By now you've seen our two-page ad for Dugout Derby, the Rotisserie-Leaguer's dream date, where you pick nine position players, including DH, and four pitchers, and try to keep the drool off your vinyl pocket pen holder. In fact, I'm surprised you've lifted your head up from the agate type long enough to read this -- you're probably hoping for a piddly, arcane stat in here that'll help you decide between Mike Witt and Bobby Witt for the fourth arm on your make-believe pitching staff. Just don't be a half-Witt.
The sports world today is divided between Roto Guys and what psychiatrists might call "healthy, normal others."
You can tell you're in the company of a Roto Guy when:
1) He's been hunched over a copy of "The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract" for so long that mold has appeared on his egg salad sandwich.
2) He comes over for the weekend, and when he unpacks his suitcase, instead of clothing all he's brought is a magnifying glass, a calculator and a computer program entitled "Left-Handed Pinch Hitters, Wrigley, Mid-Week, Wind Blowing In." And the first thing he says to you is, "So who does a guy have to know to get a decent box score in this hellhole?"
3) He squeals with delight when a friend calls at 2 a.m. to say he's listening to the San Diego game on shortwave radio, and Bip Roberts just got a bloop double.
4) He phones the radio sports-talk bozo, and swoons as they discuss the height and weight of a middle reliever at Bluefield.
The proper way to end a conversation with a Roto Guy is by saying:
"Get a life."
Alas, they are growing in number. I figure, if you can't beat 'em. . . .
I asked the respected Richard Justice to select the premier Roto team. He picked Will Clark, Ryne Sandberg, Barry Larkin, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Cecil Fielder to hit, and Frank Viola, Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens and Dave Stewart to pitch; he went with starters because Dugout Derby doesn't pay off on saves.
I then tacked the full centerfold ad to a wall in the sports department. (I read the whole ad, by the way. That's more reading than I did in college, and I was a literature major. I was disappointed to reach the bottom and see I hadn't won a gas grill. Once a week I get a vacation-home come-on letter informing me I've won a gas grill, and I can pick it up in central Virginia. Who needs a gas grill that badly?) I invited staffers to throw darts, and thus pick our players. A list of staffers who participated is on file with the IRS.
Here is our Dream Dart Dugout Derby team:
Dave Bergman, 1B. 102 at-bats. Dugout Derby lists Fielder as a DH. If he actually was a DH, Bergman might get enough at-bats to help us. Bergman's 37 and has never played regularly. You might be able to twist my arm and get me to trade him for Ingmar Bergman.
Junior Noboa, 2B. 0 HR. 104 at-bats. I'm not thrilled. I had three Jrs. in mind, unfortunately none named Noboa.
Greg Litton, 3B. 84 at-bats. I'm not thrilled. Did I say that already?
Alan Trammell, SS. I'm thrilled.
Harold Baines, DH. As long as his knees hold up, I'm still thrilled.
Hubie Brooks, OF. Mel's funnier, but can't hit the slider.
Eric Yelding, OF. 31 steals, but 0 HR, 9 errors. I wish I could play him at second and not have to give up a power OF slot.
Brad Komminsk, OF. 7 RBI. Once such a great prospect that Henry Aaron said, "He's going to do things Dale Murphy only dreams of." Like what, drift through all 26 teams?
Steve Avery, P. The Braves' best prospect since Komminsk. (Justice predicts Avery will be fabulous. But will he be fabulous in time for me to win the trip to Merv Griffin's Bahamas resort and casino so I can bet on Merv?)
John Franco, P. All-Star. But a reliever. Maybe we could get Buddy to move him into the rotation.
Ramon Martinez, P. What a dart. (Thank you, Bill Brubaker.) The top gun by Dugout Derby standards. I've offered a 10-year pact.
Dave Schmidt, P. Everyone groaned when this dart hit.
That's my team, and I'm sticking with it. (Unless I trade. I'm intrigued by being able to dump the dogs -- although $2 for the first minute per call is steep. Suppose I have to talk to the team physician first to make sure my new pitcher is over his tendinitis? Suppose I have to schmooze his agent to work out a new deal before he agrees to play on my Roto team? For $2 a minute on a 900 number, I usually call 900-LOVE.)
My problem is with the concept of Roto Ball.
Wise up, Roto-Maniacs. Celebrate sports, don't calibrate them.
Sports shouldn't be faxed. They should be played. If you can't play, watch. Or listen on radio.
Roto Ball doesn't demand you do anything except arrange numbers. If that's what drove baseball, they wouldn't draft infielders, they'd draft accountants. Roto Guys have no need to go to the ballpark. All they care about a park is its dimensions.
Dugout Derby just lists players for you to choose from -- not even teams they play for! Roto-Matons don't root for teams. They aren't interested in standings or pennant races or the games themselves. They're mercenaries; they care only for the cold statistics of their individual players. BOX SCORES! Give them larger, more comprehensive, spreading-out-like-an-oil-slick box scores. Like Seymour, the carnivorous plant in "Little Shop Of Horrors," they have one agenda: Feed me!
Roto Guys are the antithesis of sports. They're the decimal point brigade, the Info-cult of the 21st century, the wax works of western civilization.
Roto Guys have no souls.
Bring more darts!