Fantasy Baseball Season Begins

Recently I enjoyed my favorite first sign of spring: the season’s first fantasy baseball draft. With seven high school friends I spent 90 minutes discussing, arguing, and mocking draft picks and general strategy; male bonding at its finest. For those of you whose lives haven’t been consumed by the world of fantasy baseball, it’s a game based on the statistical performances of real major league baseball players.Fantasy leagues are usually set-up in the 5 by 5 rotisserie format which is centered on five offensive categories: runs, RBIs, stolen bases, home runs, and batting average; and five pitching categories: strikeouts, earned run average, wins and WHIP (Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched, a category produced by the new statistical era of baseball). What this all boils down to is when Mark Teixeira hits a 3-run bomb the fantasy player who owns him collects three RBIs, one run, and one home run added to his (maybe her) team’s totals. The team that leads a category receives the most points for that category, second place gets the second most and so on. While the fantasy season is entertaining the real fun comes from the draft where weeks of planning and strategizing culminate into a match of wits and baseball knowledge. Those who take the craft seriously arrive to the draft with stacks of papers detailing enormous amounts of statistics. These statistics cover every possible factor that could affect a player’s performance. Fantasy leaguers might examine what stadiums freshly-traded players have moved to and how that will affect their numbers, or a player’s new teammates and the changes that might cause, anything to get an edge on the other fantasy teams. ESPN’s Sportscenter reports that fantasy leaguers will lose an average of three work-hours a week over the course of the season, working trades with other teams, analyzing numbers and trash-talking on the league’s message boards. Those who have met a fantasy aficionado know of the borderline obsession that characterizes this group. A fantasy baseball player needs to be willing to devote great amounts of time to this diversion. The season spans seven months and the nature of the rotisserie league, with its small changes throughout the season, forces anyone who wants to take their league seriously to contribute plenty of time and mental energy. While the sacrifices made are great, the rewards gained from a successful fantasy baseball team and league are incredibly satisfying. Developing a well-balanced team and watching it crush your friends can fill a person with a very, very warm feeling. Also, fantasy leagues present the great opportunity to talk with friends you might not get the chance to talk to otherwise. Where else would I get to trade insults and discuss a beloved sport consistently with my closest friends (okay, maybe on AIM, but this has so much more at stake!)? Fantasy baseball is a great American establishment. People gladly spend hours upon hours on a game that hinges upon the performance or ineptitude of others, beyond one’s control. It provides those who enjoy it with a chance to be involved with the sport at a greater level, an outlet for (mostly) friendly competition, and a way to interact with close friends. It may take three hours out of the work week, but it’s worth at least five more.