Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
Here's my ESPN column, an early look at possible 2003 Jays draft day busts and bargoons. The fantasy correspondents there are volunteers, not obliged to start posting until spring training, but some of us are hard to shut up. I notice that John Gizzi's checked in on the A's, but Mick Doherty hasn't yet on the Yankees. Can't blame him; with an OF of Godzilla-Rondell-Bernie-Raul (the Boy of Summer sez White will play left-center field) and Juan Rivera as the rover, plus a 7-man rotation, it's hard to give fantasy advice. MED and JMG nominated an old Coach as 2002 Rookie of the Year and MVP among our peers, prompting their invitations here.

There are many fine correspondents; Scott Lucas is a regular visitor to this site, who's posted his view from Texas on Valdes and Thomson. Ed Matz (Mariners) also writes for ESPN: the Magazine, Thor Kolnes (Marlins) provides offbeat stuff and Giz-baiting, and Brad Doolittle handles the unenviable Royals beat gracefully. There will probably be some "help wanted" signs attached to a few teams (that's how I got the gig) and if you convince the staff you are qualified, there are precedents -- Mick sets lots of those -- for covering a team in another city.

Some of you may think fantasy baseball is a childish waste of time, and to you, I respectfully stick out my tongue and say, "so?"

OK, final [plug] for a competitive team in the online game, formerly Bill James Fantasy Baseball. If $49.95 US plus transaction fees is too steep, skip this paragraph. I can't afford that either, and I'm abandoning ship for two other reasons. One is to play DMB with Craig and some other interesting folks in the TRHL, another is my freebie team on ESPN -- the correspondents' only reward, unless you count making new friends. If you have deeper pockets than mine, and want to take over a potential SFBB dynasty, contact me for the URL, user name and password, and check it out. The game is challenging, and it's a nice lineup with plenty of keeper options: Berkman, Ordonez and Abreu at a critical position (the guy who won last year has Giambi and Helton) and solid pitching -- Roy Halladay, Odalis Perez, Eric Milton, Percival and Hoffman; excellent 2-for-1 trade leverage before the draft. Driven only in summer, by a middle-aged Canadian. No chatter, but people will trade by e-mail if your proposals make sense.[/plug]

There has been e-mail interest in a Batter's Box league from as far away as the Netherlands, and some have you have already declared "in" here. I hope someone else will volunteer to be Commissioner; I'm happy to serve on a rules committee or a trade committee run by someone else. Once 2003 registration begins, and we are forming rules, we can discuss adding more categories, but it's flexible -- how about 5x5, with OBP instead of average, SB-CS instead of steals, and K/BB ratio or K/9 instead of K? Makes those Jays and A's even more valuable...

Why Yahoo? A few other places are free, but that 10-team, 22-man, once-a-week game (CNN/SI and CBS Sportsline) is boring, and Sandbox is full of technical glitches and popup ads. In response to a few private queries, BB should be an excellent beginners' league, as you won't need to memorize Jordan's farm reports to compete, but if you are not reasonably familiar with the 25-man rosters, you won't contend. Any team could win with a good draft and reasonable luck; there's more of a premium on fantasy experience in more complicated leagues. If we draw the line at 16 teams, with 25 active players and two DL positions, there will be plenty of talent, at replacement value, in the free agent pool. Just like real baseball.

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_Gwyn - Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 01:14 PM EST (#98848) #

Excellent piece. If all the correspondents can match your work I will be adding ESPN to Alex Patton and Rotonews as my main sources of fantasy information.

I was interested to read that Wilson will be the #2 catcher ahead of Huckaby I got the impression last year that Huckaby was the preferred choice of the two.
Coach - Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 01:46 PM EST (#98849) #
Gwyn, sometimes you have to take an educated guess. They signed Myers because he can hit RH pitching, which neither Wilson or Huckaby can do. So Myers, who was a distant #2, not in a strict platoon in Oakland, will get many more AB this year than he did in 2002. His opposite number, since the Jays value hitting over defence, will be the guy who pounds lefties -- that's Wilson. (Huck relies on soft flares to the opposite field no matter who's pitching.) If you need to pinch-hit for Myers late in a game, who do you want coming off the bench -- the .337/.412/.506 guy or the .274/.318/.290 guy? (Those are their numbers vs. LH pitching.) Wilson also gives Tosca a possible PH for Catalanotto or Hinske if they don't match up well against certain lefty relievers. Huck does not.

It's a calculated risk that Huckaby will clear waivers and stay in the organization, but if he ends up somewhere else, their pitching will improve. Kenny has no power -- one of his three HR looked more like single, E9, E9 -- but his game-calling and pitch-framing are fantastic. He looks like a future instructor to me. At some point, if/when he can hit enough, future Gold Glove candidate Kevin Cash will enter the picture, so Myers is a safer bargain selection than Wilson, but stick with my predictions on draft day and thank me later.
Pistol - Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 02:23 PM EST (#98850) #
I'd be surprised if there's a strict platoon at catcher. I expect an even split. Myers hasn't had more than 200 ABs since 1996 and I wouldn't expect him to get a lot more than that this year. Even if he does play he's likely going to kill your batting average more than any benefit you would gain in counting stats. I don't see much value in Myers.
_jason - Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 03:14 PM EST (#98851) #

In regards to the Yahoo league, how about OBP in addition to AVG? Or posssibly just OPS in place of both? I've always wondered about a possible stat for feilding to be worked in the mix. Ive never seen it and dont know if thats possible.

Also, could you tell me a little bit about what the commisioner would have to do. And can the commish still compete in the league, given he's the commish isnt there a conflict of interest?
_Mick - Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 05:08 PM EST (#98852) #
Actually, Coach, I haven't yet decided if I'm "in" for a fourth year. I'm a little disturbed that ESPN has quietly, slowly increased the required responsibility of what is essentially -- no, strike "essentially" and insert "absolutely" -- a volunteer position.

My first year, covering the 2000 Rangers, we were "required" to post once a week with the implied understanding that we would also chip in when something important happened. It turns out that most of the time spent on this position isn't in the posting of updates but in handling correspondence; even if we didn't (as most of us have) actively include our e-mail address in each column, it's easy enough to get on our required ESPN Profile page.

Given the above, I have always included some version of the following statement at the end of each update:

These columns, updated weekly or as breaking news warrants, are archived at Further questions and comments:

Last year at some point, even as the good folks at ESPN fantasy games finally gave us a little more leeway in creativity (allowing us to write our own headlines and subheads/section headings, for instance) they also started mentioning that we had agreed to post two updates a week. First I'd heard of it.

Then a few days ago, Eric Karabell, who is Managing Editor, ESPN Fantasy Games, sent out a blast e-mail to all the correspondents that included this line:

Hey, you're watching the games, reading the local papers, so posting new material twice a week at the least should be no problem.

First, let me say that Karabell is outstanding at what he does. We've talked on the phone about a blurb I supplied him for ESPN: The Magazine and exchanged several e-mail messages over the past few years. And his long e-mail which is excerpted above primarily focused on issues that really needed addressing given past experiences with certain writers who took great liberties with topics, appropriate tone and (most annoying to me) found grammar and spelling to be quite optional.

But I have a couple of problems with the excerpted text above; first and foremost, again, it's assumed that twice a week has always been the norm, and that's not the case. Second, it focuses on writers being local, and there are several of us who aren't local, so frankly, it's not always terribly easy to do the more frequent updates without just re-hashing what's on or elsewhere on the wire.

Incidentally, the most frequent complaint I got from readers last year, far and away, was from Yankees fans who were outraged that someone living in Dallas could presume to be a New York correspondent. I take solace by telling myself that they don't really understand how journalism works, that correspondents rarely live where they write about, and that in the post-Internet world, it is even less important. But (a) this ain't journalism and (b) it probably would be much better for the content I produce if I could listen to WFAN "The Fan" every day at work rather than KTCK "The Ticket."

More objectively, if possible, I do think that Scott Lucas did a much better job as the Rangers' correspondent this year than I did the two previous years; look at my archive of columns as opposed to his and he regularly provided more pertinent fantasy analysis than I ever did. Now, I'm not saying Scott's a better writer than I am -- I'm the arrogant writer type who doesn't think John Grisham is near the writer I am, much less Mike Lupica or Mitch Albom, so you'll never get me to say anything like that. But given the supposed purpose of the fantasy correspondent, Scott beat me all to hell with the content he provided.

I actually think there are three distinct breeds of correspondent that have emerged in the three years ESPN has provided this service:

There are the frustrated writers (see Doherty, Mick; and to a lesser extent, Gizzi, John; Kolnes, Thor; and Matz, Eddie) who are legitimate fans and fantasy players, but also are professional writers and therefore always, somewhere in the back of their minds, thinking "How can I use this ESPN experience to get paid for writing somewhere else, preferably about sports?" They often hijack their own columns to publish bizarre creative riffs like Texas Rangers 2001: The Seussical.

There are the FANS, and I wouldn't give examples here even if I could because this will sound insulting rather than objective, and most of them are no longer in their correspondent positions anyway. These folks LOVE the local team. They also can't write worth a damn. If I were a professional editor -- hey, I am! -- reviewing their work, we would have to have ... discussions.

Finally, there are the true correspondents. These folks, who usually make up about half of the correspondents roster each year, are at least competent, often excellent (and sometimes professional) writers who genuinely focus on the topic at hand, produce good and reliable resources for their readers, and it probably never occurs to them to bitch (like I am right now) about doing something that's usually so much fun to do. I mentioned Scott Lucas above. Coach fits this category. Brian Abbott (Tigers) and Anne Thomason (Braves) are always required fantasy stopdowns for me.

Anyway, I guess before I sign up for a fourth year of corresponding -- I think John, Chris Trimmmer and I are the only ones potentially in that category? -- I have to decide if I can live up to the ridiculously high standards set by the people in that third category and not focus on the negative, as I have perceived it anyway, in the increasing demands of ESPN overall.

Thank you for letting me rant. I have until January 24 to decide what I'm going to do, and I'll probably post a couple of things before that just to see if it sparks anything, then give Karabell a call. Any comments or feedback you might have on this issue would be most appreciated.

Final tanget: If I DO "retire," it would be for the second straight year, since I retired before last year but came back when the Yankees post opened and was offered. I figure if I keep retiring and coming back, eventually they'll have to do either a special ESPN Classic Tribute Saturday for me, or else a fantasy sports-related episode of "Behind the Music."
Gitz - Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 08:37 PM EST (#98853) #
I was not thrilled with the idea of being required to do two updates a week, nor was I overjoyed at not receiving a "raise." But I'm back as the A's correspondent, largely because I need an active link to my writing other than my inane business magazine column, and because I really like to make A's fans upset by having the audacity to suggest Mario Valdez, while a competent minor-league hitter, may not even get the chance to be an incompetent major leaguer, let alone a star.

However, last year I wrote the column from Seattle, and it was a challenge not seeing a great number of games. The A's have a bunch of guys on their team -- as most teams do, I'm sure -- where looking at the stats alone does not help at all, and I simply did not have time to do an exhaustive box-score-by-box-score investigation if Eric Chavez or Miguel Tejada were working the count, hitting the ball the other way, etc. It will be even more difficult when I move to Vancouveer, but by then I'll be so happy it won't make a difference ...
_Anonymous - Sunday, January 19 2003 @ 11:58 AM EST (#98854) #
Incidentally, the most frequent complaint I got from readers last year, far and away, was from Yankees fans who were outraged that someone living in Dallas could presume to be a New York correspondent.

Point out to them that Newsday's Jon Heyman hasn't lived in the New York area for years.
_snellvillejones - Monday, January 20 2003 @ 06:44 PM EST (#98855) #
i'd be interested in doing a yahoo league if it happens and there is room
_Matt - Wednesday, January 22 2003 @ 11:02 AM EST (#98856) #
I stumbled upon your site here - & I see that a number of you are ESPN Fantasy Baseball correspondents. I have interest in being the Indians correspondent - & according to your post the current correspondent (Chris Trimmer) will probably?? be back. If he decides against it - could someone let me know how I can "apply" for this position? Thanks.
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