I love baseball, and will root for the Red Sox this year even if they show signs of a bottom-of-the-American-League-East three-peat. I, however, declare that I won't finish in the basement for the second year in a row in the fantasy home run derby league I play in.
I was born and bred a baseball fan, specifically a Red Sox rooter. My older brother, Steve, and I played Little League and Babe Ruth ball. We also played a LOT of sandlot baseball with our friends. Pilgrimages to Fenway Park to see the Sox were always a special treat. We collected baseball cards; my brother modified many of them by stapling pieces of paper to the back documenting a player's current stats.
The legend in my family is that Steve learned to read at a young age by checking the Red Sox box scores in the Hartford Courant. He loved the team only a little bit more than he loved the statistics generated during a game. He used to play "finger baseball," in which he'd set up a field on the shag rug in our family room using little pieces of paper for bases, books laid on their sides for outfield walls, and a marble for a baseball. I believe he used Major League lineups right out of that day's newspaper. I, of course, set up my own field close by. I didn't have lineups or keep score, and usually got bored of the game long before he did.
When my brother got a little older, he started playing APBA Baseball with me and our friends. What's that? Never heard of APBA?
Watch this video and then come back.
While we're both still huge Sox fans, neither of us plays fantasy sports. I do, however, compete each year in a season-long home run derby. In this contest you choose 15 players from across both the American and National leagues who you believe will hit the most combined bombs. You can't select any player who had 30 or more round-trippers the prior year, and there are no replacements allowed due to injury, death or banishment.
Last year I had a few great performers (Chris Davis of the Orioles, 46; Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays, 41; and the Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt, 33), but too many mediocre guys (the Cardinals' Brandon Moss, 19; the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, 18) and more duds than Wile E. Coyote (the Rockies' Corey Dickerson, 10; the White Sox' Adam LaRoche, 12; and the Cubs' Jorge Soler, 10).
Soler was a promising rookie, but not as highly regarded as Kris Bryant, who at the end of a terrific season was named National League Rookie of the Year. So why didn't I choose Bryant? Well, why don't you read what I wrote about this last year: September 15, 2015, "Dead Wrong."
This year I pledge, like George Costanza, to do The Opposite:
This means I won't choose a member of the Red Sox just because I love the team (*cough cough*, Mike Napoli). Mookie Betts is tempting, but I need someone projected to hit more than two dozen home runs, and he doesn't fit that bill. This also means being unafraid of jumping on somebody's bandwagon, such as Maikel Franco of the Phillies, who has hit eight home runs in 65 at-bats this spring, or the Twins' much-touted Byung Ho Park, an unproven big leaguer (in this country) who's projected to hit as many as 29 taters.
Doing The Opposite also stipulates that I shouldn't refuse to choose Adrian Gonzalez despite lingering feelings of his being a bad sport, and it means choosing Kris Bryant because he had 26 last year and I'm not above admitting I was an idiot in passing him over.
So who's on my list, the one that if nothing else, will keep me out of last place (I hope)?
**American League East**:
ADAM JONES, who I chose last year and who paid off with 27 home runs. He missed 25 games last year with a back injury, so I have to hope he stays healthy.
MARK TRUMBO, who was also on my derby team in 2015. He hit 22 round trippers last year in 142 games. One projection has him hitting 30 this year.
**American League Central**:
MIGUEL CABRERA, who was on my team last year. He hit .338 but only tallied 18 home runs while missing roughly a quarter of the season. Projections are between 25 and 28 taters.
JUSTIN UPTON, yet another guy from last year's squad. He hit 26 and is projected to hit at least that many this year.
MIGUEL SANO -- finally a new guy! He his 18 home runs in 80 games and is predicted to hit between 32 and 38.
**American League West**:
GEORGE SPRINGER was also on my team last year, but parked only 16, as he missed 60 games. Predictions put him between 26 and 28 home runs this year.
KYLE SEAGER, who hit 26 last year and is projected to hit roughly that amount this season.
**National League East**:
GIANCARLO STANTON played in only 74 games last year, but still hit 27 dingers. He's young (26) and is projected to smash in the 40-45 range.
NEW YORK METS:
LUCAS DUDA missed 27 games last year and hit 27 home runs. He could hit 25-30 this year.
MAIKEL FRANCO is my dark horse. He's only 23 years old, and hit 14 homers last year in limited action. He hit 9 round trippers during spring training, and while he's only projected to hit in the 24 range, I'm banking on him surpassing that mark. Last year Kris Bryant nine bombs in spring training and I didn't choose him. I hope I chose right with Franco.
**National League Central**:
KRIS BRYANT, the guy I went against last year, hit 26 gopher balls. He's projected to hit at least 30.
KYLE SCHWARBER is only 23 years old, but hit 16 round trippers last year in limited action. Baseball pundits have him in the 25-27 range this year.
JOEY VOTTO is 32 years old, but hit 29 last year, and is seen as landing in the two dozen range this year.
CHRIS CARTER smacked 24 taters last year and, if the numbers are right, will hit 28-30 this season.
**National League West**:
LOS ANGELES DODGERS:
ADRIAN GONZALEZ isn't young (34) but hit 28 big flies last year and is projected to hit 25-28 this year.
The season starts tonight. I'll update my progress occasionally, especially if I'm doing well.