Does Wine Pair Well With Fantasy Baseball? Of Course
The wine lineup for fantasy baseball draft night.
strongly believe wine is ideal for almost every occasion. There are still some hot, steamy days when you’re working in the yard and nothing tastes better than a cold beer, but usually wine makes everything better.
To test that theory I brought some wine to a place I don’t think has seen wine before–our fantasy baseball draft night. I’ll let you know how that theory worked out, but first some background.
Half of the team owners in the league.
I joined my first fantasy baseball league about 30 years ago when I lived in Charlotte. We called it our baseball “pool” then, and we had never heard of rotisserie leagues. Scoring was simple. Points for home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, stolen bases, batting average, wins, saves and earned run average. Maybe strikeouts, too, but I can’t remember. Scoring was heavily weighted to power hitters, so we’d try to load up on them.
We pulled our own stats out of USA Today every week, turned them in to the league president and he posted the standings. Besides the overall winner, there were lesser prizes for each scoring category. This was all very crude compared to today’s high-tech leagues, but we had a blast. It made the baseball season even more enjoyable.
League commissioner and host Gary savors his wine while reigning champion Peter records all of the night's transactions.
The highlight every year was draft night. Most of the guys in our league worked in the sports department of the Charlotte News or Charlotte Observer.
We’d gather at someone’s house (usually a single guy or someone who had a very forgiving wife), drink beer, eat snacks (little hot dogs were a favorite) and pick our players in a serpentine draft. If you had the first pick in one round you had the last pick the next round.
If you didn’t pay attention you didn’t remember who had been picked. Someone would inevitably try to pick someone who had been taken hours, or even minutes, before. Some of our poolians were known for doing this several times a night. Then there were the super sleepers, baseball players who we thought would be MVP, but usually weren’t even in the majors by the All-Star break.
To keep scoring simple, when you traded someone you traded all their existing stats plus whatever they would do in the future. It was too complicated to keep only the stats the player compiled while he was on your team, but now Yahoo’s computers handle all that for us.
Beer–and camaraderie–were the central ingredients. There always was lots of laughter involved, especially when someone picked what others thought was a dog. Did I mention beer was a central ingredient?
Stan, owner of the Olyboppers, and last year's runnerup, celebrates a winning bid.
Times change, team owners come and go, but the draft night tradition rolls on. I tried staying in the league when I moved to Augusta, but the logistics were just too tough, so eventually I dropped out. Some of my friends kept me up to date on some of the more fun nights that I had missed.
Last year my friend Stan suggested that since I had retired I might want to rejoin the pool, which by now had evolved to a full rotisserie league. I agreed, drove up and met everyone for the draft, which was held at a local bar.
So beer again was a central element, although I did notice some of the team owners were drinking soft drinks or water. It was noisy in the bar, and with my bad ear and worse brain I had trouble hearing most of the time. And since I hadn’t played fantasy baseball in years I wasn’t following baseball as closely and didn’t even know the names of a huge number of players.
I still liked the big hitters and forgot about how important pitchers are now. So I lost big, but I had fun.
Tom and Bill discuss strategy over the barbecue.
This year I was determined to do better, so I did my research, developed a strategy and stuck to it. And I brought wine to the draft. I credit my improved drafting to the wine; it calmed my nerves, helped me thing pleasant thoughts. I also felt more like a real baseball team owner. Do you really think any of them are sitting in their sky boxes throwing down a cold one or doing keg stands? All I needed was my cigar.
So the 11 owners in the CLTBL gathered in Charlotte Wednesday night to select our teams. Instead of drafting we have an auction. You select 15 hitters and 10 pitchers in defined positions, bidding against the other owners each time a player is offered. You only have 260 fake dollars with which to bid, so you can’t go overboard on someone you really like.
Turkey and pork barbecue with the fixings.
Our league commissioner, Gary, graciously hosted the draft at his house, something he had done often when he was young and foolish. Their daughters are away at college, so Gary and Helen offered their place for draft central. At least I think Helen agreed. She did bring the barbecue (pork and turkey, yum) and smile before retreating to the upper part of the house.
The draft was briefer than some, running from 7 p.m. to almost midnight. We did break for the barbecue and again later when two groupies crashed through the front door to watch the action. I’m not real sure why they were there. I’ve worked with both of them in Augusta, and they are two of the finest writers on the planet, one a sports writer and one a columnist.
Tommy and Joe came to check out the action.
Joe and Stan discussing how they both burned me in touch football.
So how boring an evening must Tommy and Joe have been having if they thought watching a fantasy draft was a fun idea? For 20-30 minutes it must have looked like a good idea, because we stopped the draft and had a great time catching up. Then when we went back to drafting, they lasted about 5 minutes before deciding they had more pressing matters to attend to. Maybe washing socks or doing the Sodoku.
The auction continued while some of us drank. It finally ended with frantic scrambling to fill out the last roster spots with $1 bargains. I remember some years I would look at my team at the end of the night and wonder how I had gotten such a collection of stiffs. This year I love my team.
I got Jose Bautista for only $38. That’s less than a dollar for every home run he hit last year. Dan Uggla was a bargain at $14, as were Ichiro Suzuki ($14, and he already has four hits), Jared Weaver ($23), Craig Kimbrel ($16) and Alex Avila ($12). My super sleeper for $1 is Alejandro de Aza, the next superstar outfielder from my beloved White Sox.
This year the South Side Winos are going to rule. I know the OlyBoppers, rastas, Frozen Sporks, King Kamayamaynots and the others are shaking in their boots.
Tommy, Joe and Stan.
So, back to the wine. I drank three wines during the draft and I loved them all. First I had some Westside Red, the Troublemaker from Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles. It was great as always. This southern Rhone-style blend was full of black cherry and layers of flavor. It was smooth and silky and helped me sort through the early part of the draft.
Then I had some Chateau Malrome Comtesse Adele, a nice Bordeaux brought by Bill. I hadn’t had this wine before, but I would love to try it again. It was medium-bodied with some minerality and chewy tannins.
My finishing wine was a Turley Zinfandel from the Juvenile vineyard. It was spectacular, rich and full-bodied, lots of nice fruit balanced by good acidity. I loved it with the barbecue, and I loved it with potato chips as I was contemplating the later rounds of the auction.
Bill smiles as he checks his team.
I left a Hestan Cabernet Sauvignon for Gary and Helen and brought a Liberty School Syrah to Stan and Nancy for letting me spend the night with them. There weren’t enough wine drinkers for us to get to them during the draft.
Gary had two secret weapons to help his picks, his dog and the wine.
Gary and Bill joined me in the wine drinking, and I admired Tom for bringing Anchor Steam, one of my favorite beers. But he’s a sensitive type: he also eats hummus. I think Stan started with beer and then switched to Diet Coke. What’s up with that? I guess we all make concessions to age.
If the wine drinking helped my team I’ll write about this some more. If my team is as pitiful as last year, you will never hear about it again. But for one night, at least, I felt like George Steinbrenner, but without the obnoxiousness. Oh yeah, and I got Mariano Rivera, too.
And the end of the night fantasy baseball veteran and perennial contender Stan shows satisfaction with the team he put together.