Monday, July 24, 2006

I drool. I drool so much.

by Ryland Walker Knight

I rarely exercise on a regular basis. A run every once in a while, maybe some frisbee or soccer for a few hours every couple weeks. Basketball is a thing of the past with courts routinely crowded by Asian ballers flashing their Jordans and predictable cross overs; but I don’t wear the right shoes and can’t drive to spare the game my ugly jump shot. More often than not I choose the spectator route. It’s easier to critique, you know?

Baseball is my spectator sport of choice: I can’t hit to save my life but I love watching people who can. (I’d like to say soccer but that would be a lie brought on by World Cup fever.) And it’s obvious my affinity for America’s Pastime: it’s got the best stats. Stats to drool over. Stats you can dream about. Stats to surf the internet “researching”. Stats you can love? fantasize about? lust after? If you own a fantasy baseball team the answer is undoubtedly yes.

My favorite stats are always frowned upon by my fellow fantasy friends. For a couple years I weaseled Grounded Into Double Plays (as in induced by the pitcher) into the rotisserie to quite a heft backlash. I thought Shutouts were a good pitching stat—slightly rare but frequent enough to matter—but that proved misguided and unpopular. Most recent it’s been Hit by Pitch (as in the pitcher hits the batter). Now, HBP wasn’t my first choice, but I think it’s a great stat: perfectly arbitrary and ridiculous yet easily a winnable category. Especially if it were switched to a positive. Imagine owning Pedro when he was on the Red Sox from 01998-02002, when he ruled by change up and intimidation. I think he hit somebody just for fun at least once every few games to keep the opposition on their toes, as it were.

There are some stats I’d love to have but Yahoo won’t let me. Batting Average Against (which I’ll substitute Total Bases Allowed for next year instead of HBP) is the best—a true sign of a pitcher’s dominance. Every year there’s a pitcher who wins something like 16 or 18 games but has a WHIP (Walks + Hits over Innings Pitched) close to 1.50. Contrast that to Johan Santana’s Cy Young season: he won 20 games with a WHIP of 0.92 while striking out 265 batters. That’s worthy of a lot of personal quality times over hours, days, months, an entire season.

But you don’t want to get carried away with the stats. You don’t want to root for Jared Weaver to win all his starts against the A’s down the stretch just so you can gain some points, do you? Fuck that. Loyalty must be retained, even if the only stat on the A’s roster you can get hot for is Barry Zito’s BAA: something you may not have next year thanks to free agency inflation and a sheep’s call of stars heading to New York. And with Rich Harden refusing to prove the hype right with injury after injury, the bodacious, curvaceous, lascivious stats we’re promsed every year keep running away and hiding. We have to draft players our allegiances tell us to hate. A-Rod’s not even having a banner year like usual. Soriano strikes out a billion times a year, almost as often as Adam Dunn, who, in turn, hasn’t been hitting the dingers like usual. Even Big Papi has the stigma of playing for the fucking Red Sox.

The only solace is that Barry Bonds is no longer a fantasy stud. His age has caught up now that baseball has caught on to his juice box frenzy. He’s well below his career average, his HR totals are significantly mediocre, he’s even striking out more often than ever in recent memory. He still walks a ton—leads the league in Intentional Base on Balls—but that’s about the only stat he’s giving any owners any dreams about. But they’re the nostalgia-tinged kind. The kind where you stay up late to think about that big meaty head hardly smiling as he swats home run 600. The kind where you wish you had taken him in the third round in 02001 only to kick yourself forever by choosing Tim Hudson because of your cross-bay rivalry. The kind you want to wake up from, really. Right, that kind is the kind we call nightmare. And it’s the kind he’s living now, all balky knees and excess muscle mass. Everything uneasy from the field to the locker room to the house of law where former best friends tell stories of roid rage. And ex mistresses say he threw phones at their heads. He’ll be lucky to finish the season without going to jail at the rate things are going with all this indictment whirlwind on ESPN—

Pardon the interruption but, don’t you own Bonds this year?

Right. Ahem. Well, maybe, I dunno, he could catch fire, turn—

Wait: I picked up Liriano off waivers in May. With stats like that, I might could drool my way to the top. But that’s a lot of drool. And I've only got so much time to waste on the internet.


  1. you need to get out more. aren't you leaving new york?

    baseball is boring, anyways.

  2. I hit 30 so far--what you talking about?

  3. I'm nowhere near the top spot. This season was a waste in terms of fantasy... too much time outside, not enough nerdland browsing.