HumorMarch 6, 2008

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Behind in the Count

By Toby Mergler

If you are reading this, I want you to know one thing up front: I need you far more than you need me. This is true for two reasons. For one, I’m a new writer on this site and if you don’t read me, the Cafe overlords will get rid of me like a syringe freshly pulled from Clemens’ lying rear end. Second, and far more important: I don’t know what the heck I am doing when it comes to fantasy baseball.

If you clicked this link thinking you were going to get sound advice from a fantasy expert, you’ve been duped. Sorry, I really am. That’s not what this column is about. Instead, I plan on putting my reading public to work teaching me how to play this game. Consider me the Michael Lee to your Chris Partlow or the Sydnor to your Lester Freamon, depending which side of the Wire you prefer.

That leads me to my confession. My name is Toby and I’m a newb. I’ve never played fantasy baseball before. Not once. I’m a solid fantasy football player and have won my extremely competitive home league each of the last two years. I’m also your typical male sports addict and can talk to any other person I meet as long as they can display a passing knowledge of either their local or favorite teams. If I meet a friend’s boyfriend and he starts talking to me about how great Carl Ripken is, both of them are dead to me. It’s harsh, I know, but I’m also the same guy who had to be physically separated from a kid in college after he kept insisting that All Along the Watchtower was written by Dave Matthews. No reason to get excited? BS.

But despite my addiction to fantasy football, I’ve never gotten into fantasy baseball. I stopped meticulously following baseball soon after October 9, 1996, which was unfortunate since I grew up a huge fan. My father made it his goal to take me to every major league baseball stadium before I left for college. We made it to over 20. We also collected baseball cards together and it’s through this collection and our travels to games that I really became close with my dad. He raised me on Cal Ripken and the Oriole Way. Then Jeffrey Maier reached his arm over that wall and snatched away the Orioles’ future. They collapsed after that game and have never recovered. The same can be said for my interest in the sport.

As my team slowly destroyed itself, I distanced myself from baseball. It’s not that I can’t deal with bad years; after all I’ve been a Redskins and Wizards fan since I was born. But somehow, watching Peter Angelos destroy the Oriole Way wasn’t something I could stomach. I still followed the highlights on Sportscenter and kept up generally, but I was no longer the obsessed fan of the game I was as a kid. Besides, the more internet and video games I was exposed to, the shorter my attention span became. It’s so bad now, I had to take three breaks when writing that last sentence due to distraction. And baseball, for all its good qualities, is not the sport to watch for those that lack focus.

But that’s all about to change. I’ve decided as I’m getting older and entering the working world full time, I want to rage against time and recapture some of my youth. That means reigniting my love affair with baseball. Given my addiction to fantasy football, I figure fantasy baseball is the surest vehicle through which to update the ole encyclopedia of knowledge. Since most of my previous information was gained through playing copious amounts of RBI baseball ‘87, I’m assuming my stored up insight is useless. I doubt Cecil Fielder can still go yard every time he’s up nor can Vince Coleman get on base on every single ground ball he hits. It was seriously impossible to throw Vince Coleman out in that game. He could hit a one hopper into the barrel of an actual cannon and still beat it out.

That’s where you guys come in. My writing will not be the typical expert column that is seen throughout the fantasy sports internet stratosphere. If you want that, you are in the wrong place. There are plenty of great writers who know far more than me, especially on this site, and their advice might actually be worth following. Instead, the Admins here at the Cafe are granting me the opportunity to write and track my progress as I attempt to become an expert. In doing so, I hope to provide a little something for everyone. I hope the other newbies out there can empathize, that the self-styled experts among you will criticize and that everyone else who loves talking sports and pop culture will just enjoy the ride.

In order to do this, I need your help. I want to give each of you the chance to give me advice. I absolutely love talking fantasy sports and if you have some wisdom or if you want to debate a point or a player, I’m in. For now, I promise I will reply to every email I get and will publish the best ones with full credit. I’ve read what all the experts have to say on various sites, now I want to hear from you. I really hope some of you respond, otherwise I’m just going to be filling my inches with a lot of ignorance and pop culture nonsense. Overall, I hope to be a solid table-setter. But I’ll need a few of you to bring me around.

So that’s it for now, had to get the introduction out of the way. Usually, I will be writing once a week, but my draft is less than a week away, so I’ll be back tomorrow to give you the rundown of the league I’m playing in to get the ball rolling. Until then, here is my first tip. Rickey Henderson used to warm up by getting fully naked and standing in front of a full length mirror taking practice swings, while chanting “Rickey’s the best.” Right before your draft, you should do the same thing with your laptop. Bonus points, if everyone else has already arrived. Forget pizza, beer, and porn. Nothing will distract your opponent more for the rest of the night than the thought of you giving yourself a naked pep talk in the third-person. I don’t know much, but I do know that.

Toby Mergler is a new member of Fantasy Cafe. Before stumbling into the Cafe, he previously wrote for humor sites Nicefire and The Sports Court. He hopes to have more success here, which won't be hard since both of the other sites have gone dark. Toby can be reached by email at and can be found on the forums posting under the name heyrook_nicepiece.
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