Page 2 columnist
Since the most common e-mail received by me in recent weeks was "Did you have your fantasy baseball draft yet?", we're devoting today's space to last weekend's draft, a momentous affair for two reasons: A.) I'm threatening to pass into the "Who the hell are some of these guys?" phase of my fantasy career, and B.) my father and I decided to team up again this spring, maybe the most emotional reunion since Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada donned their motorcycles helmets for "CHiPs '99."
Of course, he doesn't know any of these guys, either.
How did we get here? Back in the 1980s, Dad and I teamed up for five championships in nine years, driving teams out of our league and prompting one of our rivals to quip to Dad, "I feel like I helped pay for your kid's college degree." Those were the days. I spent entire weekends charting positions, scouring for sleepers, re-charting players and preparing for every possible draft scenario. Dad consistently plucked three or four sleepers out of thin air, like he was Scatman Crothers in "The Shining." Honestly, it was unfair. We were twice as good as everyone else.
So they split the Simmons Brothers up (that was our team name). Over the next 12 years, Dad ended up winning just one championship, while I took home a potpourri of second- and third-place finishes and basically pulled a Marv Levy. I'd like to claim that we reunited for the father-son bonding, but it was mainly because the Internet era has pretty much flummoxed Dad -- once we started running our league through the Internet, instead of asking things like, "Who has an extra outfielder?", he was asking things like, "What's my password again?" and "What happens if I click my mouse on that blue line?"
Anyway, we're back together. Since our league allows us to protect three players from the previous season and their 2001 salaries, we kept my 2001 team (coming off a third place finish) and protected Manny Ramirez ($37), Rich Aurilia ($6) and Placido Polanco ($1). Before the draft, we traded Aurilia for Nomar Garciaparra ($30), giving us two Boston players (always fun during a 162-game season) and putting our payroll at $68 -- in other words, with a $200 bankroll, we only had $132 to spend on our other 12 starters during the auction.
That means we had to be prudent. Here were the other teams, payroll and protected players heading into the draft: JackO, $64 (Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, Luis Gonzalez); Gus, $39 (J.D. Drew, Juan Pierre, Jeff Bagwell); Chipper, $29 (Paul Lo Duca, Lance Berkman, Juan Gonzalez); the Mud Hens, $47 (Roberto Alomar, Ray Durham, Jim Thome); Cort & Mike, $53 (Ichiro Suzuki, Jorge Posada, Scott Rolen); Ryan, $89 (Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa, Jimmy Rollins); Anthony, $29 (Brian Giles, Rafael Palmeiro, Phil Nevin); Joe, $32 (Aurilia, Moises Alou, Mike Sweeney); and Chris, $35 (Gary Sheffield, Jason Varitek, Corey Koskie). In other words, we already wielded the second-highest payroll and the draft hadn't even started yet.
Of course, the key to any fantasy draft? Jokes. Lots of jokes. Putdowns and insults of every kind. So between that and the emotional reunion of Team Simmons, that certainly warranted a running diary of last Saturday's draft, held in the back room of a clandestine watering hole in Cambridge, Mass.
Without further ado ...
12:30 -- Dad and I quickly convene for a quick game plan: A) I'll handle the bidding; B) we'll stay cautious during the beginning and hope people chew up their money banks; C) we're targeting Shawn Green, Paul Konerko, Mike Cameron, Jacque Jones, David Eckstein, Eric Chavez and Juan Uribe as "Guys We Definitely Want"; and D) we're making sure the two favorites (Chipper and the Mud Hens) have full beers in front of them at all times.
(It's all part of my full-scale sabotage plan against Chip -- last year's defending champ -- that also included: Drinking beer for eight-plus hours with him on Friday night; forcing him to sleep on an uncomfortable sofa-bed that same night; buying him decaffeinated coffee on Saturday morning and telling him it was regular; and casually tossing him this month's Maxim and Playboy magazines as he tried to make last-minute preparations for the draft. Hey, you do what you have to do.)
12:35 -- In the first bid of the day, Anthony lands Bonds for $42, as somebody quips, "I think that's his age, too." Nobody knows how to feel. On the bright side, you get Barry Bonds, 60-70 homers and an OPS that's higher than my freshman year GPA for just $42. On the flip side, if you get Bonds, you actually have to root for him. The proverbial Catch-22.
12:35 -- Every draft has "The Guy Who Feels His Fantasy Money Burning a Hole In His Pocket." Ours is Joe House. He just opened the bidding for A-Rod at $35. During last year's draft -- our first-ever auction format -- somebody would bid $10 for a player, it would rise to $14, and then an over-eager House would come in with "thirty-seven!" By the end of the draft, he had something like $8 left to spend on six players. Honestly, is anything more fun than a baseball fantasy auction? I mean, anything?
12:36 -- The Mud Hens land A-Rod for an astonishing $48. Nobody has ever won our draft with A-Rod; it's just like real life. A hyperventilating House quickly follows by paying $38 for Pudge Rodriguez, prompting a round of "Quieres un mas burrito, Pudge?"-type jokes (since Pudge looks like he ate Bill Haselman over the winter). Who is Pudge's personal trainer, Matthew Perry?
12:45 -- The Yankees fans in the room (Chris, Anthony, JackO) bid Jason "Don't call me Tino" Giambi up to $38 before Cort & Mike swoop in and grab him.
(I have very few rules in a fantasy draft, but here's one: Try to get as many Yankees fans in the room as possible. They just aren't rational. For instance, JackO protected Jeter for last year's price of $47, or one dollar less than A-Rod ... even while fully admitting that Jeter would never go higher than $40 on the open market. "I just want to make sure I got him again," he told us. Gotta love Yankees fans.)
12:50 -- JackO takes Mike Piazza at $40, setting off a round of "Hey, the first guy with a limp has been taken!" jokes. We're especially negative this year. Too bad Chuck Finley won't get taken today; all hell would have broken loose.
12:52 -- Desperate for a Yankee, Chris pulls a Joe House and bids $28 for Bernie Williams (up from $20) as everyone else laughs raucously. Classic rookie fantasy mistake (and he's a rookie franchise in our league, as we keep reminding him). At this point, Anthony is so desperate for a Token Yankee, he would bid $5 for Thurman Munson. This couldn't be playing out any better. I want to participate in a 10-team baseball auction with nine Yankees fans before I die.
12:54 -- Already on his second beer, Chip bids $21 for Johnny Damon. This could be the quickest fall for a defending champ since the '98 Marlins took the field.
12:55 -- "I like our team," Dad jokes.
1:04 -- The highlight of the draft so far: Anthony starts the bidding at $5 for Ben Grieve ... and everyone else in the room gives him a collective, "He's all yours!" smile. You have to love when that happens. That was about $5 higher than I had Grieve rated -- he's like this generation's Dave Stapleton, a k a, the "Guy Who Inexplicably Gets Worse Every Season." In five years, he'll be hitting .120.
1:05 -- Someone introduces Ryan Klesko for $4, as Chris whispers, "The password is, career year." Chip ends up prevailing for $14 in a bidding war with Gus, who has entered three bidding wars so far and backed off every time. "Chip just called you a wuss under his breath," Ryan tells him.
(That's Rule No. 1 in a fantasy auction: Question everyone else's manhood as much as possible. You want that eBay mentality to sink in -- "I know I shouldn't bid this much, but there's no way I'm losing another bidding war." And then it's all over.)
1:10 -- Anthony gets Junior Griffey at $23 (with a $4 option on the fork sticking out of Griffey's back). That sets off a round of catcalls about Anthony's outfield -- which now includes Grieve and Griffey -- leading to this exchange:
-- JackO: "Anthony's team name this year is 'Grieving.'"
-- Anthony: "Hey, Ben Grieve will hit at least .280 this season."
-- Me: "Yeah, in Triple-A."
1:13 -- Chipper wins a spirited bidding war with Team Simmons for Sean Casey, who has assumed Cliff Floyd's role as the Tantalizing Potential MVP Candidate Who Can't Seem To Put It Together. I'm almost as glad we didn't get him as I am that we did get him, if that makes sense. That's followed by Joe House nabbing Vlad Guerrero for $40, even though Vlad has Roger Dorn and Jake Taylor batting behind him in Montreal this season. House doesn't care. "Vlad and Pudge!" he exults. "Heeee-yahhhhh!"
1:15 -- Dad becomes concerned: "I hope we don't run out of good players ... are you sure about this wait-and-see strategy?" Within 20 seconds, he's asking "Who does he play for?" about Cristian Guzman and animatedly thumbing through books and magazines. Unfortunately, this was the same chain of events that led to Red Auerbach recommending Joe Forte as the No. 21 pick of last year's NBA draft.
1:18 -- The beers are loosening up everyone. Mo Vaughn goes for $12, setting off a round of "Mo chicken wings!" and "Mo pizza!" jokes. Bret Boone goes for $20 as the steroid jokes fly. We even bully Chipper (a Brewers fan) into Richie Sexson for $19, as well as a third beer. Within an hour, he'll be accidentally knocking bottles over and bidding $20 for Geoff Jenkins. At least that's our goal.
(When you think about it, it's a shame that this month's NFL draft won't feature every GM sitting in the same room and buying rounds for each other -- that would be the most mesmerizing TV program this side of "The AVN Awards." Can you imagine? These are the things that the XFL should have done.)
1:20 -- Antsy for players, Dad and I half-heartedly join the bidding for Larry Walker and Jason Kendall, finally landing our boy Chavez for $26. Fair price. We couldn't be more pleased, even after Chipper gleefully reports, "Chavez missed last night's game with a bad back," and JackO adds, "Well, at least a bad back is something that doesn't chronically affect you." What goes around comes around.
1:25 -- While we break to order pizza, everyone takes turns making fun of Chris for bidding $28 on Williams. We decide to change his team name to "Thanks For The 200 Bucks."
1:30 -- The second-tier names are going fast: Carlos Beltran for $18; Bobby Abreu for $31; Chipper Jones for $29; Troy Glaus for $26. With everyone terrified of having leftover money at the end of the draft, the prices are skewing upward. As an added bonus, there was some bitterness after Gus objected to an unintentional delay during the Chipper Jones bidding. It's not officially a fantasy draft until someone is pissed off at somebody else.
1:33 -- After Preston Wilson goes for $13, Chip babbles to JackO, "You just got a 30-30 guy for $13." Of course, Wilson had 23 homers and 20 stolen bases last season. We quickly send House to the bar to buy Chip another Bud Light.
1:36 -- JackO bids $6 for Omar Vizquel ... and nobody bites. That's always fun. JackO calls the lack of interest in Vizquel "troubling." Then he eagerly snaps up Edgar Martinez for $12 and a complimentary glass of formaldehyde.
1:40 -- Luis Castillo goes for $17 to Anthony as my Dad asks, "Vinny Castillo?" We could be in some serious trouble here. I thought Dad would be serving as the Vito Corleone to my Michael Corleone -- sage advice, a calming influence, an eerie knowledge of what lies ahead. Instead, he's practically stumbling around with an orange in his mouth. And I did no preparation whatsoever. Other than that, we're in pretty good shape.
1:45 -- Finally, a break for the Simmons Brothers. Prepared to spend $35 on Shawn Green, we end up getting him for $26 (and only because nobody had the money to keep bidding with us). A five-tool superstar costing less than Abreu, Albert Pujols, Bernie Williams and Chipper Jones? I'm giddy. These are the breaks that help you win fantasy drafts.
1:50 -- After Frank Thomas goes to Cort & Mike for $12, Chris sums up everyone's feelings by pointing to our big draft board and says, "I like how you wrote him in as 'F. Thomas' -- you'll be saying that all season."
(That was the first move all afternoon that had everyone nodding appreciatively, like something special had just happened. Everyone loves Ordoñez this season. He has MVP written all over him.)
2:02 -- An Edgardo Alfonzo bidding war leads to Gus (a huge Mets fan) shelling out $23 ... a little high for someone who hit .243 last season. Then again, he finally landed a Met. "Fonzie's hitting .340 this season," Gus promises. He's in a better mood. It's like everyone has to overpay/overrate one person from their favorite team ... and yes, I'm including the Simmons Brothers shelling out $37 for Manny Ramirez.
2:06 -- After Jim Edmonds goes for $14 and Shannon Stewart goes for $17, Chris leans back and throws up his hands: "It's official ... I overpaid for Bernie Williams." He's ruined for the day. Stick a fork in him.
2:08 -- House opens and closes the bidding for Joe Randa at $4, amidst a cacophony of giggles. Even Mrs. Randa wouldn't have bid $4 for Joe Randa. Highlight of the draft so far.
2:10 -- The laughs keep coming. After the Simmons Brothers bow out of the Javy Lopez bidding before it reaches $12, a disappointed Gus quips, "You should have gone for Javy -- between him and Shawn Green, you could have called your team 'Javy Nagila.' "
2:14 -- Time for a pizza break, another thing the NFL draft should incorporate. This is usually when drafts are won and lost, right after the pizza break -- people are more concerned about things like "Should I have a sixth slice?" and "I can't believe I just got tomato sauce all over my notes," and their concentration invariably slips. A savvy Gus avoids the pizza entirely.
2:17 -- After we decide to retire "The Simmons Brothers" as a team name and head in another direction, Dad rejects all my ideas for potential team names -- Swollen Glands, Epiphany, The Unmolested Altar Boys, Lotion in the Basket, Manny-zuma's Revenge, The Nomaritorium, Leave It To Beaver and Simmons Collage -- before we settle on "Absolutely Adequate" (one of Artie's funniest lines from the late, great "Larry Sanders Show"). Kinda sums up our team: Absolutely Adequate. But there's still time.
|***** ***** *****|
2:20 -- Back from the pizza break. Either the prices or the talent have dropped dramatically ... maybe it's a little of both. Jose Vidro and his fractured collarbone go for $12. Raul Mondesi and his dog leash go for $9. And Dad and I reel in Jacque Jones for $3. Unfortunately, that was our opening bid. Could we have gotten him for $1? I'm rattled. Dad gives me one of those condescending grimaces and says, "You should have just bid $1." Yeah, thanks.
2:26 -- Somehow Chipper lures Absolutely Adequate into a mindless bidding war for Adam Dunn, this year's Rookie Sensation Du' Jour. We have the extra money to spend, while Chipper is working on his fifth Bud Light. It's a scary match-up. The bidding climbs to $16 before we finally bow out. Sixteen bucks for a rookie? Sixteen??? Weird things happen after the pizza break.
2:28 -- Mike Lowell has clearly replaced John Kruk as "The guy whose name sparks the most inappropriate round of jokes at a fantasy draft." We're having a ball right now. He just went for $2. That's quickly followed by House paying $20 for Jeff Kent. Varrroooom! Varroooooom! "I wouldn't have taken Kent if this draft lasted for 300 rounds," Dad jokes. We're getting along again after the Jacque Jones debacle.
2:35 -- Chip wraps up his draft by bidding $3 for Darrin Fletcher, then adjourns to the bar to buy another round. With his team settled, he's ready to settle into his new role of "Inebriated Guy Who Makes Outlandish Comments After Every Pick."
Meanwhile, Cort & Mike quickly grab Tony Batista for $2, leading to this actual exchange:
-- Cort (to Ryan): "You had him last year, right?"
-- Ryan: "We paid $24 for him ... I wish I could drive a stake through his heart."
2:39 -- Everyone hoarding money for the second half of the draft (namely, Ryan, Gus, Cort & Mike and Me & Dad) comes to the same horrifying conclusion: The list of good players is running thin.
Suddenly Raffie Palmeiro goes for $25, even though he's 47 years old. A little bit later, Orlando Cabrera goes for $19 (huh???), and Eckstein goes for $12. Dad and I are so desperate for players, we snag Damian Miller for $2 and add Fernando Viña for $12, even though we hadn't discussed either of them before the draft. We still have $60 left. Uh-oh.
2:42 -- In the most incredible moment of the draft, Anthony gets somebody named A.J. Pierzynski for $12. That's right, $12. We're speechless. Anthony has been a mess ever since his computer ran out of power 20 minutes ago, causing him to lose his Excel draft board. Why did the computer run out of power? Because he never plugged it in. And here's the kicker: Anthony is an executive for Microsoft. You couldn't make this stuff up.
2:46 -- Finally, another break for Absolutely Adequate: We land Tony Clark for a measly $1, followed by Richard Hidalgo at $4 and Uribe for $13. Vegas quickly sets an over-under for "75" for "Number of times my dad will call Juan Uribe 'Jose' over the next six months."
2:50 -- Two hours after the $28 bid on Bernie Williams, a still-rattled Chris bids $3 for Adam Everett -- the first time anyone has ever acquired a player for defensive purposes in an all-offense fantasy league. Apparently, Mark Belanger was next on his list. Poor Chris is an absolute shell at this point. He's been reminded of Bernie roughly 700 times today.
2:55 -- Playing the role of "Fantasy Draft Auctioneer," an inebriated Chipper punctuates every draft pick with comments like, "You just got a $5 player for $2!" "That guy should have gone for at least 15!" Not only is Chipper the most annoying guy in the room, he also probably picked the best team. I couldn't hate him anymore right now. It's not possible.
(That's all right, we'll get him back later tonight if he passes out before everyone else. Let's just say a camera and an "Official Member of NAMBLA" T-shirt will be involved. Good times.)
2:58 -- You know you're getting old when Barry Larkin comes and goes for a dollar near the end of a fantasy draft.
2:59 -- More good luck for Absolutely Adequate: We land Konerko for the staggering price of $14. Nobody else had the leeway to go higher. Our strategy worked! And since we landed our four main targets (Green, Konerko, Uribe and Chavez) for just $80 combined, that provides extra cash for an upper-level second baseman, so we quickly overpay for Todd Walker (a potential Breakout Guy, either his stats or his skin).
Only one target remains: Seattle outfielder Mike Cameron, who seems ready to make The Leap. He's the last good player on the board. Literally. All the other good guys have been snapped up. And since we have the most money left out of anyone who needs an outfielder, we should be able to land him for $14 or less. The Simmons Brothers aren't dead yet.
3:04 -- We introduce Cameron for $1. Cort & Mike quickly raise to $2. And we go back and forth ... and back and forth ... and back and forth.
(Hey, wait a second.)
(How much money do those guys have left?)
(Time to find out.)
"Fourteen," I say.
"Fifteen," they say.
|Absolute Adequate's roster|
1B -- Paul Konerko, $14
1B -- Tony Clark, $1
2B -- Todd Walker, $16
2B -- Fernando Vina, $12
3B -- Eric Chavez, $26
3B -- Placido Polanco, $1
SS -- Nomar Garciaparra, $30
SS -- Juan Uribe, $13
C -- Damian Miller, $2
C -- Mike Rivera, $1
OF -- Manny Ramirez, $37
OF -- Shawn Green, $26
OF -- Richard Hidalgo, $4
OF -- Jacque Jones, $3
OF -- Jeremy Giambi, $1
As it turned out, we had miscalculated Cort & Mike's total: They had about $30 left ... sending our perfect draft up in smoke. Dad looks like he was sucker-punched. I suddenly have the Byung-Hyun Kim Face going. We can't believe it.
3:08 -- Instead of acquiring our final target for $14 or less -- a potential 40-40 guy if puts everything together this season -- we eventually end up with Jeremy Freaking Giambi for just a dollar, completing our roster and leaving $13 on the table in the process. Put it this way: Leaving more than $10 on the table in a fantasy draft is like leaving Vegas with more than $100 of casino chips in your pocket. In other words, it can't happen under any circumstances.
3:25 -- Dad and I are still shaking our heads. Glancing at our roster, we're one good player short from being a genuine contender.
Yup ... somebody had out-snookered the vaunted Simmons Brothers, back together after all these years. Absolutely adequate indeed.
Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.