The Arrival of Fantasy Baseball

The Arrival of Fantasy Baseball

Thursday, March 4, 2010
10:41 P.M.
Break time is over, time to get back to work. Actually, its not work, is an obsession ever? Lets just say my free time is gone. Not that having a job and a family affords me much. (3kids 2jobs 1wife = 0) Fortunately my job choice requires that I have knowledge of sports so, Honey, Im working! What am I working on? Probably my favorite hobby, er, work prep: Fantasy baseball. Or, excuse me, Rotisserie League Baseball. I dont like the fantasy connotation. Fantasy football is just that, a pipe dream. Draft position and luck are the two most important things to have when playing fantasy football. I know that it can be taken to different levels, and I have, if only for this past year, (Sorry. I had to take that shot in case a certain few others are reading!) but for the most part you can only do so much. Fourteen games and the playoffs. How many times does the number one seed win? Probably about as much as any other seed. Your star QB has a bad matchup, or too good of one, allowing his RB to run all over the field and gobble up all of your tuddies, and its adios in week fifteen. Been there, done that. And I will continue to do so, because I love fantasy football, understanding though most of it is out of my control. Fantasy.

Now as far as Rotisserie League Baseball, its no more real, but taken over 26 weeks, everyday, the luck part tends to even out. Plenty of websites are offering free fantasy baseball. Most of these allow you to draft a team, using both leagues, (All-star teams, for most 10 team leagues.) then play other teams head-to head on a points system for a week. You would then accumulate a record, with the best ones playing each other in the playoffs. What? Theres no point system in baseball!! (Using the Jim Mora voice: Point system?! Youre talking point system?!) I never got this. Its fine for football, because it matches the flow of football. Baseball is a story that takes months and months to tell.

The chapters are interesting, but do they tell the whole story? I dont think so. The boys from the New York City restaurant, La Rotisserie Francais, got it right. The game was invented by some sportswriters who met in this establishment. The idea behind it was to use the holy grail of baseball, its statistics, in a collective form to be used over a season. Prior to this there were basically dice games that would use stats from seasons past, to predict the probability of outcomes. Fun for some, but boring to most. The idea of roto style baseball is to predict the outcomes of the current one. Brilliant! Get a bunch of owners together, draft a team and let the fun begin, everyday, for over SIX months. Thats were the work comes in.

Ive always been infatuated with the statistics of baseball. How could you not be? The touchdown record and its holders? I could guess but would probably be wrong. The most famous number of my lifetime is 714, and I dont even have to explain what that means to my sister. In fact, a nation stopped when number 715 happened. More recently the number 756 occurred and a commissioner shoved his hands in his pockets and the word, asterisk was shouted, from coast to coast. Remember?

Pete Roses relentless pursuit of 4191 was the ultimate quest for baseballs ultimate player. Can you tell me what the record is for the NFL career leader in rushing yards? Or who owns it? Jim Browns 12,312 was a big to those of my generation, but since he has been passed 8 times, does Emmitts 18,355 resonate the same way?

Its fine to add up football numbers into points and have a score for a game. That makes sense. My point is that the baseball numbers are looked at differently. They are measured over seasons, then careers, numbers that almost any fan can remember. Thats why they are hallowed. How can you measure baseball numbers into points? That does not make sense to me.

The beauty of roto baseball, is that it takes the stats that we all know, and measures them in a way weve always done. The fun of opening up a pack of baseball cards was always two-fold. Chew the gum and check out the stats on the back of the card while you did so. The better the stats, the better the card.

My real obsession with baseball, and its stats, starts and ends with one thing: The daily box scores. Before the age of 24-hour sports news channels, that was all I needed everyday in my newspaper, imagining how the numbers were accomplished. Even now, after seeing the highlights a dozen times overnight, I cant wait to read them. There like some crazy Rubiks cube that will never be solved. And like snowflakes, no two days are ever alike. (Well, almost never, right Cubs fans?)

Roto baseball allows me to read these box scores in a new way: How do they affect my team. In the league I have been in for the last two years, those effects are in a 7x7 format, most are 4x4, but more IS better. ( of different hitting categories measured and same of different pitching ones) By having more categories, I feel is more fun than having just a couple that can be dominated by a few players. You need to draft some complimentary players to be competitive in all categories. That is, if thats the route you choose. You could try to dominate a few categories and pick up the scraps in others. You make the call, both strategies can work.

As far as the player pool, I prefer one league play. (The National League) If youre putting a real team together, youre going to need some role players and have some guys youre not sure about step up. Thats the same way in one league roto. Instead of putting all-star rosters together, you have to mine for gold. How else could you get excited for guys like Garrett Jones and Drew Stubbs?

And thats where the work comes in. Prepping for a draft is essential when youre drafting a 25 man roster. But at the same time, the beauty of baseball is, there are going to be a lot of surprises along the way. Its easy to flip a third of your roster over in waiver moves alone. Along that way, in roto, every RBI, run, strikeout, or win matter along the way, because they all add up. Just like the stats on the back of a players card. The trick is to find them, they dont just happen.

So if youll excuse me, Ive got some studying to do, draft day is less than two weeks away and I have some sleepers to find and decisions to make. Will anyone else try to make a move on Jayson Heyward? Was Nyjer Morgan a mirage? Is Stephen Strasburg the second coming? One thing is for sure, were about to find out. Its 5:00 am and my phone is ringing, its Gordon Gekko on the line, hes standing by the ocean, waiting for me to answer, so he can tell me to, Go to work!

Morning Update: Cubs crush Pirates; White Sox beat Rays; Bulls host media day

Morning Update: Cubs crush Pirates; White Sox beat Rays; Bulls host media day

Here are some of the headlines from yesterday's busy day in Chicago sports:

Preview: Cubs back at it in Pittsburgh tonight on CSN

Preview: Chris Sale starts for White Sox against Rays tonight on CSN+

Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality

Jay Cutler remaining Bears starter not assured when he returns from thumb injury

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Kyle Hendricks, Kris Bryant help transform Cubs into 100-win team

James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

Bulls begin 'necessary' new era by creating a culture 'to take steps forward'

What Cubs need to see during finals week before playoff test

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

Preview: Cubs back at it in Pittsburgh tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs back at it in Pittsburgh tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Catch first pitch at 6 p.m. with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: John Lackey (10-8, 3.39 ERA) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (3-6, 4.85 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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