Fantasy Baseball And Its Discontents

While the true tale of how Thomas and I got to know each other is one mired in intrigue, baseball, romance, trivia, and drunken debauchery, our friendship solidified through our mutual love of the Orange and Black. But after the Series ended, and with the cold winter months looming ahead, Thomas had something to keep him warm, which had never quite done it for me: football.

It’s not that I’m not a football fan. I grew up loving the San Francisco 49ers during the Steve Young/Jerry Rice era, and rooting for my red and gold, learning how to count in Roman Numerals just so I could know which Super Bowl we were playing, and throwing the football around in the backyard during halftime.

This has faded in recent years, either because my youthful vigor and joy have diminished as I’ve grown older, or because the Niners just suck. Undoubtedly the latter, it was not exactly enough to hold my attention, and I couldn’t name more than two players on the 49ers, and exactly zero in the rest of the league.

Thomas, who has the most encyclopedic knowledge of sports trivia, is the exact opposite, and suggested that we play fantasy football as a way for me to get to know the teams and players. I agreed, and dove head-first into a new obsession, reading up on players, injuries, head coaches, etc. It was a blast.

While I’m more than certain that I’m going to play fantasy football next year, assuming that the players and owners can get their heads out of their collective ass, I’m not sure if I’m going to play fantasy baseball. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of managing the players and dealing with the stats. Rather, I’m just that kind of a nerd, that that sort of thing is exactly what I could end up hopelessly obsessed with. It’s just that I understand baseball far better than I understood football, and I’m significantly more invested emotionally in a Giants team that’s trying to repeat than a Niners team trying to squeak its way into a first-round playoff elimination.

I would like to play, except that I know that I would immediately overbid for Aubrey Huff or Matt Cain or Andres “fuckus” Torres or Busty Poser, while trashing-talking every decent player on other teams, particularly division rivals. If someone offered me Troy Tulowitzki in exchange for, say, Mike Fontenot, I’d laugh in their face and take my mutton-chopped, diminutive utility infielder over their mulleted, nuclear shortstop. Because I’d have to. Screw Ubaldo Jimenez, even if he had a sub-1.00 ERA for a good part of last year, because I know that at some point, he’d come and play against my SF Giants, and I’d have mixed loyalties. That’s not something I could handle.

As a manager, I want my fantasy team to do well. I want my pitchers to throw perfect games, and my batters to bat 1.000 with an OPS of 5.000. Nothing in-between would satisfy me, but I have to concede that at some point, my fantasy players will play against the Giants. As a fan, I’d have to root against my own fantasy team, or turn my back on the Giants. Either way, I lose.

I have played fantasy baseball before, in my freshman year of college. My good friend from home and then-roommate introduced me to Scoresheet Baseball, a fantasy sports website that his dad invented and maintained with other members of the family. His dad, a mathematician, life-long Berkeleyan and die-hard Giants fan, invented the system to actually simulate games, rather than just compare stats (rotisserie), and you can actually watch a readout of the game as it’s going. I loved it and learned all about players I did not know, but it helped that the league was confined to the American League, so my loyalties did not come into conflict too much. We had Miguel Olivo, and Jeremy Bonderman, and lots of players I can’t remember. I’ll probably try to do Scoresheet again, if I can, but I’m not too sure if I can handle the stress.

So, dear readers, I guess that’s my question for you. How do you handle the conflict? If you’re a Colts fan, and Peyton Manning throws a pick to the defense you’re currently starting, are you happy or sad? If Mat Latos one-hits the Giants as your starting pitcher, is it the worst or best day of your life? Help me understand what I’m going through right now.

…and just because it needs to be said, Scoresheet in no way compensated me for writing the above. It’s just an awesome program and I encourage any sports fans to give it a try.