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02/05/08 12:00 PM EST
MLB.com 2008 Open up and running
Free, easy-to-play fantasy game ideal for fans of all levels
Fantasy owners can see how many points their players have logged on a daily and weekly basis. (MLB.com)

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Two years ago, MLB.com set out to create an easy-to-play fantasy game that everyone from the novice baseball fan to the rotisserie expert could enjoy. One year ago, more than 450,000 teams participated in the MLB.com 2007 Open, with Jeff Liubicich of Walnut Creek, Calif., taking home the $10,000 top prize.

Now, with Spring Training just around the corner, the MLB.com 2008 Open is open for business. So grab a few like-minded friends and get ready to embark on another season of fantasy fun.

Free to everybody, the Open consists of 12-team leagues that operate on a weekly head-to-head scoring system. Each week, owners will need to set a starting lineup that consists of one first baseman, one second baseman, one shortstop, one third baseman, one catcher, three outfielders and one team pitching staff. In addition, owners will also have six bench players to rotate in and out of their lineup as they see fit.

One point is awarded for each total base a hitter racks up -- a single equals one point, a double is worth two points and so on. One point is also awarded for every RBI, run and walk. A stolen base gives you two points, but a caught stealing will dock your team a point.

On the pitching side, a mammoth day will pay off big time, with a perfect game (30 points), a shutout (10 points) and a 20-strikeout game (10 points) all delivering big dividends, while a win is worth another five points. The points decrease the more your staff gets knocked around, however, so beware of the blowout loss.

The Open also provides owners with regularly updated player notes and injury reports, which means participants will have all the information they need to stay competitive in their leagues.

So go ahead and start formulating your strategies for the upcoming season. Will Albert Pujols bounce back after a relatively mortal year for him? Will Ryan Braun pick up where he left off following a rookie season for the ages? You've had all winter to ruminate on the possibilities; now's the time to start making some decisions. With good fortune on your side, you could wind up with the $10,000 top prize and a berth in the second annual World Series of Fantasy Baseball.

Baseball fans looking for more free ways to test their knowledge and luck will also want to try the other fun options available in the MLB.com game room. In MLB.com Beat the Streak, participants select the one player they think is most likely to collect a hit each day. If that hitter comes through, the streak continues into the next day. The goal is to correctly pick a player for 57 straight games -- which would break Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak -- to win the largest prize ever offered for a fantasy baseball game. So far, nobody has broken Joltin' Joe's record, but a prize is awarded to the fan who records the longest streak each season.

The concept is the same for MLB.com Home Run Beat the Streak, in which participants tab one player to hit a home run on a daily basis, and in MLB.com Survivor, where the idea is to build a streak by picking winning teams. Making selections takes just a few seconds each day, so even the casual fan can get involved without worrying about the kind of time commitment that goes into most fantasy games.

Of course, if you're one of the millions of people who takes part in fantasy baseball every year, you relish the time and effort that goes into the process. Sign up now for the MLB.com 2008 Open, and let the fun begin!

Tim Ott is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.