Monday, September 20, 2010

Out with a Whimper

I have heard it said that there is nothing more boring than someone talking about their own fantasy baseball team.  The kinds of stories fantasy owners tell are reminiscent of those stories of vaguely-remembered dreams people fill with "and then there was this guy who did this thing, but I can't remember what."  Fantasy owners remember the guy and the thing, of course, but there's no more substance to it than that.

The point of this post then, is not to tell you about the doomed title defense my co-owned (with my brother) fantasy team put up this year in the Whitman Yahoo league.  Our fifth-place finish hardly warrants mention, after all.  Instead, my point is to try to understand the "fantasy" in fantasy baseball, by imagining some of the conversations I would have had with my players had this been a real league.

April 9 - Dropping Chris Iannetta

Because the Rockies gave up on Iannetta so early this season, the Wheat Bears did, too.  I called Iannetta into the office and asked him to take a seat.  "We're going to have to let you go, Chris," I said.  "Russell Martin is still available, and while I believe you're the better player, I just don't think Tracey is going to give you the playing time necessary for you to contribute to this team."

Chris understood, nodding silently and slinking out.  Shortly thereafter he got a call from Dan O'Dowd asking him to report to Colorado Springs.  I felt vindicated in making the decision to cut him, but I wasn't happy about it.  There was a lot of soul searching.

April 23 - Adding Chad Billingsly

As a Rockies fan, picking up a Dodgers pitcher is something of a taboo, so I won't tell you that Billingsly was on the 2009 Whitman champion Longboarders also (as were Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier).  Billingsly was mysteriously dropped after a slow start - the classic victim of small sample size.  The Wheat Bears held a closed-door meeting and decided to swoop down and pick up the pitcher on waivers.

He was fuming when we first met, incredulous at being dropped.  "I mean," he began, "I pitch at one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball, and my team is fairly solid, so I'm going to pick up some wins.  And look at what I did last year! I'm an early pick, and I'm getting dropped three weeks into the season!  This is an outrage!"

After calming him down with promises we never delivered upon, Billingsly went on to be his usual excellent pitching self.  We even kept (gulp) him in the rotation when the Dodgers played the Rockies.

May 1 - Dropping Franklin Morales

This was a short conversation.  We picked up Franklin early in the season, as he was the Rockies closer on opening day.  We forgot that he remained, despite this new role, Franklin Morales.  "Dude, you're Franklin Morales!  You can't throw a strike to save your life."  Simple.

May 1 - Adding Carlos Zambrano, May 25 - Dropping Carlos Zambrano

If you follow baseball, you may recognize that this was after big Z's demotion to the bullpen.  Knowing that Zambrano is a good pitcher, we imagined this to be a temporary move, and in the meantime added him with the hope that he might pick up some holds (which, for some reason, our league counted).  We should have known better.

Carlos was unintelligible: "GAH! Ooogey-boogey, GRRRRR!!!"*

* This is more or less how I imagine Zambrano communicating in real life.  I'm sure he's actually a kind, well-meaning person, but the only time I ever hear about him, as a non-Cubs fan, is when he's attacking Gatorade coolers, teammates, or himself in the dugout.

"We know, Mr. Zambrano, but we think you'll be a valuable contributor again soon."


There was a pause.  I motioned for my assistant to bring out the barbecue ribs.  Placated, Zambrano unleashed a soliloquy.

"Starting pitcher! No bullpen, that bullshit! PINELLA!!!"

You don't want to know about the conversation on the 25th.  Needless to say, we wracked up some expenses that day.

May 28 - Dropping Grady Sizemore

There's not much to say about this one.  Grady was supposed to be one of our best players, instead he was one of our worst, and he went out for the season in May, to boot.  It became clear that he was playing hurt from the beginning, so the decision to let him go was an easy one.  He left stoically, glancing at Carlos Gonzalez (our real star) listlessly on the way out.  "Someday, he'll understand," he muttered.

July 16 - The Trade

The early season was more eventful than the late season for the Wheat Bears, with one notable exception, a trade that ultimately didn't help (or hurt, really) either team.  We dialed up the infamous Quiz's Submariners, the runner-up to our defending champs from a season ago.  "Let's make a deal," we said.  Their shrewd, if unpredictable GM agreed.

We worked late into the night, and arrived at an agreement.  We would ship off Ben Zobrist, Jorge Cantu, Johnny Cueto, and Jorge De La Rosa for Ian Stewart, Pablo Sandoval, Manny Ramirez, and James Shields.  To misquote and oft-misquoted passage, this was "sound and fury, signifying nothing."  Manny B-ed all over us, getting "hurt" over and over and eventually ditching the Dodgers for the White Sox, Ian Stewart actually got hurt, and while Sandoval improved with the change of scenery, he cost us a fortune because of how much more he eats than Zorilla and Cantu combined.

The Whimper

Our second round playoff matchup was ugly.  Local reporters suggest that the blend of personalities in the Wheat Bear locker room were such that they simply couldn't face the pressure of an elimination game.  I would argue that we got hit with too many huge injuries late in the season (replacing Ricky Nolasco with Jordan Zimmerman, for example, didn't help our cause).  Regardless, we put up a terrible week, and were relegated to the demeaning "5th place game" against inferior competition this week.  So much for a title defense, and, what's more, I fear that Wheat Bears ownership is upset with the season, and I may not be asked back again for a third year.  Alas, such is the life of a fantasy GM.

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