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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Life Is Just a Fantasy…

No, not a fantasy of 8-1 or 21-1 or 161-1, though I'm happy to indulge in those. And no, we're not talking about '80s cheese-rock hits, though if you now have Aldo Nova stuck in your head, I apologize. (Unless you're now air-guitaring up a storm, in which case you're welcome. And I'll now avert my eyes.)

I'm talking about fantasy baseball, which sucked me back in last year after 14 years in recovery. Fantasy baseball is a lot easier than it was in 1989, when as commissioner I would lose every Wednesday night (In New Orleans! In the summer! When I was 20!) to compiling stats using USA Today's stats. Now it's all done at the speed of light, with no arguing about whose waiver-wire claim made the answering machine first or who jumped the gun on that pitcher just called up from the minors.

But for all that, one thing hasn't changed: I'm still a ridiculous homer when it comes to assembling a fantasy team. And because of that, I'll never win. And I don't care.

In 1989 my sole mission in our $260 league was to have Gregg Jefferies, whose MVP rookie season for the Mets was assured and obviously destined to be followed by his presiding over the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union and helping us all ascend to Heaven. I don't remember how much I paid for him, but we all can guess it was too much. Oddly, I don't remember which other Mets I had on that team — I have vague recollections of a bidding war for David Cone, one I probably lost because I'd already blown my money on Jefferies. The rest of the Jaison D'Etres? I enjoyed Jeff Bagwell's rookie year and got decent production out of a young Luis Gonzalez, but my roster was mostly given over to the likes of Luis Salazar and Randy Tomlin. Long season.

I played for the rest of my college career, something I came to regret for the usual youth-is-wasted-on-the-young reasons. Those were years I could hang around with my friends eating long, extended lunches and dinners, with youthful metabolisms keeping us from ballooning to truly Vaughnesque proportions and an ever-shifting cast of pals — including smart, cute women — coming by to chat. And when they did, we'd be saying things like, “Von Hayes went 3-for-4 last night, but the rest of my lineup went 3-for-36 with only 2 RBIs!” Which is basically like spraying girl repellent in a 20' radius.

For years after college, I'd make signs to avert evil whenever anyone mentioned fantasy baseball. But last year I got sucked back in when a new friend of mine invited me to join a Yahoo league. I felt like Rip Van Winkle. In this league you had a galaxy of stats and news at your command and moved players on and off the bench daily, a level of activity I wasn't used to. Ours was a mixed league, meaning there were twice as many players available and really no place on a sensibly constructed roster for part-timers and scrubs, no matter how gutty or admirable they were. And it didn't help noting that Jeff Bagwell, that fresh-faced rookie I'd ridden to mediocrity in college, was now a gimpy veteran hanging on. Christ had I gotten old.

I did OK, but my roster strategy hadn't changed one whit since 1989: I was eager to believe the hype about rookies, and I had to have Mets. Fortunately, most of the Mets I had to have turned out to be good bets: David Wright anchored the new-look D'Etres quite nicely, Cliff Floyd had a terrific year, I was a surprisingly good predictor of when Victor Diaz would have a good game and when he wouldn't, and my faith in Mike Jacobs was rewarded. (On the other hand, I traded Tom Glavine a week before he started down the road of Eventual Metdom, and it took me a while to realize that middle relievers are essentially useless. Adios, Heath Bell.)

There's no retaining players in our league, so this year I had to start from scratch. I wound up with the #2 pick in the draft, and so had to field friendly questions from rival players: Would it be Pujols or A-Rod?

Neither, I said. I'm taking David Wright.

Judging from the reaction after I did what I'd said I'd do, nobody believed me. (Other notable members of the 2006 Jaison D'Etres: Tom Glavine, Xavier Nady, Mike Jacobs and Scott Kazmir. I cut Anderson Hernandez, whose defense doesn't translate to fantasy baseball, and got beat on a waiver claim for Brian Bannister.)

So far the Wright pick is working out just fine. And it's let me formulate my rules for Playing Fantasy Baseball Without Being a Godless Sellout:

1. Don't make your head and heart play tug-of-war. I wouldn't be aghast even if Wright were hitting .158. Having him on my team ensured I'd never have to experience that weird Rotisserie double vision — “Wright just hit a three-run homer for the guy whose team I'm playing this week, I am so screwed. Oh yeah, we won. Wheee.” He's my favorite player, and when he does wonderful things, there's a tiny bit of extra happiness involved — an extra spoonful of caramel on the sundae.

2. That said, don't overdo it. My #2 pick wasn't Steve Trachsel. Being loyal doesn't mean you have to be silly.

3. No Yankees. Ever. Last year, I weakened and traded Jim Thome for Chien-Ming Wang, and when Emily found out she almost divorced me on the spot. A few hours later Thome's elbow fell off. A few days later it turned out Wang's shoulder was hurt. I didn't need God (or Emily) to hit me with a thunderbolt to wise up. This year, I even excluded all the Yankees from the players in the draft pool, ensuring there was no way Yahoo might auto-draft some minion of Satan if I got called away from my PC. I also excised Clemens, Chipper, Braden Looper, Kaz Matsui and Victor Zambrano. In this forum I don't think I need to explain any of those. (OK, I did take Jeff Francoeur.)

4. Keep your priorities straight. Dontrelle Willis is on my fantasy team. When Wright's little bloop triple fell in last week, denying the D-Train a W, I was leaping and whooping like a lottery winner. There are no exceptions. None of this “Well, of course I hope we win but I hope we win 1-0 and Dontrelle strikes out 10 and the lone run is a homer by Wright, who also goes 4 for 4 and he's the only guy to reach base.”

Will I win? I sincerely doubt it — if you're anything other than ice-cold and ruthless, you're not going to win most fantasy leagues. Will I finish the season without having given in to divided loyalties or acquiring another Yankee? You'd best believe it: In my book, they call it a fantasy league so you don't get it confused with the one that matters.

So. Glavine, put those Brewers in their place. And Derrick Turnbow? I know you're a member of Jaison D'Etres, and I appreciate the saves so far. But should you somehow find your Cabbage-Patch-Kid-looking self on the mound in the ninth tonight, my team's coming to get you. My real team. And you'll hear me cheering.

4 comments to Life Is Just a Fantasy…

  • Anonymous

    I picked # 3 overall, and picked Wright (A-rod and Pujols went 1 – 2). Picked Reyes the next turn around. This was followed by the obligitory “Pick Wagner next” chatter. Of course, he was picked 2 spots before my next pick.
    As for no Yankees, well, I picked that guy who stole Enter Sandman from Wagner (I mean, you gotta pick the best closer left). Heilman was a late pick. I just picked up Bannister today.
    I have no Braves, and will have no Braves. I save my bitterest hatred for them. There is a line I will not cross. There will be no more Yankees, and Rivera could be trade bait if Papelbon keeps it up. Need some outfield help.
    I do have Schilling, Clement and Papelbon, so the Sox better do well.
    I will be at Shea tomorrow, sunny and 70 is the forecast “A Beautiful Day for Baseball” as a wise old man would say back in the day. There is nothing like being at a game. To this day (I am 37), I feel like a little kid when I walk out of the tunnel and see the field, and the size of the place. Reminds me of the late 70's and early 80's going with dad. Even though they usually lost, as a kid, those 4 or 5 games a year were like heaven.

  • Anonymous

    This is the first year I've ever been goaded via sheer peer pressure into such an activity. Hadn't checked my roster (the Avery Aces, ironically shy on starting pitching) since I sleepily pre-ranked a handful of players for the draft and then went to bed. I just looked on Yahoo! and I discovered I''d left three roster slots empty and that my team is chock full of not just Mets but Brewers plus some vaguely inoffensive (figuratively) American Leaguers and, blessedly, Albert Pujols. I slapped a NO YANKEES tag on my draft. Them and Benitez, who was an undercover blower for them anyway.
    I'm in fourth place among eight teams without trying, so I should probably avoid finagling with this too much. But I did just add three available guys. I hope one of them has an awful weekend for the reasons you stated above.
    Seeing as how this could turn into one of those days at the office when somebody returns from jury duty and everybody has to tell their “well, at MY trial…” story, I'll keep the rest to myself.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome back, Jase. And since you put that effing Aldo Nova song in my head, you better not be averting your gaze.

  • Anonymous

    Jacobs all the way, Jason. Even though he's batting a paltry .200 at the moment, he's still managed to be a decent fantasy player so far this year. What makes fantasy great is that we get to maintain our loyalty and fandom to players long gone, some west, some south, with relatively little cost or risk. I can mix the Mets we have with the the Mets I wish we had, and fortunately that includes an explosive David Wright, along with our departed long-time catcher and short-time first baseman. Kazmir over Zambrano? Wright the wrongs, as it were.
    Hmm…I also picked Jae Seo. His 6-something ERA and long-ball issues seem to indicate, however, that, for the moment at least, he's lost/abandoned much of the pinpoint control and expanded repertoire that made him so effective last season. Hopefully he'll get back on track. He's got a quality pitcher in there somewhere.