I have always loved the very simple phrase, “hope springs eternal.” It’s funny, I always imagined it was something a baseball writer jotted down that John McGraw, Casey Stengel or Billy Martin said about the beginning of a new baseball season.
Well, in the category of “you learn something new every day,” I looked up the quote and was stunned that it was actually from the poem, “An Essay on Man” by Alexander Pope … and the full quote is much more profound:
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Well, I am assisted mightily by having majored in English in college, and this is still a tad tough to decipher, but I’ll try. As you’ll see, this meaning fits like a glove with why I still am passionate about fantasy baseball.
Pope’s meaning to me is about how the human experience contains just a millisecond or two here and there in what is true happiness. Rather, it’s always looking for and toward a better time. There’s no better time of the year for optimism than when the landscape will magically turn green from ashen gray almost overnight.
I have played fantasy baseball almost nonstop since 1985, when I started the Pacifica League, named after a restaurant that my friend, Mark Nichols, owned next to Shogun Sushi on Charles Street just above Saratoga Street. I can even remember the first player ever brought up at the auction: Milwaukee Brewers catcher Bill Schroeder, who went for an amazingly high $12. After 30-plus years in the game, I can say with great confidence that he was really worth about $4 or $5.
I’m a guy who makes his living, as my business card used to say, as a “professional baseball fan.” But, like the lyrics from blues singer/songwriter Albert King’s song, “Born Under a Bad Sign,” I can honestly say that “… if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” I am either one of the worst fantasy baseball players or one of the unluckiest.
Obviously, I would prefer the truth to be the latter. I’d rather it be just a spate of bad luck that causes my teams to all too often sink like a rock that is skimmed across a creek, lake or pond.
Like that rock, I have an all-too-brief moment in the sun with my team before it inevitably collapses from the sheer weight of moronic decisions and stupid hunches.
Last year, my team sank even before the 2018 season began in the CrabCake League, which I play in with a lot of folks you don’t know and Scott Garceau and Jeremy Conn, both of whom you do know.
We held our auction on the Sunday before the season started, and of course, I held on to Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez at $11. Perez couldn’t even wait until the first game to injure himself. He suffered a moderate strain of the MCL in his left knee while lifting his suitcase up the stairs upon returning home from spring training, costing him a month.
On the second night of the season, Delino DeShields Jr., who was going to be my 30-plus steal guy, broke his hamate bone and went down for a little less than a month. I could go on and on reciting the painful details, but maybe the most hurtful play of all involved my star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, for whom I paid $28, in early April.
As he took a relay throw on an eventual double, he quickly sensed he had a chance to shuffle the ball to third to get the runner who had been on first base. But the third baseman wasn’t even in the same zip code. Since he had already shuffled the ball, it was trickling toward the dugout, meaning the runner who had hit the double might be able to score.
Bogaerts made a Herculean effort to cut off the ball before it went into the dugout, but instead he slid into the dugout, wrenching his knee. When I watched the replay, I was dumbstruck as to how he managed to hurt himself, but he missed three weeks.
All told, I had nine men on the disabled list in the first 4.5 weeks of 2018 and finished a season so dismal it sent me into a deep, dark period of existence.
So great was the level of my despair that I informed all the players in my league that I had had it with fantasy baseball. I wouldn’t be back in 2019. I needed a year off, at least.
But a funny thing happened on the way to retirement. I began to imagine all the players I traded for in 2018 coming back without me at the helm. The itch was coming back. I have been preparing like a fiend the past several weeks.
In the process, I realized that no matter what tragic turn is in store for me, it can’t take away the sheer joy I have each and every February and March as hope springs eternal in this one fantasy player’s breast.
Issue 252: March 2019