Dice rolls matter
I have written frequently how my MidWest Strat-O-Matic League is my favorite among all the leagues in which I play.
Based in Chicago, where my mates Al Koman and Dean Peterson started first with a National League, and then added an American League a couple of years later, the MidWest League now boasts 30 teams and 30 owners (which really could be a Commissioner's nightmare).
Since it is Strat-O-Matic, we play out the season in a head-to-head format using those familiar Strat-O-Matic cards with the statistics from the previous season.
But ultimately, the thing I love about the league is it offers the closest chance of any fantasy contest I have experienced to really build - or rebuild - a franchise from scratch.
For all of us essentially drafted our core teams almost ten years ago, and aside from trading, the thing that allows a rebuild is the January rookie draft, the 2013 version of which is working its way to completion as I write.
As I have noted, the thing that keeps us honest in the league are strict usage rules: We are allowed to use any player for the same innings or at-bats as the previous season plus 20 percent. Meaning my No. 1 starter right now, Kevin Correia, gets 205 innings (171 from 2012 plus 34 more from the 20 percent rule).
My NL Berkeley Liberators have had success over the years, but about a year-and-a-half ago the wheels started to come off the Libs, and I decided it was rebuild time. And, the reality is I really love the process of trying to reinvent my team.
But, my problem came last year when I traded off a bunch of my regulars - like Shane Victorino and Ryan Zimmerman - for draft picks and future gambles. I ran short of starters and was guilty of overusing my players past the 20 percent rule, giving me some ugly demerits, and allowing me to only freeze 21 guys, including my 2013 potential draft picks.
That was tough as I had to drop the likes of Jhoulys Chacin, Carlos Marmol, Jimmy Paredes and Taylor Green.
But, I was also able to trade for Bud Norris, Jordan Pacheco, Carl Crawford, and Shaun Marcum, which really suggests I am hoping the bulk of my puzzle pieces come back to life in 2013, giving me a killer core next year (for rebuilding is not really an instant process).
With the second pick of the draft I grabbed Matt Harvey, and then nabbed Norichika Aoki, having swapped a third first-round pick for Crawford and Marcum.
Then I traded Mark Ellis for Alexei Ramirez, Erik Bedard, and the rights to Derek Norris.
Now normally I would not have been so enamored with Bedard or Aoki, but making sure there are enough innings and at-bats on a team is crucial to avoiding those overuse demerits that killed me this past season.
Which brings me to the free-agent draft, where after freezes and rookies, we get to pick over the bones of "lesser" players to fill out a roster. For, as I have written before, in this league the Paul Bakos and Jeff Suppans - the latter being my sixth pick in the free agent draft - are critical to limping through the season with a full roster and without those demerits.
In fact, the seven players I have drafted so far, in order via the free agent draft, are Nick Vincent, Eduardo Escobar, Mike Gonzalez, Cord Phelps, Omar Vizquel, Suppan, and Darnell McDonald.
Of course, none of these players - save maybe Vincent - would ever find themselves on a roster in 99 percent of fantasy rosters of any team for 2013, but that is precisely why I love the MidWest League, for guys like Suppan are essential for survival in the league.
And, no matter what team you follow, from struggling Miami to overpaid Los Angeles, over the course of the season those teams will not make it without the Emmanuel Burrisses and Jamey Wrights, for that is the way of things.
Now, I have to admit this year is still a transition year, but with some younger gambles like Harvey and Norris, Domonic Brown and Trayvon Robinson, and a bit of a rebound from Crawford, I am hoping to come out of the 2014 draft with a team that will make my opponents in the MidWest League - and particularly the NL West division, where Berkeley plays - nervous.
Like I said: Rebuilding is the most fun. Especially when it works.
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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.