You get your guy.
It’s the last round of your fantasy draft. The top 275 to 800 players have been taken, give or take a few depending on league depth. Everyone’s starting lineup was filled a while ago, there is one bench spot left, and the lists and rankings don’t matter anymore. You knew who you were taking in the last round with your final pick. The player who won’t show up on any list. Chances are you’ll drop him for the first hot start available on waivers. But you aren’t drafting that first hot start, you’re drafting your guy. Chances are you won’t remember the name of the April hot start by the end of the season, but you’ll remember who you took with your final pick. Chances are you knew who you were going to take with that final pick before the draft even started.
For Chris, with the first pick in round 40 of a new 17 team dynasty league in early April 2014, his final pick was a lifetime in the making.
This was a slow draft. The kind that plays out over email, with hours allocated to each pick. The draft started on March 12, and the clock started at 10:50 AM on April 9 for Chris to take the last pick of round 39 and first pick of round 40.
28 days and 662 players were selected ahead of these 2 picks. It was the kind of draft that drives you crazy. The kind where you second guess every decision.
With the last pick of round 39, Chris selected Billy McKinney. A value play, a prospect to round out a farm system and maybe gain some value over the next few years. The kind of name that could show up in the back half of an organizational top 10, or the end of a top 101 list, with some fantasy tools and upside. But there are plenty of guys like that, and they all get taken by the next to last round. In this draft, round 39 saw names like Jeimer Candelario, Jose Peraza, and Enny Romero taken a few spots before Chris took Billy McKinney. In hindsight, McKinney was a steal this late, but after 28 days of drafting no one is capable of thinking about steals or upside, everyone is just trying to make it through to that last pick.
Chris’s guy was the first guy taken in round 40.
Greg Montalbano, Pitcher, Boston.
In the previous 39 rounds, there were a lot of head-scratching picks. A lot of names that some people didn’t recognize. But it was a deep dynasty league, so the people who signed up for it were generally well informed. They were people who had an opinion on whether to take Jeimer Candelario over Billy McKinney. They were people who volunteered to spend just shy of 1 month emailing names to each other every 4 hours or so until each person had emailed 40 names.
No one had heard of Greg Montalbano.
Someone looked him up.
Greg Montalbano was not in the Red Sox organization in 2014.
Someone else looked him up.
Greg Montalbano died in 2009.
“Well, that’s the way the final round should go…” wrote one owner.
Chris had picked his guy.
Chris grew up with Greg. Went to nursery school with him. “I remember playing ‘throw out’ during recess,” Chris recalls. Greg would play 1st base and outfield in little league, but would end up as a pitcher at St. John’s Prep and then at Northeastern. Greg put up a 2.61 ERA over 48 innings his final year. Greg was drafted in the 5th round by the Red Sox in 2000 and was pitching in AA ball by 2001, when the Red Sox named him their minor league pitcher of the year.
Greg would miss the 2002 season. A lifetime of battling cancer, periods of remission, would cause a lost season. By the end of 2006, at the age of 28, Greg was released by the Sox and started playing indy ball with the Worcester Tornados.
By 2009 he was dead. His former teammates, including Kevin Youkilis and Carlos Pena, paid tribute to his memory after hitting home runs on the day they found out about his death. His former schools, St John’s Prep and Hasting’s Elementary, paid tribute by renaming their ball fields after Greg.
Chris had his own opportunity to pay tribute to an old friend in his way. The last pick of the draft.
The draft was “excruciatingly long,” Chris remembers. “When I stopped recognizing the names being drafted, and was sick of looking through websites for obscure players ‘with a glimmer of upside,’ it came to me. I was proud to do it.”
Fantasy baseball, even more so than the real sport, is a game of numbers more than names. Players’ performance is judged and rated by a specific set of statistics and compared against their peers. There should be no room for intangibles, only data and strategy.
But in the last round of the draft, with your final pick, you don’t focus on the numbers. You think about the past, and you think about the future, and you think about why you love the game, and you get your guy.
Next post: Write-up for Yesterday (and the 2 days before): April 17-18-19, 2015
Previous post: BttP Podcast: Ep 17 – Andrew Patrick & Matthew Trueblood