Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
If you think about it, fantasy baseball is a test of sorts. It probably won't affect what college you get into or whether you make it into the National Honor Society, but it still feels good to ace the final exam.
Thankfully, fantasy baseball offers us much more freedom than the standardized tests we were given back in high school. We aren't crammed into tiny desks or forced to fill in pages of empty bubbles spit out of a Scantron machine. We have iPhones and Matthew Berry podcasts. And the MLB Package on DirecTV.
Another great thing about this test? You don't have to do well on every part. And if you mess up, you can change your answers as many times as you want.
Fantasy is the ultimate game of trial and error. In a 162-game schedule, not every day is going to be a resounding success. As the season reaches its halfway point, now seems like as good a time as any to sit back and reflect on what I've learned. Here are seven things I've discovered from the first three months of the season.
1. Slow and steady wins the race: So there I sat, middle of May, 20 points out of first place, wondering if my team would ever be in first place. Binge- watching Seinfeld re-runs and eating pop tarts on the couch with just my boxers on would have been one way to handle it (Yes, I tried that). But that only provides a temporary solution.
The real way to fix things is to A. put clothes on, B. wait for your players to get their heads out of their you know whats and start doing what they're supposed to do, and C. scour the waiver wire for some under the radar talent.
You don't have to make up all the ground in one day. In May, my team ERA was at least a run higher than everybody else's. Things evened out in June. My pitching got better, other teams got worse and now I'm right back in the hunt.
The championship isn't won in June. It's won at the end of the year. Trust me, a little patience can go a long way.
2. Injuries can be helpful: You know when you go out to a restaurant and someone in your group of friends takes like a year and a half to figure out what they're ordering? That person is me. Nice to meet you.
For me, the only easy decision is not to make one.
Let me explain this. I'm not actively rooting for Bryce Harper to crush his face into the center field wall or for Clay Buchholz to blow out his back while checking his email (Seriously, I've met teddy bears who are tougher than Buchholz). I don't buy front row seats and then dangle my foot over the railing hoping to trip Pablo Sandoval on his way to the dugout.
But you have to admit, for someone as hysterically indecisive as myself, injuries can simplify things. For example, I started the year with three shortstops and I could never figure out which two to play. Whenever I sat J.J. Hardy he hit a home run and whenever I benched Asdrubal Cabrera he'd go 2- for-3 with a double and two RBI. And every time I gave Alexei Ramirez the day off he'd pull a Rickey Henderson and steal two bases.
It was driving me insane. And then out of nowhere, an angel came down and gave me the greatest gift of all: a strained quad for Cabrera.
It was perfect. A relatively harmless injury that nonetheless afforded me a month of being able to do the one thing I loved most: not making any decisions.
I am slowing realizing that I am a terrible person. Let's move on before it sinks in.
3. You don't need a superstar to be successful: Having Chris Davis or Miguel Cabrera in your back pocket definitely doesn't hurt, but it isn't essential to winning your league. Here is my team as it's currently constructed: Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, Jose Altuve, Sandoval, Ramirez, Hardy, Anthony Rizzo, Jay Bruce, Michael Bourn, Alex Gordon, Hunter Pence, Matt Holliday and Carlos Gomez.
NONE of those players would qualify as superstars. And for those of you arguing that Pujols is, check a calendar. It's 2013. Yet my offense ranks second in the league in runs scored, second in RBI and third in stolen bases (it's an eight-team league).
Wouldn't you rather have a lineup that's solid from top to bottom instead of having one or two guys doing all the heavy lifting? Balance is the name of the game.
4. If it's too good to be true, just go with it: Anybody who follows fantasy is well aware that Carlos Gomez is having a monster season. So what in God's green Earth was this man doing on waivers on May 2?
I don't know and you know what? I don't really care. He's mine now. Thanks for the freebie, guys.
I did the same thing with C.J. Wilson a couple weeks ago. Gracias, amigos.
5. Hold tryouts: So what do you do when your pitching is struggling? You hold tryouts.
Think of it as a trial run. I gave Matt Garza his chance. It didn't work out. So what? It was worth a shot.
Some guys stick, others don't. There's nothing wrong with exploring what's out there. Hey, maybe you'll uncover a Jeff Locke (7-1, 2.06 ERA) or a Mike Leake (7-3, 2.61) along the way.
6. Home runs are overrated: Well, kind of. I'm 41 home runs behind the league leader in that category. Right now, I'm in first and he's two points behind. It's not the biggest cushion in the world but I'm still ahead.
That's because in this man's quest to bash more homers than anyone else on the planet (call him the Adam Dunn of fantasy owners), he's basically neglected all other statistics. My team holds a 10-point edge in batting average and has already racked up 81 steals compared to just 48 for Mr. Swing for the Fences.
I'm also beating him in runs scored and guess what, our league counts pitching, too. Remember that thing I said about balance? Well, it's pretty darn important.
You can have your home runs. I'd rather have the championship.
7. It's probably time to start cutting your losses: Doc Rivers may not believe in loyalty (Yep, I'm still bitter). But I do.
That's why I kept Josh Willingham, a hero for me in years past, even as he limped through June with a .218 average.
But when Sandoval came off the disabled list, I had a decision to make. Obviously, I wouldn't be able to play Willingham anymore with Sandoval back in the lineup. I could keep Willingham around for morale like the Celtics did with Brian Scalabrine back when they actually mattered. He could wave towels and throw pies in people's faces after they hit walk-off home runs.
Ultimately, I didn't want to drop David Freese, so I caved and gave Willingham the heave-ho. It was difficult but I stand by my decision. I gave Willingham plenty of opportunities to prove his worth. The way I see it, if it's June 27th and you're still struggling to hit above .200, odds are this isn't going to be your year.