Joe Lavin

June 21, 2005

Baseball Infidelity

This is my first year playing fantasy baseball, and as a Red Sox fan I don't entirely like what it has done to me. Despite my best efforts, my fantasy team does not consist entirely of Red Sox players, and as a result I have felt vaguely disloyal all season long.

I am used to rooting for the Sox while rooting against the Yankees and anyone else in Boston's way. During most years, the National League is but a rumor. I'm a hometown fan, and I'm proud of it. Now, though, I find myself having to cheer for the non-Red Sox players on my team, and it just seems wrong. Unfortunately, there is only a finite amount of time one can spend on baseball, and this year I am using part of that time following my fantasy team rather than my real team. At times, it feels almost as if I am cheating on the Red Sox.

It's easy to start rooting for the wrong things when you play fantasy baseball. For example, once when Bret Boone of the Seattle Mariners (and more importantly my fantasy team) drove in a run against the Red Sox in one game, I caught myself thinking, "Well, at least it was one of my guys who did the damage," rather than the more appropriate "@#$%ing Boone! I hate that @#$%ing family!"

I am not entirely disloyal, of course. The online league I joined had an auto-draft this spring, which is good because otherwise I would have probably selected all Red Sox players. While I had limited control over the draft, I did have the power to exclude certain players. My first step? Exclude all current Yankees. My next step? Exclude anyone who had ever played for the Yankees, except, of course, for new Sox pitcher David Wells. My third step? Exclude anyone who is even rumored to be traded to the Yankees this season. Sure, this seemingly eliminated half the league, but that is just the price to pay for an honorable victory. Winning just wouldn't feel right, if it came because of Yankee players.

The Yankees aren't my only problem. Some of my players, like Vladimir Guerrero and Hank Blalock, are on teams that could conceivably be fighting the Red Sox for a playoff spot. Should I extend my no-Yankee policy to cover potential wildcard rivals? I want to be loyal, but how loyal is too loyal? You know, I wouldn't mind winning the league as well.

Already, just to avoid conflicts of interest, I have taken to benching my players when they face Boston, although I don't always remember to do this. Once, I completely forgot to bench Angel's reliever Scot Shields when he was playing Boston. Sure, I was delighted when Johnny Damon won the game with a three-run double, but did it have to be against my pitcher?

Here's the real problem. Fantasy baseball is addictive. Somehow, I can't stop myself from fiddling with my team. So far this season, I've already made over thirty personnel moves, and I'm just getting started. So what if the next highest person in the league has made only half as many moves as me? I don't care. Not a week goes by when I'm not dropping some player. Yes, I am running my rotisserie team like, well, a rotisserie team. Unfortunately, though, all this wheeling and dealing is taking time away from a much more important fantasy activity: imagining trades that the Red Sox ought to be making. How can I second-guess the general manager when I'm too busy running my own team?

There's another potential problem. Lately, no one else in the league seems willing to make any trades with me. Are they intimidated by my extreme fantasy prowess, or do they just happen to have lives? It's tough to tell, but I'm starting to worry. What if in the real world one of my players is traded to the Yankees? How will I unload him if no one in the league will trade with me? I just hope that none of my best players are forced into pinstripes. It would be a shame to lose this year just because I had to cut one of my best players, if through no fault of his own he were suddenly to become a Yankee.

Completely necessary, of course, but still a shame.

©2005 Joe Lavin

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