First off, kudos to those who joined Scratchbomb’s official fantasy baseball league, The League of Calamitous Intent, and drafted with us this past weekend. I thank you for choosing The League of Calamitous Intent as the instrument of your demise.
Round this time of year, I always read two books: the newest edition of Baseball Prospectus, and the 1994 edition of The Official Rule Book and Draft-Day Guide for Rotisserie League Baseball.
I was not into fantasy baseball in 1994. Back then, it was still referred to as “rotisserie baseball” and it seemed to be fading as a pop culture relic of the 80s, like Family Ties and the omnipresent threat of nuclear holocaust. Even at its height, rotisserie baseball was a niche hobby amongst dedicated nerds, sort of a slightly more athletic Dungeons and Dragons. But it’s virtually indistinguishable with the brand of fantasy baseball that went mainstream with the rise of the intertubes in the late 90s.
I found this book at my in-laws’ house, which is weird because they’re not really into baseball. But I don’t look gift horses like these in the mouth. It’s an awesome time capsule of the waning days of the first fantasy baseball explosion. It also has a bittersweet tone if you remember that the 1994 baseball season didn’t end with a World Series, but with a strike.
This book is clearly a spiritual godfather to Baseball Prospectus. it doesn’t have any predictive stats like PECOTA, merely hunches as to what various players will do and what you should pay for them in keeper leagues. But its pithy descriptions of players will ring familiar to any BP reader.
The Guide gives praise where praise is due, of course, but its most entertaining assessment are its bitchiest.
WALT WEISS: Eureka! He played a full season without spending a minute on the DL! Alert the media!
SAMMY SOSA: Ninety percent of Sosa’s production came in spectacular but brief bursts followed by long, yawning chasms of nothing. His outfield play can charitably be described as inconsistent. He is constitutionally incapable of hitting cutoff man. And his teammates consider him a selfish, mindless player. Hey, nobody’s perfect.
MARK WHITEN: He had a big season one night last September.
KEVIN McREYNOLDS: Someone wake him up and tell him his career is over.
HAROLD BAINES: Your grandmother has nimbler knees, but as long as he can stand, the man will be able to hit
PAUL O’NEILL: Watch him enough and you realize sitting him against the tough left-handers makes sense. O’Neill gives new meaning to the word intensity. When he runs into a bad streak, the look on his face causes small children in the stands to burst into tears.
FRANK TANANA: About one of every four outings, this master craftsman gives a clinic on pitching. The other three, watch out.
But some of their funniest assessments are extremely brief dismissals:
DAN PASQUA: Pass.
KEVIN MAAS: No Maas.
JOE HESHKETH: Smeshketh
And there are also some prescient reviews of up-and-coming prospects:
CHIPPER JONES: Long regarded as the best minor league prospect in baseball….The early line has him sticking with the big team this spring, playing a little backup infield, then moving over to third if Pendleton continues to show signs of slowing down. Another scenario has Jones pushing Blauser over to second. Still another has the Chipster going straight to Cooperstown without bothering to play major league ball.
MANNY RAMIREZ: Not a bad major league debut in his hometown, was it? Kid from New York shows up in a Cleveland uniform to play in Yankee Stadium for the first time, packs the stands with friends from the old neighborhood, and proceeds to hit two home runs and a double and drive in five runs. That’s the way we want to break in. At the plate, he resembles Juan Gonzalez, with his front-leg kick and solid 190-pound frame. His numbers also remind us of Gonzalez. We’re pretty excited.
CARLOS DELGADO: Not just a powerful bat, but a powerful left-handed bat. The only thing holding him back is his defense, and he’s learning.
JIM THOME: The old Indians never would have let this guy languish long enough to lead the International League in batting average and RBI. Come to think of it, the Indians didn’t leave him down in 1992. Now AL pitchers will be suffering from (dare we say it?) Thomaine.