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How I Assembled Another Eighth Place Fantasy Baseball Team

March 27, 2009 - John Whittaker

My Draft In A Nutshell

The Rules and My Roster:
For anyone who cares, the Inaugural Base Balls league, which boasts as fine a collection of owners as you will find in Chautauqua County, has an auction draft with a $300 spending limit for a typical fantasy roster. There is a five-player bench snake draft after the auction. Transactions are once a week, and free agents are handled with a weekly bid. Each player gets $100 free agent dollars for the season.
If your roster looks anything like the one below, you're in for an eighth place finish.
Trust me. I know what an eighth place team looks like.
My Roster: Geovany Soto, Mike Napoli, Garret Atkins, Howie Kendrick, Ryan Theriot, Chone Figgins, Victor Martinez, Kelly Johnson, Ichiro, Vladimir Guerrero, Adam Lind, Carlos Gomez, Josh Willingham, Jason Giambi. Pitchers: Joba Chamberlain, Matt Garza, Gil Meche, Roy Halladay, Chris Volstad, Kerry Wood, Matt Capps, Brandon Lyons, Max Scherzer.
Bench: Jose Guillen, Todd Wellemeyer, Clay Buchholz, Edwin Jackson, Wladimir Balentien.
What I Did Right
1. Task: Get Jason Giambi. Trust me, that was front and center. Mission Accomplished.
2. Task: Surround my young pitching with at least one established starter, and hopefully grab a potential staff filler in the bench draft. Check and check.
3. Task: Don't chase steals, but be aware that one of the things that held my team back last year was Chris Henderson-esque speed. Check.
4. Task: Look for power pitchers who keep people from getting on base. Check.
What I Did Wrong
1. Not Enough Power - I should have drafted at least two more outfielders with both power and speed, a la Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson or Carlos Beltran, or even keeping Elijah Dukes.
2. Not Enough Runs - My speed guys don't score enough runs. Ryan Theriot shouldn't be anywhere near my starting lineup. And Josh Willingham doesn't help me enough to make up for his lack of runs.
3. Mike Napoli - Having Victor Martinez and Geovany Soto created a position of strength at catcher. Drafting Napoli hurt me at first base/corner infield and created a logjam.
The Whitless Wonder's Record Of Futility
2004 -- seventh out of 10
2005 -- ninth out of 11
2006 -- eighth out of 10
2007 -- seventh out of 10
2008 -- eighth out of 12
2009 Prognosis -- eighth out of 12

Two months and two days before our wedding day, the News Gal got the first of her wedding presents with Jason Giambi's addition to the PuPu Platters.
You're welcome, News Gal.
With one player out of the 288 who found their way onto a roster in the Inaugural Base Balls league, I've ensured (future) marital peace, at least for the time being.
Of course, there was that other little task of putting together a team to finish higher than eighth place.
How did I fare, you might ask? If you're really curious, you're in luck. The Whitless Wonder took copious notes during the nine-hour draft, held on March 21.

Among the highlights:

  • More movie references than you can shake Seth Rogan at (Major League, Anchorman, So I Married an Ax Murderer, Billy Madison, all the Austin Powers movies, Happy Gilmore and the Godfather, to name a few).
  • Way too much guacamole (thanks, Tory, for putting that in front of me. Can I blame a poor draft on being preoccupied with stuffing my fatness?).
  • Teddy's computer crashing about 10 times, with Teddy sitting in the same spot I was using last year when my laptop crashed.
  • More than one Jesus Flores joke. Sorry, Conti. Poor Jesus Flores might get written about more in this blog than at any other time in his life. We should be sure to send this to his mother - she might want to put it in her scrapbook. A week later, and the Jesus Flores jokes are still flowing.

10 a.m.: The draft should be starting, but we're all too busy discussing our NCAA Tournament brackets. Trust me, mine was shredded at about 8 p.m. Friday night when Cleveland State knocked out Wake Forest, one of my sleeper Final Four picks. Stupid ACC.
10:08: Now we're rolling … I spent a solid 45 minutes the night before the draft firming up my gameplan and target list for the draft. I wanted one top-flight starting pitcher (C.C. Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett, Adam Wainright, Daisuke Matsuzaka) and at least three closers who should have the job all year (Mariano Rivera, Matt Capps, Mike Gonzalez, Joakim Soria, Kerry Wood, Brandon Lyon). As for my lineup, I wanted to target a few speedsters to keep me in the middle of the pack in steals, since punting the category killed me last year (Jimmy Rollins, Chone Figgins, Alfonso Soriano, Willy Tavares, Denard Span) and be sure to get at least one established catcher to go with Geovany Soto (Victor Martinez, Jorge Posada, Mike Napoli). Going in, I'm feeling pretty good.
10:15: Some people will start a player at $1, but I find that to be a waste of time when you know the guy's going for at least $40 in an auction. So, when the Alex Rodriguez bidding gets to me, that sucker gets bumped up quickly from $4 to $25. By the end of the day, this strategy gets its own name -- Whitting Up. Yeah, my name is now a verb. My mom is so proud right now.
10:19: I lose the first of my targeted players -- C.C. Sabathia -- which sucks since I'm wearing the C.C. Sabathia t-shirt the News Gal bought me for my birthday. I lose Sabathia by $1 because I just couldn't make myself go past $34. Lose enough of these auction battles, however, and there are consequences later, like a $28 Vladimir Guerrero, a $30 Ichiro or a $24 Victor Martinez. We'll find out later how this can screw up a fantasy draft.
10:19: Grub: "Hey, weren't you mad about drafting Geovany Soto for $11 last year?" Thanks Grub. I think he's buttering me up for something.
10:22: The A-Rod/A-Roid jokes are off the board! A hearty congratulations to my buddies Henderson and Grub for taking the lowest hanging fruit off the tree. Grub: "That's what, $40 for a shot of Laticane?' Hendu: I hope that injection spot didn't get infected.' Ouch. And, yes, they're talking about a key component to the Yankees 2009 season. It's always fun, by the way, when you put four or five Yankees fans in a confined space with a Red Sox, Tampa Bay and several Cleveland fans. Fun times.
10:26: With my call-up, I bring up Roy Halladay. Unfortunately for Doc, he's going to be spending another season on a listless Whitless Wonder fantasy team after I snag him with for $34. I think this is the third out of five seasons I've had Halladay. If I come up missing some day, it's either because the News Gal decided to go to the mattresses after I stunk up our bedroom again or because Halladay's tired of pitching for a fantasy loser. This pick had me feeling pretty good about my pitching staff early on - I really wanted a top-flight guy to pair with Joba Chamberlain and Matt Garza. Check.
10:28: Finn, a Yankees fan, waives goodbye to David Ortiz, who goes to TJ & Nagel for $23. You've got to love fantasy baseball. Finn has had Ortiz for about the last five seasons (he had him at a ridiculous keeper value). Frankly, I don't know how any self-respecting Yankees fan could have owned Ortiz, who is to the Yankees what Jason Voorhees is to campers at Crystal Lake. Of course, Finn can't understand how I finish eighth every year, either. Touche.
10:41: Grub buys Joe Nathan for $32 when he could have kept the Twins closer for $31. "In this year's economy…' Yeah, we're not too creative early in the morning.
10:49: The team of Palmer and Heintz (a couple of guys the Whitless Wonder used to play softball with) are getting ripped on for paying more for Adrian Gonzalez than they could have kept him for. And, yes, the Whitless Wonder is one of the rippers - until Palmer reminds me that he kept Kevin Youkilis for $12 with eligibility at first and third base. Well, P, it makes sense when you explain it like that. Bastard. Keepers are among the toughest decisions to make in this league. For example, I screwed up my team by not keeping Elijah Dukes, who I traded for last year with the express written plan of keeping for this year. Then, I talked myself out of it and eplaced him with Josh Willingham. I feel nauseous.
11:06: Teddy's having trouble with his laptop and can't figure out who to call up when his turn comes around. And …. Grub's the first to buzz in. 'Get off the porn sites.' Teddy shoots right back: "I thought that's why it keeps crashing.' Yep, these are my friends. It's amazing there aren't more computers in the room right now. Finn, Grub, Irgang and Teddy are the only ones on a laptop this year. I learned my lesson last year, when I spent the second half of the draft lost when mine crashed and wouldn't reboot. This year - it's all about the three-ring binder and a copy of Baseball Weekly's fantasy preview.
Meanwhile, I'm feeling pretty good, having picked up Ichiro for $30. Pairing him with Vladimir Guerrero, and all of a sudden, you have the makings of an outfield. So far, I've locked up Joba, Garza, Halladay, Victor Martinez, Ichiro and Guerrero - I've spent a lot of money ($137 of my $300 budget), but it's a good nucleus. Also, I've added Chris Volstad, a young Florida hurler, for $5. I wanted to have a more established player in this spot, but he kind of fell into my lap, moving Max Scherzer and his projected 172 strikeouts to the bullpen. If Volstad struggles, I might be in trouble.
11:30: Henderson snags Carlos Beltran (who the Whitless Wonder has drafted the last two years and traded after becoming increasingly annoyed with his slow starts) for $37. Finn, who is a big fan of avoiding bidding wars and looking for value, just mutters "Just when I thought you got this game…' Finn, Hendu and I have pretty much the same philosophy - look for value, don't overpay for big-name players if you can get their production elsewhere and don't chase individual categories. They stick to the plan well, and I, um, don't.
11:40: Finn's girlfriend Laura buys her first player, Matt Wieters, a rookie catcher for the Baltimore Orioles, for $11. Her first thought - 'I finally bought somebody.' Her second thought - "I hope this is this year's Geovany Soto.' Unfortunately for Laura, Wieters is starting the year in AAA. Doh!
11:59: Teddy gets Jake Peavy with a $29 bid. Good move for Teddy, bad move for Irgang's team name. Finn: "You could have named your team It Zurns When I Peavy.' That's why we keep Finn around, ladies and gentlemen. Meanwhile, I've snagged two closers that I had targeted (Wood and Capps) for a total of $38, taking me to $125 to spend and a lot of positions to fill. We're following the plan perfectly. It's just like I drew it up.
High Noon: Laura gets stuck with Huston Street when everyone gets out of the bidding earlier than she anticipated. Not that Street's a bad player, he's just hurt all the time and is pitching in Colorado this season, with a flame-throwing youngster named Manny Corpas nipping at his heels. "That messes up my whole day. Son of a (witch). I just wanted someone to buy a closer. Man, that makes me angry.' We have the first Peyton Manning Face of the draft.
1:00: After a break for a delicious lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, chicken wing dip and a chili dip made by Henderson (no wonder he's fat!) and chili, we're back to filling out rosters. After that much chili, by the way, Finn looks like he's got to poop. I'm not sure if it's constipation or intense concentration during the bidding for Francisco Liriano, who ends up going to Laura for $21. Poor Finn. At this point, he's been faced with more tough choices than most contestants on Who's Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?
1:14: Over the years, this draft has gotten bigger and bigger, to the point we might have to use a banquet room next year. Adam and Tory's house has hung in gamely through out expansion era, but between 18 people and a very large and friendly dog named Lexi, well, there's not a lot of room. And, now that the NCAA Tournament is on TV, it's kind of hard to hear bids and call-ups from the other room. Leave it to Finn to belt out the day's first: "There's a request from this room to use your big boy voice.' Maybe we should invest in walkie talkies.
1:26: Finn bows out in the bidding for Zach Greinke, who goes to Henderson for $16. "Remember that one, Henderson.' Yeah, the only thing Henderson remembers is the chili and pulled pork he had for lunch. It's funny how this dynamic works out throughout a draft day - dropping out on a player with the expectation that it will come back to you later. Some people cooperate, some don't.
1:26: Laura calls up David Price, the hot young pitcher from the Tampa Bay Rays. Best comment of the day so far is from Finn: "I think Little Teddy just moved.' Somehow, Teddy, born and raised in Western New York, has been a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan since I met him when we were 12. Then, when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were created, he was an immediate fan. Price is the best young pitching prospect to come through the bay in its history, and, despite Teddy's man crush, Price goes to Grub for $12, three days before Price gets sent to AAA to start the season.
1:43: Derek Lee goes for $20 to Hendu -- which was news to Finn, who thought we were all bidding on Derek Lowe. You've got to love Finn. A few years ago, we were drafting at his house after a night of, um, kind of extensive partying involving malted alcoholic beverages. Finn, having spent too much money early in the draft and losing interest as the day went on, fell asleep at the table only to wake up in a haze asking, "Where's my shoes?' By the way, he finished second that year by something like two points. Mental note for next year - be really hung over for the draft.
2:01: The first hundred times I saw it, I loved the Buffalo Wild Wings game where the photographer puts on the huge flash and blinds the guy coming in for a layup, followed by blinding the guy manning a t-shirt gun and hitting a player in the nuts before that guy gets hit in the head with the ball. This 2:01 showing was the sixth since the NCAA Tournament came on today, and probably the 90th time I'd seen the commercial in the last three days. Time for a new ad, guys. We're entering, "This is our countrrrrrrry' territory.
2:14: 'Um Finn, can you put that bottle on a coaster?' Adam and Tory need to give us each jobs for the draft from now on, kind of like a Joe Mayo party (put link here for Seinfeld episode). That'll teach you to drink black and tans and win the league every year. We'll distract you with coaster talk. I think, next year, I'll add a new line to my draft strategy - make sure Dennis has three full beers in front of him at all times.
2:38: The draft staple - busting a guy's balls for a bad call-up or keeper. Now, this has been going on all day. Irgang somehow can remember the keeper value for every player on every team for the last six years. I swear, it's like Rain Man. "You could have kept Gonzalez for $20. Gonzalez for $20. 10 minutes to Wapner.' It's into this lions den that Andy Conti brings up Jesus Flores, a catcher for Washington, and a pick that sends Laura to the bathroom. Ladies and gentlemen, our first $1 player of the day! I'm not sure that's how you want to fill your first catching spot, especially since you're going to hear about it the rest of the day.
As for the PuPu Platters, I've added Mike Napoli, an Anaheim catcher who has good power but hits between .240 and .250 every year. I think this is where the draft starts taking a downward spike for me. In retrospect, I overvalued Howie Kendrick (little power and middling speed) and Ryan Theriot, who I picked up for $5 but really only guarantees steals (I'd have thought he'd score more runs). All of a sudden, I'm putting myself in a hole in RBI and runs, and don't even realize it. Also, I kind of shaft myself by grabbing Adam Lind, who I could have kept last year when I had him targeted as a bench player in our snake draft. Now, I'm paying money for him. Hindsight is so 20-20.
Want to know how overspending for studs early in the draft hurts you? Here's how. After losing out on Sabathia, Jeter, Posada, Chad Billingsley, Matsuzaka, Conor Jackson, Jhonny Peralta, Alfonso Soriano and Josh Beckett because I couldn't pull the trigger, I went the extra mile on Figgins and Kendrick. I should have spent the extra money on my targeted players. But, because I was feeling poor from the guys I won, I pulled back. Now, I'm up a creek in runs, home runs and RBIs.
2:55: Finn, Henderson and I just spent about the last three minutes laughing so hard I cried. There have been a few jokes about riding the roller coaster known as player X or Y. Let's just say that joke soon turned, um, inappropriate, and can't be printed here. This happens at least once a year - the three of us laughing so hard that the two fat kids are incapacitated for 10 minutes like King Hippo taking a shot to the gut from Little Mac.
3:00: Jason Varitek ends up on Grub's team for $3. After 10 minutes of ripping Varitek for everything from his bad goatee to not being able to hit Henderson's weight, Brink quips, "I don't know who's worse, him or Flores.' It never gets old, does it Conti?
3:15: Laura wins the bidding for Brad Hawpe, who's been on my team the two years before this. Frankly, I finished eighth with him, and I want to see if I can finish eighth without him. Can it be done? Survey, and projections, say - YES WE CAN! Hell, it worked for President Obama.
3:45: Adam Wainright comes up, and the bidding for the St. Louis Cardinal pitcher escalates quickly, so Irgang gets out of the bidding, only to see everyone else get out, too, giving Finn another good pitcher for only $10. After an F-bomb, Irgang shows some class. "Good job, jerk.' It's moves like this that cement Finn's place near the top of the standings every year. His finishes the last five seasons - second in 2004; second in 2005; first in 2006; second in 2007 and and first in 2008. I mean, the kid's like Marv Levy, with championships.
3:55: Conti calls up Flores again as a joke. Finn, not skipping a beat, blurts out, "Nobody would be that stupid.' Conti's beer almost ends up all over the people sitting across the table from him for our first projectile laugh of the day. Good times.
4:10: Our first call-up of a kept player. Congratulations Grub, for not knowing that Chris Davis had been kept, and also for not catching the 10-minute, "Where Conti putting Chris Davis in his lineup' discussion earlier in the day. This is a fantasy draft staple every year, greeted with a round of applause while a flustered owner scrambles for five minutes looking for another person to call up. Good times.
As for me, I've snagged Brandon Lyon, a closer for Detroit for $6, to give me three fairly solid closers. This is a lesson I learned last year, when I took three absolutely shaky closers (Eric Gagne, Chad Cordero and Joakim Soria) only to find myself with one closer for much of the year. Between punting steals and having no closers, it was really hard to move up in the standings. Now, I've pretty guaranteed myself a middle of the pack finish in saves, and if Wood, Capps and Lyon exceed expectations, I could have the makings of a bullpen.
4:14: Just in case Finn had forgotten, Henderson makes the first, "Where's my shoes' joke of the draft.
4:15: Alex Gordon, a promising third baseman for Kansas City, goes to Henderson after an incredibly disappointing year last year for Finn. On the plus side, Gordon has a new nickname, "Fredo' Gordon, courtesy of Finn. Two years ago, Gordon cost something lik e$35. Now, he's an afterthought.
4:25: Poor Conti keeps getting it in the neck for Jesus Flores. After saying he feels bad about his bid on one player, Brink pipes up, "You should feel bad about Flores.' Ouch. It's not like he kept Tony Womack or Jake Westbrook, for crying out loud. And I wonder why I put together eighth place finishes every year.
4:28: Laura gets Chris Carpenter, who's good for at least one arm injury and three months on the disabled list this year. Her rotation, so far, is Francisco Liriano (missed all of 2007 and part of 2008 with arm issues), Justin Duchscherer (missed time last year and this spring with sore arm), Carpenter (subject of one of the worst fantasy trades ever, featuring yours truly) and Chien-Ming Wang (missed the second half of last year with a foot injury). "I've taken over my boyfriend's role as team Tommy John.'
4:57: My pitching is filled up, which means I can't even bid on any pitcher who comes up for the rest of the draft, which explains how Andy gets Rich Harden for $15. Irgang does a nice job of twisting the knife a little further, too. "You could have kept him for $5 two years ago -- instead, you kept Jake Westbrook.' Thanks, Rain Man. I think I'll shove my head through a plate glass window now.
5:02: Grub, a Reds fan, snags Aaron Harang for his starting rotation. "I've got my mandatory two Reds, and they're on my pitching staff.' Hendu: That's a good thing, in that park.' It's funny because their stadium is bad for pitchers. Hitters do good there. Thanks Fuad. (I swear that joke makes sense if you're a Family Guy fan. And yes, it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to spell Fuad, and I'm pretty sure I spelled it wrong).
5:58: Hendu, Finn and I have spent the last 10 minutes sharing stories of draft days past. It's too bad none of them are PG-rated so I can write about them.
I'm having violent thoughts about my latest $1 player, Josh Willingham. If overvaluing the two Angels on my team wasn't where this draft took a downturn, the Willingham pickup cemented it. Middle of the pack batting average, middle of the pack power, middle of the pack run production and no speed. I've just shafted myself in five categories, and all it cost me was $1. I also grabbed Kelly Johnson, the Braves second baseman, for $5 - a move I really like. Johnson is projected for 17 homers and 75 RBIs, and I think he might exceed those totals. A good $5 player.
6:01: Laura won't be trading Tim Lincecum this year. "I don't know how many times I got a trade offer for Lincecum from Andy. Tim Lincecum for, um, nothing.' Every league has one.
6:30: Finn is struggling for someone to call up, and asks my permission to bring up Giambi. Knowing that LeRoy, a big Oakland and Giambi fan, is closed out of first basemen and has a utility player. I give Finn permission to bring up Giambi, thinking I'll get him for $1 or $2, but I've forgotten one vital piece of information -- Laura always bids on Giambi, too.
Four weeks of preparation, and my fantasy baseball draft marching orders came down to this -- don't come home without Jason Giambi. With her favorite player no longer wearing Yankees' pinstripes, my job last Saturday was to make sure Giambi was on The PuPu Platters. I have $8 to spend and only one more spot to fill, so this is the time to play my ace in the hole - the News Gal Card. "Diva, you know I can't go home without Giambi. I have a honeymoon coming up, you know.' With that, Giambi is mine and my draft is completed.
Take that, Brian Cashman.
The draft went another hour, but, honestly, I think we were all seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. There was a lot less banter and a lot more fast bids as the draft moved into hour number eight. I had to miss the bench snake draft - after the fact, I picked up Jose Guillen, hoping to make up for the Willingham/Lind mistakes; Todd Wellemeyer and Edwin Jackson, one a decent starter and the latter a potential breakout pitcher; Wladimir Balentien, who I got for less than I could have kept him for and who is killing the ball this spring; and Clay Buchholz, a young Red Sox starter who has already thrown a no-hitter in the big leagues. I'll stash him and maybe get a five year keeper ace for my staff.
Eight hours. 288 players. A bowl of guacamole. Roy Halladay and Jason Giambi stay on the PuPu Platters. That, my friends, is a long afternoon of work.
I think I might know how Jonny Flynn felt at the end of the Connecticut/Syracuse game.


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