We have all been there, just before breaking into a panic, realizing our draft strategy has taken a turn to the abyss.
Already missed is the run on closers and middle infielders. In only the ninth round of your fantasy league draft, your player list is as scratched as a mosquito bite. The players are being drafted and disappearing faster than you can check them off.
Then, without warning, at the other end of the table, a fellow owner looks up from his magazine to make his next pick. It is a decision everyone has been waiting on for at least five minutes. Finally he asks, "Is Johan Santana still out there?"
That's right sports fans, the league schmuck hath spoken! Is he really serious? Does he honestly think that the most dominant pitcher in all of baseball is still available in this, the tenth round and that the other eleven owners in the league are bigger schmucks than he?
Every league has a schmuck. Although rare, some leagues have the great distinction of having two schmucks.
Let's say Sammy Sosa was taken in the second round of the same draft. Knowing that Sosa has most likely seen his last season, I would be hard pressed to not also crown that poor lost soul the title of schmuck.
For those who are unclear on what qualifies a person as being the league schmuck--let me explain.
Every season, there is an owner that will somehow make you want to pull your hair out of your head. Here is a list of ways to tell if you are your league schmuck.
1. If you've made the same trade offer to the same owner for the same player more than three times in a month even though you get the same answer every time-- You might be the league schmuck!
2. If you really, truly believed that Johan Santana slipped to the ninth round of your draft-- You might be the league schmuck!
3. If you drafted A.J. Burnett to pitch for you in your NL Only league, only to then find out he'll be playing his home games in Toronto-- You might be the league schmuck!
4. If you refuse to trade Sammy Sosa for Felix Hernandez because you think Sammy still has a few good Hall-of-Fame years left in him-- you might be your league schmuck!
5. If you came to your draft with rankings for every position in hand and two magazines as resource and STILL take more than 5 minutes to make every single pick-- you might be the league schmuck!
Schmucks are as easily found in fantasy baseball as rednecks are at a Blue Collar Comedy Event.
Let me offer a case in point. Back in 1998, our league had just started our fantasy draft. We were just into the second round of our snake draft. Back then, we had twelve owners in our league. We had drafted once down the list and were on the way back up.
It was the 15th overall pick in our serpentine draft, and we were waiting for an owner to make his second pick, when he suddenly and most confidently announces his pick--Drum roll please-- "I'll take Todd Hundley, catcher, New York Mets."
Todd Hundley had just put together two huge years by catcher's standards. He was hands-down the best catcher to have once Mike Piazza was drafted. Thing is, in the spring of '98, Hundley had a shoulder operation that we all knew would keep him sidelined until at least midseason. The sound of silence filled the room.
I had a look of "you have got to be kidding me" on my face (the very expression which was also on the face of every other owner present).
There is nothing more deafening than complete silence. Without hesitation, the next owner made his second round selection and on we went. Just two rounds into the 1998 fantasy baseball draft and already, the title of "league schmuck" had been earned.
There are so many ways to keep the "schmuck" label from being stamped on your forehead. It is even easier to avoid earning the title on draft day. The most important thing to know on draft day is this: you need to know more than everyone else at the table.
You have to have the latest news, updates, and injury reports. You have to go into the draft with a strategy, even though most strategies are often blown out of the water within the first dozen rounds. You need to know how many homeruns, RBI and stolen bases your team needs to compete. The weeks prior to your draft are vital to your success on draft day.
You must cram as much knowledge into that head of yours as mentally possible. Buying a magazine that was printed in late December is not the best draft-day resource to use in March.
Not knowing who is laboring with nagging injuries or returning from surgery is the fault of one person and one person only--YOU!
If you make an error and draft someone who has retired or signed to play baseball in Japan, you will have deservedly earned the title of "schmuck", but know that it is important to realize that all is not lost.
If you bounce back to make a few good trades and perform flawlessly the rest of the season, there is a chance -- albeit slim --that someone in your league will one-up your act of stupidity and strip you of your title.
Why put yourself in a position where you are praying for that to be the case?
Remember, if you know more than everyone else at the table on draft day, you will not be the schmuck come day's end. If you know more than everyone else at the table on draft day, you will be ready to pick when it's your turn. If you know more than everyone else at the table on draft day, you and everyone else in the league will walk away from the table knowing that your team is the team to beat.
If you stand up from the table and have a roster that boasts Sammy Sosa (retired), Rafael Palmeiro (retired), Kevin Brown (unsigned), Kerry Wood (out until May), and Ugueth Urbina (prison), rest assured that a label has been boldly stamped into your forehead. And there will be just one person to blame-- YOU!
Don't be a Schmuck!