MASTER NOTES: Resolutions

As we look February straight in the face, it might seem an odd time to be discussing New Year’s resolutions. By now, the parts of that new Bowflex gizmo not covered in laundry are covered in cobwebs, and almost everyone has resumed smoking, drinking, overeating, gambling, and/or arguing politics with Facebook trolls.

All that said, it is a “new year” for Master Notes, and that’s premise enough for me to discuss some of my fantasy resolutions, even if as premises go, it’s thinner than I will ever be, despite my resolution to eat more broccoli than I thought existed.

My first resolution was to play in a few more leagues, in various formats. If you’ve followed Master Notes over the years, you know that I’ve long believed in the principle of playing only one league. I chose this path several years ago, when a front-office guy speaking at First Pitch Arizona noted that the “real GM experience” doesn’t allow a fantasy player to run more than one team.

So since I left my “home league” several years ago, I narrowed my focus to my Tout Wars team. I played the 15-team mixed-auction redraft from 2012-2015 and the 12-team AL-only-auction redraft from 2016-18.

I’ve enjoyed the focus of playing just the one team. But I’ve found that it affects my analytical work and commentary because I feel out of tune with mixed leagues, draft leagues and keeper leagues. So I’m bumping up to three leagues, and staying on the lookout for a fourth.

First, I’m staying in the Tout Wars AL-only. Weird as it sounds, I think of this venerable experts’ league as my home league.

I’m adding a team in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, a mixed snake-draft league with an NFBC-style overall competition superimposed on the individual 15-team leagues in which owners play. I wanted to get into a snake draft because my last first-round pick in snake was A-Rod (as a Texas Ranger) , and I wanted to get back to the mixed format.

Speaking of mixed leagues, I’ll also have a team in Year One of the mixed-auction “HQ-WONK League.” “HQ-WONK” is a somewhat tortured acronym for “HQ Writers ONly Keepers,” and the key thing for me here is the keeper aspect. I haven’t played keepers since my home league, when I did my draft planning while feeling the burn of working out to a Jane Fonda video. HQ-WONK is not a straight keeper format as I remember it, in that HQ-WONK owners can renew players indefinitely with $5 yearly salary increases for auctioned players and $3 annual bumps for players drafted to reserves. This feels a bit more like dynasty to me than the “S2-S1-Option” format I played in my last home league. As well, HQ-WONK looks like it will place a long-term premium on using the 17-player reserve list to build up a farm system of prospects, another aspect of fantasy play that I’ve been missing out on. And there should be active trading (and, unfortunately, dumping), which I ‘ve always liked.

Finally, I’m staying on the lookout for a non-expert home league of any format. I really liked being in my old home league because of the in-season cameraderie. If you have a league in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and you’re looking to fill a slot, contact me at

My next fantasy resolution was to take a few steps to improve the HQ Radio podcast. Much of this is just technical stuff. Mainly, I’ve replaced my trusty Samson CO1U studio mic with a fancy Audio-Technica broadcast-quality headset, and I invested in a new (used) Zoom H5 multitrack digital recorder. The advantage of the headset is that it keeps my hands free and frees up monitor space, and I can plug both the headset and the phone into the H5 to capture both my feature guest and my own audio simultaneously. As a result, I won’t have to spend any time trimming and “matching” those two tracks, which were always slightly out of sync and took as much as 20 minutes per recorded hour to align. Now they will be aligned automatically, because they are recorded at the same time on the same machine in the same project.

I’m also lulling over some possible adjustments to the show itself, although I think it’s pretty good, and in fact was a finalist for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for Fantasy Sports Podcast of the Year, finishing behind a fantasy football pod.

My last fantasy resolution is to find some efficiencies in my fantasy planning. To that end, I’ve started building an Excel workbook to let me import player info from various sources into a master database I can use to deliver outputs customized for my various leagues.

The big challenge is that all the different source sites seem to use different player-naming protocols and different ID numbers. So the player HQ calls “Delmonico,Nick” (no space after the comma) is at various other sites “Nicky Delmonico,” “Nick Delmonico,” “Nicholas Delmonico” and “Delmonico, Nicky” (space after the comma).

Even the spaces themselves can be different—sometimes a space is a regular space-bar space, but other times it is a skinnier HTML space that doesn’t read in Excel as the same as a regular space. And that means Excel doesn’t recognize them as the same player. This could all be easily worked if every player had a unique numeric identifier. And they do, but every source seems to have a different number.

All of this makes it hard to quickly assess a player across sites, and that’s what I’m trying to manage with the Excel book. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Before closing, this is my first chance to say a few public words about Lawr Michaels, who died in December. I knew Lawr for many years, and he was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known. He’d had a difficult life, coping with Crohn’s Disease and enduring the deaths of his wife and a young child. But whatever melancholy he might deservedly have felt was lost in the dazzling light of his intellect and his passion for life. He played in rock bands. He could—and did—talk about anything. He was a lot of plain fun. And boy, did he know baseball. I guess I’m just glad that Lawr Michaels was my friend, and I will miss him.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.