DIVIDE AND CONQUER

Divide and Conquer - War RoomLast night the twelve of us held our annual ancient scholars meeting. If you’re keeping score, last night was Friday and the meeting of the minds was scheduled for primetime on the east coast. The timing of the meeting may lend credence to the accusation that the overall membership has indeed acquired that state of life-development where we might reasonably conclude that all wild seeds have long since been sown.

Although we do not maintain, nor publish, any specific demographic data, I’m fairly certain that everyone in the group is at least in their mid-40’s or beyond. Knowing the age of some of the members as a matter of conjecture tips the balance of the scale. It’s a good bet that, on the whole, the group skews somewhere near, or slightly past, the given parameter for mature (even though maturity on a member by member basis could certainly come into question at times).

When I use the term scholars, I’m simply alluding to the fact that all of us are well-versed and studied in the topic for which we meet annually. We not only possess a general knowledge, but each of us also has our own specialty field in which our level of expertise is even more advanced. Each of us spends time in study prior to the meeting. And, each of us is given to strong opinion as to how the information that we have amassed should be interpreted.

As a result of last night’s meeting, we will (as individuals) spend a designated amount of time each day over the next 6 months plotting strategies to expose the fallacies that came to light as last night’s meeting progressed and eventually drew to a close. None of us are locked in, but all of us have a corner to call our own and there is sufficient wet paint on the floor around us.

GeezerThis is the annual Fantasy League Baseball Draft of a loosely-knit assembly of men from all parts of the country that shall remain nameless. I choose to not disclose the name of the league not because it is anything less than well-crafted and aptly named, I’m just respecting the general veil of anonymity that the group seems to prefer. Even within the group, some of the identities are kept hush-hush via the use of pseudonyms. I am codename Attacka The Geezers.

There are several factors that play out over the course of each meeting. I’d like to think that we’re gradually getting better at this, but each year the same issues seem to bubble to the surface regardless the diplomacy and decorum. Here’s the laundry list:

WAIT YOUR TURN –

There’s no real way around this, we have to have a selection order that provides each member with equal access to low-hanging fruit, as well as that which is still in the final stages of ripening (rookies and prospects). You would think that with the hundreds of players to choose from, there are plenty of good options available. You’d be wrong. If you asked the group to identify their #1 pick on the board, you wouldn’t get the 12 different answers needed to make for a smooth Round 1. You’d probably get a total of 4 different options, perhaps 5, but certainly not more than that.

The order of the draft is randomly set. I’m not sure how that part works, but I know alphabetically by team name isn’t a factor in the process; I was saddled with the #12 pick out of 12 teams. By the time I’d enjoyed my initial sip of iced-tea, my first choice had been taken off the board. My second and third options were also gone. By the time 11 selections had been made, I was left grasping at straws. Having the last pick of the first round means that you also get the first pick of the second round. This methodical back and forth, mow-the-lawn approach is designed to bring balance to the selection process. Overall, I’m happy with my final roster.

YOU TOOK MY GUY –

Having the advantage of back-to-back picks also means that you wait until every other member of the group has made two selections before your next turn comes back around. Simple math (11 members with 2 picks each) told me that another 22 players would be coming off of the board before it got around to me again. Seeing as how a major league squad goes to the post with only 25 players available for any given game, that becomes the equivalent of an entire dugout of position players and the majority of a team’s pitching staff.

With each double-dip selection I waded through the waters of need versus want. Certain positions on the roster must be filled, but we all have our favorite players. In my case, in an effort to keep peace and harmony in the household, I give more attention to my wife’s favorite players. This is why when Matt Carpenter was taken off the board about 20 spots higher than I envisioned, I had to lash out – “What are you doing, Cargo??? You took my guy!”

The official team name was Dangerous Cargo, but when your guy is nabbed early informal first name greetings that would imply a measure of personal connection go out the window. Immediately, I offered up a trade: an autographed book from another member in the group, some sunflower seeds, and a St. Louis Cardinals ball cap. My trade was shot down; it seems he already had the book, but not an autographed version.  He did however offer an apology. I counter offered with the sunflower seeds, which I would autograph, and the hat. Trade talks predictably broke off at that point.

Tweet - Wainwright

For the record, I did draft Kathy’s actual favorite Cardinal, Yadier Molina, a few rounds later and added @UncleCharlie50 to boot (that’s Adam Wainwright). I tweeted about the triumph; Adam is yet to respond.

FAMILIARITY BRINGS A SENSE OF COMFORT –

Aside from drafting your favorite players, there’s also this tendency to go back to last year’s proverbial well. These are players that were on the roster last year and provided some good memories along the way. There’s either a sense that they will again come through when you need it most or that they will build on last year’s success and continue to emerge as a star on the rise.

One such player for me was Christian Yelich of the Miami Marlins. According to my draft analysis notes I nabbed him a few spots too early, but considering that he would have most certainly been among the next 22 players selected had I not taken him when I did, I feel good about the pick. He played leftfield for the Marlins’ Double-A affiliate Jacksonville Suns in the first live baseball game that Kathy and I attended together as a couple. As such, he’s also a player that she pays attention to as the season progresses. Overall, I think he’s just getting better and better each year. I suspect he’ll challenge for a batting crown and be in the league MVP discussion at some point in the near future.

I also nabbed a pitcher from the Milwaukee Brewers that seemed to really hit his stride in the final months of last season. The Brewers named him their starter for Opening Day and I’m expecting big things from him. He was ranked #137 on my draft board and I got him with pick #229, which brings us to our final category of draft lore.

REACHES AND STEALS –

The overall goal is to assess player value, while projecting their appeal to other members of the consortium. Thus each player is weighted based not only on where they should be drafted, but where you actually think they might be taken. For the most part, I picked up my entire roster of starting pitchers much later in the draft than they should have been available. Part of this relates to need. Each member of the syndicate has to fill out certain roster spots with players who actually play those positions. You can’t play an outfielder at shortstop, nor can you force the third baseman on your roster to catch a few games.

I picked up Justin Verlander with my 4th overall pick (#37), when all measurable metrics indicated that he should have been among the first 10 selections of the draft. I also got Boston’s Rick Porcello with the 108th selection, when the metrics based on last year’s performance projected him as the #15 overall selection. These are what most consider to be steals. The player shouldn’t still be on the board, but for some reason he is and you’ve just got to grab him while the grabbing’s good.

I also took a few players before their assessed value dictated their selection. Texas catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, was rated #120 making him an targetable option for the 10th round; I took him in the 8th round with pick #84. I needed a quality catcher and I was certain that the ones I wanted would be gone 22 picks later. I also took Yadier Molina a little early. His value placed him in the middle of the 22nd round. I took him with pick #132, ELEVEN rounds early. What can I say? He’s my wife’s favorite Cardinal and that made him a much higher priority on my board than anyone else’s.

As the annual board meeting drew to a close, we all wished each other well and thanked the commissioner for setting things up and offering us a chance to participate. Baseball season starts in about 10 days and my 2017 squad is ready to take on all comers… or at least the 11 other members of the league. Last year The Geezers peaked in the semi-final round… this year we’re going to hike up the bigboy trousers and hobble all the way to the championship!

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