Baseball After Retirement

I have played fantasy baseball on Yahoo since 1999. (That’s the year Quaker State paid their entire accounting department huge money for nine months to do little more than nothing.) I picked up a lot of Excel while learning the tricks and nuances of this game. Fantasy baseball is my link to pre-retirement; it’s something I did while working that I need to keep up with for a while. Baseball has always been a more statistically measured game than football or basketball. Everybody thinks hitting .300 means this player is a good hitter, and that RBIs are the mark of clutch players. Everybody thinks that, and they’re all wrong.

If you doubt my statement on batting average, think back to the movie Bull Durham. Crash Davis (Costner) expounds on what it takes to get promoted to the majors: “Hit .300: you’re a star, and you’ll go to The Show. Hit .250? You’re in the minors for life. The difference between .300 and .250 is one hit a week. It could be one seeing-eye grounder. Or one easy fly when the outfielder breaks the wrong way off the bat. Or a hard grounder that hits second base just before the shortstop can field it. That’s the difference, and that difference is luck.”

A new industry, called sabremetrics, has grown up around fantasy baseball. It involves esoteric statistics designed to measure luck. Sabremetrics reveals players who are over- or under-valued by the fantasy community. A few days ago I used sabremetrics to trade for an All-Star off to a terrible start whose owner had already given up on him. I offered next to nothing. This season is too young to use its results to evaluate talent (17 games are on the books with 145 to go, per team.) In horse racing terms, I did a deal where my team gets Secretariat and his team gets Hoof Hearted. I made the offer expecting a counteroffer, and to have to do hard negotiating from there. To my surprise, he accepted the offer. To my further surprise, the league vetoed it.

Their veto came from pure and simple envy. It ruined my day and mood for 36 hours. But the sun keeps coming up, and at length it occurred to me that I now have the rest of the season to seek revenge.

This could be fun.

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