When I woke up this morning at around 10 AM, my first reaction was to immediately roll over and reach for my laptop. Not to check my email or send out an early morning tweet; I had to find a spot starter to fill in for Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle.
The White Sox "ace" was facing the Yankees in the new Yankee Stadium, a haven for hitters, and was practically a lock to get tuned up. I had been thinking about a replacement for the last 24 hours, and I finally decided to give Bud Norris, the young Houston Astros starter, a brief stay on my roster. All I needed was for the Budster to strike out a few Atlanta Braves, nothing more -- four hours later, Norris was already out of the game after ruining my WHIP, losing the game and striking out a way-too-meager three. My day was ruined, all because I clicked the plus-sign button next to the wrong pitcher's name. I moped around the rest of the day and eventually feasted on a Burger King dollar menu dinner to ease my pain.
Yes, I am obsessed with fantasy baseball. No, I don't have a problem with this.
I have three teams, one of which I take very seriously and two that I check daily. I probably visit the home page of my most important league 20 to 30 times a day, sometimes to make moves and other times just to look longingly at my roster and pray that they find their hitting stroke that night. We're in a keeper league, which means that you get to retain five of your seven best players every year; this both adds to the strategy and ensures a level of continuity with our rosters. For example, I've had Bobby Abreu for the last two years; even though he was far from my favorite Phillie, I've now grown quite fond of him. I also used to have Jimmy Rollins, Jason Bay, Carl Crawford, Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz and Justin Morneau. I don't anymore; please don't ask why.
I do, however, have Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and Roy Halladay, which can be both a blessing and a curse. When they perform, especially when the Phillies win, I'm the happiest boy in the world. But when Shane-O goes 0-4 at the top of the order and the Phils get shut out 4-0, I couldn't be more upset. The most perplexing part is that I don't know what gets me madder, an annoying loss or the worthless performance. There's 162 games for the Phillies to win or lose, but an oh-fer cripples my average. Get your shit together, Shane.
(Editor's Note: As I'm writing this, Shane is getting his shit together. I am very happy.)
To most people, the only thing more boring than fantasy baseball is hearing someone talk about fantasy baseball, so I apologize to anyone who's still suffering through this post. But I find it to be such an interesting phenomenon, being deeply invested in random players and following their stats so intently. As my friend Kakley recently pointed out, you start to root for random events more than good games or great plays. Like today, I desperately needed Ryan Theriot to steal second. There were no outs, the shitty and easily rattled Edwin Jackson was on the mound -- the situation seemed perfect. But then Kosuke Fukudome hit a single and my plans were ruined. Nevermind that The Riot was now in scoring position; I needed a steal. That's fantasy baseball.
My top league features me, 10 guys from the Bay Area (one of whom is the commissioner/my one-time college roommate) and another friend from BU. I've only met a third of the guys personally, but I talk to some of them more than my close, lifelong friends. I consistently talk shit on the message board to people I've never laid eyes on, saying things I'd never say to them in person. One guy cut Justin Upton early last year for shitty Cardinals backup outfielder Chris Duncan (Duncan was on a hot streak); now Justin Upton is a budding superstar, Duncan is out of the majors and this guy is "the boner who cut Justin Upton after a month." I have no idea what he even looks like, but for the rest of my life, I'll think of him in that regard.
I have fantasy baseball to thank for that. I already love baseball, and adding this extra aspect to it makes it even better. I get to know specific teams I'd never think about otherwise, I keep track of all the hot prospects and I look deeper into stats than most average fans. It makes me a smarter baseball fan, and more than anything, it's just plain fun. I hope I get to keep Halladay and Adrian Gonzalez on my roster for the next three years, I hope that Gordon Beckham comes out of his sophomore slump and plays like the top pick he is, I hope that Victorino and Polanco lead the Phillies to another National League pennant (while logging great stats, of course). Oh, and I hope that Bud Norris dies as soon as possible. It's not personal, Bud, it's strictly business.