ROTISSERIE: Living out a fantasy in virtual world

“How are you holding up?”

That’s a question I’ve been asking a lot these days when talking to family and friends. So often in times of crisis, sports have provided a diversion or a temporary escape. Without them, it’s hard to tell what day of the week it is.

My coping mechanisms are fairly simple. While working from home, I find myself wearing a different baseball-themed T-shirt every day – representing various teams, players, ballparks, championships. (Or maybe every other day if I’m being totally honest.)

Another thing that’s been helpful has been the idea of comparing our nationwide strategy of social distancing to one that might be used in a fantasy baseball dynasty league. Stay with me here, this should eventually make sense.

Say you have a team that’s not competitive and needs a major overhaul. You trade for some good young players to build a strong core in Year 1, but it’s just a start. You do the same thing in Year 2 and you can see the talent coming together. At the trade deadline, you believe there’s an opportunity for you to contend for a title if you cash in some of those building blocks for some established veterans.

But there’s a danger in making that move too quickly. If you miscalculate, you run the risk of erasing all of the progress you’ve painstakingly made and could be forced to start the process over from scratch.

We all want baseball (and normalcy) to return. But we don’t want to jump the gun and have to go back to the beginning either.

So as we test our patience for another month -- or two or three -- waiting for baseball to resume, perhaps some fantasy baseball can help pass the time.

The show goes on

As painful as it was to see Opening Day come and go with no real games, a little bit of creativity can at least help soften the blow. We’ll never know how those contests would have played out, but virtual results can be a fun substitute.

Sony’s video game “MLB The Show” simulated each of the 15 games on the Opening-Day schedule to give fans a visual representation of what their teams might have done. It’s pretty impressive to watch Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts doing his best Tuffy Rhodes impression by hitting three home runs to start the season in a rout of the Blue Jays.

Meanwhile, Strat-O-Matic plans to simulate the entire 2020 season, one day at a time, through its online “Baseball Daily” game. After the first weekend, the Red Sox, Rangers, Athletics and Dodgers were undefeated.

Speaking of Tuffy Rhodes, it’s been a Sports Weekly tradition to hand out our annual Tuffy Awards to the most unlikely heroes after the first few games of the new season. It sure would be a shame to see it come to an end.

Let’s see the Strat stats entering the last week:

Strat-O-Matic heroes

Kansas City Royals outfielder Jorge Soler, who topped the American League with 48 homers last season, is surprisingly leading everyone in the sim season with eight walks and a .733 on-base percentage.

Rookie Nick Solak is hitting an impressive .533 with three homers, four RBI and a 1.200 slugging percentage as the Texas Rangers’ everyday left fielder.

Coming off a season in which he posted a 5.52 ERA in Boston, Rick Porcello had eight strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in his Strat-O-Matic debut with the New York Mets.

The virtual Tuffy Award goes to Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino. After hitting a career-low .165 last season and losing the starting job, Zunino is already a third of the way to his home run total from 2019 with three homers and seven RBI.

Of course, simulated performance is no guarantee of future results. But they’re better than having a blank space where the box scores should be.

Saving graces

Although it’s interesting to see the missed MLB games played virtually, they don’t give us much insight into how our fantasy teams would be doing.

That’s where an industrious owner in my all-keeper dynasty league stepped forward. When opening day arrived, he loaded the 40-man rosters for all 14 teams into a simulated season in “Out Of The Park Baseball,” which combines all of the aspects of building teams and playing out multiple seasons.

Even though our league is points-based, we’re getting OOTP’s results each day of simulated games between the teams in our league. It helps.

Finally, I have one other league that hasn’t been impacted at all by the shutdown. It’s a 24-team Dynasty League Baseball simulation where my franchise is finally seeing its rebuilding efforts pay off.

For some quick background, Dynasty League Baseball uses player cards – like Strat-O-Matic and APBA – based on stats from the previous season. The games are then played online, batter-by-batter, with each manager calling the shots.

Under the standard rules, players get three-year contracts so franchise owners always have to balance their efforts to compete for a title and build for the future.

My team wasn’t competitive last season, but it had several building blocks in Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman and Javier Baez, who are outstanding both offensively and – almost equally important in sim leagues – defensively.

I made some trades last season to bolster my pitching staff and spent a huge chunk of my draft capital on Stephen Strasburg to be my ace.

As a result, this team looks as good as any team I’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been in the league.

I probably obsess over this league more than any other, partly because team owners have a hand in all aspects of the game – from roster construction and batting orders to in-game strategy. Another reason might be because it’s one league in which I’ve never won a title.

Even better, our 112-game season has already started and is running on schedule.

As long as my computer holds up, it sure is nice to have one form of baseball that isn’t being affected by a virus.


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