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Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: Playing by the Rules

By Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

Baltimore Orioles SP Dylan Bundy
Expanded rosters ... like 'em?

Greetings as we start up another season of Tumbling Dice here with our friends at KFFL.

Though the tenor of this column is generally focused on baseball, as we stumble into the wildness of the Super Bowl Weekend, I thought I would share a great lesson in playing that came up in one of my football leagues this past month, and in a way again in my Strat-O-Matic league a few weeks later.

In the Fantasy Football league "Utter Genius," curated by my friend Michael Duca, the league made a move that had a harsh impact on my team going into 2012.

While in previous years we were able to freeze any two players, for 2012 that number was reduced to just one, which made it tough for my Smith Brothers team with Ray Rice, Cam Newton, and Arian Foster (whom I wound up keeping) all on board in 2011.

Though we all drafted two Quarterbacks - as much to cover the bye week as anything else - I chose to play both my signal callers every week save Week 11, when Russell Wilson, who I picked up on draft day, had a bye.

Still, with Foster, Wes Welker, Marshawn Lynch, the Bears defense and Aaron Hernandez - plus Colin Kaepernick who I grabbed his first week as a starter - The Smith Brothers made the Championships.

The team I played that final week of our season - the San Francisco Megalodons - had three deadly Running Backs in Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Trent Richardson, along with Calvin Johnson.

Now I beat the Megalodons the first week of the season, and though my Smith Brothers finished with the best overall record at 10-3, the Megs had the highest point total with 1955 to my third best 1827.

Still, the Megalodons maintained their team was better due to the points, but that last match-up, the big games from Wilson and Lynch as Seattle spanked San Francisco, whose defense the Megalodons had played, led to a championship for me.

As we texted during the end of the game, the Megs owner still maintained his team was better despite my besting him twice, saying my team was lucky.

And, it is true that luck factors, but ultimately it came out that the Megalodon owner hated the two-QB option as he had only used his troika of Running Backs all season. Ultimately sticking to that plan burned him, while exploiting that rule is exactly what pushed me into the league title.

So, cut to a few weeks later, as in the MidWest Strat-O-Matic league we reviewed the league changes for the coming season.

One of the new rules, which barely passed by a 16-14 vote, allows owners to keep a full roster of 39 active players all season. Note that this is not a fast rule for we can place guys on our minor league list, but having all players available in this format is much like having some Triple-A players available to an actual Major League team.

Furthermore, since there are strict usage rules in the league of 20 percent over the previous season's MLB play, there is no real way to exploit the rule over the course of our 162 head-to-head games.

Well, there were a bevy of owners who did not like the rule, and not only thought it compromised the game, but swore to vote to change the rule prior to the start of our 2014 season.

Meaning they had already decided the rule was bad and would impact the league negatively without the roll of a dice, let alone a toss of a pitch and simply letting the season play out to see how the rule impacted play, if at all.

So, as we all prepare for our drafts and the upcoming baseball season, let's start by really doing a couple of important things for league play.

The first is to understand all the rules, and their respective allowances and restrictions in each of your leagues.

The second is to stay open minded and think about those rules, and changes, and what they allow you to do over the course of the season.

That is because in the long run, the rules are arbitrary, and don't really matter, for they impact each owner in the same way.

For the issue is in knowing the rules and categories, and then understanding how to exploit them to your advantage, irrespective of whether you approve of the rule or not.

In fact, I recommend not judging those rules at all as either good or bad, but rather simply the indifferent parameters that govern play in each setup.

In the end it will make for a happier, and ideally more successful run for you no matter what game you play (it kind of works for life, too!).

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