A Fantasy Baseball Nightmare

It's been a busy time in the 'ole life of Wyshynski lately. I've had some changes professionally that have me working long hours. And I've been doing a lot of press for "Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports History," appearing everywhere from Las Vegas to San Antonio to St. Louis to XM SatRad. (Most talked about item thus far: No. 15, Celebrity Non-Singers Singing the National Anthem; i.e. Carl Lewis's voice-cracking train wreck before a New Jersey Nets game.)

All of it has twisted my daily schedule like a Ringling Bros. contortionist, which sucks for someone who thrives on being a creature of routine. I'm not saying I'm Nicholson in "As Good as it Gets," turning doorknobs and counting toe-touches on a hardwood floor, but I do have my compulsions, obsessive or not. One of them is checking the status of my fantasy baseball team, "Wyshlist." I'm in a keeper league, with a cash prize at the end, carrying Derek Lee and Gary Sheffield over from a season in which I just missed the playoffs.

For the second straight season, my schedule bumped up against the draft, and I was forced to use the dreaded "auto draft" option. Sometimes, this is a decent way to fill a roster with players the computer feels will have a productive season — but other times, you find out your outfield is Shane Spencer, Bo Jackson, and Garth Brooks.

This season, auto draft been beddy beddy good to me. Jose Reyes at shortstop, J.D. Drew in right, both Javy Lopez and Victor Martinez behind the dish. Mark Buehrle, Kevin Millwood, and the D-Train in the starting rotation, with Billy Wagner in the 'pen. I scanned my roster with a wide smile on face, wondering what exactly all these general managers are complaining about when it comes to building a harmonious and successful team.

And then I saw it:

Bonds, Barry, LF.

Wyshynski, Greg, WTF?!

I've written a lot about Barry in the last few weeks, but who hasn't? Between the book by the news reporters to the reality show on ESPN to the steroid investigation by the chairman of the parent company of ESPN, Barry's been in the news more than President Bush and only slightly less than Tom DeLay. Through this new prism, his transformation from naturally-blessed outfield prodigy to artificially enhanced Gollum lusting after Mark McGwire's legend is now complete. He's a fraud, a liar, and a complete waste of time.

And now he's my starting outfielder.

This is a bit like the Detroit Pistons trading for Ron Artest.

There was some discussion of our league potentially banning Bonds before the season, which I might have been in favor of. Like I said: anything he does now is a waste of my time as a baseball fan. When ESPN cuts into its coverage to show a Barry at-bat, it's a waste of my time. When sports talk radio spends time talking about "his place in history," when any history he makes is shrouded in question marks and asterisks, it's a waste of my time. Tracking his stats on a fantasy team? A waste of my time within a more noble waste of my time.

From a practical standpoint, Bonds might not even last a full season. His body is too brittle, and his ego is too strong. Am I the only guy who thinks he might just walk away at the end of his reality television show, having passed the Babe, but keeping Henry Aaron's record intact?

So he's a risky start and a completely loathsome individual. Yet check his fantasy stats: in my league, 99% ownership, and 95% are starting him. That's on par with a slam-dunk point producer like Paul Konerko. Clearly, most fantasy owners are willing to take the risk that Bonds is going to play over 100 games, post above-average power numbers, and have more walks than the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

It's an interesting spot to be in, having a player you have zero respect for, know in your heart is a cheat, yet you know can break the bank with his on-field performance.

Then again, it's not all that different than the spot the San Francisco Giants, Major League Baseball, and ESPN are in...

SportsFan MagazineGreg Wyshynski is the Features Editor for SportsFan Magazine in Washington, DC, and the Senior Sports Editor for The Connection Newspapers of Northern Virginia. His book "Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports History" will be published in spring 2006. His columns appear every Saturday on Sports Central. You can e-mail Greg at [email protected].

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