"Alertness means constantly being aware and observing. Always seek to improve yourself and your team." -- John Wooden
Distractions can cost you a fantasy baseball title. Yet with so much going on in the sports world of late, who can blame you for neglecting your team? It's easy to get distracted by World Cup soccer, the Stanley Cup playoffs, Lakers vs. Celtics, Tiger and Phil at Pebble Beach and Wimbledon.
Now is the time to refocus on your fantasy team. You can't afford to give away points and wins by forgetting to set your lineup or ignoring the waiver wire. Yes, the baseball season can be a grind, so here are four things you can do to stay alert:
If you are bored with your players, then exchange them for new blood like how Yankees pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson swapped wives and lives in 1972.
Maybe that means trading one slugging first baseman (Ryan Howard) for another (Prince Fielder), or sacrificing saves (Jonathan Broxton) for steals (Carl Crawford). Go after the guys you want to watch and root for the rest of the season.
For second half help, I would target 1B Adam LaRoche. For the past three seasons, he has batted 63 points higher after the All-Star break (.309 compared to .246) with a whopping .908 OPS (compared to .770). Right now, his numbers look pedestrian (.259, 9 HR, 42 RBI) so you should be able to get him on the cheap.
Nothing compares to first-hand observation, so turn off your computers, televisions and video game consoles and head to the ballpark. Watch Ichiro Suzuki perfect his bailout swing while on pace for his 10th consecutive 200-hit season. Marvel at how Kevin Youkilis manages to hit for both average (.312) and power (14 HR) even though the fingers of his right hand barely touch the bat prior to him swinging. There are so many intricacies to the game that you don't get from box scores.
You should always be on the lookout for baseball's next fantasy star. Start with the College World Series, where you'll hear "pinging" aluminum bats rather than "buzzing" vuvuzelas. I like watching my alma mater UCLA, which has a remarkable 11 players who were taken in this year's amateur draft. SP Rob Rasmussen, a second-round pick by the Florida Marlins, is a smooth lefty with a mix of four quality pitches. The Bruins also boast SP Gerrit Cole, the Yankees' first-round pick in '08 who opted for college instead of signing and SP Trevor Bauer, a Tim Lincecum clone who struck out 11 in seven innings in Saturday's 11-3 victory over Florida.
Down on the farm, take a look at the seemingly endless supply of prospects in the Rays system. OF Desmond Jennings has shined in two seasons at Triple-A Durham (.295 BA, .815 OPS, 31-for-34 in SB attempts) and would make an ideal leadoff man for Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, SP Jeremy Hellickson is making his own noise (9-2, 2.33 ERA, 90 K in 88.2 IP) and might soon replace struggling SP Wade Davis in the Rays rotation.
There is beauty and simplicity in throwing a baseball back and forth with a partner, and it doesn't have to be a tear-jerking moment between father and son like in Field of Dreams.
Dust off your old glove, hit the batting cages, join a softball league, learn how to throw a knuckleball or play whiffle ball on the beach -- do whatever it takes to get you thinking and breathing baseball again.