It wasn’t supposed to end like this. I was was going to lose and by a wide margin. That’s what I thought when the fantasy baseball season started. I’ve been in the same head to head keeper league for going on 6 years. The last two, I had roared into the playoffs only to see my teams crash and burn in the first round.
One of the problems my team had was age. By baseball standards, my keepers were becoming ancient. The previous year, Jose Bautista was the youngest of my superstars at age 31. All the others were much older. Chase Utley, Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins and Lance Berkman, while productive, were on the tail end of their careers.
As last year came to end, I stashed young superstars Bryce Harper and Mike Trout on my bench, with thoughts of keeping one or the other for the next season. I also selected and put on my bench Stephen Strasburg, who had undergone Tommy John surgery and wouldn’t be able to pitch until the following year.
When this year began, I decided on a mix of old and young, keeping Bautista, Berkman, Young and Harper. For pitchers, it was Stephen Strasburg and Yovani Gallardo.
Just prior to our draft, I made a trade for Joey Votto, of the Cincinnati Reds by giving up Jose Bautista and a 6th round pick.
When we held our draft in March of this year, I went young, with the thought of building for the future and just taking my lumps. The only older player I drafted was David Ortiz, a personal favorite of mine. I was able to once again draft Mike Trout, added Chris Sale, Kendrys Morales, James Garcia and Matt Latos.
Once the season started, I found my fears realized when Lance Berkman was injured early on and barely played. Other injuries followed. Harper and Trout started the season in the minors. My season began with 2 wins and 5 loses. Just to kick sand in my face, fate added a torn meniscus for Joey Votto who would be out for nearly 2 months.
Then something unexpected happened on the way to my throw away season. Bryce Harper, at age 19 and Mike Trout, at age 20, decided to both have seasons for the ages. The two of them carried my team for months, with Mike Trout winning several categories all by himself.
I managed to win my division, admittedly the weakest of our league’s three divisions and finished with a 10-9-1 record. In the first round of the playoffs outstanding pitching and just enough offense broke my first round losing streak and put me into the finals.
In the finals, both teams played well. My team hit .291 and a pitched to a 3.309 ERA. The other guy’s team hit and pitched better. But my team racked up more at bats and innings pitched and we ended in a statistical tie at 8-8. Through a fluke of scheduling we didn’t face each other in the regular season, so the tie breaker was average stat position and it was once again close, with my team winning 5.3 to 5.6. Close. But after 6 years I had won my first league championship and the financial payout which comes with it.
And the reason I won is because I took a chance and went young, with my young players stepping up and performing way beyond their years. At one point, another team offered a more than fair trade for Trout, about half way through his hot streak. I realized if I were to have any chance of making the playoffs, I would need the stat stuffing young phenom to do it. Not making that trade is what allowed me to win my division, and then the championship.
Going into next year, I’m well positioned with Joey Votto, Mike Trout, Bryace Harper and Jose Bautista, who I managed to regain by trade after his season was ended by injury.
The baseball post season is in full swing, with my beloved Cincinnati Reds playing well. Perhaps they can win a World Series championship. Either way, I’m going to enjoy our fantasy off-season as our leagues most improbable champion.