OK, so baseball season is almost done, and all of us who fill the fantasy void the baseball off-season creates with football have already drafted our gridiron squads.
So, for the most part, you would think this could be a time to let my brain rest from the day-to-day rigors of WHIP and ERA and on-base percentage.
Not so, for in six weeks, when a rather large gaggle of us gather in Phoenix for Ron Shandler's annual Baseball HQ soiree in Phoenix for their annual AFL symposium, I will get to draft in the Experts Fantasy League (XFL) in what may actually be the toughest of all the leagues in which I play.
Not that Tout Wars and the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) are not formidable competitions. And, well, my Scoresheet League boasts 24 teams, and my Strat-O-Matic league 30, meaning just by virtue of the number of competitors, combined with the distribution of talent, it is hard to win.
Closers emerge all the time
The XFL is different, though.
On the simple side it is a 5x5 mixed league format with 15 participants, and the only real scoring wrinkle is we use OBP instead of batting average.
However, the membership caveat requires owners to be both over the age of 40, and have a presence in the fantasy industry for at least 10 years.
Meaning these guys are as long in the tooth as I am, though I am not sure if that is an advantage, or a disadvantage.
One of the things that makes the league a challenge is we can freeze up to 12 players from year to year, which does not seem so daunting.
But, we also hold our initial auction in the fall, and then hold a reserve draft of 17 players right before the season begins, meaning each team carries a 40-man roster during the season.
And that means every hot prospect that ever considered the number of stitches on a baseball has been plucked. Meaning Matt Moore is long gone, as were Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt before the 2011 season started.
Well, over the past eight or so years of the league, I have finished poorly. As in generally the bottom of the pack.
And that is strange because my first roto league was an American League only format, that morphed into a 15-team mixed league, and in that setup I won three titles, finished second a handful of times (including losing out the last day of the season once) and third place a few times as well.
Not to mention I tried things - like drafting a prospect in one Ben McDonald while he was still in college and keeping a 12-man freeze list that chewed up almost $230 of the $260 salary cap, something that worked - that no one else thought of.
In fact some of my schemes actually caused changes in the rules, so, I was pretty confident that I could easily do the XFL justice when I was asked to join.
Well, ha on me, for the likes of Steve Moyer and Trace Wood and Peter Kreutzer and Alex Patton, not to mention Jeff Winnick, Don Drooker, and Mr. Shandler himself, are at least as thoughtful and devious (in a good way) as I am.
Of course one of my quandaries is that despite the 40-man rosters - meaning 600 players drafted - the league is still fairly shallow. As part of the rules we can move players in and out of our starting roster from our bench weekly, but, we can pull from free agent pool only once a month.
So, every month there are a few nuggets worthy of grabbing.
Even with that, for example, it is not necessary to draft a closer in the fall for come March and the expansion draft there will be a couple of new firemen who have earned the job since the November draft. And, there are always a couple more stoppers, like Fernando Salas this year, who become available in the pool after the first month of play.
Anyway, I am tired of these guys taking their batting practice out on me, especially in an environ that I used to dominate.
So, I have been spending a fair amount of time the last month plotting exactly what I am going to do come the auction on Nov. 4 when we meet and pick our teams.
What is extra odd is generally, I am fine with saying what I am going to do ahead of time, and though I have the core of my plan, well, I am hesitant to reveal exactly what the approach will be. I can say that I have taken so many lumps especially the past five years that I am willing to be patient for a year or two more, meaning a youth program is in order. It is the "how" that is important.
But, well - and, it is not like I think any of my opponents will copy this - the less they know about my (or anyone's) details, I hope the better for me.
See more of Lawr's work, including the Hotpage (published each Monday) and Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down (each Saturday), along with the work of Todd Zola, Brian Walton, and the Mastersball team at www.mastersball.com.
Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.