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Kicking Rocks: Hate the Players, Not the Game

Eddie: Do you smell that?

Vincent: What? Smoke?

Carmen: No, money…

Ok, well maybe not money for everyone, but for those who play fantasy baseball for free, a championship is the equivalent to cash and as our hero aptly points out soon after — money won is twice as sweet as money earned.

It’s time, baby! A new season is upon us. Though many of you throughout the country have a hard time believing it, winter is thawing and the deliciousness of spring is in the air. The boys of summer are making the magic happen down in Florida and Arizona and we’re less than three weeks away from the first official game of the 2014 season. While some of you have actually drafted your fantasy teams, many of you have not and are looking for that edge come draft day.

You’re going to do all the research you can. You’re going to scout players. You’re going to create your own projection sheets and positional depth charts. You’re going to map out a variety of strategies and eventually pick one to go with. But with so many fantasy magazines out there, so many web sites with so many rankings and so many player recommendations, we all have the same information right there at our fingertips. This isn’t like when we first started playing the game and the hardcore fantasy geeks who studied every roster had an advantage because of all the work they put in. Today, there are no hidden gems. There are no sleepers. There are no stones that are left unturned. All of that information that was once only attainable through rigorous analysis is now available to every Joe Shmo out there.

So how are you going to do it? How are you going to get that edge?

It’s quite simple actually.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” — Sun Tzu

That’s right. ‘Know thy enemy’ is the abbreviated version of that quote and it is more important than you can ever imagine. If you’re sitting at the poker table and everyone has a working knowledge of the game itself, then who wins? Whether it’s a home game where you’ve been playing together for years or you just sat down at a new table, it’s the guy who studies and knows his opponents the best that comes out on top. This guy lights a cigarette when he’s bluffing? The winner knows. That guy stares you down when he’s got the nuts? The winner knows. He takes everything he knows about you and uses it to his advantage.

Well, your fantasy baseball draft is no different. Knowing exactly who you are up against on draft day is absolutely vital to your success. But obviously every league is different and we are all, for the most part, individuals unique unto ourselves. Fortunately though, when it comes to this game, we can all be categorized in some way or another. It is not an exact science and you will still need to learn some of the intricacies, but for the most part you’ll be able to figure out under which heading each of your opponents lie. Some are strong, some are weak and some are merely there to entertain and make an annual donation. It is your job to figure out who fits where, but here is a jump on who’s who…

The Windbag — This guy knows everything about everything and everyone. He knows every player, every stat, every projection and he is not afraid to let you know that. In fact, he would probably explode if he wasn’t able to release all that hot air. It doesn’t matter if he likes your pick or not; he’s going to tell you why you’re wrong. If you take Trout with the first pick, he’s the first to chime in as to why he would have taken Miggy. You’ll have to endure his ramblings all day long, but in the end, his hubris will be his undoing as he rigidly sticks to his fool-proof strategy and finds himself settling for players he was never targeting because he was too damn arrogant to realize that the rest of us aren’t as stupid as he thinks we are.

The Prospector — He’s so focused on being the one to find the “next big thing” that his approach is to throw it all up against a wall and see what sticks. You’ll recognize him early as he’s the one reaching for Gerrit Cole in the fourth round and he continues to draft every hot, young, up-and-comer that’s on every fantasy rookie list you’ve read this spring. By the end of the draft, his roster is loaded with names like George Springer, Jameson Taillon, Javier Baez, Byron Buxton and a slew of other hopefuls and unprovens. That’s great if it’s a keeper league and he’s playing for three years down the road, but he’s left himself with almost no legitimate proven talent and almost no chance to even remotely compete this year. Just be ready to attack your waiver wire when the site rolls over in the middle of the night, because The Prospector is there waiting.

Qui-Gung-ho — He’s been talking about this draft every day for the past month and can hardly contain his enthusiasm once you’re all together and ready to start. He’ll talk your ear off incessantly and try to pick your brain to see if you’re as excited about any of the same players. He loves baseball and you guys should totally take in a game or two whenever you can. In fact, the whole league should get tickets and we should all go together. The problem is that he’s more jawa than Jedi so there is little concern for him during the season. That droid of a team he’s been tinkering with for the first month of the season will soon find itself on the scrap heap of his life and it becomes nothing more than a pile of junk. Sure, he might have a part or two you’d like to purchase, but overall, his team is just driving aimlessly through the desert.

The Sports Ticker — It’s hard to say just how much research this guy has done, but you know he just spent the last week reading every player update on ESPN and Yahoo. If you draft a guy who stubbed his toe in the clubhouse the day before, he’s got the update for you. He knows every bump and every bruise. He knows who is off to hot start this spring and who isn’t. And best of all (insert sarcastic eye roll here), he’s there to tell you all about it. He won’t chime in as much as The Wingbag though because, more than likely, he doesn’t have much of a working knowledge of the subject matter. He can tell you what’s happening right now but he can’t tell you what happened last year. That usually makes him an easy mark when it comes to trading and while he’s probably crazy active on the waiver wire, his lack of true knowledge means he’s only fishing for names found in the headlines.

The Mark — “Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.” Truer words have never been spoken. Every league has one and he’s super easy to spot on draft day. His knowledge of the game and the player pool is limited to the basics and he’s really just there to have a good time. Most likely, he’s the one who suggested that you do your draft at the bar and if that proposition was overruled, then he’s the one who just showed up with a case of double IPA and an empty stomach. He’ll be half in the bag by the sixth round and by the end of the draft, he’s already involved in two trades that make you want to slam your head in a door. Stay close to him though, no matter how much he annoys you. While you’re sizing up his roster for a nice early-season swindle, so is everyone else. You want to make sure that he comes and talks to you first.

The Owl — OK, so for those of you who remember similar pieces from years past, I had to bring this one back. Why? Because it’s so damn accurate and to me, one of the funniest guys with whom you’ll ever draft. I don’t know if he’s just hard of hearing or just the most ill-prepared guy sitting in the draft room. Nearly every pick of a player outside of MLB’s top 100 is punctuated by a “Who?” from this guy. He is often the slowest to make his pick, frantically rifling through stacks of cheat sheets he printed out five minutes before the draft. He knows the basic starters but his knowledge lacks depth. Because of that, though, he can be a dangerous person in the draft room. Without knowing any better, he will swoop in and take that veteran you were hoping to steal late, not because of strategy, but because Justin Morneau and Rajai Davis are more recognizable names than Nate Jones and Avisail Garcia.

Grandpa — He is clearly the oldest guy in the room. Whether it’s because someone dropped out last-minute or you just needed someone to make it a 12-team league instead of 11, someone in your league convinced you all to let his dad play. Usually, this person is recently retired and having difficulty coping with life outside the rat race. He needs to be kept busy and his wife just wants him out of her hair. But while he may seem harmless enough, he is also incredibly dangerous. With nothing else going on in his life, he will dedicate himself to his new hobby. He has subscribed to at least three or four of the top pay sites out there and spends most of his time reading updates and watching spring games from his barca-lounger. He knows his sh*t. He’ll distract you on draft day with stories of how he watched Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford win the World Series when he was a kid all the while he steals Danny Salazar and Sonny Gray right out from under your nose. Sneaky old bastard.

The Shark — Cold, calculating and cunning, The Shark quietly circles around you and the rest of your leaguemates waiting to swoop in and destroy his prey. He starts off rather unassuming, but in truth, he’s the most dangerous guy in your draft room. He has a very deep working knowledge of the player pool, he has a slew of strategies in mind but never commits until the time is just right, and he is cagey with his conversation. He doesn’t want you to know how much he knows and he certainly isn’t going to talk about players he likes. He’ll go with the flow off the draft room and he won’t join in on any player debates. But somewhere in the middle of the draft, before you even have a chance to react, you’ll see his dorsal fin, his eyes will roll back, his teeth will gnash and suddenly he’s got a slew of players on his roster that everyone wanted yet no one had the mindset to take. If you’re not careful, he will feed on your league throughout the season, most likely on The Mark, and will cruise to an easy victory.