With Opening Day just around the corner, it’s nearing draft day for millions of fantasy players. Time to break out those Street and Smith magazines and the Baseball Prospectus annual that just arrived in the mail.
For me, this is my seventh draft day with the same core of players, and most years I manage two or three teams in various leagues. I’ve won a few leagues; I’ve finished in the top three in many others. While I don’t memorize 700 EqA numbers or K/BB ratios of the top starting pitchers, I do have a draft day strategy. But talking about draft strategy is boring, and everyone thinks their draft strategy is the best.
Instead, let’s look at a draft day conundrum that I know affects many fantasy players. I’ll use a friend of mine as an example.
Like me, my friends is a very big Yankee fan, but he’s not as experienced with fantasy baseball as I am. As he manages his team, he subsequently lets his emotions get in the way with his efforts to win the division. His cardinal rule, in this day and age, can be very damaging to the long-term prospects of his team. That rule? No Red Sox.
My roommate will not accept any Red Sox on his teams. If he does an auto-draft and lands a member of the hated team in Boston, he will trade the player in question in a lopsided deal. Conversely, he has a love affair with members of the Yankees.
Last season, said friend once tried to convince me that Bernie Williams was a viable fourth outfielder for a fantasy team. Now, I love Bernie, but he was hardly a viable fourth outfielder for the Yankees, let alone a fake team that largely depends on power and on-base percentage. Nevertheless, my friend loved his Yankees to the detriment of his team.
In the end, my friend won one of his leagues, but we’re not talking about an Ã¼ber-competitive league.
In fantasy baseball, this handicap, this blind love of the Yankees, can be very very damaging. Who wouldn’t want David Ortiz’s or Manny Ramirez’s slugging stats piling up points for his fantasy team? But if you’re anything like this obsessed Yankee fan, you can’t root for the Red Sox. You can’t bring yourself to ever cheer for David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez. And don’t eve get me started on Curt Schilling.
But to be a top-notch fantasy manager, you have to suck it up for the course of the season. If Manny Ramirez is available or David Ortiz lands in your lap early in the second round of the draft, take them. Root for the Red Sox to lose and hope they hit a bunch of inconsequential home runs and drive in a bunch of inconsequential RBIs.
Fantasy baseball really tests the limits of fandom, and sometimes, you just have to pick one over the other. To win your fantasy league, you may need to rely on players you hate. You may need that Barry Bonds, that Daisuke Matsuzaka, that Roy Halladay. And it hurts to watch them play your team. That’s just the bottom line, fan allegiances be damned.