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.

It's funny how often a fantasy draft is a reaction to what happened the year before. I just had my first serious draft (actually, auction) of the spring and when I look back on it, almost everything I did played off a poor 2008 auction in the same league.


It's a keeper league and last year, I underestimated the impact of inflation on bidding patterns. I also fixated too much on a few players and positions. So I ended up with a roster that was long on star power (Miguel Cabrera, Roy Halladay, Nick Markakis, B.J. Upton and others) but filled out with too many guys who hardly played.

In AL- or NL-only leagues, star-laden teams often lose out to those with solid starters at almost every position. You'd be surprised how often the team with the most total at bats, not the most All-Stars, has the best offense.

So I entered this year determined to avoid inflation and costly dead spots. I didn't want to wait for specific players. Instead, I would take anybody decent as long as bidding stopped near my pre-draft dollar value. My only hard-and-fast goal was to land a starter at every offensive spot.

All in all, I did pretty well, though I probably punted batting average by grabbing Jack Cust, Jim Thome and Russ Branyan in a late-auction effort to boost my power. I went in thinking that my top offensive buy would be either Ian Kinsler or Brian Roberts. Second base is not a deep position in the AL, so either guy would afford a big leg up on the competition. Kinsler's price jumped past the $33 I had written on my sheet, so I let him go. That discipline paid off when I landed Roberts, actually a better fit because of his stolen bases, at $32. I have both Roberts and Markakis. Guess I'm a homer.

I look at my offense and see seven guys who could hit between 20 and 30 homers and six others who could hit at least 10. For speed, I've got Roberts, Upton and four other guys who could steal 10 to 20 bases. There's no one I'd call an unquestioned superstar but no one useless either.

Pitching is a little sketchier. With C.C. Sabathia, Halladay and a few other aces locked up as keepers, inflation hit hard on the starters (kind of like real baseball, I reckon.) Second-tier talents such as Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Andy Sonnanstine soared past $20 and that just didn't make sense for my plan.

I came in with John Lackey and Ervin Santana at a combined $20. So I opted to spend most of my pitching budget (usually about $70 out of $260) on closers. I wanted one premium guy and was happy to land Jon Papelbon. I also wrote last week about how much I like Brian Fuentes. So when bidding on him stopped at $16, that worked for me. With those two guys, I should score well in saves.

Unfortunately, Santana and Lackey are hurt, and I bought another wounded starter in Justin Duchscherer. If all of those guys come back strong by mid-May, I should be fine. If not, I'll need to swing a trade or get an unexpected contribution from one of my minor-league phenoms, Chris Tillman and Neftali Feliz.

If you're entering an AL-only auction this weekend, watch out for inflation on starting pitchers. There aren't many no-doubt aces, and you don't want to be caught blowing too much of your budget on the Sloweys and Jered Weavers of the world. Pitching is unpredicatable enough for everyone that you can probably figure out a solution during the season. It's harder to make up a serious deficit on offense.

Here's my team if you care to critique. I'll be back with an NL recap next week.

c-Rod Barajas $6, c-Gerald Laird $16 (ouch, last starter available), 1b-Kevin Youkilis $8, 2b-Brian Roberts $32, 3b-Russ Branyan $10, SS-Julio Lugo $6, corner-Jed Lowrie $7, middle-Mark Ellis $8, of-Carlos Quentin $16, of-Nick Markakis $20, of-BJ Upton $17, of-Ben Francisco $6, of-Jack Cust $11, dh-Jim Thome $21

p-John Lackey $13, p-Ervin Santana $7, p-Justin Duchscherer $5, p-Kevin Millwood $3, p-Vicente Padilla $1, p-Jon Papelbon $29, p-Brian Fuentes $16, p-Takashi Saito $1, p-Matt Thornton $1

farm system - p-Brett Anderson $45, p-Neftali Feliz $5, p-Chris Tillman $5