Without a Doubt, Fantasy Baseball Rooted in Reality

Article excerpt

Why is it so important to separate fantasy from reality - especially where baseball is concerned?

Fantasy or Rotisserie baseball typically gets derided as a bastion of nerds and stats hounds (as if there were a difference between the two). In both, average fans get to "pretend" they're baseball owners and compete with one another as the real-life players they pick for their teams amass stats. In the worst-case scenario, the "owners" wheel and deal like so many Steinbrenner wannabes. Yet, in the best-case scenario, they build a team, watch it mature, and learn more about baseball than most fans forget.

There is a big difference between fantasy and Rotisserie. Fantasy usually refers to any league run for one year and one year alone. Many of the big sports magazines and Web sites are running fantasy leagues now, where "owners" can change players from week to week (at a cost), the better to take advantage of pitchers getting two starts in a week or a visiting batter getting to play a four- game series at Coors Field.

Rotisserie, by contrast, is a more complicated version of fantasy, in which rules are established to fix rosters, while allowing teams to retain individual players from year to year according to a "contract" scheme designed to mimic real baseball. It's become a cottage industry due to the annual book first edited by Daniel Okrent .

Yet, in both, a good fantasy owner is nothing if he's not rooted in reality. An owner can believe Eric Young is a good player. But Eric Young playing in Los Angeles' Chavez Ravine, a notorious pitcher's park, for Dave Johnson, a manager who prefers good defense and the 3-run homer to the stolen base, is not the same as Eric Young playing for Don Baylor, either at Coors or at Wrigley Field.

A show designed to appeal to the fantasy player - informative on injuries, transactions and who's hot and why - ought to appeal to the general baseball fan. By the same token, programs designed for the general baseball fan - especially ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" - are essential to a fantasy player. When you get right down to it, baseball knowledge is baseball knowledge, no matter what nefarious use it's being put to.

For instance, Chris Kahrl, the Chicago-based editor of "Baseball Prospectus," highly regarded as a fantasy tout book, does an excellent job talking about individual players when he goes on CLTV. …