I spent 4 hours at my computer on Saturday, drafting a fantasy baseball team. The Monster League, populated by NoS posters Willis and RJ and frequent commenter Angry Ed, is a beautiful mix of friendly and competitive. During our Winter Meetings (a once-yearly gathering for pizza and rules adjustments) and our Live Online Draft, we throw playful jabs between orders of business, mocking our own fantasy management inability as often as we make fun of the skills of others. It’s not a bad situation; in fact, it’s been the best league I’ve ever been in.
Sixteen teams, twenty-five rounds, twenty-five roster spots (including minor leaguers). Roto league with five offensive and five pitching stats. Thousands and thousands of players to choose from. The Monster League is big compared to other fantasy baseball leagues, but not that much bigger. All fantasy baseball is that unwieldy. Compared to fantasy football, basketball or golf, putting together a baseball team is a bear. Too many combinations of players, too many positions, too many scenarios in which you are suddenly without a viable starting catcher. It’s a rough game, and it’s a complicated one, and therein lies the joy of it.
Fantasy baseball drafts are big enough that you can’t plan for it all. You have to draft based on instinct and knowledge. You get better with experience – eventually you begin to understand the opportunity cost of waiting to draft certain positions in favor of others – but in the end it is complex enough that it really does tend to separate out those that manage well from those than don’t. In fantasy sports, luck becomes less important as the roster size goes up. You may hit the jackpot in fantasy hockey and have two hot hands carry you into the playoffs. But it takes a thoroughly deep team to survive a roto baseball league. And teams like that come together when you have encyclopedic knowledge and a good sense of value.
The season, the real season, is days away. Right now, all the fantasy baseball owners are undefeated. Enjoy it while you can, because we’ll soon discover how good we are at all of this.