Realism in Fantasy


Tis the season for fantasy baseball drafts. Weeks or, in some cases, months of dedication to the statistical analysis of every player worth drafting (and some that aren’t) culminate in one magical afternoon. Surrounded by a dozen friends, half a dozen pizzas and a CTU-esque computer bank, fantasy owners put together their teams. Paper flies everywhere and insults-masked-as-questions (“Is Armando Benitez still playing?”) abound as the rounds wear on. By the end, if you did things right, you have a group that is capable of winning a championship for you.

Here’s the kicker, though. You probably didn’t do things right. I know I didn’t, and I’m probably the only person I know that understands this. Of the ten or so people I’ve chatted with this week, from all different fantasy baseball leagues, all have given me the exact same response when asked about their team.

“Honestly, I think I have a great team.”

And they believe it. Everyone really believes it. This is the time that people forget “great” is a limited commodity. Between the end of the draft and the beginning of the season is the honeymoon period. An owner looks at all of his team’s strengths and casually dismisses all of his team’s glaring flaws. They think that they’re Minature Murderer’s Row of Pujols, Edmonds and Giambi can make up for a woefully understaffed relief corps, or the fact that two of their starting pitchers are starting the season on the DL. I liken it to a parent watching their kid play youth basketball. It doesn’t matter that they dribble like they’re trying to slap ketchup out of a Heinz bottle and miss 80% of their lay-ups. It’s all pride. “My little girl can pass,” they delight after her first dish of the day that wasn’t stolen and taken the other way. “My son can really move out there,” they gush as he swarms the ball along with everyone else on both teams.

I think it’s delusional to think that way about a fantasy baseball team before the season starts. But I don’t think it’s wrong. That’s what fandom is, really. Every team is 0-0 before Opening Day and whether they’re real or fantasy, you believe in that mythical 162-win season. Even though it’s impossible, you look at the numbers and say that on any given day, your team can easily walk away with one. Fans have to be optimistic, or they wouldn’t be fans. Even the folks that openly lament their team’s lack of depth, or their lack of true clean-up hitter, or their lack of infield defense have that glimmer of hope that they keep hidden away, just in case.

I can’t say that folks need to toughen up and admit the team they drafted stinks. That wouldn’t be right. But I can say that the best owners understand what the faults are. And I try to as well. I’ve got a top flight infield, two good outfields, a decent closer and a good #1 Starter. I have duct tape and dreams holding together everything else. And that’s alright. If you ask me what kind of team I have, I’ll tell you it’s one that I hope goes .500 and gives me trade fodder for young, cheap talent. I’m the 2002-2004 Detroit Tigers of fantasy baseball. And I’m realistic about that.

Perhaps you can be too.