Rajai Davis had 34 stolen bases this year. I had no clue.
Josh Tomlin of the Indians had a 1.08 WHIP this year, 11th best in the majors. I had to look that one up.
I have never been a fantasy sports lover and those two statistics are two of the reasons why. I don’t want to be in a position where I HAVE to know those things. It’s just not for me. My favorite fantasy game is much more simple — a great way to follow baseball without all the heavy lifting. It’s called The Langfords. You have never heard of it because only four people know about it.
Come back three decades with me. My dad and I had driven to Winter Park, Fl., to visit my brother, Jim, at Rollins College. While staying at a hotel called The Langford, the three of us created a home runs-only fantasy league which we named that’s right, the Langfords! Even though fantasy was just going mainstream at the time, we wanted to keep it simple — 10 players per person, one point for every home run hit by your team. The winner got a dollar per homer off the differential from the other two teams. That’s it. How long ago was this? I can’t remember the exact year, just that guys like Ron Kittle, Tony Armas and Kent Hrbek were some of our early contributors. We tweaked the rules over the years (and added an expansion owner in the late 1990s and my good friend and dad’s former student, Bill Simmons), arriving at our current format.
- Each team has a roster of six players. Four are active. The fifth player is on your bench, the sixth player is on your DL (and must stay there for at least 15 days from the time he’s placed there).
- Homers hit by bench/DL players don’t count toward your team’s total. Only your four active players count.
- Roster moves can only be made on Mondays (easier for league commissioner to maintain). Claims go in order of worst to first in the standings on that day.
- Each HR is worth one point, with the following bonus points in the regular season: a grand slam counts for four; an All-Star Game HR counts for two (all roster members are eligible); having the HR Derby title winner gets you four points.
- Rosters freeze on the first Sunday of September, forcing each owner to predict who they think will be in the playoffs. You have to weigh hanging on to a guy like Jose Bautista versus dropping him for an inferior slugger whose team might make a deep playoff run. Keeping Red Sox or Braves players on 9/3 this year ended up being a painful proposition. Why does this maneuvering matter, you ask? Well
- LDS homers are worth two; LCS homers are worth three, World Series homers are worth four. For any grand slam, add three to each total.
- All six roster members are active during the playoffs. That’s why — sometimes, anyway — an owner will fall behind by July and just start stacking his team with playoff guys for an October run.
- You can keep one player from your final roster the next season.
The winner gets 50 cents per homer differential from the other league members. If you did this league, you could obviously jack that price up.
- More importantly, the winner gets the Langford Trophy in their house for a year. We made ours a special bat; it’s been so long since Bill saw it that he had to ask after he read this paragraph, “What’s the Langford trophy again?”
Anyway, this postseason was shaping up to be one of the most dramatic in Langford history. Heading into Round One, my dad was leading the way with 142 points; Bill was second with 131 (but had lost David Ortiz after Game 162); my brother and I were tied at 126. Here were our rosters (along with cross-offs for everyone who got knocked out in Round One):
Pence, Cruz, Napoli, Swisher.
Teixeira, Cabrera, Beltre, BJ Upton.
Ibanez, Cano, Kinsler.
Howard, Utley, Hamilton, Granderson, Longoria, Justin Upton.
Sixteen points is easy to overcome with our playoff format as long as you pick the right World Series teams. In 2005, I took the title when Paul Konerko hit a seven-point grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series. For the record, Simmons has been in the league for 15 years and won the Langford crown only once. Want to guess which year? You got it, 2004 — the year he stacked his team with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. A pretty good October in the Simmons Man Cave. He’s already blaming his imminent 2011 demise for his playoff draft blunder — picking B.J. Upton over Mike Napoli. Which was dumb at the time, by the way.
In Round One, my brother made an early move when Robbie Cano hit his grand slam in the LDS. I got some first round help from Howard, Granderson, Hamilton and Upton. Bill got an early boost from Adrian Beltre (the first Langford player ever with a three-homer game in the postseason). Heading into the Championship Series, our Langford standings had tightened: Dad,148; Bill,141; Jim,137; Me,136. But things look rough for Jim (only Pujols and Kinsler left) and me (just Hamilton). You know who was looking good? Simmons, with his triumvirate of Braun, Cabrera and Beltre.
And yet, my father — whose draft strategies are often ridiculed — is thinking about legally changing his name to Nelson Cruz Ramsey after Cruz’s two-homer game (including a grand slam) in the ALCS. With Fielder and Napoli aboard as well, it looks like my father’s title to lose. In fact, I’d like to congratulate him right now: congrats on your 2011 Langford title, dad. There’s no way you can lose
Meanwhile, they tore down the Langford Hotel in 1999. Not quite as depressing for my dad as when they demolished Ebbets Field, or for me and my brother as when they knocked down Shea Stadium but it’s close. Thankfully its memory lives on in a simple yet enjoyable fantasy baseball league. Feel free to rip it off from us next season. You won’t regret it.
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