9 Tips on Surviving Your Fantasy Baseball Draft

Forget Libya.  Forget work.  And forget anything you normally ignore, like family, friends, or the federal agents who have been sitting outside your house in an unmarked Crown Vic for two weeks. It’s time for all of us hardcore baseball fans to become obnoxious assholes and statistics wonks and get ready for The Draft.  Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training; every lard-assed 5′-11, 330-pound designated hitter has declared that they lost between 30 and 50 pounds this off-season, which drops their body mass index from morbidly obese to obese.  It will only be a matter of time before you are eating $8 hot dogs and drinking $10 beers (unless you are a Phillies fan, in which case you will be vomiting $8 hot dogs and $10 beers onto the kid sitting in front of you.)

You have only matter of weeks to spend untold amounts on every Bill James-related annual book of figures and memorize a decade or more of two dozen statistics for a thousand players (minus the 40-man roster for the Pirates, because seriously, you aren’t going to pick a single one of those fuckers, especially when they’re playing for Clint “every plate appearance is a bunt opportunity” Hurdle.)  Time to try to remember how to calculate the career park-adjusted average cup adjustments per plate appearance (CPAACAP) and why it’s important when picking your second-string utility players.  And don’t forget you’ll need to go to all of the baseball reference sites to argue if MLB rule 7.08 (a) (1) applies if a batter reaches first base and then gets abducted by aliens, which would obviously skew a century of statistics on baserunning.

To some of us, the fantasy baseball draft is more important than Jesus, as it should be.  Because if you’re right about Jesus and the second coming and you’re one of the 16,000 who goes to heaven, it doesn’t mean shit if you aren’t able to rub it in the faces of your friends who get left behind.  Most of the appeal of fantasy baseball, aside from the ability to burn man-years of work at your desk while appearing to actually do work, is its power to humiliate and denigrate your peers when you win a bullshit statistical category like steals or saves by stringing together a bunch of has-been bench players who barely made the team in Kansas City, while your friend who got A-Rod in the first round of the draft gets to mope through the first two months of the season while he is benched for ‘fatigue’.  This is why it’s important to get the edge, to figure out ways to dominate the competition, and how to ridicule your friends by taunting them with pictures of multimillion dollar a-list players with genitals crudely sketched near their mouths and/or anuses in Microsoft Paint.

I’ll cut to the chase.  Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get ready for the draft.

  1. It’s important to remember that while MLB players are scrutinized with constant drug tests that can fire up a false positive if a fan in a five dollar bleacher seat happened to take a cold medication last winter, it’s completely legal for fantasy baseball managers to imbibe in any sort of legal or illegal theraputic or recreational drugs.  There are a whole new breed of powerful nootropic pharmaceuticals available over the internet, although garden-variety street hallucinogenics can do wonders for your memory retention.
  2. If your league’s software offers an auto-draft option that populates your roster based on the picks of every other person using the software, do not use it.  Auto-draft is for pussies and cowards.  You’re also basing your picks on what the majority picks, which is a lot like saying “I’m totally fine with George W. Bush serving another five terms, as long as a majority of mouth-breathers and idiots can agree on it, too.”
  3. Use all of the time allotted for your picks.  For example, if your software allows you two and a half minutes to pick, even if you have the name of a player right in front of you and it only takes a single mouse click to add them, wait until 2:29 has elapsed on the clock.  This makes it much more of a urine retention showdown for the other players, especially if you’re drinking.  (I’m assuming you’re planning on either wearing a catheter or adult incontinence undergarment, which is what all good pro gamblers use when trying to wait out lesser-bladdered players at a casino table.)
  4. Most draft strategies have to do with filling your hitting positions first, then moving on to pitching.  Also, most so-called experts in the field will advise against picking closing pitchers until the end of the draft.  This means it’s typically very easy to fill all of your pitching spots with all of the best closers in the sport at the very start of the draft.  This kind of hoarding won’t help you in offense, but it means nobody else will get a closer, and you’ll be able to deal.
  5. Just like it’s possible for certain AL East teams to buy World Series wins, it’s completely possible for you to buy a fantasy baseball victory.  I was in a league that strictly prohibited monetary bribes, but found a loophole that enabled me to have both Cy Young winning pitchers and an all-Silver Slugger offense, simply by giving away 23 iPads during the course of the season.
  6. If you are in a league in which you don’t know the other players in real life and your main tactic is violence and intimidation, make sure your user ID is not linked in any way to your physical mailing address.  There’s nothing worse than threatening every other owner and then waking up to flaming bags of shit on your doorstep for the next three months.
  7. I publish a weekly newsletter for fantasy players that grades and orders each player’s propensity for going apeshit insane and losing games due to drug use, parole violations, Guitar Hero-related injuries, or DUIs.  It’s a must-have for planning ahead during the season.  Contact me for more details.
  8. For internet-based drafts, it’s absolutely imperative to have a backup internet connection and a UPS or backup generator, in case of any loss of connectivity.  I typically have a second OC-768 Optical Carrier connection installed the week before a draft to ensure I have a constant 39,813.12 Mbit/s connection to all of the statistics, video, and pornography I might need during a draft.
  9. Be prepared to ditch any planned strategy at a moment’s notice and blindly grab every player based on maybe hearing their name once on SportsCenter.  Even the best planned wars involve a complete breakdown in command.

Hopefully, these tips will help you form an iron-clad strategy for survival.  Let me know of any other strategies you may have developed, and I’ll see you on opening day.


Hot Dog on a Stick

What happened to the “on a”?

I went to LA this weekend.  It was a quick mission – we flew out Saturday afternoon, flew back Sunday night.  Just long enough to get a taste, and to get the cats pissed off that we abandoned them (although we had someone feed them; it’s entirely a psychological game to show us who’s boss.)

So we stayed in Santa Monica, which is probably one of my favorite parts of LA.  I know a lot of people hate LA, especially New York people that feel that paying far too much for the privilege of bedbugs and living in garbage somehow defines character.  New York has its points, and I’m glad I did my time there.  But I really do love LA, and just seeing the people and walking around in the sunshine and looking at that crazy mix of old neon signs faded by the barrage of UV rays mixed with the modern glass and steel architecture.

We were at a hotel right off of the beach, and yesterday morning, I got to take a nice walk and snap some pictures and see a bunch of stuff I recognized mostly from playing Grand Theft Auto.  It’s always weird to have that geographical reference in your head, where you know “hey, you can walk under this pier here, because sometimes I hide under there with a shotgun and kill hookers, and the cops take forever to get here.”

I took this picture of Hot Dog on a Stick, which for some reason showed up in the two posts previous to the trip, so there’s some weird synchronicity/conspiracy thing going on.  This is the original location, on Muscle Beach, and it’s missing the “on a” on its sign, but the cashier is wearing that weird rainbow uniform and fez hat.  I didn’t stop and get one, since I had just finished a giant breakfast at the hotel, but maybe I should have.  I try to limit my consumption of hot dogs to when I’m at baseball games, and corn dogs, from a nutrition point of view, are absolutely evil.  But sometimes, you have to.

HDoaS is primarily a west coast phenomenon, although there are some locations scattered across the country in malls.  I first remember seeing them in a Beavis and Butthead video, where some emo punk band was wearing the rainbow uniforms.  Years later, I remember seeing one at the Lloyd Center mall in Portland, which is one of those weird mid-century malls built in the early 60s when indoor malls were a new thing, and this was built to be the biggest mall in the country.  I think Simon owned it when I was going there (mid-90s) and I always liked it because I was really into shopping malls at the time and it reminded me of all of the Simon malls of the midwest.  (I never liked to shop, never bought clothes, and the record and book stores in malls have always sucked, so I’m not sure why I was so damn fascinated with malls at this period in my life, but I was.)

Later, when I lived in New York, I found it damn near impossible to find a good corn dog, frozen or fresh.  I think since then, it’s become easier, but I spent many an hour scouring the poor excuses for grocery stores in Queens, trying to find one that had any corn dogs in their freezer case.  And a frozen corn dog is always crap, because you microwave them and they split and the casing gets all moist and soggy, or you bake them, which takes forever, especially if you have a piece of shit oven that doesn’t work because you’re renting your apartment from the mafia and they don’t even keep the hot water on half the time, let alone service the appliances.  So when I was coming out to Vegas two or three times a year, I was happy as hell when a Hot Dog on a Stick opened at the Fashion Mall and I could go to their food court and eat them until I got sick and swear off cased meat products entirely, until my next visit of course.

But LA, man I missed LA.  I went back two years ago for a trade show, but spent all of my time answering stupid questions under fluorescent lights, and didn’t get to wander around.  This time, we had a car, and drove all over the place, up PCH and around the twists of Sunset and through Bel Air and the giant gated communities and houses where billionaires still had lawn jockeys, and into the strip where we passed the Comedy Store and the Rainbow and the House of Blues and the Whisky and all of those places memorialized by big hair bands of the 80s.  And we drove through our old neighborhood in Playa Del Rey, and through the Bellona Wetlands, and past my old Ralph’s and my old Pavillions and my old Fatburger and my old gas station and all of this stuff that made me miss 2008 and the summer I lived there.

So now I am back to 52 and rainy, and wish I had two million dollars to buy a nice beach house and watch the joggers and eternally fit rollerblade past, and peck at writing all day.  But it’s Monday and time to work, and go find the 2011 baseball schedule and figure out when I can catch the Rockies down at Chavez Ravine, although they are something like 2 and 22 at Dodger Stadium in the last couple of seasons.  But their horrible road record against LA is outweighed by Dodger Dogs and Vin Scully and a chance to spend another weekend down there, so it’s on.


The Curse of Ancient Writing

Something like 87 years ago, my friend Ray Miller had a zine.  A zine is like a tumblr account, except it’s on dead trees, and instead of pictures you take of yourself with a cell phone camera, it has words on it.  His zine was called Metal Curse, and it was essentially a way to get to meet bands and get free crap from record labels before it got into stores.  And in Indiana, it was a way to get things that never showed up in stores, because the absolute best music store within 50 miles of my house was a 45-minute drive away, and was only marginally better than buying CDs at Wal-Mart.  Also, at this point in time, most of my peers were extolling the virtues of an artist that largely advised us to stop and observe an occasion known as “hammertime,” and the only way you could talk to anyone interested in any music not designed in a government laboratory for sale at malls was to write a letter to some dude in Sweden or Japan, and the only way to get in touch with these people was to read a poorly-photocopied publication ordered through the mail.

In my second year of college, I went to IUSB, a commuter college that was mostly parking lot, and I hung out with Ray a lot, mostly driving around, skipping classes, and listening to thrash metal bands like Helloween and Napalm Death.  He did three issues of his zine and was starting to pick up steam with it, getting more self-produced demo tapes in the mail to review.  Back then, zines had reviews of albums or demo tapes, interviews with bands, and news updates about bands, usually a giant bulleted list of who was releasing what or where they were touring or who broke up or whatever.  But there wasn’t much else as far as content.  You couldn’t really have cool pictures, because they didn’t photocopy well, and every picture turned out looking like a black and white thermal map of Uganda taken from a plane window. Outside of NASA, digital photography didn’t exist, and even if you had a decent camera, good luck getting it into a show.  Most of the zines out there were also not well-crafted literary journals honed by intellectuals either, and sometimes the writing was funny, but 90% of the interviews out there asked the same exact ten questions.  Zines weren’t known for their in-depth editorial content.

I wasn’t a writer back then.  I helped teach a writing class in the English department, oddly enough.  But that mostly involved telling people they had to press Shift-F7 to print, and walking distressed students through the procedure involved when underlining words in Norton Textra, this horrible WordPerfect clone we used.  I studied computer science, and spent all of my free time trying to learn C and write games and whatever you did to waste time before the web was invented.  (Tetris, I think.  And downloading crap from anonymous FTP sites.)  I took one writing class, and the teaching assistant either liked my stories a lot or wanted to sleep with me; looking back at what I wrote then, it must not have been the stories, but you should have seen the glasses I used to wear back then.  But I didn’t consider myself a writer, and certainly didn’t do it in my spare time for fun.

At some point, I suggested to Ray that I should write an advice column for his zine.  I don’t know if I asked him to do it, or if I just wrote it first, but I had this idea of a fake Dear Abby sort of thing.  I think I subconsciously ripped off this idea from a free newspaper I used to read in Bloomington.  Or maybe it was because one of my parents gave me a copy of Dear Abby’s Guide to Sex for Teenagers, and I thought this was the funniest damn thing I’d ever read, and wanted to write something just as humorous.  One night I fired up that cyan-on-blue screen of WordPerfect 5.1, and cracked out a handful of fictional questions mailed in from readers.  I don’t know what inspired me to come up with the name, especially because now it takes me years to name anything, but I called the column “Dear Death.”  It probably had to do with listening to that Metallica song “The Four Horsemen” 58,000 times a week.

I gave Ray a laserprinted copy of the column, and he put it in issue #4.  At the time, he used this GEOS program instead of Windows, and did the whole zine in its word processor, then printed it out on his dot matrix printer, so that one page looked an order of magnitude better, and he rushed out and bought his first laser printer.   If you were born before 1990 and have no idea what a dot matrix printer is, I wouldn’t even recommend going to a museum and looking at one, they are such huge pieces of shit.  I spent most of my tenure as an IUSB computer consultant un-fucking these Epsons where the tractor feed wheels would get jammed, and the ribbons would gum up or get unspooled, and some deranged bored housewife type would keep jamming it worse and worse until it involved stripping the whole thing into tiny pieces and realigning every little piece.

Anyway, #4 turned out great.  I didn’t do a column for #5, but then wrote one for the next seven issues.  Luckily, those seven issues took like a decade to put out, so I had plenty of time to come up with new ideas.  I did five issues of my own zine during the timeframe of Metal Curse #6 and #7 (although mine was way shorter and had less stuff in it) and some time after #7, I started calling myself a writer and chipping away at my first book. But these columns pretty much mark the start of my writing career.

Metal Curse had 13 issues as a print zine.  Ray recently resurrected it as an online site, and has started with a lot of new reviews, plus he’s slowly bringing online the back archive of old stuff.  And part of that is the Dear Death columns, which means you can go read all of them online.  The writing is much different than what I do now, and I don’t really listen to that much death metal anymore, so it’s both embarrassing and interesting to look back at this stuff. Anyway, you can check out my columns at


List: Countries That Don’t Extradite, With Best Broadband And Mercedes Dealerships

The following is a list of the top 25 countries that do not have extradition treaties with the United States, ranked by broadband scores (Broadband ranking here, using download speeds only) and indicating if they have a Mercedes dealership.

(Note: Taiwan currently has a treaty underway. I also could not find broadband scores for the four countries with no diplomatic relations with the US or extradition treaties: Iran, Cuba, Bhutan, and North Korea. Bhutan and North Korea also do not have Mercedes dealerships.)

Country Broadband Rank Mercedes Dealership?
United Arab Emirates 20 Yes
Andorra 24 No
the Russian Federation 27 Yes
Mongolia 37 Yes
Taiwan 39 Yes
Vietnam 54 Yes
Saudi Arabia 65 Yes
Rwanda 69 No
the Maldives 77 No
Oman 78 Yes
Qatar 79 Yes
China 80 Yes
Montenegro 84 No
Kuwait 87 Yes
Serbia 90 Yes
Mozambique 94 No
Bosnia/Herzegovina 98 Yes
Cape Verde 102 No
Uganda 105 No
Brunei 111 Yes
Armenia 114 Yes
Bahrain 116 Yes
Cambodia 125 Yes
Libya 126 No
Tunisia 127 No