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For love of the game - On being bad at fantasy baseball

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PORTLAND – I’m not very good at fantasy baseball.

I’ve had some luck in the realm of fantasy football over the years, but as far as fantasy baseball goes, well – I’m kind of terrible.

It’s not for lack of understanding of the game – my childhood obsession with the sport and its statistics never really left me. And I have a fairly strong grasp of fantasy sports and how they work. But I just can’t seem to put it all together.

Sometime not long after this story sees print, I’ll be in attendance at the draft for the Bangor Drum Slowly League. It’s a 10-team AL-only keeper league with an auction draft. We’re drafting in Portland because two of the 10 members live in southern Maine; we usually draft in Bangor, but every fifth year, we head down south to keep things equitable.

I will go. I will draft my team. I will watch that players on said team throughout the six months of the MLB season.

And I will lose.

It’s probably worth mentioning that while this is my eighth year at the helm of Allen’s Coffee Brandies, the BDSL has been around a lot longer than I have. Decades longer, in fact – it’s one of the longest continuously-running fantasy baseball leagues in the state of Maine. It has been around long enough that the league’s founders were in direct contact with Dan Okrent, who is considered by many to be the inventor of Rotisserie baseball (so named for the restaurant in which the earliest drafts took place).

Eight years and nary a win. Not even really a sniff – I’ve had a couple of high finishes, but even those were in seasons where there was a runaway winner. The reality is that I’ve never been close – a reality that I don’t anticipate will change this time around. So why keep playing?

Because even when I’m bad at it, I enjoy it.

Here are the basics. We’re an AL-only league, so only American League players are eligible to be picked. The draft is an auction format; each team has a total budget of $260 with which to bid on a total of 24 players. We’re also a dynasty league, meaning we can keep players for more than one season. Each team is allowed up to 12 keepers, but their salaries are deducted from the aforementioned $260.

In addition, there’s what’s called an Ultra Draft immediately following the auction, with each team selecting 16 more players in four tiers and minor leaguers can be kept at the expense of a draft pick and don’t count against your keeper total.

That’s the nuts-and-bolts of it. Real talk – this is a competitive league. There are some awfully good fantasy GMs here; I’m just not one of them. And that’s OK.

I will undoubtedly make my fair share of bad choices on draft day. Will I overpay for a guy who drastically underperforms expectations? Absolutely. Will I grab a guy who immediately gets injured or busted doing PEDs? Most likely. Will I pass on a player to save a couple of bucks, only to end the draft with leftover cash and spend the next six months regretting it? You better believe it.

And I don’t care.

Someone will forget that it’s their turn. Someone else will try to draft someone selected an hour before. Someone’s overpay will be good-naturedly mocked and someone’s bargain will be begrudgingly praised. We’ll reach the end of the draft and it will look like we have a clear winner, but a whole lot can happen over the course of a season.

(You hear that, Preble? You can’t win EVERY year!)

I’ll go in with a strategy, of course, but it will almost certainly get blown to hell almost immediately. Sticking to a plan isn’t my strong suit. Not that my plans are that great; when you’re counting on a mid-tier shortstop who just got suspended half the season as one of your keeper cornerstones, things haven’t really gone your way.

But it doesn’t matter.

It’s not impossible that I could stumble into a winning season. It’s extremely unlikely, but possible. If things break my way and I get lucky with some of my rolls of the dice, I could make a run – hope springs eternal and all that. But even if I wind up in the cellar or in my usual position in the mediocre middle, it’ll have been worth the trip.

Ultimately, I guess my statement at the beginning of this story isn’t quite accurate. I’m not very good at WINNING fantasy baseball, it’s true. But as far as deriving joy from playing the game?

I’d say I’m pretty darned good after all.

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