Fantasy Baseball: An Ode to George Carlin

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on September 5, 2012 @ 14:18:54 PDT

 

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Are you ready for some (fantasy) football? Welcome to the return of Fourth and Goal, kicking off our football coverage for the 2012 National Football League campaign. Today we are going to have a little fun and compare the two games. However, before doing so, I would be remiss if I failed to mention where you can find our FREE fantasy football coverage. Click HERE to access the free content, including projections, positional reviews, strategy and a list of links to our weekly football columns.

You know the George Carlin baseball versus football routine, the one beginning:

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
A rock of cheese

"Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defensive team is allowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he's out; sometimes unintentionally, he's out.

Also: in football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager. And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the same clothing the players do. If you'd ever seen John Madden in his Oakland Raiders uniform, you'd know the reason for this custom."

In fantasy baseball, one of the more popular philosophies is that of positional scarcity, where you draft or invest a lot of auction dollars in the middle infield, since the talent at the position is top-heavy and there is a drop-off into an area you'd just assume not have to deal with.

In fantasy football, the equivalent is the running back position where there are precious few that are the reliable bell cow for their team, staying on the field all three downs, carrying the rock and catching passes. One may call Ray Rice the Robinson Cano of fantasy football, perhaps not the top overall player, but one who earns extra credit for consistent, elite level production. Darren McFadden is like baseball's Troy Tulowitzki - incredible production when healthy, but both have trouble staying on the field.

Carlin continues:

"Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything
is dying."

In fantasy baseball, first base and the outfield are very deep positions. In fantasy football, the same can be said for wide receivers. Many baseball gamers opt to bypass a higher ranked first baseman or outfielder in lieu of a weaker position, just like football gamers do with wide receivers.

But just as some outfielders and first baseman sport numbers too impressive to ignore, the same can be said for wide receivers. Calvin Johnson could be the football version of Matt Kemp, a physical specimen that can do it all. Larry Fitzgerald gets the job done, regardless of his supporting cast, not unlike Ryan Braun.

While players can obviously emerge from any position, more seem to emanate from these spots. Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen are impressing baseball brethren in the same manner A.J. Green and Julio Jones wowed football fans last winter. Presently, football drafters are faced with the dilemma of how high to rank the likes of Green and Jones, just as baseball drafters will have to consider when to jump on Trout and McCutchen next season. And while the dynamics of football and baseball are a bit different, repeating exceptional performance at such a young age is difficult irrespective of sport: Just ask Eric HosmerDesmond Jennings and Brett Lawrie. I'm just sayin'.

Carlin adds:

Pittsburgh Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen
Sliding into the first round?

"In football you wear a helmet.
In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs - what down is it?
Baseball is concerned with ups - who's up?

In football you receive a penalty.
In baseball you make an error."

Every year, there is a faction that preaches to wait on pitching, even if you can get one of the elite performers. But there is always a small group that is more comfortable with an ace. However, due to some changing landscape with MLB being more of a "pitcher's" league, the notion of jumping on an arm early is becoming more viable, if not accepted among those disseminating information. In football, the exact same thing can be said for drafting a quarterback. For years it was taboo to take one early, now it is being recommended. Aaron Rodgers is the football facsimile of Justin Verlander - a rock. If you can get Verlander, Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw early, it is worth it just as it is drafting Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees to anchor your football squad. On the other hand, if you wait, you can always pick up a solid talent late.

More from Carlin:

"In football the specialist comes in to kick.
In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, blocking, piling on, late hitting, unnecessary roughness and personal fouls.
Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, sleet, snow, hail, mud ...
In baseball, if it rains, we don't come out to play."

In fantasy baseball, there is a small segment of drafters that like to gain an edge anywhere they can and often do so by drafting a catcher early, especially if there are options that are heads and tails above the rest like Joe Mauer and Buster Posey. In football the analogous position is that of the tight end. Most football drafters prefer to wait, but if they have the opportunity to jump on a Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, they will not hesitate to do so.

Carlin opines:

"Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.
Football has the two minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end - we might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we have to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there's kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there's not too much unpleasantness.
In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you're perfectly capable of taking the life of a fellow human being."

Perhaps the most universal advice in fantasy baseball is to wait on closers. Akin in fantasy football is waiting on a kicker and defense. Sure, there will be someone that feels the advantage of taking Craig Kimbrel or Jonathan Papelbon early is worth it, just as there will be someone that always takes the Steelers or Sebastian Janikowski. And to be fair, sometimes they are right. But on the other hand, there will always be a Fernando Rodney or Jim Johnson that surprises, just as the San Francisco defense and special teams unit along with David Akers did last season.

I would like to thank the late George Carlin for providing some entertainment as he concludes:

"And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack which punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! I hope I'll be safe at home!"

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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