March 2009

Welcome (Back) To The Show!

Hey everyone!  Welcome back!  Good to see you again!  How was your summer?

Back in what kids call “the day,” I seemingly had this conversation on an infinite loop at the start of each new school year.  At first, the question would elicit an automatic response of “Fine, how was yours?”  But that eventually bored me, and it was clear that no one cared about my answer, so I started making up elaborate lies.

Sometimes, I’d tell people about how I spent the previous three months attempting to be raised by wolves (even though I was already grown up, I’d find some wolves, act out toward them and wait for them to parent me).  Other times, I’d describe how I’d spanned the globe playing a life-action game of “Where’s Waldo?” (that’s where you repeatedly approach strangers to ask if they’re named Waldo, and no matter what their answer, you simply say “There you are!” before briskly walking away). And on some occasions, I’d abruptly stop talking because I’d realize all my friends were imaginary and even they didn’t care about my answer to what’s basically a rhetorical question.

zackmorris.jpgBut now as we kick off another fantasy baseball campaign and another year for Welcome To The Show, I can’t help but flash back to the first day of school.  Last year, I was the new kid, full of nerves, lost in a new place, just trying not to get beat up too badly.  I knew only Zack Morris can dominate a school from Day 1, so I spent most of my time just trying to survive. (Seriously, how did he run Bayside as a freshman?  Where were the upperclassmen?  If I had tried to pull that crap, I would’ve ended up tied to the goal post wearing nothing but my underwear and the mascot head.  Again.)

I’m a sophomore now, though.  I’ve acclimated to my surroundings, made a few friends (real ones!) and learned some valuable lessons that I can carry forward into this year (like who plays for what team).  I’m clearly ready to take on the big boys.

So what am I doing here?  Glad you asked.  Last year in Welcome To The Show, I attempted to answer the all-important question: “What’s it like to be a newbie in the world of fantasy baseball?”  Now, it would be a little weird if I tackled that topic year after year, but luckily the good folks at Major League Baseball invited me back to take on a new question: How does one become a fantasy baseball “expert?”

In the last decade, there has been a true explosion in fantasy sports.  The boom brought about a lot of good things (something to do at work between coffee breaks, increased communication with old friends, an outlet for my obsessive nature that’s not “Saved by the Bell”) and a few bad things (the deep-seated emotional conflict that occurs when watching your fantasy players battle against your favorite real baseball team, hurt feelings over controversial trades, Dave Feldman).  But for me, nothing has been more interesting than the cottage industry that has sprung up to provide advice to fantasy players worldwide.

Personally, I’m full of questions.  Where did these experts come from?  How did they get where they are?  Why should fantasy owners listen to them?  What will happen first — Andruw Jones making another All-Star team or Nic Cage reading a script before agreeing to a role?  And, perhaps most importantly, how does a person become one of them?  By the end of this year, I hope to have answers to all these questions and more. 

Fred-Lynn-thumb.jpgIn an effort to get to the bottom of things, I’ve entered into one of those mysterious “expert leagues” that you often hear about.  This league is run by Fantasy Baseball Search and is comprised of a dozen guys who do this for a living … and me.  Oh, and Fred Lynn.  I’m virtually certain this is the only industry league in the country that also features a former Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year, so it’s got that going for it.  Which is nice.

So this year’s series will focus on my experiences in and out of the league as I both attempt to answer the above questions and become an expert myself.  In the end, you’ll get to see a fantasy baseball expert built from the ground up.  Or you’ll get to see a blowhard fail miserably (and publicly) at his goals, crushing his remaining spirit.  Either way, should be fun. 

I’m quite excited for the year, and I hope you are, too.  For those of you who are fans of last year’s column (i.e., everyone who is friends with me on Facebook who clicked on the link so I’d leave them alone), you’ll be happy to know it will now be running five days a week here in this space.  Tomorrow, we’ll be here with a recap of the draft, the highlight of which (and/or my entire life) might have been this popping up on the chat screen.

Fred Lynn:  Nice pick Toby. 

Ummm, thank you, Red Sox and Orioles legend.  How is it possible you know who I am again?

Details on this and other embarrassing moments tomorrow.  Until then, Welcome (back) To The Show.