Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 12:29 PM EST

Contributed by: Coach

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.