So it had all ended in 1994. The baseball strike - and the prospect of having to draft replacement players for our rotisserie league the following spring ("UPS drivers; I see UPS drivers") - got me out of fantasy sports "for good" after a decade.
Just when I thought I was out, to borrow from Mr. Pacino's over-the-top performance, I was invited by friends, old and new, to dive in to modern fantasy baseball. It's been so long that not only did we not have computer-generated "auto picks," but we used to have to enter player statistics manually into a spreadsheet.
We've just completed our National League-only draft and so that this careful research doesn't go to waste, here it is. My ranking of the 200 most fantasy-productive N.L. players for 2007 - obviously a totally subjective thing, and tailored to a league with a specific format, but it might still be useful to you.
By means of explanation, we play twelve categories, not the usual ten: batting average, homers, RBI, stolen bases, runs, and total bases; wins, strikeouts, saves, earned run average, "whip" (walks + hits divided by innings pitched), and relievers' holds. Those extra categories tend to slightly deemphasize stolen bases (a home run now counts in five categories) and seriously deemphasizes saves (a hold is now as valuable as a save, thus might Scott Linebrink be more valuable than Trevor Hoffman). We draft 25 rounds: nine active pitchers, just one catcher, a standard array of other positions, including three bench spots that can be filled by anybody).
The best way to rank players, either for a draft or an auction, is to establish a numerical value for each hitter and pitcher, then to split each position into letter grades depending on position scarcity (A, B, C are obvious; D indicates "Do No Harm" - a player or pitcher so seldom used that if you run out of guys who can actually produce for you, you can go for a player who can fill your roster until somebody better comes along). So if you have a bunch of players of different positions all worth $17, go for the 17A's first, 17B's second, etc.
Thus the description of each player translates as follows: Alfonso Soriano's "(40A)" means a $40 value (based on a $260 league), and then (1st) indicates where he actually was selected in our league today. A few notes are interspersed as you'll see - and yes, we bucked the trend and fulfilled my first four options:
001 Alfonso Soriano, of, chicago (40A) (1st)
002 Albert Pujols, 1B, st. louis (40A) (2nd)
Honestly, I'm not convinced Pujols is going to do what he has the last few years. I saw him take BP two weeks ago and he looked a little thinner in the upper torso. Another "scout" says that was because he has a belly roll going this year. Soriano should tattoo the ball in Chicago, and frankly, had I had the second choice, I might have gone with Reyes ahead of him, too - but I picked eighth.
003 Jose Reyes, ss, new york (37A) (3rd)
004 Ryan Howard, 1B, philadelphia (37A) (4th)
005 Hanley Ramirez, ss, florida (35A) (21st)
OK, you ask; if I had the eighth choice and I ranked Ramirez fifth, why did he get drafted 21st? Because I chickened out. He could easily turn into a doppelganger for Reyes, but when Chase Utley went 5th, David Wright 6th, and Chris Carpenter an unlikely 7th, Beltran was sitting there and I liked those 30 steals and 30 homers more than I liked Ramirez's upside. He still has the makings, though.
006 Carlos Beltran, of, new york (35A) (8th)
007 Miguel Cabrera, 3b, florida (34a) (9th)
If the Marlins' stadium deal doesn't go through, Cabrera (and Dontrelle Willis) could go elsewhere. This league I'm in is a start-from-scratch-every-year outfit, and N.L.-only. If Cabrera went to the A.L., you get an empty space on your roster.
008 David Wright, 3b, new york (34a) (6th)
009 Garrett Atkins, 3b, Colorado (34a) (12th)
Me again, picking Atkins. Take a look at the respective numbers for Atkins and Wright - they're the same guy. In a long-term league there's no comparison, but in a start-from-scratch, there are no ages.
010 Carlos Lee, of, Houston (33a) (28th)
I know he's had a little trouble with his elbow this spring, but still sitting there at the 28th pick? I had to take him.
011 Matt Holliday, of, Colorado (32A) (15th)
012 Lance Berkman, 1b-of, Houston (30A) (10th)
013 Chris Carpenter, sp, st. louis (30A) (7th)
Yeah, Cy Young this. I gotta be assured of 20 wins if I take a pitcher in the top ten - and I'm a pitching guy.
014 Jimmy Rollins, ss, Philadelphia (30a) (16th)
015 Chase Utley, 2b, Philadelphia (30a) (5th)
Great ballplayer but possibly the victim of what I foresee as a meltdown in Philly. Pat Burrell is hitting behind Ryan Howard this year. Burrell's been wearing a back brace all spring and is no great shakes when he isn't. Thus they pitch around Howard more this year, and while they're doing that, Utley will necessarily steal fewer bases and score fewer runs.
016 Jason Bay, of, Pittsburgh (29A) (11th)
017 Jeff Francoeur, of, Atlanta (29a) (48th)
As Bobby Cox said, hitting nothing but line drives all spring. Could be his breakout year. Damn well hope so; I took him in the fifth round, right behind Scott Rolen and just ahead of Mike Cameron.
018 Prince Fielder, 1b, Milwaukee (29a) (33rd)
Unsure if he'll cross 300 in average or weight first, but what a bat. Me again.
019 Derrek Lee, 1B, Chicago (29A) (17th)
020 Bill Hall, SS (OF), Milwaukee (29A) (35th)
Exceptionally valuable if he still qualifies at shortstop in your league as he does in ours.
021 Aramis Ramirez, 3b, Chicago (27a) (18th)
022 Andruw Jones, of, Atlanta (27a) (14th)
023 Chris Young, of, Arizona (27A) (108th)
Me again, and chickening out (the league cooperating with me). The 30/30 chance is just too good to pass up.
024 Roy Oswalt, sp, Houston (26a) (20th)
025 Adam Dunn, of, Cincinnati (26a) (42nd)
026 Juan Pierre, of, Los Angeles (26a) (19th)
027 Steven Drew, SS, Arizona (26A) (53rd)
Imagine J.D. Drew as a shortstop. That's the upside. Downside is - well, I can't think of one.
028 Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee (25A) (58th)
029 John Smoltz, sp, Atlanta (25A) (36th)
030 Carlos Zambrano, sp, Chicago (25A) (23rd)
031 Troy Tulowitzki, ss, Colorado (25A) (138th)
OK, I overvalued him. And I didn't even get to pick him. I just think he and Drew are the next stars at the position.
032 Brandon Webb, sp, Arizona (24A) (31st)
033 Carlos Delgado, 1b, New York (24A) (12th)
034 Corey Hart, of, Milwaukee (24a) (122nd)
Another guy I like, another guy I tried to wait on and got burned.
035 Trevor Hoffman, cl, San Diego (23A) (29th)
036 Willy Taveras, of, Colorado (23A) (74th)
037 Jake Peavy, sp, San Diego (23a) (24th)
038 Billy Wagner, cl, New York (22A) (25th)
039 Jeff Kent, 2b, Los Angeles (22A) (61st)
The non-destructive second basemen are few and far between this year.
040 Felipe Lopez, ss, Washington (22A) (46th)
041 Ryan Zimmerman, 3b, Washington (22B) (39th)
042 Bob Wickman, cl, Atlanta (21A) (86th)
043 Brian McCann, c, Atlanta (21A) (34th)
044 Chipper Jones, 3b, Atlanta (21B) (40th)
045 Brian Fuentes, cl, Colorado (20A) (73rd)
046 Scott Linebrink, rp, San Diego (20A) (82nd)
Doesn't make much sense, right? He had 36 "holds" last year - about ten more than anybody else in the National League - the equivalent of about 50 saves. Ignore if you don't count holds.
047 Derek Lowe, sp, Los Angeles (20A) (68th)
048 Adrian Gonzalez, 1b, San Diego (20B) (48th)
049 Mike Jacobs, 1b, Florida (20B) (112th)
050 Conor Jackson, 1b, Arizona (20B) (85th)
051 Brad Hawpe, of, Colorado (20B) (56th)
052 Josh Willingham, of, Florida (20B) (81st)
053 Ryan Freel, of, Cincinnati (20B) (104th)
054 Edwin Encarnacion, 3b, Cincinnati (20B) (95th)
055 Scott Rolen, 3b, St. Louis (20B) (47th)
056 Chad Cordero, cl, Washington (19A) (76th)
057 Ben Sheets, sp, Milwaukee (19A) (27th)
You want to rely on his health?
058 Adam Laroche, 1b, Pittsburgh (19B) (38th)
059 Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, San Diego (19B) (143rd)
060 Jose Bautista, 3B, Pittsburgh (19B) (184th)
Once again, I'm a little ahead of the crowd - by 124 spots - but the Pirates think this guy finally has his head on straight and his bat speaks for itself.
061 Kelly Johnson, of (2b), Atlanta (19B) (193rd)
062 Josh Hamilton, of, Cincinnati (19B) (156th)
063 Tim Hudson, sp, Atlanta (18A) (113th)
064 Adam Wainwright, sp, St. Louis (18A) (117th)
Got Hudson, obviously did not get Wainwright. Hudson's focus seems to be back, and I think Wainwright could be better than Carpenter this year - but it's a big if.
065 Brett Myers, sp, Philadelphia (18A) (37th)
066 Eric Byrnes, of, Arizona (18B) (78th)
067 Dustin Hermanson, cl, Cincinnati (18B) (153rd)
The ESPN rating has him about 515th. What has gotten no attention yet, is that Jerry Narron is going to have him close. Most of the bullpens are in flux this year - might as well listen to what the manager says.
068 Barry Zito, sp, San Francisco (17A) (51st)
069 Chris Young, sp, San Diego (17A) (45th)
070 Matt Cain, sp, San Francisco (17A) (44th)
071 Bronson Arroyo, sp, Cincinnati (17A) (75th)
072 Jason Isringhausen, cl, St. Louis (17B) (80th)
073 Jeremy Hermida, of, Florida (17B) (116th)
He hasn't hit this spring, and now he's hurting.
074 Todd Helton, 1b, Colorado (17B) (55th)
075 Jacque Jones, of, Chicago (17B) (69th)
076 Aaron Rowand, of, Philadelphia (17B) (107th)
077 Pat Burrell, of, Philadelphia (17B) (63rd)
078 Austin Kearns, of, Washington (17B) (83rd)
079 Chad Tracy, 3b, Arizona (17C) (84th)
080 Freddy Sanchez, SS-3b-2b, pitt. (16A) (90th)
081 Russell Martin, C, Los Angeles (16a) (71st)
082 Dontrelle Willis, sp, Florida (16A) (64th)
083 Dave Bush, sp, Milwaukee (16A) (93rd)
The Brewer bullpen blew five leads for him last year - the best known dark-horse of 2007.
084 Rafael Soriano, rp, Atlanta (16A) (128th)
085 Brad Lidge, cl, Houston (16B) (57th)
086 Chris Burke, 2b-of, Houston (16B) (167th)
087 Aaron Harang, sp, Cincinnati (15A) (43rd)
088 Chris Capuano, sp, Milwaukee (15A) (91st)
089 Greg Maddux, sp, San Diego (15A) (148th)
090 Aaron Heilman, rp, New York (15A) (89th)
091 Takashi Saito, cl, Los Angeles (15B) (54th)
The buzz on the Dodger bullpen is pretty well-heard. Saito's trick delivery has gotten old and the hitters will solve him, thus causing Grady Little to switch to Jonathan Broxton.
092 Ray Durham, 2b, San Francisco (15B) (88th)
093 Khalil Greene, ss, San Diego (15B) (127th)
094 Rafael Furcal, ss, Los Angeles (15B) (22nd)
He sprained his knee or his ankle or his entire body or something. 94th might be a little dismissive of him, but I can't buy 22nd.
095 Dan Uggla, 2B, Florida (15B) (30th)
As the oldest cliché of the playground goes, I'd like to see him do it again.
096 Orlando Hudson, 2b, Arizona (15B) (94th)
097 Marcus Giles, 2b, San Diego (15B) (70th)
098 Carlos Quentin, of, Arizona (15C) (79th)
His labrum hurts. The three worst words you can hear, especially about a young hitter.
099 Scott Olsen, sp, Florida (14A) (124th)
100 Anthony Reyes, sp, St. Louis (14A) (99th)
101 Ian Snell, sp, Pittsburgh (14A) (123rd)
102 Chuck James, sp, Atlanta (14A) (125th)
103 Michael Barrett, c, Chicago (14A) (65th)
104 Dan Wheeler, rp, Houston (14A) (119th)
Closed when Lidge blew up last year. Might do so again - somebody to pay attention to, even if you don't have a holds category.
105 Tom Gordon, cl, Philadelphia (14B) (77th)
106 Edgar Renteria, ss, Atlanta (14B) (60th)
107 Mike Cameron, of, San Diego (14C) (49th)
108 Chris Duffy, of, Pittsburgh (14C) (164th)
109 Player name redacted
He wasn't chosen, he's a free agent in my league, and I ain't giving that away for free.
110 Chris Duncan, of, St. Louis (14C) (170th)
111 Ken Griffey, of, Cincinnati (14C) (101st)
112 Randy Winn, of, San Francisco (14C) (181st)
113 Dave Roberts, of, San Francisco (14C) (111th)
114 Anibal Sanchez, sp, Florida (13A) (146th)
115 Russ Ortiz, sp, San Francisco (13A) (213th)
116 Mike Gonzalez, rp, Atlanta (13A) (103rd)
117 Jonathan Broxton, rp, Los Angeles (13A) (107th)
118 Jose Valverde, cl, Arizona (13B) (115th)
119 Jason Schmidt, sp, Los Angeles (13B) (32nd)
He's been absolutely flat all spring. Hasn't thrown a pitch faster than 86 MPH. That's enough to scare me off.
120 Randy Johnson, sp, Arizona (13B) (52nd)
121 Mike Pelfrey, sp, New York (13B) (188th)
122 Freddy Garcia, sp, Philadelphia (13B) (105th)
123 Jason Jennings, sp, Houston (13B) (131st)
124 Cole Hamels, sp, Philadelphia (13B) (66th)
Could be the next great lefthander, but as fond as I was of the Phillies last year, that's how convinced I am they're in for a disaster - managerial firing, recriminations, brawls in the clubhouse, 20 blown leads, the whole biblical punishment thing.
125 Morgan Ensberg, 3b, Houston (13C) (96th)
125b Chad Billingsley, rp, Los Angeles (12B) (114th)
The Dodgers have, with the rare kind of genius that their fans know all too well, chosen to stick him in middle relief, and put Brett Tomko in the rotation. It may be months before they figure this mistake out.
126 Armando Benitez, cl, San Francisco (12B) (110th)
127 Chris Iannetta, C, Colorado (12B) (133rd)
128 David Ross, C, Cincinnati (12B) (239th)
129 Chad Qualls, rp, Houston (12B) (141st)
130 Omar Vizquel, ss, San Francisco (12B) (129th)
131 Andre Ethier, of, Los Angeles (12C) (155th)
132 Wilson Betemit, 3b, Los Angeles (12C) (169th)
133 Francisco Cordero, cl, Milwaukee (11B) (59th)
Again, an uncertain pen. As much talk of Turnbow finishing for them - or both of them perhaps.
134 Brandon Lyon, rp, Arizona (11B) (200th)
135 Brad Penny, sp, Los Angeles (11B) (100th)
136 Johnny Estrada, c, Milwaukee (11B) (98th)
137 Redacted again - not drafted in our league. Ask me in July.
138 Xavier Nady, of-1b, Pittsburgh (11C) (166th)
139 Tom Glavine, sp, New York (10B) (121st)
140 Zach Duke, sp, Pittsburgh (10B) (202nd)
141 Sorry, more redaction theatre.
142 Tim Lincecum, p, San Francisco (10B) (233rd)
Same scenario as Billingsley - but for Lincecum you hear people invoke the names "Feller" and "Koufax." Find a spot for him, especially if you're down to drafting surplus pitchers.
143 Rich Hill, sp, Chicago (10B) (93rd)
144 Randy Wolf, sp, Los Angeles (10B) (172nd)
145 Paul LoDuca, c, New York (10B) (62nd)
146 Tom Gorzelanny, sp, Pittsburgh (10B) (175th)
147 Josh Bard, c, San Diego (10B) (197th)
148 Ronny Paulino, c, Pittsburgh (10B) (215th)
149 Bobby Howry, rp, Chicago (10B) (149th)
150 Matt Capps, rp, Pittsburgh (10B) (178th)
151 Scott Thorman, 1b, Atlanta (10B) (226th)
152 Redacted - but here's a hint: one of the myriad of Florida closer possibilities.
153 Pedro Feliz, 3b, San Francisco (10C) (160th)
154 Jim Edmonds, of, St. Louis (10C) (147th)
155 Luke Scott, of, Houston (10C) (206th)
156 Barry Bonds, of, San Francisco (10C) (67th)
157 Brian Giles, of, San Diego (10C) (72nd)
Frankly, I don't get this. His power was already evaporating, then he went into the worst home run park in the league, and was moved to second in the batting order.
158 Shane Victorino, of, Philadelphia (10C) (158th)
159 Moises Alou, of, New York (10C) (92nd)
160 Luis Gonzalez, of, Los Angeles (10C) (102nd)
161 Geoff Jenkins, of, Milwaukee (10C) (134th)
162 Juan Encarnacion, of, St. L Injured (10D) (136th)
163 Termel Sledge, of, San Diego (10D) (238th)
164 Ryan Church, of, Washington (10D) (118th)
165 Kevin Mench, of, Milwaukee (10D) (191st)
166 Shawn Green, of, New York (10D) (180th)
167 Miguel Olivo, C, Florida (9B) (120th)
168 J.J. Hardy, ss, Milwaukee (9B) (142nd)
169 Adam Kennedy, 2b, St. Louis (9B) (205th)
170 Scott Eyre, rp, Chicago (9B) (179th)
171 John Patterson, sp, Washington (9C) (144th)
172 Salomon Torres, cl, Pittsburgh (9C) (140th)
173 John Maine, sp, New York (9C) (149th)
174 Nomar Garciaparra, 1b, Los Angeles (9C) (41st)
175 Rich Aurilia, 1b-3b-ss, San Francisco (9C) (173rd)
176 Lastings Milledge, of, New York (9D) (248th)
177 Benjie Molina, c, San Francisco (8B) (109th)
178 Randy Flores, rp, St. Louis (8B) (not drafted)
179 Steve Kline, rp, San Francisco (8B) (not drafted)
180 Jon Rauch, rp, Washington (8B) (186th)
181 Scott Schoenweis, rp, New York (8B) (not drafted)
182 Mark DeRosa, 2b-3b, Chicago (8C) (185th)
183 Craig Biggio, 2b, Houston (8C) (152nd)
184 Ryan Dempster, cl, Chicago (8C) (126th)
185 Clay Hensley, Sp, San Diego (8C) (174th)
186 Andy LaRoche, 3b, Los Angeles (8D) (230th)
187 Wes Helms, 3b, Philadelphia (8D) (194th)
188 Nook Logan, of, Washington (8D) (not drafted)
189 Ryan Casto, of, Washington (8D) (not drafted)
190 Derrick Turnbow, cl, Milwaukee (7C) (199th)
191 Redacted again, sorry.
192 Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis (7C) (192nd)
193 Jose Capellan, rp, Milwaukee (6B) (not drafted)
194 Cla Meredith, rp, San Diego (6B) (208th)
195 Kip Wells, sp, St. Louis (6C) (212th)
196 Craig Wilson, 1b, Atlanta (6C) (240th)
197 Cliff Floyd, of, Chicago (6D) (176th)
198 Endy Chavez, of, New York (6D) (210th)
199 Matt Murton, of, Chicago (6D) (159th)
200 Pedro Martinez, sp, New York injured (5C) (168th)
And that's where we'll leave you, with the footnote that with three "reserve" spots to burn and a glitch in the computer permitting it, one of our more waggish owners chose the next to last spot in the draft - 249th of 250 - to select Alex Rodriguez, on the off chance that after his promises to "be with Lou in Chicago next year," next year may come sooner than we all think.