My name is Brannon Larson, and I’m sort of a big deal around here; you’ll learn soon enough, at which point your life will change for the better.
My lucky number is twenty-three. This isn’t for the obvious example (although I did worship him for all the right reasons), but for his cross-town buddy: Ryan Sandberg. The man, the second baseman for the Chicago Cubs from 1982 to 1994 and then again in ’96 and ’97, meant the world to me, so much so that I requested to play second base in little league despite having a Kenny Powers arm (I jerk my own stick, get used to it).
The love grew from his stats: the great season in ’84 (.314, 200 hits, 114 runs, 19 HRs, 19 triples and 84 RBIs for a slow, white guy), the .989 career fielding percentage, the 282 dongs and the .285 career batting average. Not flashy or anything worth what would be a 9-year, $195 million contract these days, but productive and efficient. The man also had a smile, and when you’re 11 years old a cocky smile can be enough for fandom (hence by love for the other #23). I requested a 1982 Topps season set for my eighth birthday in order to get Sandberg’s rookie card.
Still, why Sandberg? The stats were the main part for me when I was younger. From eight until I was starting high school my Bible was a cheap, worn-down book I’d been gifted by my parents: “The Baseball Year-by-Year Encyclopedia.” It went up through the ’92 season, six pages per year, three dedicated to stats and anecdotes from the American League and three more for the National. Along the bottom of the pages were the raw numbers, the leaders in all categories that season.
I wrote book reports that I turned into my parents based on this book: how the RBI leaders’ numbers from 1925 to 1945 fluctuated pretty dramatically; how stolen bases was the most inconsistent, major stat to track; how there was this guy named George Herman Ruth who seemed to succeed most seasons at everything. I was a statistician before I knew any other words that ended in “-ician.” I was good at telling how successful someone had been at their job compared to how their peers were doing. I knew how to hold two seemingly contradictory opinions in my head, simultaneously (i.e., Ted Williams is a God; Ted Williams is a total dickhead), without forcing one as the truth (I know now that both held true for Williams).
I cared about numbers related to baseball before I cared about numbers relating to myself, like hourly wages then salary, like GPA then SAT scores then scholarship totals, like number of women I’d kissed then . . .
All this is to say that when I’ve prepped for fantasy baseball drafts I’ve driven myself B-A-N-A-N-A-S. I’ve made lists, and charts, and graphs that I never consulted but was sure would make a difference somewhere down the road. I worried I hadn’t compared Dan Haren’s WHIP from his time with the A’s to his Dback days with enough adjustment for weaker hitting. I worried that drafting Ryan Braun is 2010 would mean he wouldn’t have the rebound year some people thought, so I’d be stuck with a small, Jewish outfielder no one wanted (not the smartest choice).
I made a list of the four best VORP players at every position and then made another list of how I’d prioritize drafting them all. I spent dozens of hours prepping for something I’d spend hundreds of hours managing, and worrying about, for the next six months.
Which leads me here: I’m not playing fantasy baseball this season because I’ve got a relationship, with a real life female human organism, that I don’t want to fuck up. And ‘wasting’ hundreds of hours over the summer is a good way to push the envelope, especially when your loved one only knows that the Giants and Athletics are in different leagues because of that one year when her house got messed up during the earthquake before some game.
My advice and ideas will be born of these tenets: I’d like to save you time when making big decisions; I’d like to make you laugh; I’d love to make you cry; I’d like to give you something smart to say to your dipshit friends who think Hanley Ramirez is going to have a great year and that the Miami Marlins (which still sounds weird to me) will end up north of .500; I’d like to give you my opinion on the baseball topics of the day and then see you transmit them, as your own, without giving me credit, to your effeminate boss; I’d like to enter your house and penetrate your wife.
I’m Brannon Fucking Larson, and you’re welcome.