We have all, at some point or another, done things in our younger years that we’re not entirely proud of. Perhaps you bought a Hypercolor T-shirt, or perhaps you bought Hanson’s album Middle of Nowhere. It’s not your fault. Rather, it’s not your fault now; instead, your punishment is to suffer occasional flashbacks to the crimes of your former self, the past you cannot unmake. I understand. I, too, have fought my demons.
Case in point: last weekend as I was rifling through the contents of my filing cabinet, I came upon a rather innocent-looking piece of graph paper adorned with equally innocent-looking handwriting. As I studied the arcane runes, my curiosity was consumed by horror; my initial reaction was to burn the evidence and the filing cabinet that housed it. But as you (dear reader) and I are in the process of building back up trust and familiarity after a long and unexplained absence on my part, I knew that my only choice was to give you the truth you deserve. Thus I’ll share this wayward moment of my misspent youth.
(embiggination is, in this case, absolutely required.)
The artifact above is undated; though based on certain clues, words like “Sasaki” and “Baines,” we can safely assume that we’re looking at the year 2000. Furthermore, though my name is conspicuously absent, the “4/17” mark at the top indicates that I was at the helm of Los Gatos Muertos, drafting fourth and seventeenth. The league: probably ESPN, AL-only, with an estimated $25 entry free. Online fantasy leagues cost money back then! Dark ages indeed.
Fourth was a poor place to pick in those days, because we were in the era of the Big Three shortstops: Rodriguez, Garciaparra, and Jeter. With only one of the three off the board, I selected… a closer. First name on the board. Riding high off this tactical masterpiece, two rounds later I selected… another closer.
My untamed vigor earned me Mariano Rivera, who had his worst season of his career until 2007 (which, incidentally, was the next year I drafted him) and John Wetteland, who struggled through the year and then retired. But that’s not the only mistake I made. My outfield looked like an wizened scout’s dream, full of toolsy, athletic outfielders who didn’t know how to hit. I tanked steals, yet still drafted Matt Lawton. My infield sported luminaries like Tony Clark, David Bell, Royce Clayton and Tony Batista, the star of my team. I drafted six Seattle Mariners, seven if you include Gil Meche’s trainer.
How this team fared, or any other record of its existence, is lost to history. This is for the best. But there is one consolation in my discovery: in the middle of an online draft, with names appearing every minute and strategies to devise, I was still able to correctly spell Mientkiewicz. This is grace under pressure.
I have no idea why I bothered to write down the full results of an online draft. I can’t imagine what elements of psychological disorder it hints at. But I’m glad Idiot Me did, because it’s a wonderful snapshot of a forgotten time in fantasy baseball. I love that Tony Fernandez was drafted before Dave Mlicki and after “J. Johnson”, who is neither Jim nor Josh but Jonathan, a reliever who pitched 77 innings over the course of six years. I love that Carl Everett was a first-round draft pick, and that Alfonso Soriano was drafted as a shortstop. I love that someone, at some point, dubbed their team, simply, the “Magicians.” They were dark times, but strangely innocent, as well.
Ultimately, we can’t divorce ourselves from who we were; every moment, no matter how embarrassing, can only be seen as a step on the journey. I learned this particular lesson; now we wait for twelve years, so that I can feel equally embarrassed for writing this, and drafting Javy Guerra and Grant Balfour as my closers. And so it goes.
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