The past few days, my best baseball friend Nelson and I have been indulging in that old fantasy pastime: mock drafts. Yes, for-pretend draft, where delusional fantasy gamers believe they can sharpen their wares in preparation for the real thing in a few weeks or so.
The pressure is less, stakes lower. All mistakes are forgiven. Curtis Granderson in the seventh round is wiped from the slate as if it never happened; a crime committed in a bad dream.
But we take it no less serious.
We agonize over positional scarcity vs. overall production, the merits of forsaking common thought to select pitchers in the early rounds, whether Ryan Howard’s stock has truly dropped him to the “lowly” status of a third- or fourth-round pick.
While the rest of the baseball world rejoices over the first official congregating of full squads, we gauge how long we can wait before finally snagging hotshot rookie catcher Matt Wieters.
Don’t get me wrong — the ensuing month of inconsequential exhibitions, reports of weight fluctuations and the unfortunate injury are all necessary evils leading us to those fateful nights in March, when the whether is slowly turning toward the bearable and our rosters take shape.
Are there more productive ways to spend my ever-shrinking free time (which I’ve been complaining about more and more)? Yes. But somehow, calculus homework just doesn’t have the seem appeal as nabbing Han-Ram with No. 1 overall pick.
Here are some random observations after about five mock drafts the past few days:
– The shortstop market is impossibly thin. Get Hanley or Jose Reyes in the first round, if you can.
– Despite Chase Utley’s looming injury, the second-base market is deeper than you might think. Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, Brian Roberts and Dan Uggla are all suitable options.
– There are a handful of interesting pitchers going in the late rounds due to obscurity or injury from 2008. Erik Bedard, Brandon Morrow, David Price and Chien-Ming Wang can all be had in the late-teens or later.
– The flaky users in the mock drafts have been incredibly annoying. People are joining the draft, then disappearing before the first pick is even made, meaning the tracker keeps the user active for a full two-minute pick before recognizing him/her as inactive and doing an instant autopick. Seriously: Why join a draft if you’re not going to participate?
– There was a bizarre incident today in which one user (with a recognizable Jewish name) was attacked by another with anti-semitic remarks. Not cool.
My dad sent me the A-Rod news via text this morning at about 11 a.m. I then relayed to Nelson, my best baseball friend and a devout Yankee follower.
The following conversation ensued via text message:
Me: CNN reports arod tested positive for roids in 2k3.
Me: Look, this is solid investigative journalism in my opinion.
Nelson: There goes the hof.
Me: I mean is this bad for baseball at this point? I think so. Even still, I don’t mind seeing this fraud raked over the coals a bit.
Me: Tomorrow’s Post hed: “A-roid”
Nelson: I think this is bad for baseball period. It really makes me angry.
Nelson: All the arod apologists including myself have to seriously reconsider our allegiances here.
Nelson: Hypothetically, if this were dwright, how would you react? Sincere question. I feel like I don’t want to watch baseball anymore.
Me: No I understand. I’d be crushed if dwright tested positive.
Nelson: I feel betrayed on a deep level right now … don’t even have a logical reaction.
Nelson: Fwiw he wasn’t a yank in 03.
Nelson: The whole game is a sham, bud has to out every single player today, this can’t continue. I refuse to be a fan if I’m going to get sandbagged with old evidence six years after the fact. I blame mlb for covering this up.
Me: Yep. I agree
Nelson: I’m sincerely done with it. That’s the end for me. I feel betrayed by the game.
Whether Nelson’s sentiment is shared by the majority of baseball fans, I cannot say. I wish things were different, of course. I wish this were not an issue, that every player had already been cited and we’d moved on.
But, regardless of the resolution, I’m already offering baseball my clemency. I’m not a despondent lover about this. I need baseball in my life; it provides me an income, sure, but it also gives me something to do on humid July evenings.
It’s supplied me countless memories over the years, like going to Shea in 1992 for the celebration of Tom Terrific’s election to the Hall of Fame, and witnessing the now-infamous “Matt Franco” Interleague game between the Mets and Yanks in 1999 when the eponymous pinch-hitter extraordinaire ended the riveting back-and-forth battle with a clutch base hit off none other than the immortal Mariano Rivera.
I memorized the stats from the back of my favorite players’ cards as a
kid, and emulated their swings as a Little Leaguer. I played the game
with my friends on dusty lots, dreaming of being something when I grew
up the odds said was nearly impossible. Tough losses have ruined many a
day, but I’ve come back the next day, in need of the distraction and
entertainment and otherworldliness of the game.
I trekked from school in North Carolina to Washington, D.C., in September 2005 with The Former Mrs. to watch a couple of meaningless games between the Mets and Nationals. We saw David Wright hit a grand slam in the first one, and Mike Piazza slugged the final longball I saw him hit as a Met in the second. We also went to a pitcher’s duel that spring that was the inspiration for a short story I wrote in one of my fiction writing classes. The following season, we witnessed Piazza’s return to Shea — as a Padre.
I need baseball, imperfections and all.