Well, it’s Opening Day and right about now, those of us with even a passing interest in baseball are wishing we weren’t stuck at work, and could instead be sitting in the sun, scarfing down overpriced hot dogs, and downing gallons of delicious and really overpriced beer, watching America’s pastime: football. But since it’s not football season, and Syracuse University doesn’t have a baseball team, we’re forced to enjoy America’s other favorite pastime by living vicariously through skilled athletes by way of fantasy baseball.
This year, several members of the Otto’s Grove family have joined up as part of a fantasy baseball league, and as part of a running feature through the summer I’ll be providing you updates on just how badly we’re doing, right up until around the time we all suddenly realize that, holy crap, the baseball season is so freaking long, you guys, and start gearing up for preseason football.
For me, this is a pretty exciting time to be a baseball fan. That’s because I’m a fan of the Washington Nationals, and have ever since they were the Montreal Expos. See, I was born about 10 minutes from the Canadian border in Vermont, and while everyone else was quick to support the Boston Red Sox, I decided to look north of the border for my favorite team. It helped that I went to about 10 times as many Expos games as a kid as I did games at Fenway, of course.
And let me tell you, rooting for the Expos was rough. Every time we had good players, they’d bolt for paychecks at the first opportunity, and the one year we were poised to challenge for a World Series title, there was this little thing called the “baseball strike of 1994.” And then, the team moved to Washington and became the Nationals. A lot of fans, understandably, bailed on the team since they were no longer really the Expos. I stuck with the Nats, and those first few seasons were understandably rough. But then, a few seasons of ineptitude led to something magical: the number one pick in back to back years that just so happened to coincide with once in a generation-type talents.
The fact that the Nats were able to get Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and found themselves under the kind of ownership that doesn’t mind spending a little money, gave immediate hope to the franchise, and it’s finally starting to pay off. As a lifelong Expos fan, I’m obviously still dreading the days that Strasburg and Harper come up for free agency because my time as a Montreal fan has left me jaded toward the prospect of keeping young talent. But this could be the year. Finally, a baseball team I root for could actually win a World Series.
And that will be nearly as sweet as my victory in the Syracusefan.com Fantasy Baseball League. Myself, Justin Roe, Sterling Thomas, and the co-managed team of Adam Chisom and Jay Hill will be a part of a 12 team league, and because I’m the guy writing this I’m going to go ahead and say that my team, simply named “Otto’s Grove,” will be the official team of this website. Those other guys are just along for the ride in this fantasy league.
Last week, we had the draft, for which I’d done about as much research as a UNC football player in a Swahili class. I wound up with the second pick, and because Mike Trout was obviously taken first, I jumped on Andrew McCutchen as quickly as possible. This marks the third straight year in which I’ve made McCutchen my top pick in the various leagues I’ve been part of. I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for the Pirates, especially since they have my absolute favorite ballpark in the Majors. Oh, and also I took him because he’s absurdly good at baseball.
After that, my Nationals bias started to creep through, as I took shortstop Ian Desmond with my second pick, and then went to the West coast to find some pitching in the form of Madison Bumgarner. Living in Texas for the past 10 years, my perspective has also been a little skewed, leading me to select Ian Kinsler in the fourth round. It was at this point I realized two of my top four picks were named Ian, and frankly, that just can’t be a good sign. Right?
Mets pitcher Matt Harvey was next, followed by Chicago Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant in the sixth round. Bryant is starting the season in the minors simply because the Cubs want to avoid having him hit free agency a year early, but he’s basically the odds on favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year. I went with Carlos Santana in the seventh round, because I’m a big fan of the way he plays the guitar. I learned later that this Santana is not the same as the one I was thinking about, but it worked out for the best because the guy I drafted isn’t 67 years old and actually plays baseball. So it worked out, in the end.
I grabbed a pair of closers after that, with Trevor Rosenthal of the Cardinals, before letting my Nationals pride peek through again with the selection of Drew Storen in round nine. This was right around the time when I started realizing the only players left were either over the hill, or guys I’d never heard of. That’s probably how I wound up with players like Joc Pederson, Taijuan Walker, Yasmani Grandal, Avisail Garcia, Gregory Polanco, and Dallas Keuchel as six of my next eight picks, with Leonys Martin and Lucas Duda thrown in for good measure.
I couldn’t avoid my love of the Nats in rounds 18 and 19, selecting catcher Wilson Ramos and then center field prospect Michael Taylor, who every article I read assures me is the top positional prospect in the Washington farm system and will start the season as the team’s leadoff hitter since Denard Span is injured. I even let my Nats bias creep in by selecting a former Washington player, Michael Morse, with my 20th pick, before closing out the draft with pitchers Trevor Bauer, Kendall Graveman, and Jacob Turner. Turner, by the way, is a guy I immediately dropped for super versatile Red Sox player Brock Holt, who has literally played every position aside from pitcher and catcher through the spring. Sorry, Mr. Turner. Apparently I’m not Team Jacob this year.
And now that I’ve worked in a Twilight reference, I’d say that’s as good a time as any to wrap things up. Enjoy Opening Day, and tune in next time to find out whether or not I was able to manhandle my week one opponent…which just so happens to be the team owned by Otto’s Grove’s very own Justin Roe, who I have to give some credit to for drafting guys named Mookie, Melky, and Rusney. That’s some solid unintentional comedy drafting right there.