Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Baseball Trivia: Life Is A Fantasy

What a wonderful time of the year. March Madness has people in grave distress, much like an investor whose entire portfolio just vaporized in a post-Game Stop market instability. But the broken brackets and hearts can so quickly be mended by cherry blossoms and the proliferation of rabbits (the term March Madness has etymological roots in the breeding season of hares). The NBA is racing towards the playoffs and baseball is back. Possibly the most sensual and poetically-inclined sport, the return of baseball is interminably linked to the feelings of hope that Spring itself gives us. Life is (almost) a fantasy.

We are afforded fleeting moments of psychological bliss; able to forget that we live in such a twisted simulation.

But let’s kick all that sappy shit to the curb, shall we?!

Let’s talk Fantasy Baseball. This weekend, ESPN and Yahoo! server farms will be pushed to the brink of over-capacity, because it’s Draft Weekend!! So many fingernails will be chewed off, spotting keyboards with blood and sweat as the first post-keeper rounds begin. And let us not simply talk of fantasy drafts, nay. May we discuss relief pitchers with specificity…or as much specificity as I allow in a trivia post (I RULE THIS DOMAIN!!!). We’ll return to that with the quickness, but first, a tangent! The equation is y−f(a)=m(x−a), by the way.

During any given year, I carry, on average, two to three fantasy baseball teams. I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about baseball, but boy do I suck ass at fantasy baseball (sorry Cameron, this is gonna ruin your day when you read this and realize you are co-managing a team with a loser).

I have exactly two championships to my name; didn’t even bother building a mantle for the trophies. Let’s do some quick math on just how bad my record is. In over 20 years of playing fantasy sports, I have helmed somewhere between 50-55 fantasy baseball teams. So, let’s just say I’m 2-48 all-time (round down to be slightly kind to me?). That’s a .040 winning percentage. Susan Lucci has a better record at the Emmys.

Hell, Charles Barkley probably wins more golf tournaments than I do fantasy baseball leagues.

But, in the spirit of Spring, let’s focus on the positive! I am particularly proud of my 2008 championship in a league that would have Eno Sarris’s head spinning. This league has 20 teams (I’ll let that sink in). The waiver wire is more of a war zone than flash forwards in a Terminator movie. There are 15…FIFTEEN scoring categories for position players and pitchers alike. Rosters for each team have 20 active spots and two Injured List spots, which means that, at any given moment, roughly 58% of all major leaguers on a 25-man roster (back before the roster size adjustment) are on a team already. Yeah, revisit that Terminator reference now that we’ve done the rough math. I won this league wire-to-wire; I was in first place from Opening Day ‘til the last Sunday of September. My keepers were Álex Rodríguez, Bobby Abreu, John Smoltz, Cole Hamels, and Jacoby Ellsbury. My first two actual picks were Dan Uggla and Josh Hamilton. And in the 8th round, I made a common mistake. I drafted a closer far too early. Surprisingly, that is /end tangent.

Closers are sexy as hell. They throw a baseball hard enough to dent an M1 Abrams battle tank. They strike out EVERYBODY. Sometimes their sanity is questionable. And almost always, nowadays, they get to embrace their catcher immediately following World Series-clinching outs with a ferocity that only love and fire can fashion. The closer I drafted was Rafael Soriano. Hell, he wasn’t even the official closer for the Atlanta Braves yet.

In April he had tendonitis and elbow inflammation, which returned in June, as did Soriano to the 15-Day DL. By August, he opted for surgery to remove bone spurs and for “ulnar nerve transposition,” which is not Tommy John. It may be an adjustment of the ulnar nerve cleaning up Tommy John that he had in 2005, however. If I remember correctly, I straight dropped him from my roster by late June. The guy I replaced him with is today’s trivia answer. Yeah, like John Connor, I picked him up off that waiver wire from Hell and drove Cyberdine Systems out of the history books. Really, I just toasted all of the other 19 teams in that league, but being a savior of the future of humanity sounds cooler.

Working out of the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen in his second season in 2008, this relief arm was being groomed to start. He’s a righty fireballer who possesses a fourseam fastball that has been clocked at just a hair under 99 mph (98.96 mph in May 2018 according to Brooks Baseball). His opposing hitter numbers were all well below league average that year, including a .207 BABIP that was around 90 points better than average and a slugging percentage 86 points below league average (.330!). His 10.44 K/9 ranked fifth amongst AL relievers in ’08, right behind Joba Chamberlain and his Midge Philharmonic. In 2003, he was drafted by the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles in the 40th round out of high school. Then, in 2006, he was drafted by the Mariners from the University of California with the fifth overall pick in the draft. The next two picks might hurt for Mariners fans to read: Andrew Miller and then Clayton Kershaw. He has been involved for a number of years with the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation and most of his tweets are about the Golden State Warriors.

Interestingly enough, our guy is currently in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Spring Training camp as a major league non-roster invitee. Will he get to back up Kersh? Who is this man whose draft position brings Seattle fans such sorrow?

If you fail at trivia as often as I do fantasy baseball, you’re gonna need the ANSWER.

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