When I was about 9 or 10, "Choose Your Own Adventure" books were all the rage. I remember one book was a murder mystery. Some rich guy named Harlowe Thrombey turned up dead and you were the detective on the case. Every few pages you'd be given a choice. Something like "The maid has offered you a refreshing glass of purple Kool-Aid. To drink it, turn to page 11. To run the hell out of there as fast as you can, turn to page 12." (This was about as virtual as reality got in 1982. No wonder I discovered girls and beer so early in life.)
Anyway, my point is, you had to make lots and lots of decisions in each book. Not unlike when you're managing a fantasy baseball team.
Let's say, for example, you're the "Average Joe" in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League. Your team needs a third baseman and a closer, among other things. So you stare into the murky depths of the free agent pool and suddenly a solid third baseman (Adrian Beltre) and a good-when-healthy closer (Tom Gordon) are staring back at you.
Now, my bench – I mean, your bench – is clogged with injured players already, but they're all too good to cut. Still, you need a third baseman and a closer. And not only do you have a decision to make, but what you don't realize is this – the clock is ticking. Because right now, two of your fellow owners are considering whether to add Beltre and Gordon themselves.
So you need to act now, or soon, maybe very soon, they'll both be gone. Tick… tick… tick…
Ok, enough with the story. As you might've guessed, this is what happened to me. I had this decision to make. Only I didn't act. I hemmed. I hawed. And when I finally looked back into the free agent pool, both players were gone.
Sure, it wasn't life or death or anything, not even close. It wasn't even a moment when my entire season hung in the balance. But still, a choice had to be made and it had to be made now.
That's fantasy baseball for you. It's a long season, and lots and lots of choices like that have to be made. Then you either have the courage of your convictions or you drive yourself batty with second guesses and regret.
We're at the All-Star break, so half the season's over, and with it, half a season of decisions. It's easy to forget the good ones, and remember the bad. At least, that's how it is for me. So let's take a trip down short-term memory lane, shall we? In a previous column, I compared my team to Pianowski's. Now I'm going to compare my team to… mine. The team I started with, that is. THEN refers to the first time I filled out my lineup card, March 20. NOW means, well, now. Here we go.
THEN: Brian McCann
A few weeks ago, I took too long to respond to an offer of Ivan Rodriguez for McCann and it got yanked off the table. I was seriously considering it. But I'm glad I stuck with McCann. He's starting to heat up and I could see him hitting .300 with 10-12 homers in the second half, easy.
Back in March, in the seventh round of our draft, I picked Big Sexy. Two picks later, Behrens took Prince Fielder. Is it any wonder Behrens has streaked into first place? At least I got another chance at Pena after I nabbed him off waivers again just last week. From here on out, Pena should hit just as many dingers as Sexson without holding my batting average hostage.
THEN: Jeff Kent
I liked Kent back in March, and I still like him now. I was really hoping to draft Brian Roberts, but Erickson beat me to him. B-Rob is V-Good.
As if my seventh round pick wasn't bad enough, I drafted Rolen in the fifth. What. A. Bust. I've had a revolving door at the position ever since. I'd rather have Beltre, but Inge is solid and he's really only holding the position warm for Troy Glaus, who's hurt. Of course.
THEN: Derek Jeter
Jeter is money in the bank. His stats are all right in line with what you'd expect, other than steals, where he's a little behind his usual pace. But that's probably because so far he's been caught an outrageous 50% of the time. That's gotta change for the better in the second half.
Funston mocked me when I drafted Nomar, wondering if he'd be on the DL by May or June. He was wrong – Nomar's been the picture of health. But only because he's decided to swing really softly or something like that, as his wimpy 2 HR attest. Luckily, I traded him mere days after the draft for Torii Hunter. Meanwhile, Nady's been even better than I'd hoped. As Hannibal on "The A-Team" used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together!"
I got 7 SBs and a .277 average out of Giles for the first two months of the year. Then I sent him packing. Someone gave up on Kelly Johnson, but I'll gladly give him a chance. The guy's shown he can contribute in all five categories. We'll see. If all else fails, I can use Glaus here instead of at 3B.
Better now. Much, much better. I put Soriano on the trading block during his slow start, but I rejected all offers and now he's back to being his fantastic self. I swapped Abreu for Glaus, but I haven't missed Abreu one bit since Hunter and Byrnes have put up such tasty stats. Cust is just keeping Wonderboy Josh Hamilton's spot warm until he gets back. A very nice bunch of OFs, all because of a very nice bunch of decisions.
THEN: Chad Tracy
NOW: Richie Sexson
Big Sexy's a perfectly respectable UTIL guy. And Tracy's been almost as bad as Rolen. (When I say "bad," I don't mean "bad" as in "good," like some hipster would. I mean "bad" as in "Looking at his stats gives me the same feeling as banging my head against my desk. Familiar, sure, but still painful. Ouch.")
Trading Verlander turned out to be no stroke of genius – his no-hitter was super groovy for everyone except Brewers fans, and me – but Hudson's been terrific, and somehow Maine fell right into my lap, so I'm holding steady. On draft day, while I messed up the Sexson pick, I aced the Bedard pick. I was trying to decide between him and Jason Schmidt. No sooner did I click on Bedard's name, Evans, up next, drafted Schmidt, so I began to second-guess myself immediately. Guess my first guess was right after all.
My bullpen problems are like that pebble you can't seem to get out of your shoe. You take your shoe off, you shake it out, you put it back on, but it's still there. Just like with Garciaparra, I was mocked when I drafted Wickman. Turns out this time, the experts were right. Soriano is so clearly the better pitcher, but we've all seen this movie before – he's not closing unless Wickman gets hurt again. Fingers crossed.
So, that's that. I've made quite a few good trades and free-agent pickups, while I've avoided making any season-killing blunders. The Yahoo! Friends and Family League has 13 teams, and I've been in every place but thirteenth. Here at the break, more than 30 points out of first, I'm not really expecting to win the league, but as long as I keep making good decisions, I think third place is well within reach. Not too shabby for an "Average Joe."
Hey, who killed Harlowe Thrombey anyway? I can't remember. I sure hope it wasn't me. That would've been a bad decision.