Tuesday, April 19, 2005

La Draft Est Finie

Yes I use the feminine "la." The draft she is a woman. She is a wench, a witch, a temptress but most she is a power lifter. You try to take the kiss, she take your face and scrub the wall until the wall is tired.

I think she is from Marseilles. Zut! Alors! Yes we remember him, Mr. Prosciutto "Zut" Alors, the great teammate of Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown.

The draft for the Patrick Finley Memorial Fantasy Baseball League is punishing but a great pleasure. It's not like the SATs, which can send you to hell or Fresno State, whichever comes first. Like poetry, the draft makes nothing happen.

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

But I digress.

I wrote the other day with great seriousness about the draft. I treated the draft as if it were a funeral at sea. I draped it in colors. I played a mournful song and tipped the draft overboard while standing at rigid attention.

Bah. Humbug.

(And yes Poobah "Bah" Humbug caught Addie Joss' second no hitter, the one in Chicago on a day when you could see the storm approaching over the lake with sparks of lightning in the clouds, and Humbug kept saying, "There ain't no God but Humbug. Just look at me and throw the damn ball, son.")

(But I digress.)

The draft is not general. The draft is very specific. It is a series of details, each of which matters very much. I mean we do an auction draft. Most fantasy leagues consist of owners making a list of players and then picking in turn until all the available players are chosen, though some adjustments to the lists are made as the choosing unfolds. I won't bore you with why. If you care, you know why, and if you don't care ... you haven't read this far.

Anyway, ours is an auction draft, which means we buy players position by position. Preparing a plan is one thing, but executing that plan is something very different. Not only must you value players accurately based on your prediction of how well they will fare this year and in terms of how we score in our league. You must anticipate how others will value players based on their prediction of how well they will fare this year. You must also anticipate the degree to which your league comrades are idiots. If your predicted values are right, and everyone else is wrong, then you are wrong. The new pope would not like this. It's all relative.

For example, let us say you (meaning me) are so very much smarter than everyone else. You understand that catcher Ivan Rodriquez is worth $6.25 and catcher Javy Lopez is worth $6. And you are right. You are the true prophet. Six months later at the end of the season their performance will be just as you said. But during the draft you bid "Pudge" -- as we, the cognoscenti, know him -- up to $6 and win his services and you are so proud. You have achieved a small bargain. But then Mr. Lopez is "thrown out" -- and thus I am introducing you to the nomenclature of draft day; I am making you an insider -- and someone buys him for $3. Let us say all the other catchers are worth somewhere between $2 and 25 cents, which is our minimum bid. All the catchers sell for a quarter. You and all those who paid a quarter for a quarter catcher are even. The Lopez buyer and all those who bought quarter catchers who were worth more than a quarter have the advantage over you.

And they are stupid stupid stupid!

Unless in fact they understand your vanity about valuing players accurately even if those values are expensive and they have played you as they might have played the fuzzy kitten.

How wonderful this shifting specificity. (I am thinking quantum physics here.) The drafting at each position -- the thinking about and bidding and not bidding for each player -- becomes a game within a game within a game. It makes the draft tense, joyful, irresistible.

I might add two make that three more things:

1) To some extent the draft is alcohol-fuelled. Not so much as it once was, but as I promised in last Thursday's post Brother Peter Moore opened several bottles of most agreeable red. And I brought along a fifth of cognac for my coffee. Hmm. Let me say that again. Hmm. (I don't mean, "Ummmm" as in "Ummmm, ummmm, good." I mean a thoughtful, "Hmmmm. Maybe that's why my draft endgame was so muddled?")

2) To some extent the draft is testosterone-fuelled, though much less than it once was. But occasionally macho moments arise when participants get into a stare down, a bid up, a moment of vicarious penile peacock flourish. I still remember the great bidding war for Jim Rice back there in either '85 or '86 with Brother Bob Wieder. We were fouled with drink, my friend, and no it isn't pretty to think so. We may try to play at confrontation now, but it's shadow, a feint, a pantomime, a sham. It never really gets started. It fizzles on the vine. The ghost has left that particular machine.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing.

Methinks I doth digress too much.

3) Finally, if you think your player values are just right, and everyone else is paying too little or too much, you can become so obsessed with not paying too much and with getting the very best bargains available that you save your money for super bargains that never come, and suddenly the draft is over and you have money left. Money left is worthless. You don't get it back. You can't invest it for next year. Money left at the end of the draft is tin.

Yesterday at the end of the draft I had money left.

Call me The Tinman.

(Actually, I'm the Six Bunny-Wunnies. It's a long story.)


B. Wieder said...

And although you can't take it with you, you do find yourself well positioned. New Rule Suggestion: If you find yourself with excess money at the end, you can transfer it to a fellow owner who is penniless, perhaps one that you euchred horribly in '85 or '86, an episode that I actually have no recollection of whatsoever, which indicates that it must have really been fun.

G Pabst said...

The tale of the tape: while I'm no Bill James, the stats for 6 b-w seems to show a lack of offensive punch (you drafted for power but not consistancy of hit production) and your pitching is about a dynamic as dishwater (tho the "Saves" number is trying to send me a revelatory telegram).

But the season is young!

One (this one) hopes you have a few trades up your sleeve - if your rules allow such a thing.

(It's always difficult to truly understand the religion of another.)