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How much does the draft really matter? I have been hearing claims that the draft is the
most important part of the season, and that you can win alone on the draft. Looking at
draft results and power rankings seems to suggest otherwise.
I collected the draft results for all 252 teams this year. But how should I judge the “goodness” of a draft. One way would be to set rosters and and calculate the current standings. Besides for being more work than I want to put in, it is not the best way to go. Some owners drafted more innings pitched, and some drafted players on the DL that would come back later. So what I decided to do is to calculate the “value” of a team’s draft by summing the player rater values for all players drafted by team–this is the “Draft Rating” in the table to the right. This is nice, because it uses a metric that calculates points in the standing, removes subjectivity and gives value to drafted bench players.
Clearly some owners drafted much better than others, as the draft rating range is almost 110 points. Congratulations to those in the top 10.
Looking up and down the list you can see that there are teams with great drafts but low power rank, and teams with poor drafts but high power ranks (you can sort the table by Power Rank). One can see all teams in the plot below. There seems to be only a medium correlation and dependence between the draft and a team’s success. But as we know correlation does not imply causation. Those who draft well, are more likely to be experienced owners who know value better, trade and play the waiver-wire well.
There are stronger correlations at the extremes. In other words, the dependence seems to get a little better if you had a very bad draft or a very good draft. It should be stated again that correlation does not imply causation. Many teams with horrible drafts may have soon quit, while teams with great drafts tend to become more active. Since the correlation is already not too strong, the causation is probably even smaller.
You should learn from this that the draft is important, but not nearly as important as the moves you make after the draft. There is an enormous value after the draft in free-agency (such as Jose Bautista last year), which can be worth more than your first few rounds of picks. Trading opens up the door for even more talent.
If you draft a team, only change you roster, and not pick up or trade for value, it is impossible to win a league where the other owners are adding and trading for players.
In 2010, I started playing fantasy baseball. A friend was desperate for another owner, and asked me to join. He wanted to see what I knew about baseball, so he asked me if I heard of Hanley Ramirez, the typical first player drafted that year. I had no idea who he was talking about, as I had not followed baseball in many years, so I set out to do research on players. It was a few days before the draft and I only had time to research hitters. When draft day came along I just passed on starting pitchers for the first 15 rounds. I seemed to do very well that year, and repeated this “strategy” the following years.
I had accidentally stumbled on something – don’t draft starting pitchers early. So here I set out to understand why this is, and see if It holds up in other leagues.
Below is a plot of the (average) number of picks spent on hitters in the first 3 rounds versus the team’s standing (2011 data). As is very evident from the plot, those who are among the top of the standings used their early picks to take bats. Roughly a 1/3 of the owners that only took bats in those rounds are in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in their league. Similarly, 1/3 of the owners who took a SP are in 10th, 11th, or 12th.
This trend holds very well for Rounds 1 -5—those who concentrate on bats did significantly better. But at some point you need to start taking pitchers. Below is a similar plot to the one above, but rounds 4 through 8. The top two teams still took more pitchers than average, but as whole, it still not a good place to draft too many pitchers. This is the place where draft value of batters and pitchers normalize. At this point owners were drafting Kershaw, Weaver, Hamels, Verlander, etc…, who have not only lived up to their draft position, but have outperformed the pitchers drafted earlier.
This demonstrates that drafting pitchers early on was a bad idea, but it doesn’t answer the questions as to why. Here are the reasons:
- Pitchers are more injury prone. Two-thirds of all time spent on the DL are by pitchers.
- SP is deeper than hitters, and talent drops off slower than with hitters. This is simply because we only need 6 SP per team, but 13 batters per team, while an MLB team has a 5 SP rotation and a 9 batter lineup. Statistically speaking, since there are so many more batters than pitchers, there will be more batters who perform at a higher statistical significance. In other words, suppose you took a group of 200 people and measured their height, and took 100 people and measured their weight. The tallest person in 200 group to likely have a more extreme height than extreme weight of the heaviest person in the group of 100. You can see this effect in the player rater. The best batters are more valuable than the best pitchers.
- The average pitcher is less valuable than an average batter. Simple. Batters produce in 6 categories, while starting pitchers produce in 4. You can see this effect in the player rater, which measures expected points in the standings vs. replacement.
- There is much more luck in pitching. Rarely does a top 5 pitcher from a previous year make it into the top 5 again. But this is also the reason why drafting a pitcher in round 4-8 is such a good idea. There is a great deal of upside that luck can bring.
So, I started a series of articles on trading strategy last season but it wasn’t received well. It seems like most people don’t really want to dig through one of 2,000 word diatribes about how to email a league-mate during trade discussions. Hey, I can understand that and so I cut the series after two entries – I am after all a man of the people. I was completely prepared to let the “Rules of Trading” idea fall by the wayside but then over the last few weeks we have received numerous emails from frustrated managers. They complain about how rude their trade partners are when answering offers, how slow other managers are to respond and how many bad offers they receive. (Honestly that last complaint is ridiculous to me and I have zero respect for any complaint about receiving bad offers – seriously, I have zero respect…nada…none)
Since we are receiving such a volume of complaints and questions I really feel like I need to do an abbreviated “Rules of Trading” article. Hopefully it can help solve some of these issues. I mean, I am really good at trading. I rarely say something cocky like that but it is the truth. Two years ago I completed 55 trades in the Elite League. You do not make that many deals by just blindly sending out offers…okay, part of it is sending out blind offers but there are still guidelines people. So, I offer to you my abbreviated “Rules for Trading” minus the strategy. Note: This mainly applies to public/redraft leagues. In long term leagues where you know the managers really well some of these rules-oh hell, all of these rules- can be modified and added to over time.
1. Never Be Rude, Always Be Polite.
There is never any reason to respond to another manager in an aggressive way. In an attempt to be clear: there is NO good reason to be aggressive to another manager. NONE. ZERO. DOES NOT EXIST. Not only will you come off as an asshole but you will severely hurt your chances of pulling off a deal. The guy poked fun at you, so what? Or maybe he actually got inflammatory and called you a cribble, why do you care? No matter what the other manager says there is never a good reason to be an ass and responding in kind. Be nice and be the bigger man – it will pay off.
2. Do not tell another manager what he needs.
There is nothing that will piss off another manager faster than you telling him what he needs on his team. It is presumptuous and pejorative. Treat the other manager like an adult and let him think for himself. Now, there is nothing wrong with explaining your thought process on the trade but do not cross the line from explaining to preaching.
3. Always say “Thank you” when you decline.
No, I do not care how bad the offer is or even if you have received the exact same offer 14 times in the last hour â€” say thank you. It goes a long way to be establishing good rapport with your league. The other manager took time out of his day to send that offer and deserves a polite response.
4. Do not be a bitch and whine about receiving a bad offer.
Let me make this clear- if you complain about an offer you are being a little bitch. That is just a fact. Now, before you get offended please understand that I am not implying that you are fundamentally a little bitch but by definition a little bitch whines, so if the shoe fits… And as I stated earlier, if I receive an email from you complaining that someone sent an offensive offer I will change your name to “Lil’ Bitch” in the Elite standings. I won’t even give you the respect of spelling out “little”.
5. Do not post names in the CBox or in public
Do not go onto a CBox and post offers someone has sent to you. Do not discuss trade details on the CBox. It is incredibly lame to cock block another manager and posting details in public does just that. You instantly lower a player’s value if other managers know he is being shopped and it is a cheap tactic and it is completely bush league. It is utter BS to post something like “Cory offered me Sabathia for Braun, can anyone top it?” I will literally consider driving to your house and punching you in the neck if you blow up my offers like that. Now, if you want to talk to an individual owner in private about my offer then I can understand but mass emailing/messaging the league is completely wrong.
6. Always Counter
When you decline a trade, do the following: Type “Thanks for the offer but this really isn’t what I am looking for right now” then hit the button labeled “decline and counter”. Always counter an offer because you never know what may hit. The other manager may be trying bail on his players or may be willing to overpay for yours. Always counter and you will be rewarded for the effort.
7. Never say “This player is off limits”
That is the most absurd and ridiculous statement. No one should be off limits in a redraft. For the right price ANYONE should be traded. Unless of course you don’t want to win your league; but if that isn’t your objective why are you in the game? If you would prefer to just watch your favorite players then buy MLB Extra Innings and get out of my fantasy league.
8. Never say “I am not trading now, I am standing by my draft”
You may think you are a draft guru and maybe you are the next Bill James but I will run laps around you if you stand pat. No team comes out of the draft complete and no team is ever perfect. There is always room for improvement and you should always be open to a deal. As Elite member Cory Miller says, “If you aren’t moving forward, you are moving backwards.” I have the stats from 3 years of elite leagues to prove that players that make moves win and players that stand pat don’t. You can try to name all sorts of examples to refute my assertions but I have a massive spreadsheet and actual data that says you are wrong. I am not saying that you have to sell short but if there is an opportunity to improve your team don’t let our stubbornness/pride limit you.
9. Always take the value.
Yes, trading Pedroia for Pujols will leave you with a hole at 2B but who the hell cares? ALWAYS take the value. There is no reason to worry about positions until the All-Star break in my opinion. I am not implying that you should then sit on your trade-you should flip the value and continue to make incremental gains.
10. Upgrade your Bench
Huge trades are born out of many small trades. Never stop moving and upgrading a MR or a bench bat to someone slightly sexier can open up tons of trade options. Simply moving from Juan Rivera to Garrett Jones can open a huge opportunities in trade talks. Never stop trying to improve your team and don’t expect to win the lottery in one deal. Waiting on a rape trade will leave you empty handed; it is best to make small and steady improvements.
11. Always Have Offers Out
Like I said earlier: if you aren’t moving forwards you are moving backwards. You should never be sitting without any offers out. Personally I keep a minimum of 6 offers out at all times. ALL TIMES. Do not get lazy.
12. Trading is Work, Play the Percentages
In the Elite league last season I sent over 3,500 trade offers. If you do that math that means that my offers were successfully less than 2% of the time. It may surprise you to learn that the 2% success rate is actually high in my experience. Bottom line: Trading is work and you cannot be successful unless you put in the time to send offers, send counters and respond to emails.
13. Do not let a MR kill a deal.
If you have a good deal where you profit pretty handily do not let a MR kill the trade. Seriously, I cannot count how many times people have had me over a barrel only to screw the pooch in the end because they didn’t want to part with a MR. Now, I am not implying that you just give away your elite MR but if the trade clearly nets you value and all it takes is a MR to push it over the top, then don’t be an asshole– take the value.
14. Always take the bat.
You cannot give up Zach Greinke for Seth Smith but if you are offered an elite bat for an elite arm. Take the bat.
15. Be Responsive.
Do not let offers sit for weeks. When you see the offer then take the time to respond. Even if you can’t decline or accept, send the guy an email and let him know you are thinking it over. Do not be an absentee manager that makes you a douche and is the second offense on this list that will cause me to actually drive to your house and punch you squarely in the neck.
16. Do not accept an offer if a player is hurt after the offer was sent.
If a manager sends you an offer for Kendry Morales and you accept after Morales breaks his ankle you are an asshole. Rest assured that there is a special place in hell for anyone that plays this sort of game. Be a good sport and do not take advantage of a bad situation.
17. Always get a throw in.
You never know who the other manager may view as a throw in. If you are doing a 2:1 then get the players the other manager is dropping. I am shocked at least 5 times a year at what some managers will “throw in” to complete a deal.
18. Do not be afraid to take a 2:1
Yes, yes we always want you to get the best player but that isn’t a hard and fast rule. Sometimes the values really do line up right and you can legitimately win a trade even though you are giving up the best player. Do not limit yourself to silly aphorisms and instead think out each trade individually.
19. Be creative.
Think outside the box in order to get a deal done- include WW priority, include draft picks, guarantee a players health, make player performance part of the deal, etc. Trading is not just limited to Player A for Player B. In order to get the most out of your deals you will need to be inventive.
20. Learn to lose a deal.
No one likes it when a player wins everything they do. Sometimes you really need to make it look like you are losing a deal to put others at ease. Now, this is a real skill and not something I can lay out in this brief format. Suffice to say that sometimes taking a slight hit in value can open up the league to trades. Trading is infectious and once it takes hold in a league the momentum can really open up opportunities for a savvy trader. To create that momentum sometimes you need to make a bit of a sacrifice.
21. Do not get frustrated.
It is always when you are most frustrated that a breakthrough happens. Do not give up and preserver. If you stay steady and work the trades will happen.
22. No matter how big you win NEVER rub it in or admit it
If you are able to trade David Freese for Evan Longoria do not play it up. Simply say that you think it is good for both teams, that Freese is in a great lineup and wish the other guy luck. Do not ever under any circumstances gloat/talk shit to a trade partner or the league.
23. Do not get greedy.
A bird in the hand etc. etc. If you have a guy on the line for a win do not try to push it. It is better to take what you have then to scare someone off and lose the deal. Greed will kill you every time.
David Eckstein gives sportswriters a boner. This is a proven fact. Type in “David Eckstein” and “scrappy” into Google and you will get 22,500 hits. I don’t blame them – I’d rather write about David Eckstein than, for instance, a guy as talented as Andruw Jones that almost eats himself out of baseball in a contract year. It’s a better story. And baseball fans look at Eckstein and many believe that he’s proof that anyone can achieve anything if they work hard enough, if they’re gritty enough, if they’re scrappy enough. To them, he means that all a player needs is a chance and if they want it bad enough, they can make it to the top. This is some seriously moving 1980s sports movie shit.
But that shit ain’t the truth.
The truth is, there are lots of guys in the minors that want it just as much as Eckstein, work just as hard and some are probably more talented. And yet they will never see an MLB roster. Baseball is a numbers game, but a lot of times it’s the numbers on the contract that make the difference in player development. A big investment is a big investment and teams want to give these players every chance to pay dividends (and to make them look smart). And while David Eckstein will rightfully be canonized as the Patron Saint of Grinders, stories like his are few and far between in today’s game.
As a ballplayer, Gary Bunt was a grinder. Coming from the college ranks, he was a pitcher with terrific stats, an excellent make-up and good stuff, but he didn’t have the WOW stuff that gets players the big money. Dominating the competition wasn’t enough when the radar gun didn’t read $$$. Gary pitched successfully for 5 years in the minors before walking away from the game. He worked hard to get a chance with a team in a Baseball Operations role and he achieved his goal last year, but not before running smack into his share of dead ends. I asked Gary Bunt (not his real name – you’re shocked, I know) to answer some questions about his time in the game as a player, life on the road as a pro athlete, and about his current role in an MLB front office.
DB: You excelled in high school and at the Division I level in college to the point that you were selected in the MLB Rule 4 Amateur Draft. Walk me through your experience leading up to and during the draft. What was the process like and how did it feel when you got the call that you had been selected?
GB: The draft sucked for me. My draft year was by far the best year I had in my entire playing career. I won all sorts of awards and led my league in all the major statistical categories, as well as being named player of the year for my position. I had scouts telling me they were going to select me in rounds 7-10. Man, were they full of shit.
The draft started at 2pm. I was in a college dorm before the time when everyone had cell phones, and didn’t even know what the dorm’s phone number was, so I sat by the computer and watched the selections that way. I could hear audio of the draft conference call at the MLB offices in NYC. I sat there for about 5 hours. Rounds 7-10 went by and there was no shout out for me. I heard many guys go that I had better stats than, and in my mind, I thought the call had to be coming soon. The day ended with no phone call.
I woke up the next day to the pounding of steel drums from the fraternity above my apartment. The whole world was spinning. There was an empty bottle of Jim Beam on my floor, that which I vaguely remember opening, although I could still taste it. I was shaking the cobwebs, trying to read the fine print on MLB’s website for my name. Eh, there it was. I was picked over 4 hours before I got up, it was already 3 in the afternoon by that time, and still there was no phone call. The only people [MLB Teams] call are the ones who get taken early and those guys get more chances to make the big leagues than mother goose has stories. Every player taken after round 15 gets a plane ticket and, if you’re lucky, a few bucks to spend during the season.
The area scout for the team called two days later. We planned to meet at my Dad’s house after graduation. I thought I was big man on campus. I spent the next few days acting like I was going to sign for 100K. “Yeah man, I’ll leave you tickets when I reach the bigs…”
Pfffft… When I met up with the scout, he showed me a basic contract for minor league players. He told me I didn’t have to sign it, that I could negotiate for a higher “bonus”, but that I was very unlikely to get anything more than what they were offering. They offered me a $1000 signing “bonus”. I’m putting that in “-“, because in the big world of million dollar athletes, most guys make $1000 before they take their morning shit. It was a take it or leave it offer and I had no fall back plan. I went to college to play baseball. I signed the shit out of that contract and spent every last dime of my chump change on a “fun” filled weekend in NYC at the end of the season.
DB: I, too, went to college to play baseball and ended up with great memories, a legacy of unfulfilled expectations and untreatable hemorrhoids. Back then, if we were trading problems, I’d take yours. To many of us that have never been pro ballplayers, it seems like a charmed existence playing a game you love for a living. However, oftentimes this isn’t the case for minor league players. Was there a particularly sobering moment for you early on that made you rethink your dream of professional baseball? Did your attitude change as your career progressed?
GB: I had plenty of sobering moments in my career; I was never that good at nursing a hangover. Every two weeks I was reminded of how far from charmed my existence really was. My first summer, I made $870 a month… before taxes. I received $16 a day while on the road for food and clubhouse dues. Basically, peanut butter sandwiches and if I was lucky, watermelon, was my dietary regimen.
I could deal with being poor. The pathetically low paychecks were just a small piece of the pie that provided most of us with a common bond where we had something to bitch about. I say “most of us”, but definitely not all. In the last year of my career, I was in Double-A holding onto my middling career fairly well, making $1800 a month. It was the largest contract I ever had the pleasure of signing. After the draft that summer, the organization I was playing for selected a “can’t miss” relief prospect who was shuttled to Double-A after the draft. When his first paycheck came in, he left the stub on the table in the training room. For two weeks of relief pitching – $87, 923!!! This guy threw 95mph, but looked like a monkey fucking a football when he’d play catch. At that point, I pretty much knew my dreams of making the big leagues, after 5 seasons in the minors, were kaput.
And where’s Mr. Money Bags now? After being traded to the perennial doormats of the National League, he’s shuffling around in the high minors just straight stealing money from that first contract. Hope you didn’t spend all that dough on something in those Ferrari magazines you used to carry around…
DB: I know who Mr. Money Bags is and I hope he gets, well you can fill in the blank…Mix in a strike once in a while, you waste of skin! Sorry about that. The Tiger Woods incident drew mainstream attention to a lot of troubling issues in our society involving professional athletes such as chronic infidelity, possible drug abuse, paparazzi culture and sex addiction. These are all serious issues to consider, but I don’t care about any of them. I care about Road Beef. What an awesome term for an awesome situation. Did you have any road beef during your playing career?
GB: It’s funny how these troubling issues come to light when a holier than thou athlete screws up… [Gary makes a well-argued point about America’s hypocritical indignation over Tiger Woods, while your humble author spaces out and fantasizes about Road Beef – whoops.]… Professional athletes have more opportunity and greater capability to mess around, so why is it such a surprise?
That being said, I had some road beef. I played in some shit hole towns that most truck drivers would rather not stop through, so often there were slim pickens. But for most of us, letting off steam after a tough day at the yard was a rite of passage. But you had to be careful. Cleat chasers could be a cunning, spiteful sort. Rarely did the wily vet ever give out his number. There was always the looming threat of Ms. Nice Ass from Allentown wanting to move to your off season home and change her life to be a part of that major league dream.
DB: ROAD BEEF!!! DETAILS!!!
GB: Ft. Lauderdale/24 years old – I’m hanging out with an old buddy at a bar, and meet two older ladies (one with a great big rack) who were out celebrating one of their birthdays. We both claim to be on the PGA tour, he’s a big shot and I’m his caddy. He’s buying rounds all night, acting like he just won some huge tourney. As it gets later and the night begins to turn to black, my lady (with the great big rack) says she needs to take her friend back to her house so she can get her car, and that I should come along. As we pull up to her house, there’s like 5 cars in the driveway. I ask what’s up with that? She says her husband is home with some buddies playing poker, giving her the night with her friends for her birthday. I’m literally sitting in the backseat of the BMW in her driveway and can see the guys playing poker though the window. We do a quick switcheroo, I jump in front and we take off before her husband notices. We drive down to Miami and pull up to some ritzy hotel. She says she would really like it if we got a room there for her birthday present. We get up to the top floor of this place, and it’s one of those rooms with double doors opening out to a big foyer – how much does this shit cost? Apparently she worked in the hotel business so she hooked it up a $200 rate for the night. Not for nothing, and I’m no porn star by any means, but we “celebrated” for about 5 hours. She was quite fond of me, but little did she know I was driving a 1991 Jeep Wrangler with a doughnut tire on one wheel and the credit card I dropped for the room would probably be declined. I wake up around 11am to her freaking out. She had slept through some real estate meeting her husband had set up and she had 12 voicemails from him about it. We leave without checking out and she gives me a ride back to my buddies’ apartment. As we’re pulling up she asks which car is mine. Rather than tell her it’s the beat up Wrangler, I say “uhhhh, that black one down there” without knowing what kind of car I’m pointing to. It’s a goddamned Rolls Royce. She drops me off and gives me her card. She says to call the next time you’re in town. As she pulls away, this 79 year old grandma with her grandson or something walks up to the Rolls Royce and hits the panic button by accident, causing my ride home to stop short and see them both getting into their car. Oops.
DB: That could be one of my stories, except I’d be the guy accidentally hitting the panic button with his grandma, not the cougar-banging ballplayer. And the car would be a Chevy Corsica, not a Rolls Royce. And both my grandmas are dead. Moving on. We talked about the excitement of being drafted earlier. Let’s cover the other end of the spectrum: Describe for me the process of being cut.
GB: I was cut a few times. Never once was I offered a real honest explanation of why or what I had done that wasn’t good enough. Just tell me I suck, what I need to work on, and thanks for your time. Don’t sugar coat it, be real, and move on.
The last time, I was cut during extended spring training after I spent the entire off-season training at the complex and had been dominating with the Double-A team during camp. After three weeks of throwing in intra-squad games against kids pretty much right out of little league, I asked a coach to see if he could find out why the hell I was still there. He agreed, said that I had definitely pitched well enough to move to an affiliate. The next day a piece of paper was faxed from the Farm Director with 12 names on it, including mine. All 12 were released. No explanation.
At this point I was ready to say fuck baseball. Before I left, one of the executives from the team that just released me called. They wanted to know who had released me, what was said, and what the reason was for it. You gotta be shitting me, right? Apparently, the Farm Director wanted the GM’s job real bad and was getting rid of anyone and everyone that any of the GM’s guys had brought in, myself included. They had no idea I was being released. But they couldn’t do anything about it now. Thank you very much you piece of shit franchise. But that’s an example of the uglier side of front office politics.
DB: Ironically enough, now you find yourself in a front office role. How many dreams have you crushed? Do you like it when they cry?
GB: Actually, I’m in an office full of great people. Maybe it was just my perspective now that I’m on the other side, but it seemed like when I was playing there were a lot of dishonest people making decisions in upper management. I don’t want to name names, but there was a guy who recently resigned as a GM for speculation over some serious fraudulent claims involving signing amateur players. I had first had knowledge that this guy was a very shady individual. There were a lot of bad things happening behind the scenes on the players side of the game when I was involved, and there had to be a significant amount of maneuvering on the business side to try to promote the game in a positive way. These days, it’s getting closer to being more honest of a sport, but there’s still some work to do. The fact that I didn’t partake in the “reality” of the game during that era might explain some of my resentment at how my career came to fruition, but I had the same choice as many others to be or not to be. I’m happy with the one I made and the person I am because of it.
Now that I do work in the game, I do whatever I can to help the right people realize their dreams. Take that with a grain of salt, as I’m pretty low on the food chain concerning anything involving new hires. At the same time, I know what it’s like to have your dreams crushed at every attempt of the slightest chance of an internship. It’s not like I retired then all of a sudden had a desk and a salary waiting for me. I had to build my resume volunteering in other avenues, trying to stay involved in the game. I was out for two years sending resumes, emails, making phone calls. I paid my own room and board around the country on many an interview. I was at my wit’s end and finally something broke for me. Call it luck, call it perseverance, call it hypocritical, but I knew baseball had to be a part of my life and I’m extremely fortunate to be where I am.
DB: Nice save and well said. Still, I choose to believe you meant “Of course I like making them cry” but fair enough. A lot of people wish for the opportunity to work for an MLB team, but not many realize what’s involved with the job. Can you describe an average day for you?
GB: I spend a lot of my day sitting at a desk, like most of corporate America. We don’t really have set work hours, you just have to get your work done when it’s due. Of course, there aren’t many that show up late and leave early; it’s just not that type of environment. If you do approach your day in that way, you won’t last long. This game is all about grinding it out. Typically, I work from about 8am to midnight, 6-7 days a week during the season. The time flies by though.
I usually start the day with a workout and breakfast. I have full access to the facilities in our stadium and I try to get something done before everyone gets there. I’ll spend most of the day going over current reports from the previous day’s games, both on our team and the team we’re about to play in the next series. I have a few search engines and databases I run through so I’m up to date on all the injury updates, transactions, and stats on the team we’re about to play. I’ll spend a few hours during the day putting some things together for our reports on the next series.
Usually I’ll watch our home games in the stands or in the suite with the other members of the front office. Sometimes, I am asked to track specific trends throughout the course of the game so we can measure our team’s performance based on ideas we come up with that could improve our team. After the game is over, we usually meet with the front office after the GM and assistant GM have met with the coaching staff. It’s a good way for everyone to be on the same page about roster moves or possible player acquisitions that might need some due diligence.
My job is a job without weekends or vacations. Anyone who wants to try to work in baseball has to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices and salvage whatever social life they can make of it.
DB: Sounds boring (says the guy with ten fantasy baseball teams and a baseball blog). I think I’d clean clubhouse toilets if it meant I could say I worked in baseball. Speaking of fantasy, you play fantasy baseball and you also work in baseball. How popular is fantasy in clubhouses and/or front offices? Give me one under the radar fantasy player you like for the rest of 2010. I promise not to pick him up in either of the leagues we’re in together.
GB: “Fantasy baseball? No, I don’t play that, man. I don’t have the time, and besides, what I do for work is pretty much fantasy baseball anyway, right?”
That’s what most guys will say if you ask them. And I’m sure the majority of front office and especially clubhouse guys don’t partake, but there’s definitely a few that do. I don’t see the harm in it, as it’s a good way to keep up on player news and hot / cold streaks. It’s not like it’s distracting you from most of your work, as it still keeps you relentlessly informed on what’s going on in MLB.
As for an under the radar player, I’m a big fan of June rookie call ups. I can see Starlin Castro, Cubs SS, coming up and providing some value at a shallow position. And watch out for Jhoulys Chacin, he’s already made his debut and been heralded with power stuff for a while. He’s still 22 so there may be some growing pains, but it’s not his first taste of the bigs and I think you could see some nice production there.
DB: I already own Chacin in both our leagues because my brain is terribly large, but thanks. PED abuse has marred the last two decades of MLB baseball. Some of the game’s biggest stars have been implicated. In just the past year, Manny Ramirez and EdinsonVolquez have been suspended for violating the league’s PED policy, both reportedly for testing positive for fertility drugs. I’m going to cut the b/s and ask you the BIG question: Is there a fertility problem amongst MLB ballplayers?
GB: Good question. I can’t really speak for the majority of reproductive systems for MLB ballplayers, but from my experience, I’ve never been around more unwed mothers in any other line of work.
DB: This guy in Little Rock, AR was telling me the same thing about unwed mothers in that city in general. There is a Double-A team there. Weird. Follow-up Question: Do you feel that boxer shorts be made mandatory for the good of the game?
GB: Oof! Can you imagine the chafing? How about sliding into second head first, getting dirt down your crack, and now you gotta go play OF with clay crumbs stuck to your grundle. No thanks.
DB: Indeed. Thanks for your time, Gary. Hopefully, this has been fun and informative for our readers. My last question might be the most important one so I’ll set it up. In a conversation with Brad Ausmus over ten years ago, he mentioned to those of us present that Moises Alou was absurdly hung, more so than even The Big Unit, Randy Johnson. In all your years in pro ball, biggest unit – who you got?
GB: Hmmm… Deliberating on male organs isn’t really my forte, but I did once see [former Toronto/Chicago AL/Oakland/Florida reliever] Billy Koch tie his dick in a knot. That was impressive.
It’s October 14, 1908 and there are 6,210 fans at Bennett Park in Detroit. The Cubs have a 3 games to 1 lead over the Tigers. The Cubs jump out to a first inning lead, add another one in the fifth, and beat the Tigers 2-0. This was the Cubs second straight World Series Championship, and they were a forced to be reckoned with. Hard to believe that 101 years (and counting) later they have yet to win another series. It has been 64 years since their last World Series appearance (in 1945 they also faced the Detroit Tigers). The Loveable Losers have had their troubles over the past century.
1918 World Series: The Chicago Cubs lose to the Boston Red Sox. This would be the Sox’s last World Series Championship until 2004.
Sunday October 5, 1945: Billy Sianis attempts to enter Wrigley Stadium with a goat. He was asked to leave and stated “The Cubs aint gonna win no more.” Sianis 1 Cubs 0
1969: A black cat is released at Shea Stadium during a Cubs-Mets Game. Cubs fans blame this event for the team choking away first place. (Seems odd to see that the Mets weren’t the team to choke.)
Sidenote: Bill Buckner was the first baseman for the Cubs before being dealt to the Red Sox. Everyone knows how he turned out.
1984: After winning the first two games at Wrigley, the Cubs lost all three in San Diego to fail to reach the World Series.
2003: The NLDS victory against the Atlanta Braves was the Cubs first postseason series win since 1908. With 5 outs left in Game 6, He Who Should Not Be Named reached out to catch a foul ball, deflecting it away from Moises Alou. Then Alex Gonzalez misplayed a double play ball, and the Marlins eventually won the game. The Marlins were able to win Game 7, and went on to win the World Series.
Southerners such as Braves fans are quite familiar with the sight of grits at the breakfast table. Grits are made from hominy that has been dried and ground and then cooked in water or milk. The end result is a warm dish with little flavor, featuring a consistency somewhere between cream of wheat and oatmeal.
So who the Hell cares? Nobody! But the reason I’m talking about grits is that the way we eat them can be a metaphor for many facets of life – even fantasy baseball.
Throughout history, people have discovered a multitude of ways to flavor the almost flavorless serving of grits. I like mine with butter, salt, and pepper. I’ve seen people eat grits with syrup, honey, sugar, and even hot sauce. The most notable way to send a grit down the hatch is to mix in cheese and make cheese grits. The addition of cheese yielded a whole new experience due to the variety of cheeses in the world. What I’m saying is that different people take the same thing and do different stuff to it so that it suits their different tastes.
Different tastes are what make fantasy ball so great. Look around your league at all the different rosters and you’ll see it every time.
There’s always at least one team that’s chock full of big name players. Many of them are “big name” because they play on winning teams or because they used to be stars in their prime. This is the guy who has Jeter and Ortiz and Soriano and Chipper Jones. This is the guy who drafted Joe Mauer with the first pick. He’s the guy who loves Ichiro. If you own Ichiro, and you know who your “big name” league mate is, trade him Ichiro now. He will give up his best player. Bet.
Big Name guy eats cheese grits; he’s heard of them and knows that people like them, so how can they let him down?
There’s always that guy who just loves closers. I mean LOVES em. This guy will trade you Hanley Ramirez if you give him Jonathan Broxton. But not because he needs Broxton – this is the same guy who already has Rivera, Paplebon, and about three other closers. The best part about closer guy is that he won’t trade you a closer until his team really starts to tank. By then, he’s already toast and you’ve already said, “eh, a save is only one category anyway.”
Closer Guy eats syrup grits and then looks at the rest of us because we’re watching him with furrowed brows and he goes, “what? You guys don’t like syrup?” and we say, “yeah, but not that much.”
What about that sleeper king? This is that guy who in the 9th round takes everyone you were hoping to get in the 15th round. Every owner has their “this is the year” favorites, but the sleeper king will fill a roster with them. Sleeper king is also the guy who will try to trade you every 22 year old hot prospect he can so that he can get whoever he wants off your team. Don’t get mad when you get these offers – sleeper king really thinks he has a hot commodity on his hands, but he can’t wait all year on the kid because he filled his whole damn team with sleepers. I can label myself sleeper king this year, my back still hurts from all the reaching I did on draft day.
Sleeper King eats grits with hot sauce; it goes against conventional wisdom and generates comments. He’s then very quick to point out how smart he is when someone tries them and likes them.
There’s always a guy who loves home runs. This guy threw a fit when Jack Cust got cut. This guy threw a fit when his league’s sleeper king took Ian Stewart two picks before him. Homer guy checks his roster every evening and lets out those high pitched “whooo” sounds when he sees that his team just mashed eight more homers in a day. If you own Nelson Cruz right now, this guys is bugging the ever-livin’ shit outta you with trade offers. Homer guy sometimes manifests himself as a hybrid Homer-Closer guy. You know it’s true.
Homer Guy eats his grits with sugar; it’s oh-so-sweet right now, but it’s gonna kill you eventually. Just like your team Batting average and SB totals.
Some guys load up on aces. These owners took Lincecum and Halladay with their first two picks. They then sprinkled in a little Wainwright and Josh Johnson, maybe some Santana or a splash of Verlander. Ace guy will usually own some combination of Burnett, De La Rosa, Kershaw, and Sanchez. This dude will do anything for strikeouts. ANYTHING. Ace guy won’t trade you one of his pitchers until he hears that they got injured. He then rushes to his computer and inundates you with offers, hoping to reel you in before you’re privy to the injury news. If these guys weren’t so busy with fantasy, I think they would be lawyers.
Ace Guy eats his grits with honey; it’s sweet and smooth. It’s healthier than sugar. It’s exotic… And no, you can’t have my damn honey!
Many of us are one of these owners, whether we know it or not. No one strives to limit their team to just homers or saves or cost effectiveness; we just want to win. It’s our differing tastes that get us there, in one way or another. We’ve all had good teams and bad teams. We’ve all eaten things we loved and things that made us gag.
I eat my grits with butter, salt, and pepper. Not too much of any ingredient, but just enough to give it flavor. Whether you’ve eaten grits before or not – whether you hate grits or love them, you have to admit that all we want on our team is the right mix of additives that make a winning flavor.