As we wait patiently for sports to re-start again, I can’t help but ponder the upcoming spring fantasy baseball drafts. I am in two leagues — one a snake draft, and the other a decade-plus auction league with restricted free agents and salary caps.
Both leagues have different draft strategies involved. While I could always go with best available in the snake draft — say, Christian Yelich, Mike Trout or Mookie Betts — in the auction league those players will go for 1/4 of my team’s available payroll. How much space do I have left after my five keepers from last year (all of which get a $5 or 25% raise from last year — whichever is higher)?
Do I look at last year’s stats more, or a trend of the past three seasons? Do I look at this year’s projected numbers? Do I trust ESPN’s value, or SI? What about CBS Sports or Baseball Prospectus?
There’s a lot to look over, especially when I have a $15-25 buy-in. A few years ago, I won the auction league. It was my only league victory since college.
The problem is, no matter how much I study and crunch the numbers, I stink at drafting. One year I kept Aaron Rodgers and Maurice Jones-Drew for a combined-75% of my salary. Another year I interrupted a family boating/fishing trip to spend two hours in the Rhinelander McDonalds just to have wi-fi to draft. Another year I was in and out of reception during a wine tasting tour through the Sonoma Valley while taking part in two baseball drafts simultaneously via cell phone. Most of the time though, I just make about a half-dozen White Russians and Lebowski my way through. If I am inebriated, I can blame my inevitable failure on being drunk for the draft, right?
The one constant, however, whether it is fantasy baseball, football, March Madness picks or even English Premier League Soccer, is that a solid nickname goes a long way in pretending your team is good.
Many of my team names involve references to TV shows and movies, like How I Met Your Mother, The League, Simpsons, Family Guy, The Big Lebowski and my favorite baseball movie ever, Major League.
Other times I like to do word craft based off a player on my team.
Strategizing stats and trends and taking best option available over up-and-comers in the draft should be key to success, but a cool name couldn’t hurt. I’ve been playing fantasy sports for over 20 years now, with more than 15 online. Most of those websites still have archival data. I’ve had good years in fantasy sports, and great years — with one exception: Football. I stink at fantasy football, and always have.
Case in point, in my 11 years in our auction league, I’ve finished second in the standings once, but third after the playoffs. I have never made the finals, and have just four playoff appearances and one playoff win in all those years. I’m basically the Detroit Lions in our league — never great, sometimes good, usually bad, and occasionally the worst.
Here’s some of the team names I’ve used:
(Major League) Hats for bats, keep bats warm, Cuyahoga Wigwamers, Shut Up, Dorn; (Back to the Future) 1.21 JJ Watts!; (Talladega Nights) El Diablo’s; (The Big Lebowski) The Big Rzepczynski; (Elf) Francisco, that’s fun to say!
(HIMYM) The Scuba Diver, The Naked Man, Lorenzo Von Matterhorn; (The League) Taco Corp; Accidental Double Entrende; (Simpsons) Choo Choo Choose You; (Family Guy) Pawtucket Patriots
Brew City Legend; Super Wal-Marts; Northwoods Knockers; Barry Zito’s curve; Dos Equis Guy; TRBL Knuckleheads; Bad Moon Rison; Oscillating Fans; Jackson 5; Adam Shefter’s Source; Not Cody Parkey; Ground Rule Triple
With Jackson 5, I drafted five players named Jackson just to live up to my namesake: Fred Jackson, Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Steven Jackson and the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. Yikes that was a bad night.
The team name Ground Rule Triple has a personal backstory. As a sophomore I lost my first home run in JV baseball because the opposing team complained that the ball went too far for their overweight right fielder to chase down (it made it to the bottom of the hill at Abe). I was in the dugout drinking a cup of water by the time the ball surfaced to the cutoff man and was called back by the umpire out to stand at third. The fantasy gods did not approve of me still holding a grudge more than a dozen years later on something so juvenile.
My best year was when I mixed an Elf reference with my favorite shortstop, who was also on my team: Francisco Lindor. That’s the year I won it all.
Whenever this quarantine ends and sports resumes, well, that’s when I’ll pour another drink and toast my league pals from across the globe. I don’t play fantasy sports for the money, or for the thrill of playing keyboard GM. I play to smack talk my friends. But also because I have a big gap to make up in the earnings department.
— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and is not sure what his fantasy baseball team name will be this year; Astros the Grouch is the favorite in the clubhouse. If you have a better suggestion, a comment or story idea, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.