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A Season on the Brink

It was like any other March afternoon. The sun was probably out, a cool breeze might have been blowing through the air, the temperature was probably between 45-65 degrees. Things seemed all too normal for Anders Larson on that early spring day. Little did he know, this day was anything but another day. It was fantasy draft day, and Larson was nowhere to be found. His squad, So Special, would pay the price for his complacency.

Larson had always been recognized as one of the great motivators of the modern fantasy baseball era. His teams never gave up on the season, always finished the year strong, climbing spots as other managers failed to check their teams regularly. Larson’s teams, however, had not finished higher than 3rd in the past two seasons. His teams had historically gotten off to horrendous starts, due in large part to Larson either missing or arriving late to the live drafts. He dodged so many drafts that fellow managers jokingly referred to him as Bill Clinton. (Editor’s Note: Actually, only Larson referred to himself as Bill Clinton. No one else would waste their time thinking of that.)

Larson soon realized the error of his ways, but the damage was nearly beyond repair. A two-year veteran of the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Leagues, he struggled for several days with the CNN/SI Fantasy System. It was a day before he was even able to view his lineup. Simple free agent maneuvers now seemed to take painstaking effort. Lesser men would have thrown in the towel; but Anders Larson hadn’t signed up for a free CNN/SI id and password just to quit.

He quickly dropped Coors Field victim Mike Hampton. Jose Vidro, his lone 2nd baseman, was one of two injured So Special opening day starters. The wily Larson brought in Marcus Giles off the free agent market for depth in his middle infield. Several question marks still lingered, including Tim Salmon, who hit .227 in 2001, and Raul Mondesi, who batted only .251 the year before. The pitching staff was decent despite Ben Sheets and his 4.76 ERA from 2001. Something in his gut told him to stick with Salmon, Mondesi, and Sheets. He couldn’t explain it; but then again, who would question the fantasy instincts of a legend like Anders Larson?

Larson’s blue collar, workhorse squad was faced with a stiff test in week 1, matched up with 100% NYCE, managed by two-time Yahoo! Sports champion Craig Tutterow. To make matters worse, Larson had never managed in a match-up fantasy baseball league before. On paper, 100% NYCE figured to dominate. But as the old fantasy baseball adage goes, “that’s why they simulate the games.”

So Special, despite the fact that two starters were on the DL for part of the week, raced out to an early lead. 100% NYCE struggled mightily early in the week, perhaps surprised by the effort of So Special. So Special had the high total of the league for much of the week, and had a lead as great as 50 points. Unfortunately, this fairy tale opening week did not have a storybook ending. Tutterow’s squad rallied to take the lead after the sixth day, and pulled away on the final afternoon to make it a deceptively close 335-281 final.

The next test would be how So Special would respond to such a deflating loss. Larson’s squad showed their mettle in week 2, pounding an undermatched Hampton Pirates team into submission, allowing the Pirates to score a meager 226 points, higher only than the anemic Daa Bears. Week 3 would not be so kind to So Special. His team ran into a buzzsaw as the Woodsboro Peckers annihilated So Special 318-233. Now sitting at 1-2, his team was still riddled with injuries and plagued by a lack of talent. The team seemed headed toward the cellar.

The schedule dealt them a break in week 4, however; So Special scrapped out a 250-point effort, enough to defeat the lowly Yankees. A miraculous day 7 comeback in week 5 propelled So Special past Brooks Irvin’s The Pro Base Stealers. So Special had now climbed back up over .500 and into respectability, but this team was still hungry. The team that wasn’t supposed to be able to compete for a division title, much less a league title, ripped off three more wins, putting them in 2nd place in the West at 6-2, the third best mark in the league. This was the proverbial “fantasy fantasy.” (Editor’s Note: There is no proverb, biblical or otherwise, including the words “fantasy fantasy.”)

The glass slipper once again came off in week 9, as Team Reality brought So Special back to earth in an old-fashioned slugfest, 385-314. So Special now sits at 6-3, still in second place in the West, but facing a dangerous 100% NYCE squad. So Special has faced adversity before, but how many times can it respond? It’s only June, but the season hangs in the balance. The season is on the brink.

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