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March 21, 2008
The One-Man Affair
"L'enfer, c'est les autres" ("Hell is other people.")
You know who you are. You're the kid who thumbed his nose at the prospect of joining the Cub Scouts. You're the one who snickered at the kids in their Little League uniforms. In high school, you opted not to join the debate team, FFA, track and field, glee club, lit mag, junior janitors, or anything else that smacked of organization. As an adult, you've studiously avoided church groups, professional societies, car and motorcycle clubs, company softball teams, political parties, protest groups, and corporate-sponsored bake-offs. You are, simply, not a joiner. Or perhaps you hate competition. Maybe it's a bit of both.
Still, a part of you longs for what others have. Even though you'd rather not be around anyone else and the concept of camaraderie is something you find wholly alien, you find yourself getting jealous when you hear people talking about their fantasy baseball teams. No, you don't want to go to someone's house and participate in a draft and banter with other human beings, and the last thing you want to do is get calls from people during the season wanting to swap players. Even on-line leagues, where disparate entrants are grouped together randomly and almost anonymously, are anathema to you; who are these complete strangers, and how dare they think they are better than you? What if someone mocks you, even playfully, about your team? Who are they to do that?
Moreover, why should you have to tolerate other people in possession of the players you like most? How is it a fantasy if you can't have the players you want on your fantasy team? Where's the fun when the ace of your pitching staff is the twelfth-best starter in the game, while your idol toils against your best interest in the control of a fantasy league competitor you would dive into a pit of lava to avoid? To add indignity to injury, chances are you have to pay for this anti-privilege with an entry fee, further compounding your misery. Not only do you have to interact with other people, they get to use your favorite players against you, taking your money in the process. No, this will never do.
Fortunately for the loners, outsiders, hermits, misanthropes, and outright sociopaths among you, I have the perfect solution for your situation: One-Man Fantasy Baseball. Because I feel so for your plight, I'm not even going to copyright this idea. Instead, it is my gift to that segment of society that would rather not be bothered with the rest of us.
How does it work? It's pretty simple, actually. One day before the start of the season (or anytime, really, since you don't have to be about rules when playing One-Man Fantasy Baseball), you simply make a list of your fantasy team. Then, when the season starts, you start tracking what they're doing, or not--after all, who am I to impose my will on you?
Think of the team you could have with nobody else competing for talent! And, if someone slips, you can simply replace them because anyone not on your roster is a free agent. You can have a zero-tolerance policy for failure--if that's the route you want to go. Or, if you so choose, pure quality does not have to be your holy grail. Because you are not accountable to anyone else, you can pick only players from your home state, or just those who are the same astrological sign as you are, or--if you want to take it to an absurd level--the entire roster of your favorite real team.
The beauty part is--especially if you do go the quality-first route--you get to boast on your team when some blowhard at work launches on a bragfest about how great his fantasy outfit is. Imagine how flabbergasted everyone will be when you, the anti-social lone wolf who avoids happy hours and the company-sponsored bowling team, starts reeling off your roster. "I've got Pujols at first, Utley at second, Hanley Ramirez at short. At third I just benched A-Rod in favor of David Wright for a little change of pace."
While their jaws are agape you can continue--provided you really want to have this much social contact at one time--about how you were torn the previous night when two of your starting pitchers, Johan Santana and Jake Peavy, squared off against one another. If they ask you about the league you're in, just say, "It's very exclusive."
And it's free. And you don't have to deal with other people. And you get to have whatever you want with no interference from anybody. And you can't lose. Now, doesn't that sound like the very definition of "fantasy?"
It's the time of year when we all seem to want to know what is going to happen in the future. Whether it's the Presidential elections, fantasy leagues, or NCAA tourney brackets, we are in a prognosticating mood. In last week's column, I launched the 2008 Prospectus Matchups Contest, and that predicting fever came at me full force. As you may have read in my chat on Tuesday or in an Unfiltered post I did, I had to cap the requests for ballots to keep things in hand. I'm sorry to all of you who I had to turn away because you missed the deadline. Know that I appear to be addicted to creating contests and am bound to run another during the course of the season.
When starting a contest, one of my main concerns is getting a good spread of outcomes. (In fact, on a parallel level, one of the reasons I chose MLVr over, say, EqA as the method by which we would determine quality of season is because MLVr lays out on such a long curve. The best players can be in the .500s while the worst are well down in the negative point-three figures. With EqA, the majority of starters are in the .230 to .330 band.) With so many contestants, my fear is that there will be a logjam in the scoring. Looking back, it might have been better to find 25 matched pairs rather than 20 to predict, but I'm hoping the three tiebreakers will work as separators.
I do think I will break the contest into a number of divisions and award the grand prize to the person with the highest overall score and some lesser prizes to the other division winners. How I break people into divisions I haven't decided yet, although a couple of possible choices are geographic or alphabetical by first letter of email address. I am open to your suggestions. For those who got their ballot requests in before the deadline, the deadline for actual ballot submissions remains Friday, March 28. I did have the deadline as midnight Eastern Time, but, instead, I will say this: any ballot I receive with a time signature that reads March 29 or beyond will not be counted.