"Hi, my name is Toby, and I'm a newbie."
It's with this confession my story begins. It sounds like I'm at a meeting of Rotoholics Anonymous (which I believe meets in the basement of the "Fantasy 411" studio every Wednesday), but in fact, it's quite the opposite.
The truth is, I've never played fantasy baseball. Not once. Since I'm joining a writing staff full of experts on the game, you must have a few basic questions:
If you've never played before, why are you writing a column on the subject, and why should I read it?
Good question, though a tad aggressive given that we just met. I hope to provide a little something for everyone in this series. Other newbies can empathize with my plight, serious players will get a chance to provide their own "expert" advice, and everyone else can chuckle at my ineptitude along the way.
I also wish to address some perceptions about fantasy baseball that may keep people from playing. For one, some say that in order to compete, you have to be a super-advanced math wiz like the hackers in sweet early-90s movies who got extremely amped up over the latest modem technology ("28.8 bits per second? Now I am unstoppable!") .
While it may help, you can certainly play the game without such an advanced skill set, and I hope people aren't staying away from an enjoyable hobby for this reason. And although I just might have dabbled in some mathletics in elementary school (purely for the street cred), I'll never be mistaken for an actuary, except maybe in appearance. I'll leave the hyper-evaluation to the real-life GMs, and I'll stick to basic math in my run as their make-believe counterparts.
There is also a perception that fantasy baseball is an all-consuming beast that destroys everything in its path and takes up more time than work, sleep and a crippling Photohunt addiction combined. I aim to demonstrate that you can balance a career and a life with fantasy baseball.
Unlike the other writers here at MLB.com, I'm not a professional. I know, after reading the ramblings above, you must be shocked. I'm a lawyer in Washington, D.C., juggling work, a girlfriend, a puppy, my writing and the aforementioned Photohunt problem. I plan to introduce fantasy baseball without upsetting this balance, particularly the job part since "but I won my league" is unfortunately not a valid defense in bankruptcy court.
Finally, there is a view among many people that fantasy baseball is a game played exclusively by geeks (is that what the kids are calling them nowadays, or is dweebs currently in vogue? Doofus still around? If not, I hope it comes back.). That's a perception I may not be able to change, as my newfound status of "fantasy baseball writer" does not exactly carry the same cool cache as "rock star" or even "guitar hero." But if I can change the first couple of perceptions, two out of three ain't bad.
Why have you never played fantasy baseball before?
Another good question, if I do say so myself. I'm an avid fantasy football player, and I play in an intensely competitive league each fall. But I've never gotten into the baseball version before. I must admit, I was somewhat intimidated by the day-to-day management required relative to football, but that's not the real reason. The truth is, I simply stopped following baseball for a while.
Like most boys, I was a huge fan of the game growing up. My father was a former college shortstop, and he made it his goal to take me to every stadium in the league before I left for school. We made it to more than 20. We also collected baseball cards together, and it's through this collection and our travels to games that I really became close with my dad.
Baltimore was the local team, and he raised me on Cal Ripken and the Oriole Way. I rooted for them every year, and like all fans, I took great joy in their successes. That made the night of Oct. 9, 1996, hard to swallow, when a certain 12-year old reached his arm over the wall in Yankee Stadium and snatched away the Orioles' future. They collapsed after that game and have never recovered. The same can be said for my interest in baseball.
After that night in the Bronx, I followed the game with less fervor. Once Cal retired in 2001, I found myself drifting away from the game completely. I watched the highlights on "SportsCenter," but I didn't really track the sport until October. Just like McDonald's Shamrock Shakes, it was my obsession one month a year, then poof, it disappeared.
But that's all about to change. I'm getting older and not leaving the working world anytime soon, and I want to rage against time and recapture some of my youth. That means reigniting my love affair with baseball. Given my addiction to fantasy football, I figure fantasy baseball is the surest vehicle through which to rekindle my interest. So now it's time to play.
What can you do to help?
I'm so glad you asked. As you can tell, I am not here to give expert advice. If that's what you expected when you clicked this link, you've been duped. Sorry, I really am. Luckily, there are plenty of great writers on this site who can provide expert analysis and tips.
Basically, the fine folks here at MLB.com are allowing me to track my progress as I attempt to become an expert. Consider me the "making of" special feature you'll find on your favorite DVD. I just hope I'm not so universally ignored.
Bottom line is, I need your help as I learn how to play the game. Consider me the Michael Lee to your Chris Partlow, though ideally, there will be considerably fewer homicides involved. If you've always wanted to give fantasy advice on a national platform, now is your chance. Send your advice, tips, sleepers etc. to the e-mail below, and I'll run the best ones each week.
My draft is less than a week away, so let's get cracking. It's a standard 10-team, mixed, 5x5 roto league. We are still debating whether to make it season long or head-to-head, so please send your opinions on that subject as well. I will be back next week with a draft recap so you can see exactly how the long road to second-to-last place begins.