November 19, 2021
My career in the fantasy baseball industry has finally come to a close. I have enjoyed the last 30 years (20 of it as a professional) for the most part and feel pretty good about the legacy I leave behind.
Probably my two greatest fantasy finds (and probably what
Iím most known for) were Johan Santana and Shohei Ohtani. I was writing about
them on this site well before they were on anyone elseís radar. In fact, my
article touting the potential of Santana the year before
I helped Tout Wars become what it is today. Lots of people have contributed to its success, none moreso than its founder Ron Shandler, who has done more than everyone else combined to make sure it is fantasy baseballís premier expert competition. Frankly, the man should have his own wing in the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame, but thatís another story. Anyway, some of the changes I instituted will likely continue as long as the enterprise exists.
The year before I joined, both the AL and NL auctions were
held in Steve Moyerís basement. The photos from that weekend in March of 2000
are pretty mind-blowing when put in the context of fantasy baseball being the
billion dollar industry it is today. Suffice it to say the participants were so
sandwiched in with each other and their prep materials around the tables that
there was barely enough room for chips to snack on.† The year I joined (which was my first ever
participating in an AL-only league) the setting was upgraded to a motel in New
Jersey, a full half-hour from New York City. The closest attractions were a
swamp in one direction and a Medieval Times a block down the road in the other.
The following year it was held in a motel in
It was then that Ron formed the Tout Wars LLC and reached
out to me to be one of its founding board members. He had invited Sam Walker of
the Wall Street Journal to participate and chronicle the season on the
That was also the first year I was published in a major
fantasy publication: The Fantasy Baseball Index 2004 Draft Guide. So not only
was I under the pressure of a book being written about the league I was in, but
it was also the first time that everyone in the league knew exactly what I
thought about every player and how much I was willing to spend on them.
Fortunately, my evaluations were pretty accurate and I ended up winning Tout
Wars for the first time by the largest margin to date. Sorry to have spoiled
the ending if you havenít read
The next year was also held in
Walkerís book had been successful enough to generate rumors
of a movie deal so it was fitting that season also happened to be my second
Tout victory. I put the auction back downtown the following year at a hotel
within sight of the
Iíd like to think that people will one day discover I did
some pretty good work covering the steroid era when few writers would even
touch the subject. And even after it became a cause celebre, I kept the focus
on the facts rather than the hysterics. There was also some yeoman-like work
demythologizing a number of topics including Moneyball, Leo Mazzone,
Iím also pretty proud of being an innovator in fantasy
baseball. I was one of the first to combine scouting techniques Ė many of which
I had learned from sitting at games with scouting legends Bill Clark and David
Rawnsley - and analytics to identify optimal players. Thatís one of the things
But perhaps what Iím most proud of is that I always played the game as it was originally intended. The first fantasy league was formed by a bunch of guys who thought they could do a better job of building a winning baseball team than the current GMs. As a pundit I felt it was my responsibility to always try to put forth a competitive team regardless of the format. So every year, regardless of the league I was in, I played basically the way a real GM would, working with most of the same players because like any real baseball team, you draft the guys you believe in and you keep them (or keep redrafting them) for as long as you believe in them. There are obvious limits to playing that way in a fantasy setting but Iíve never seen players as purely fungible. My sharper competitors understood this about my playing style so they almost always made me pay an extra buck or two for the players I wanted. I was predictable in an industry that does not reward predictability. Yet because of my acumen and diligence for finding talent, I fared better than most. I donít regret my decision to play this way in the least because I know what I did works in the real world, which is kind of the point of the simulation.
As with most finales, itís not one thing that causes the ending, but rather a culmination of events that finally build to a point where thereís nothing left to gain by continuing. The passing of two friends in the industry and my own serious bout with COVID has made me keenly aware of how brief this stint on Earth really is. Iíve spoken about this privately, but ever since November 2020, I just donít see the benefit of always fighting over molehills. Unfortunately, that seems to be something of a fetish these days. Combined with a number of opportunities that invite a greater appreciation of my energies, itís time for me to enter the next phase of my life. So for all of you who traveled with me here, thank you. It has been my pleasure to be your sharpening stone.
In closing, Iíd like to use the words of perhaps baseballís greatest scribe to encapsulate my feelings:
Across the field of play the dusk has come,
The hour is late
The fight is done and lost or won
The player files out the gate.
Where in the golden light the bugle rolled the reveille
The shadows creep where night falls deep
And taps has called the end of play
The game is done, the score is in
The final cheer and jeer have passed
But the night beyond the fight the player finds his rest at last.
Upon the field of life
The darkness gathers far and wide
The dreamís done, the score is spun
That stands forever in the guide
No victory nor yet defeat is chalked against the playerís name
But down the roll, the final scroll shows only
How he played the game.
- Grantland Rice