My first exposure to fantasy baseball was through a guy who I was sort of friends with in middle school. There were maybe eight of us in the league, maybe five of whom were regulars, maybe three of whom sort of knew what we were doing, sort of. One guy, for instance, used his first eight draft picks to pick the Detroit Tigers' lineup. The guy who ran the league would “publish” a little newsletter at random intervals, updating the point standings (which he calculated on his own) and with funny little faux baseball articles.
That must have been the 1990 or 1991 baseball season, but I still remember some of the players I picked for that team.
God, they sucked.
Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last team I owned that I then proceeded to populate with Has-beens, Never-would-be’s, The Suspended and The Dead.
Here’s a fun romp through some of the low-lights of my fantasy career. (In a topic as bountiful as this, it will be tough to limit myself.)
Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens
I’ve always been a sucker for players with cool names or nicknames....
This was, I believe, my first ever fantasy baseball team, and Hensley was a young OF prospect with the Yankees. In 288 Abs that year, he hit .222/.276/.319/.595 for an OPS+ of 65.
At the time, I think we would have thought OPS to be a misspelling of OPP, but we all knew that Meulens was bad. He did have a few decent years in Japan in the mid-90s.
This league I played in during middle school and high school had a very early draft. February, I think. Going in to 1993, if I recall, we began to draft relievers. Steve Olin
had just saved 29 games for the Indians with a 2.34 ERA (although of course I did not notice the alarming 47 K in 88 innings). More alarming is the fact that Olin would be dead in a few weeks, from a tragic boating incident during spring training. I then renamed my team the “really shitty boaters,” which I still maintain was a rather funny name, even if it was mostly insensitive.
Reimer was a huge (for the time) left-handed hitter who had some power and not much else. He actually had some decent years in Texas, putting up OPS+s of 113, 124, and 120 from ages 26 to 28. He went to Milwaukee in 1993, I drafted him, and he then hit .249/.303/.394 in 437 AB’s. I’m pretty sure I played him the entire season. I just thought he looked really imposing at the plate.
Garcia was the next in a long line of much heralded Dodgers’ prospects headed to stardom. In the league I played in during college (comprised mostly of college professors who were grading me in classes, at the time,) we did a mid-year partial re-draft: keep half your team, re-draft the other half. Somewhere near the end of the draft, I picked Garcia. He was 21, he had 39 AB’s, and hit ./128/.239/.205 Never did amount to much, but he did punch a bullpen crew member of the Red Sox, a few years later.
I had become a big fan of Kile’s. I loved that huge curveball of his, and had drafted him in his breakout year in Houston, in 1997, when he won 19 games with a 2.57 ERA in 255.7 IP. He went to Colorado for two years, before returning to the Cardinals and putting up 20 and 16 win seasons. I drafted him in 2002, expecting one of my favorite pitchers (albeit for a rival) to do more of the same. You know the story of what happened to him the night before he was scheduled to pitch in Wrigley. While the unlikely coincidence of having drafted both Olin and Kile was not lost on me, this time I could find nothing even slightly funny in the pitcher's death. Of course, at the start of 2003 I was joking that I was doing all Cubs fans a favor by deliberately avoiding Prior, Wood, Z and Cruz in the draft.
Third Base had a lot of sexy options for the 2002 draft. Looking back at my crude pre-draft ratings chart, I had Pujols and Larry Jones
ranked clearly ahead of the pack, followed by Nevin and Glaus. Aramis led the next grouping, which also included Eric Chavez
Rolen and Cory Koskie. And below that were Adrian Beltre
, Hank Blalock
, Sean Burroughs
and Morgan Ensberg
. Next to Ramirez, I just left the note “Gonna be Huge.” Indeed, the previous year, at age 23, he had hit .300/.350/.356 with 34 HR and 112 RBI.
The year I picked him, of course, he got suspended ten games for charging Ben Sheets
in April, hurt his ankle in the process, which then affected his hitting the rest of the year as he dropped 220 points of OPS, going from an OPS+ of 125 to 69. As I recall, this was one of the (several) years where I somehow managed to lead the league in number of guys suspended and number of games. And I actually do try to draft “character” guys.
The other guys I listed whom I could have drafted at 3B that year: Pujols, 155 OPS+; Larry, 155; Nevin, 106; Glaus, 115; Role, 132; Chavez, 122; Koskie, 118;
I never, ever liked Buehrle. I always just sort of winced and shivered at his last name: when pronounced, it suggests a tough guy. But it’s spelled really dumb, not like how a tough guy would spell it. So I always just sort of wound up with the mental image of a pitcher who sounded tougher than he was. Sort of the opposite of “Bam-Bam.” I didn’t want to draft him last year. But with the 60th pick and having already drafted an offensive juggernaut, he looked like the best pitcher left on the board. Yeah, I knew he didn’t strike enough people out. But he looked so delightfully consistent, so regularly successful even with the low K totals.
I should have listened to my gut. Francisco Liriano
and Scott Kazmir were still on the board, among others. Buehrle’s ERA+ went from143 to 93.
Somewhere, I had heard that Yadier would develop to be both the best defensive and offensive of the Molina brothers. I took him with pick # 141, ahead of Ramon Hernandez
, and a whopping 319 picks ahead of where I took the far more useful Bengie Molina
Molina finished with .216/.274/.321/.595, OPS+ of 54. Had he qualified, he would have ranked just ahead of Angel Berroa
and just below Clint Barmes
for worst OPS in MLB last year. Proof that you shouldn’t make draft picks based off of “Somewhere, I had heard.”
The nice thing about fantasy baseball, much like real life, is that no matter how bad of a decision you make, there's someone nearby who's doing worse. The all-time worst draft pick that I've witnessed belonged to That Guy. You know the one I'm talking about. That Guy who's a nice enough guy, but just isn't as prepared or knowledgeable as the rest of your league. That Guy who takes five minutes to make his picks in an off-line draft, when everybody else is taking one minute. That Guy, who you can rest assured will not pick the sleeper that you want to pick with your next selection.
In the worst draft pick I've ever seen, That Guy noticed, midway through our 2002 draft, that we had all passed on selecting one of the greatest offensive forces of the 1990s. Excitedly, he announced his selection, Albert Belle. The only problem was, Belle's degenerative hip condition had caused him to retire. After the 2000 season.