I wrote about this in Monday's Injury Report, but here it is again: In my primary fantasy league, which I've been in for 12 total seasons across baseball and football, I have finished second nine times. And I have never won. I'm the Bills-in-the-Super-Bowl, the Mickelson-in-the-U.S.-Open, the Fantasy Bridesmaid.
As I write this, it's Thursday of finals week. I'm facing McNutt in the finals, I'm leading 8-3 (it's a 7x7 league and there are three ties), and he's used up his allotted five weekly transactions already. I've used only one. To say I can almost smell it is an understatement. The title is hovering there taunting me. I know that if I claim it now, McNutt's Emilio Bonifacio/Todd Frazier/Ian Desmond infield will hit a dozen home runs the rest of the way, and Jeremy Guthrie and Mark Buehrle will each throw 27-strikeout perfect games. I don't dare count any chickens.
Either way, this is a big deal. It's the third round of the playoffs, and I just squeaked in as a 148-138-22 five-seed (McNutt is a 146-142-20 six-seed, so we both got hot at the right time). I've gone through the entire gamut of emotions over the last month, from "What if I miss the playoffs?" to "I AM NOW UNBEATABLE ALL OF YOU BOW BEFORE ME."
Sept. 1 - I've just lost in the penultimate week, 8-3, to Jess, who locked himself into the two-seed with his win. A bad week in the finals could keep me out of the playoffs, and Jose Bautista is hurt. Sure, I have a receding hairline to begin with, but this didn't help matters. I'm playing Dixon in the finale, and his team is "Ryan Howard was one of his four keepers"-level awful, but still - thin ice.
Sept. 8 - It's always to have a team like Dixon's as your final opponent. It's like the Rangers getting 19 games against the Astros, or the Indians getting 19 against the White Sox. I don't crush Dixon in the finals, but I still come out ahead, with an 8-5 week that lets me hold off Cheek and Luke and stay just ahead of McNutt. I'm in the playoffs. Let's look ahead at the first round of the playoffs, and...crap. I'm playing my brother. I like my roster more than his, sure, but this is always the most heated of matchups, as I brought him into this league and he's outlasted me way too many times. I can't lose this time. I can't.
Sept. 15 - Heath has been vanquished, 10-2. That sounds like a blowout. The truth is, at 9 p.m. Friday, I sent Heath a text that said he definitely had the advantage, and I meant it. At 8:45 a.m. Saturday, I checked the matchup. We were tied in four categories. In the others, we were separated by five runs, two hits, one home run, three total bases, 0.022 in OBP, 0.02 in WHIP, 0.37 in K/9. Whichever of us got hot over the weekend would have the win. But it's Sunday night, now, and Heath's team is the one that got cold. My offense decided to put up perfectly healthy numbers. I end up winning by 11 runs, 0.57 in OBP, etc. It has been exhausting, but my brother is done. And now, the semifinals, against top overall seed Brad, his illicitly added co-manager Lindo, and the fates.
Sept. 22 - Here's the thing about Brad: We lived together for more than a year, and I'm the only one in this league who has met him more than a time or two. But he's a football guy, so he decided to add Lindo as a co-manager, despite the league decreeing no co-managers. This decision came to a head at the beginning of the week, with Brad changing his team name to a disparaging and NSFW co-manager taunt, which led our commissioner to getting upset, promising to boot Brad from the league, all that jazz. After a tit-for-tat message-board salvo, they end up making up, with the end result being that Lindo is no longer officially a co-manager. Is he still operating Brad's team from their shared workplace? I mean, I can't say for sure, but...yes. Yes he is. Anyway, there was a lot of league drama over that during the week, which masks the fact that I beat Brad 9-5, and it wasn't nearly that close. By the end of Friday, I was pretty comfortable that I had the win locked up. I'm moving on to the finals now, for the bajillionth time.
Meanwhile, in McNutt-land-McNutt's season started hot as can be, with 11-3 and 12-1 finals in the first three weeks. In the middle of the season, his team fell apart, sending him from first place to eighth and a "wait ‘til next year" appearance. Then, all of a sudden, he got hot. He finished the regular season with 12-2 and 11-1 wins, then cruised through 9-5 and 10-4 playoff wins against higher-seeded teams. Honestly? I don't have a clue how he did it. He dropped Carlos Gonzalez a couple weeks ago (remember, keeper league, so boo to that decision, McNutt; Lindo picked Gonzalez up for Brad's team before his removal, which only increased everyone's co-manager ire), and so my best guess as to McNutt's four keepers for next season are...I don't know, Desmond, Jayson Werth, Madison Bumgarner, and Freddie Freeman? Maybe he keeps Aroldis Chapman, maybe Johnny Cueto, maybe Anibal Sanchez, maybe Josh Hamilton. But this is not a stacked roster.
Sept. 22 (yes, that date again, screw you, I'm writing this) - Jess had tried his darnedest to rearrange the playoff seedings, terrified of McNutt's team. I still don't see it, but whatever. Jess lost to McNutt, and so started texting me about how tough my matchup would be as soon as he knew he would lose. Gee, thanks, Jess, it's not like I wasn't already sweating through my shirt over the prospect of another second place; let's talk about how hard it's going to be. Meanwhile, I'm facing Jess in fantasy football, and Antonio Brown is having a huge game to give Jess a come-form-behind win. This is not a good omen.
Sept. 24 - McNutt has gone into full pitcher-streaming mode. He dropped Andrew Cashner for Hector Santiago, dropped Ryan Dempster for John Lackey, dropped Santiago for Greg Reynolds, dropped Lackey for Dan Straily, dropped Straily for David Hale. Meanwhile, my only move has been an add of...the McNutt-forsaken Cashner. I like streaming pitchers, but not for any pitcher. My strategy is to capitalize on rate stats, and I'm not going to add someone who isn't going to keep my K/9 high.
Sept. 25 - Talking with Commissioner Nate at work, and we're debating this. He thinks fate is enough reason to assume I'll lose; the world has conspired against me. I hope he's wrong, but I can't say I have any evidence this way. Nate has struck fear in me. I bring up the score on my phone (breaking the rule of my workplace, as is my way), just to make sure that I am still winning. I am. But I'm still nervous.
Sept. 26 (right now, if you aren't near a calendar) - I've got to win this, right? McNutt has ridden Jayson Werth and Mark Buehrle this far; I've got Joey Votto, I've got Dustin Pedroia, I've got Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus and Eric Hosmer and Matt Holliday and Jason Heyward Alex Gordon and Wil Myers and Max Scherzer and Adam Wainwright and Alex Cobb and Jon Lester and Kenley Jansen...I swear to you, this is not a five-seed team. I've got to win this, right?
But there are four days left. McNutt already has a seven-RBI lead, and we're tied in three other categories. If he can get a couple hitters going and a single dominant pitching performance, maybe I see this go away. Maybe I'm destined to finish second again.
Maybe I am the Bills.
Sept. 29 (the future) - Did I win? I hope I won.
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