Some readers might remember that until last summer, Childs Walker wrote a weekly column on fantasy sports for The Sun. That ritual died for the cause of reducing newsprint costs (tough business, newspapers). But with the Toy Department open and its aisles boundless, Childs is back with his insights, laments and odes to joy regarding pretend baseball and pretend football.
I hate to revive my fantasy ramblings on a down note, but I'm feeling as burned out with my teams as I have since college (when I stopped playing altogether in favor of listening to gloomy music and pursuing women).
Normally, fantasy baseball guides are like cute girls in tanktops, suggestive of spring and life beginning anew. But this year, they're as bad as an e-mail from the boss, reminding me of tasks I haven't completed. I just stare at my 2009 Baseball Forecaster and think about all the draft prep I haven't done, all the middle relievers I don't know, all the sleepers still slumbering in my resistant brain.
OK, this is ridiculous. Can one really be depressed about fantasy sports? Are there fantasy shrinks (I'm scared to look)?
So here's what I'm going to do: Just have fun. I've spent so many years preparing so hard for fantasy baseball, that perhaps I've trapped myself in a soul-crushing loop. Must every year involve a dozen guides and serious analysis of strikeout rates in early January? I'm saying no. I'll enter 2009 with Sam Walker's Fantasyland in mind. For those who didn't read the book, Walker, a Wall Street Journal columnist, hired a research staff in his quest to win the Tout Wars expert league in 2004. He finished well back but returned to Tout Wars in 2005, buoyed by little preparation, and won the league.
I'm not predicting such lofty accomplishments for this Walker. But in the name of my quest for joy, here are 10 players who should be fun to own in '09.
Clayton Kershaw - Nothing is more fun than owning the pitcher who explodes into a full-fledged ace. This Dodgers lefty has as much talent as anyone in the game and began to harness it down the stretch last year. He might not go all 1985-Dwight-Gooden on the league. But then again, he might and that's a possibility worth paying for.
Shin-Soo Choo - Korea was the surprise darling of the World Baseball Classic. Choo could be the first position player from said nation to be a fantasy star. I'm talking .300 with 20 homers and 20 steals, aka Nick Markakis numbers. And I dig his name.
Elijah Dukes - He's fun in the same sense as dropping acid or driving too fast on a curvy road. With his great strength and surprisingly acute batting eye, he might give you the season of your life. Or he might send you careening into fantasy madness and/or death. Hey, if you can't take risks in pretend baseball, where can you?
Miguel Cabrera - Because he's still only 26 and given the general stench around the Tigers, I think people have forgotten that he's a Hall-of-Fame hitter. He's every bit as potent as say, Manny Ramirez.
Brian Fuentes - I know some people dismiss him as a situational lefty but that's nonsense. He was just as good as Francisco Rodriguez last year and that was with Coors Field as an albatross. As K-Rod's replacement in a better park for a better team, Fuentes should be awesome.
Jimmy Rollins - Because he seemed as safe a bet as any fantasy first rounder last season and will be available in the second this year. He doesn't need 30 homers to be great. He's durable, he always makes contact and he steals 40 a year. So if he gets the homers back to 20, pow, you have an elite player.
Justin Upton - He's got that Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds kind of talent and the same post-hype breakout potential as Bruce. Actually, I might like him even more for next year when he'll be 22 and primed for the post-post-hype breakout. Anyway, you want him.
Randy Johnson - He's the most unique pitcher I've seen (and one of the most intimidating athletes I've interviewed). So it shouldn't surprise me that he can still go at age 45. He's someone I'd tell my kids about, so owning him when he gets his 300th win seems like exactly the sort of thing that would make a fantasy season fun.