Just ten more days to catch the Killers

I’ve been playing fantasy baseball, in one league or another, for about fifteen years. I think of it as a way to connect myself with the game as a whole, instead of just focusing on the one “real” team that I root for. And it works, on some level, since I sometimes watch games just to see one of “my guys” come up to bat. Or scrutinize a box score for something that has nothing to do with who actually won the game.

When it comes to fantasy baseball, it doesn’t matter what the final score of a game is. Managers just want their players to get hits, steal bases, and/or score runs and drive them in. They want their pitchers to go at least six innings for a Quality Start, and walk as few batters as possible to keep their WHIP down. And if I need to explain what a WHIP is (walks + hits per inning pitched), chances are you don’t play fantasy and find the whole concept weird. But I invite such persons to keep on reading, anyway.

The best part of fantasy–and this is true of any league in any sport–is the pre-season draft. Trying to bone up on who’s available, and choosing the players you want before somebody else snaps them up, is always a challenge. Sometimes, like in a bingo game, you can call out the name of the player you want, and others will let out noises to show their frustration that they did not get that player. Those are the best picks of all.

Just like in actual baseball, on Opening Day every team is tied for first place. The possibilities are endless, and every fantasy manager believes that the right moves can bring them into the winner’s circle. Some managers propose trades with others in their league, or watch the transactions on a regular basis to know which players are out there for the taking. Some scrutinize pitching matchups, looking for an edge over the others in their league. And others just let their teams go, and only make sporadic changes, such as when one of their players ends up on the disabled list.

The reason I bring all of this up, at this point of the season, is that the season is winding down now. Rookie call-ups are getting their shot–especially the starting pitchers–while some injured players, such as Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, are being “shut down” for the season. Some fantasy players, too, are losing interest in the game, as the NFL comes more into play. And, like it or not, fantasy football just seems to be more popular than fantasy baseball.

My fantasy baseball team goes by the name of  “Epic Winning,” in honor of Charlie Sheen’s springtime freakout. We’re currently in 9th place in a 12 team league, and the top eight teams will make the playoffs. Since the playoffs are arranged by seeding order, the eighth place team plays the first place team in the first round of the playoffs. I’m pushing like crazy, over the last few days of the regular season, to catch up to the team in eighth place in my fantasy league–known as the Stone Cold Killers–for the right to most likely be trounced by the regular season winner in the playoff’s first round.

Getting into the playoffs has become a binary activity for me. It’s either a “1” for getting into the playoffs, or a “0” for missing them. I’m picking up starting pitchers for one start, and then dropping them the next day, in the hopes that this strategy will get me into eighth place before the season ends. It sure beats lamenting another lost Cubs season.

Best of luck to all fantasy players as their seasons come down the final stretch.

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