I’m a loser. It’s a sad fact, but one I’ve come to accept. Case in point:
One of my simple joys in life is uncovering hidden gems each and every year in whatever fantasy sport I play. It’s a tradition that started back in 2001 with Marty Booker. Not much was known of the third-year player out of Louisiana-Monroe, but he put up huge numbers that year (100 catches/1,071 yards/8 TDs). It was a rush taking someone from the trash heap and watching them blossom. Now I know how Freddie Prinze Jr., felt in “She’s All That” when he turned ugly duckling, nerd version Rachel Leigh Cook and turned her into super-hot, edible Rachel Leigh Cook.
The tradition continued last year in a big way during fantasy baseball. The night before the season I picked up little known Pittsburgh outfielder Nate McLouth. I knew of McLouth because I had actually written a story about him when he was in Triple-A with Indianapolis. So, I took a flier on him. He hit 26 home runs, knocked in 94 runs and stole 23 bases. The equivalent of fantasy gold. Then I took a gamble on some kid named Jair Jurrjens (13 wins, 3.68 ERA and 139 Ks). And a former Cubs farmhand Ricky Nolasco (15 wins, 3.52 ERA and 186 Ks). Suffice it to say, “Premium Blend” was in the mix for the title. In fact, I was leading the race for much of the year until a two-week Mediterranean Cruise with limited access to reasonably priced Internet and awful waiver priority (C.C. Sabathia Sweepstakes) cost me in our National League only-fantasy league.
So this year, the pressure was on to find the next Nate McLouth. I identified him early. His name was Emilio Bonifacio. A little known utility infielder for the Florida Marlins. He played in bits with Arizona and Washington a year ago, hitting under .250 in 49 games. His primary position is second base. Dan Uggla and his 32 home runs occupy second for the Marlins. So Bonifacio was being tried out at third with Jorge Cantu moving to first base.
Bonifacio piqued my interest because he still had second base eligibility. And with a position that only really goes three deep (Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips and Uggla) anything was worth a look. So I tracked him. And he won the job. Add in the fact he bats leadoff and steals bases in a lineup destined to score runs and he became tantalizing.
I picked him up on April 1. I told my buddies I had the next McLouth. I had the next unknown stud and his name was Emilio Bonifacio. They had never heard of them. Fantasy baseball veterans (champions) had never heard of my gem. One pretended like he had, “He’s nice,” as he scratched his chin – an awful poker tell. Oh, this was going to be sweet.
“Yeah right,” the other said. “I bet you he’s not even on your roster in two weeks. You are such trash.”
Oh, this was going to be sweet.
But like any genius, my brain didn’t quit. And as the season approached, the wheels began to continue to turn. I found another potential McLouth. His name was Ryan Spilborghs, an outfielder for Colorado. I didn’t need an outfielder, but I liked Spilborghs’ potential. He was going to play everyday with the departure of Matt Holliday and he was going to bat leadoff. Problem was, I didn’t have room for him. So instead of dropping Elijah Dukes, who has been relegated to the bench by Austin Kearns, I dropped my mancrush Bonifacio because I couldn’t part with Dukes’ possible 20-20 season all the experts told me was coming. I had my doubts, but I felt Dukes’ value was higher than Bonifacio’s and that I could just pick him up a week or two later.
Let me repeat, I dropped Emilio Bonifacio the night before Opening Day.
The league message board exploded with the Bonifacio drop decision.
“I thought this guy was the next coming. What a laughingstock.”
“I told you guys he wouldn’t last three weeks on his roster…Now he’s claiming Spillsboroughs is this years McLouth. Hilarious.”
Well, at least if Spilborghs does what I hope he does, I can say that I picked a guy people added two syllables to through awful spelling.
Midway through opening day, my stomach turned. Bonifacio was having himself a dandy of a first day. And he capped it off with an inside-the-park home run and was the fantasy darling of the season’s first full day.
His line: 4-for-5, 3 runs, 1 HR, 2 RBI and 3 SB.
What had I done? Calamity.
Bonifacio was still on waivers, but I couldn’t place a claim on him because I was the chode that dropped him. So I had hope that no one put a claim in on him and wait for him to hit the free agent pool. He was slated to become a free agent sometime around 2:30 a.m.
Like a normal person, I was sleeping peacefully hoping to snatch my man Emilio in the morning before I hit the gym. My buddy, the one who referred to my choice of Bonifacio as a potential breakout player as laughable, woke up like a geriatric with an enlarged prostate at 3:57 a.m., to take a piss and decided, “What the hey, since I’m up, I might as well make a fantasy baseball transaction.”
Game No. 2 for Bonifacio: 2-for-5 with two RBI and a triple.
Snake Friend: Too bad I couldn’t play Bonifacio today…
Me: I know. Stud.
Snake Friend: Haha.
Me: I hate myself.
Snake Friend: I love it.
Snake Friend: I want to beat off thinking about it. And I already have once today.
These are my friends. This is my life. It’s obvious I’ll be single for a while. But hey, at least I still have Ryan Spilborghs. Or is it Spillsboroughs?