I am entering my 20th season of Fantasy baseball, having played against literally hundreds of different opponents. Because it’s easier and more fun than finding a catcher who will hit more than .220, I’ve placed all of my foes into categories. If you are lucky enough to actually have an in-person draft (or remember them), you’ll know these guys. If you’ve only ever drafted online, get out of your mom’s basement, go make some friends, and buy a case of beer for crying out loud. Your Mountain Dew obsession doesn’t scare any of your opponents.
Even if you draft online, you can often identify these types of owners. Here they are, and here’s how you can neutralize them on draft day:
- The King. He’s the guy who always wins; you write your league entry fee check out in his name instead of to the commissioner. The room stops when he walks in and you follow him like a puppy dog in case he drops you some Fantasy crumbs just from casual talk. HOW TO HANDLE HIM: Compliment him, whisper questions in his ear (like “Is Ike Davis’s Valley Fever cleared up?” or “Corey Hart is expected back in May, right?”). Talk him up. It can distract him, or if he engages, you might get those crumbs from his table.
- The ATM. You can’t figure out why this guy plays at all. He’s a lock to finish in the bottom three and he won’t make any transactions after Memorial Day (and some years Easter). He pays on Draft Day and his check clears, so nobody talks about booting him.
- The Newsstand. He does no preparation work at all. He bought a magazine in December, kept it in his bathroom, but apparently the smell has affected his reading comprehension abilities. HOW TO HANDLE HIM: Tell him you think his magazine is the best one on the market; 10 minutes later, ask to see it so you can look up a guy real quick. Grab it; check the out-of-date lists he’s using to know who’s coming up on his radar.
- The Homer—Loves having guys from his real life team on his Fantasy roster. Usually a Boston Red Sox fan. HOW TO HANDLE HIM: If a player on his team is coming up in the draft rankings, be confident he will grab him and plan accordingly; If you have an obvious hole on your team, draft his guy and make a quick offer “Hey, I’ll give you Middlebrooks for Cliff Lee. Could be a great keeper player for next season too…”
- The Tomboy—Your friend’s friend invited the girl into your league. You’re okay with a girl in the league (on the record) but you prefer to make bodily noises and jokes about The Homer’s mom looking just like Peter Gammons, but her presence makes it harder. She tries too hard to demonstrate that she knows her stuff, “I read in the Sacramento Bee that the A’s are going closer by committee” which pisses you off for two reasons – she’s showing off and she’s telling four owners who didn’t know that they didn’t have a go-to closer. HOW TO HANDLE HER: Ignore her on draft day but secretly email her, with effusive praise for her draft and an arms-wide-open welcome to the league attitude. People trade with people they like and can work with. Make her like you; make the guys think you have nothing to do with her.
- The Old Guy—If you’re 25, this guy is 43. If you’re 43, this guy’s like 68. He asks if you can turn on another light, he puts on glasses to read his cheat sheets and asks for the last three picks because he didn’t hear them. (When I was 23, the old guy at my draft wore uniform pants to the draft. I asked him how his softball team did and he replied that he wasn’t on a softball team. I cannot tell if all the “old guys” are weird like that; Today, I would be the old guy among 25-year-old drafters.) HOW TO HANDLE HIM: When his first pick is up, jump in with “Honus Wagner is still available, grandpa.” His instant facial expression is what kind of guy he is – if he scowls, he’s a crabapple. If he laughs or tells you he’s holding out for Ty Cobb, he’s an alright guy, and owner.
- The Laptop— Many or most owners bring a laptop, so The Laptop 2.0 is The Draft Software Guy. He will make a curious pick or two, and you assume his algorithm is either a genius or seriously flawed. When he tells you “good pick” you feel proud either way. He generally doesn’t talk much because he’s too busy sorting 3rd basemen by batting average and then by stolen bases. HOW TO HANDLE HIM: When you order pizza in the middle of the draft, or right after your pick sidle up next to him, ask him to show you (he will, because it’s like a new car, everyone wants to show it off.) Make eye contact with him after your pick; if he nods at you, his draft robot approves. Immediately after the draft, ask him if he can show you who the software likes to win the league – you’ll get an instant look at your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
- The ADHD Guy—He’s the one who calls out names that have been kept, or already drafted. He usually looks like he’s got lots of data and lists, but he never knows which one he should be looking at. HOW TO HANDLE HIM: After he commits his first gaffe, tell him “Ryan Braun is available? No way” (or some variation on that) before a few of his picks.” It may distract him, but he’s already lost, so do it purely for laughs.
- The Guy Nobody Really Knows—Nobody knows who brought him into the league; nice enough guy, but he never talks, and seems to finish in the money every year. HOW TO HANDLE HIM: The hardest guy to affect at the draft, but if you know anything about him, ask a small talk question and hope to get a conversation going. But mostly email him during the season and don’t acknowledge you have no idea whether he’s married, where he works, what school he went to, or who the hell he knows in the league. Pretend you guys go way back and hope he’ll trade.
- The Know It All—He just has to demonstrate that he might know more than you. When you pick Ben Zobrist, he asks “where should I slot him in?” When you take Adam Dunn he says “Enjoy that .230 average – I couldn’t decide how many homers were worth it.” Note: This is typical of the Tom Boy’s habit of convincing you she belongs in the league and can beat the pants of all you guys. HOW TO HANDLE HIM OR HER: “Where am I slotting Zobrist? In (The Homer)’s Mother.” Or, if the Tom Boy is in attendance “I was thinking catcher.”
- The Dennis Hopper—Usually he’s someone’s cousin and the only reason he plays Fantasy baseball is to get away from his wife or girlfriend for the day, and he imbibes like it’s his 21st birthday or the day prohibition was repealed. He’s hilarious and you can see his decision making and pronunciation declining round-by-round. He is often The Newsstand or The ADHD Guy. HOW TO HANDLE HIM: Get him another beer, open it for him, and enjoy that awkward moment of silence when he picks the guy who snapped his Achilles last week.
- The Homer 2.0—He may or may not pick him favorite team’s players, but even though he never misses his team’s game on TV, he seems to know nothing about any of the other 29 clubs. You’ll know this guy by how he butchers Nick Markakis’ name or points out Tim Lincecum’s picture in his magazine and says “Sheesh, get that guy a pair of scissors.” HOW TO HANDLE HIM: Just ask him if he’s paid up after he asks if you think R.A. Dickey can win the NL Cy Young again this season.
- The Dave Matthews – He’s the guy who shows up with the Funyons, moves at about half-speed and has a keen interest in your spice cabinet for some reason. He acts like he’d rather be at a Grateful Dead show, but he’s strangely competitive, which makes you think his “methods” may open your mind and help you escape all the noise, man. HOW TO HANDLE HIM: Conversations are hard, if not impossible with this guy; and the Dave Matthews never emails. Just look straight into his eyes in case you happen to see into his soul (“Oh my God, Aroldis Chapman is going to win the Cy Young as a starter.” And you thought he took R.A. Dickey last year because saying Dickey sent him into a 10 minute giggle fit.)
The more you know about your competition, the more you can understand and exploit them. But, on the other hand, have they figured out which kind of owner you are and have they been playing you for years? Either way, remember it’s pronounced Mar-kay-kiss and make sure he hasn’t been drafted when you correctly pronounce his name.