Fantasy baseball is not for the faint of heart. A long, six-month slog replete with daily lineup tinkering, constant waiver-wire scouring and a sea of trade proposals, the fantasy season can wear down even the most ardent baseball nerds. I am in two fantasy leagues and find myself spending an inordinate amount of time agonizing over the most inane decisions. Just a couple days ago I spent an hour debating whether to drop the inconsequential Chad Pinder for the inconsequential Jose Pirela or the slightly more inconsequential Eric Sogard (I picked Pirela).
My fantasy team is a labor of love, and I care about that love deeply. I care so much that I compulsively check scores of games on MLB.com to see how my players are doing. I will tune into MLB.tv in inappropriate situations (work meetings, dates) to watch “my” players as they hit or pitch in real time. While this all might sound very intense, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. While standard fantasy leagues feature an early season draft and various free agent pickups and trades throughout the season, the structure of a team stays largely the same. However, in daily fantasy (DFS) leagues, it’s quite the opposite.
DFS leagues on websites like DraftKings and FanDuel feature a new draft every day! Assemble a roster for just that night (or afternoon) of games and three hours later the “league” is over and starts anew the next day. So not only does a fantasy player have their standard league players to observe, they have a completely new team of players to track each night if they play DFS.
With all these fantasy baseball options it can become addicting. Below are some tried and true signs to look out for:
- Rooting against your favorite team. One of the first tell-tale signs of fantasy addiction is a shift in rooting interest when your favorite team is playing. If I’m a Yankee fan, and the Yankees are matching up against Marco Estrada of the Blue Jays, but I’m a Marco Estrada owner in my fantasy league, who do I root for? The natural reaction is that, since I’ve been a Yankee fan for over 20 years and an Estrada owner for months, I should root for the Yankees regardless. But that’s not what happens. Often times I have find my rooting interests muddled, pulling for a Yankees 1-0 win if I own a pitcher on the opposing team. But sometimes it’s worse than that. I’m a Josh Donaldson owner and he hit what turned out to be a game-winning home run against the Yankees in the eighth inning a couple weekends ago. I actually cheered, even though the team that brought joy to my childhood lost. What the hell.
- “Paul Goldschmidt is on third!” This one basically means compulsively checking fantasy results. The title is derived from a recent comment made by a friend who was playing DFS one night. He picked Paul Goldschmidt in a couple lineups and was, while driving on a busy bridge during rush hour, checking the Arizona/Detroit game on his phone about nine minutes after the game started. With childlike wonderment he excitedly uttered “Paul Goldschmidt is on third!”. I guess by virtue of being on third Goldschmidt was close to scoring a run, which meant he would accrue two points in DraftKings DFS (context: top teams in DFS typically score 175+ points in a night). I turned to him and said, “Wow, that might be the most pathetic thing anyone has ever said to me.” Was it worth risking a fiery car wreck to know that Goldschmidt had the potential score two DFS points only nine minutes into the game? If you’re a fantasy degenerate it is.
- Having conflicted fantasy rooting interests due to participating in an excessive amount of leagues. I have fantasy teams in two separate leagues, with a decent amount of player overlap between them, so my rooting interests are consistent each night. I want Alex Avila to hit home runs, Tommy Kahnle to get holds and Luis Perdomo to pitch quality starts. But what if you’re in six head-to-head (meaning that you match up against another fantasy owner each week) fantasy leagues? You’re probably battling against the players you own on one team in another league. Layering on new DFS lineups each night is a further complication. How do you keep these rooting interests straight?
- Checking the MLB app to track player progress instead of just looking at the fantasy app. This might be a little hard for non-fantasy players to relate to, so let me explain it. Every fantasy league website offers a smartphone app that allows the user to easily track player performance in real time. If, two hours into the slate of games, I wanted to check how my team is doing, it would be very easy to open the fantasy app and get the download on all my players at once. But, for whatever reason, I enjoy going onto the MLB app (or MLB.com) and checking each of the games individually to see how my players are doing. There is some cheap, visceral thrill in doing this, however it takes about 10x as long to track my team this way and offers no tangible benefit.
- You think your fantasy team always gets the short end of the stick. Were three of your players rained out one night? Was your star pitcher injured? Did your head-to-head opponent have an uncharacteristically good week? In terms of fantasy, the grass is always patchy and brown on your side of the fence. No one else must deal with the pitfalls that your team goes through, and the fact that your team is still competitive despite these obstacles shows what a good manager you are. Of course that’s a gigantic hunk of feces. But for some reason the “woe is me” attitude affects a lot of fantasy owners, particularly ones like myself who put way too much importance on it.
- Losing appreciation for watching baseball games that don’t contain a fantasy rooting interest. I put this one at the end, because let’s be honest, baseball can be pretty freaking boring. But I’ve found it increasingly difficult to sit through even a handful of innings of a game that I don’t contain a fantasy rooting interest in. Baseball has basically become an avenue to selfishly root for myself.
At this point, I suspect some readers are like “Phew, someone else actually does things like that” while others are assuredly thinking “This man needs help.” Well I’m a big believer in self-help, and I’ve come up with some great ways to manage a fantasy baseball addiction like the one described above.
- Delete the fantasy and MLB apps from your phone. This is a very logical first step. Deleting fantasy and baseball related apps from your phone will reduce the temptation to compulsively check fantasy. Instead of monitoring Chris Sale’s start on a pitch by pitch basis, maybe you can take your girlfriend out for frozen yogurt? Maybe you can do the dishes? Go to a movie? These are all more wholesome activities than simply checking baseball box scores on a continuous basis. The problem with this suggestion is that you can always re-download the apps during moments of weakness.
- Get T-Mobile. You can’t check fantasy baseball on your phone without service. Switching to T-Mobile will ensure poor cell service and a subsequent inability to check fantasy on your phone. Of course, you won’t able to text or call your friends either.
- Don’t play DFS. In standard fantasy leagues, all the the tinkering, checking and obsessing is at least based around a squad that you stay with over a full year. There is something to be said for that, as you can form an attachment to certain players that at least somewhat resembles the more natural attachment that people have when rooting for their favorite teams. But DFS is another thing entirely. In DFS, the manager assembles a new team of mercenaries every day to compete against 30,000 other degenerates in a futile attempt to win money. If standard fantasy leagues are like Match.com, DFS leagues are like Tinder.
- Have a lot of different fantasy teams. This one might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but if you have enough teams, your rooting interests might become so unclear that you naturally care less about how your players do on a given night. It’s kind of like reserve psychology, or trying to ween of Tequila by drinking so much of it one night that you can’t bear to have it again.
- Talk about your fantasy baseball team to people who don’t give a shit about baseball or fantasy. Talking incessantly about fantasy to people who are also addicted to fantasy further enables the fantasy addiction. It’s like heroin addicts doing drugs together in a crack den. Discussing your squad with fantasy infidels will make you realize that 97% of people have no care or affinity for your world. This might potentially sober up the fantasy addict with some real-world perspective. Or it could make them feel like crap and send them spiraling into a further fantasy abyss.
- Quit your job, abandon first-world society and infiltrate a nomadic tribe in the Amazon Jungle. If all else fails, this step has a high probability of curing your fantasy baseball addiction.