intrigued by the idea of a keeper league, since I like the idea of building a team year over year. But I also think I'd be bothered by the AL-only aspect: not because of the smaller talent pool, but because I hate it when one of my players gets dealt out of the league in real life and his stats get Marquis Grissomed. Still, if there's room, I'd be interested in learning more about the keepr league. Should I check your previous post on this subject for details?

Just for fun, here's a list of elements that would constitute, from my perspective, the ultimate roto league, though I highly doubt it would be doable online or that its complexity could be managed:

- an auction format, with players purchased on draft day for prices that become their salaries all year long, on a budget that becomes a de facto team salary cap;

- a ML-wide player pool with a minimum of 12 teams and 25-man active rosters (I could be talked into a smaller, AL- or NL-only league if there were no penalties for players getting dealt to the other league);

- a minor-league draft, wherein each team takes five to ten players not on any ML club's Opening Day Roster; you could call them up to active duty if you waived a regular player into the free-agent pool, or if the player was DLed in real life;

- some form of keeper status at the end of the season: you could reserve either five players, or any number of players under a fixed salary amount, for next season. Or, each player would be re-auctioned the next year at his previous year's salary, and if no one bids an amount higher than his previous salary, he remains with his team, which can keep him or cut him as it likes;

- the ability of out-of-contention teams to punt the season and deal stars for young prospects and payroll savings, just as in real life;

- salaries that follow trades, i.e., acquiring Randy Johnson for Mark Teixeira and Joe Borchard means adding $10M to your salary. There could be penalties for teams that finish the year over the salary cap: being able to protect fewer players, or allowed a smaller amount of salary to protect, or losing an auction spot, or having to keep that player for the following season, or some such.

I don't know; I've made up most of these criteria on the spot, and they're probably way over the top. Even if this kind of league were workable, it would require much more time than your average league, including several hours to conduct an auction. Hmmm ... maybe you conduct an auction for ten roster spots and a straight draft at minimum salary for the rest, in order to save time? I'm thinking out loud here.... Anyway, that's squarely in the realm of wishful thinking, unless anyone knows of a league much like this or thinks one could be set up according to the design.
Coach - Saturday, January 04 2003 @ 11:27 AM EST (#100204) #
Jordan, there are leagues incorporating most, if not all of your suggestions, but you're right about it being difficult to do on-line. There are many Internet services that host private leagues, from the perspective of keeping up-to-date-stats and standings, transactions, etc., usually with a message board and other features. But they cost $$, and an e-auction sounds daunting. In RJ, we use a program called Trillian, that "speaks" AoL, MSN, Yahoo and provides a message room, and it took six hours for 10 owners to draft 23 players! If there had been bidding, it would have taken days. (A live auction can be an exhausting enough process.)

Your ideas pertaining to salary would make the game more challenging, and more interesting, but unless there's league management software out there that I'm not familiar with (a very real possibility) that would be a nightmare for the Commissioner. We have enough trouble in RJ -- all due respect, Rick -- keeping track of our simplified version, which does include the minor-league draft, three keepers, and "the ability of out-of-contention teams to punt the season and deal stars for young prospects," but no salaries.

Last June, in ninth place because of rookie procedural errors and draft-day mistakes, I decided my team was coming around, and was only a SP and a 1B away from contending. I traded a non-entity and my 2003 second-round pick for Mark Mulder and a much lower 2003 pick (about #13, I think.) The other owner, the 2001 champ, punted his lost season, and mine turned around, but at "don't pay until next year" finance rates. (I also traded Carlos Pena and my #4 for John Olerud and a #8, so heading into this year's draft, I have just two picks in the first four rounds.)

The closest thing to currency in our league is draft order. You can protect one 'A' player (drafted in rounds 1-5 the previous year) and one each from 'B' (rounds 6-13) and 'C' (14-23) categories. Here's where it gets complicated, and our stat service can't track our rules: if you waive your 3rd-rounder (see Foulke, Keith, 2002 Toronto Walrus) the FA you pick up takes over that spot. If you freeze a player (I'm keeping Halladay at #9, for example, as my 'B' guy) you forfeit your pick in that round. So by trading away my #2, I lost the option of protecting Mike Sweeney, which would have cost me the #2 I no longer have. Fortunately, I have a decent #3, Carlos Beltran, as my 'A' keeper, but that means NO picks between #1 and #5, so I'm anxious to flip Mulder before the draft.

My third keeper, a 'C' by our rules, will cost me my #23 (usually you get Chris Gomez or Todd Van Poppel there) because he was my prize Prospect a year ago -- kid named Phelps. So I'm not writing off the season just yet, but who knows, I might be a "seller" at the deadline to stock up for 2004. Oh, and you can keep prospects (defined as anyone not on the 25-man on Opening Day) from year to year, so a Joe Mauer or Russ Adams is stashable, if you think they're worth waiting for. You don't have to promote prospects as soon as they're called up; I wouldn't have finished third without Phelps and Joe Crede, but once they're active, they're subject to normal rules, and if they bomb, you might have to cut them.

If somebody with advanced database and spreadsheet savvy wants to be Commish, and we have a trade committee to reject obviously one-sided deals, there's no limit to what "extras" we could add to the basic free game Yahoo offers. If it's all of MLB, I propose a Batter's Box league with 16 teams, 25 active players, a 3 or 4 man reserve squad, and 1 or 2 DL spots. I prefer 5x5 to 4x4, as the SB and K categories add some strategy, but in Yahoo, we could add our own -- OBP, OPS, K/BB, K/9 -- to make it more sabrmetrically correct and more challenging.

Certain options (suggestions only) would have to be maintained privately -- five keepers, but no more than 3 pitchers or 3 hitters, with each costing a draft pick, corresponding to the round they were selected the previous year, or maybe even 1-2 rounds earlier, since they're good enough to keep. Trading of future draft picks is a must. After the first year, the drafts would have to be live in some kind of chat room; in the inaugural season, we can use Yahoo, which will only take about two hours.

I'm willing to toss this idea around for a few weeks, and if a volunteer Commish steps forward, form a rules committee to implement as many bells and whistles as we choose. At worst, I'll start the Yahoo league, and even run it, but it will be the stock model, without options beyond the intention of making it a simple keeper league. By the way, I played head-to-head for the first time last year, after being a Roto snob, and to my surprise, it was fun. Maybe because I won the regular season and the playoffs. Just a little pre-season trash talk for Sean and Justin, who already joined that league.
Pistol - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 10:59 AM EST (#100205) #
I'd be interested in a Yahoo league.
_pete_the_donkey - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 04:45 PM EST (#100206) #
I'd be very interested in joining another roto league. I'm currently in an AL-only 4x4 keeper league, but would love to spend even more time at the office each day not working.

Let me know when and where.
Flights of Fantasy | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.