When the MLB season ends, a select group of Washington Nationals teammates focus on another league they’re a part of.
Since the mid-2000s, the Nationals have participated in their own fantasy football league inside the clubhouse. The league was created as a way for the players to stay in touch once the offseason starts.
“We’re together for so long during the season that we all want to get away a bit,” relief pitcher Craig Stammen said. “But [the league] gets us back together, talking to each other, making jokes with each other.”
Stammen has served as league commissioner for the past two years, which puts him in charge of the rules and organization. He enjoys the role, as well as the competitiveness of the league. Others, such as fellow reliever Tyler Clippard, aren’t as studious and are in it solely for the camaraderie.
“I’m not that good,” Clippard said. “I have no strategy whatsoever. I just listen to what they’re saying on the fantasy football websites.”
As commissioner, Stammen changed the format this season, ridding the league of receiving points per reception. It’s now a standardized league, albeit with a unique draft system: Players pick numbers out of a hat to determine the order in which they select their draft positions.
For example, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman pulled out a number in the top four. When it was his turn, he chose to pick at No. 7.
So what was his reasoning for wanting to pick seventh?
“Nothing really,” Zimmerman said. “Everyone who says they have a strategy is lying. I kind of pick whatever and go with it.”
A lot of experts make a living analyzing fantasy football statistics and strategies for magazines and websites. Zimmerman’s approach is a bit simpler.
“You could probably pick your team on auto-pick and do just fine,” Zimmerman said. “It really comes down to whose team stays healthy. If any of your top four or five picks get hurt, you’re in trouble.”
Outfielders Denard Span and Scott Hairston have teamed up to control one team. They were slotted for second in the Nationals’ draft, with reliever Ian Krol picking first.
Nabbing last pick was Stephen Strasburg, who was the league’s 2012 champion — even though it was the first time Strasburg played fantasy football in his life.
“Beginner’s luck,” Stammen said.