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Why I Abhor Fantasy Baseball
I did the research, I scheduled the drafts, I suffered the disappointment of getting snaked on players I wanted by one or two picks, I assembled my teams. I was looking forward to the start of the season and rooting for my players.
But before going to bed Friday night I read Kenley Jansen (three of four leagues) left the mound with a trainer. This is before the year has even started! It turns out Jansen was just lightheaded, but I had forgotten over the offseason what it’s like to worry over random bullshit that happens virtually every week.
A day later, I read that Luis Severino (my No. 2 starter in the Main Event) has a lat strain. Of course he has a lat strain, he’s a flat tire of flat tires. I only drafted him because the pitching got absurdly pushed up in my league, more than almost any other. I didn’t want that walking DL stint on my most important team.
The same day, I learn Wander Franco (three of four leagues) is scratched from the lineup with quad soreness. WTF? WTFF? The guy just turned 22. Why is he already hurt? Now he needs an MRI? Apparently the MRI results were good, and he could still be ready for Opening Day, but how do I know he won’t aggravate the injury again? He had the same problem last year too.
And Raisel Iglesias (who Jeff Erickson forced me to draft) is already on the DL with shoulder problems.
I find fantasy football injuries far more tolerable (except for the time Saquon Barkley was playing great off the previous season’s ACL tear and then randomly stepped on someone’s foot and rolled his ankle after the play was over in the Dallas game two years ago. That was beyond intolerable. A better man would have defenestrated in protest.) Football is a sport where the mechanism of injury is obvious — you’re getting crushed by jacked, fast psychos, coming to kill you. It’s what you sign up for, and what you expect. If people didn’t get hurt, it wouldn’t be football.
But baseball injuries are hard to take. Professional athletes at age 22 straining a muscle while running the bases? Tearing an oblique while swinging a bat? I can respect hit-in-the-face-by-a-pitch or full-speed collision in the outfield with a player’s head or the wall or even a pitching injury like Tony Saunders when he Theismanned himself. But those are the exceptions. Most of what we deal with are garden-variety strains, bumps and bruises.
Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken didn’t miss a game for decades, and now players get routine days off even when they’re young and completely healthy. From 1973-74, Nolan Ryan pitched 52 complete games despite walking 364 batters! In 2008, Jamie Moyer pitched 196 innings at age 45. Only eight pitchers exceeded that total last year!
Rotisserie baseball used to be the “fantasy” that you were a GM/manager running an MLB organization for youself, but now you’re also the team trainer, physician, physical therapist and in some cases psychologist. Thank God no one cares about covid anymore — there was time you had to be an epidemiologist too, and not one of those fake ones on Twitter, but someone who actually had to know what he was doing to manage your roster appropriately.
Every offseason, I want nothing to do with the hell that is fantasy baseball, but by late-February/early-March, I get the bug again and forget why. For the entire month of March, I’m racking my brain to configure my teams like it’s 1999, conveniently forgetful of what’s coming. I even scoff at the chumps who drafted Edwin Diaz and Rhys Hoskins, as if what happened to them isn’t coming for me.
But it’s always coming for you, and in 2023 with all the technology, all the advances in medicine and training, the players are more brittle than ever. You’ve invested in a fleet of Ferraris for an off-road free-for-all. Most of them won’t hold up, and you know it. It’s why I draft old battle-tested starters and closers. They break too, but at least they’re mentally tough.
I outsourced my teams this year because I can’t take the grind, and I’m already glad I did. I have no interest in cleaning up baseball’s current mess in my spare time. But I underestimated how much I’d still be living and dying with the health of my players, even after my work was completely done. Maybe I’ll care less once the season actually starts.