Oz has never heard of fantasy baseball. Or even baseball in general. In fact, the only English words he knows are "food," "cookie" and "dinner." He can also loosely translate the sentence "get off the couch," though it seems to have no effect on him.
Oz, as you might have guessed, is my dog. He's an 11-year-old tri-colored beagle and I can guarantee that he's doing one of three things right now: A) napping, B) begging for food or C) sitting on the stairs thinking about whether he should go beg for food or just take a nap.
I'll tell you a little bit about him. Here's the important stuff.
- Oz is terrified of the water. Trying to give him a bath is not very pleasant.
- If you try to play with him, he'll probably just hide under the bed.
- If you give Oz Cheerios, he'll love you forever.
- He's not a big fan of carrots. I think it's the only food he won't eat.
- Oz likes to fold his bed in half. In the Pantuosco household, we call this "Taco Time."
Living with Oz is always an adventure. But in a way, caring for him all these years has actually made me a better fantasy owner.
You see, maintaining a fantasy baseball squad is a lot like owning a dog. Let me show you what I mean.
1. Your fantasy players are like family: No matter how many rugs Oz pees on, I'll always love him. He's been my dog since I was 11. You can't take that friendship away.
Fantasy is like that too. Felix Hernandez has been carrying my team for years and I don't think I'd ever trade away Joe Mauer. Owning these guys year after year has become part of my identity. Seeing Mauer play for somebody else just wouldn't feel right.
Before he started getting hurt, Chase Utley was another player I always went out of my way to try and draft. I don't have him this year, but he'll always be a Panting Badger to me.
2. Your players need exercise: Just like Oz needs walks, your players need opportunities to contribute.
I'm not high on Adam Dunn but he's 6-for-12 in his last three games. Even if it's inconvenient, you have to find some way to get him into your lineup right now. Same goes for the suddenly surging Adam LaRoche (home runs in back-to- back games).
If you're going to waste a solid player on the bench you might as well trade him away to someone who actually needs him.
3. You have to feed them: Throw your players a bone once in a while.
For example, I have two shortstops on my team: J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez. Most days Hardy gets the nod because he has more power but today he's facing Tampa Bay hurler Jeremy Hellickson. Hardy is just a .200 hitter versus Hellickson while Ramirez is batting almost .500 against Angels lefty C.J. Wilson.
How can I leave Hardy in? Ramirez is just begging to be in the lineup (kind of like Oz when dinner is on the table).
4. Sometimes they get hurt: My dog has been to the vet plenty of times and he's even had to wear that silly cone over his head on a few occasions.
Accidents happen. Don't get bent out of shape when Bryce Harper runs into the wall face first. Sure it's idiotic (clown move, bro) but you're not the only guy in your league dealing with injuries. We ALL deal with injuries.
You can avoid injury-prone players on draft day but that doesn't guarantee anything. Part of the challenge of owning a fantasy team is being able to adapt on the fly. That same challenge exists with owning a naughty dog like Oz Pantuosco.
5. They take lots of naps: Odds are, your dog is sleeping right now. Don't worry, mine is too.
That's just what dogs do. Seriously, if there isn't any food around, what's the point in being awake?
Baseball players can get tired too. Fantasy baseball follows a cyclical pattern that goes like this: 1) Hot, 2) Cold, 3) Hot again, 4) Cold again ... you get the idea.
David Ortiz's 2013 season is a prime example. Ortiz hit .500 in April but since his 27-game hitting streak came to an end on May 8th, he's gone just 4- for-28 (.143). That's called taking a fantasy nap.
Ortiz will snap out of it eventually but while he's snoozing, it's probably best to use someone else in your utility spot.
6. They're going to rip up the couch once in a while: Justin Verlander is a top-five fantasy starting pitcher. But even he can have a bad outing once in a while.
Verlander got plastered Thursday night against Texas (2 2/3 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 BB) and he wasn't great in his previous outing against Cleveland (5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB).
Fantasy owners have to be patient in situations like this. Sure, Verlander is ruining a lot of team ERAs right now but there's no way he keeps this up. The guy hasn't had an ERA higher than three since 2010.
When September rolls around and Verlander is back in the Cy Young race, this mini-slump will be a distant memory. Just like that couch your dog ruined five years ago.
Good luck, everybody. Here's hoping your fantasy team wins best in show.