In the Spring of 2004, as we wound through the initial keeper rounds of the draft in our long-time fantasy league (still going!), we checked our cheat sheets and braced ourselves for our initial non-keeper picks.
There, at the top of our list, was Johan Santana. Having made the transition the year before from the bullpen to the rotation with aplomb, we had the 25 year-old hurler in our sights as our top pick after the keepers were tucked away.
(Yes, that's how you managed your keeper lists in Yahoo in 2004. We've come a long way baby.)
But in the moments before the draft, we were struck with a sudden panic over the next name on our list: Kaz Matsui. Would he make it back to us? We'd have 19 picks after Johan to get him, and we couldn't imagine him lasting that long. Who could resist this new demi-god of Japanese baseball excellence? The New Ichiro! The thought of seeing Matsui put up a decade of high-average, high-steal, high-run totals with a little bit of power mixed in at a premium position like shortstop (seriously!), and to have passed over all of that goodness? How could we have lived with ourself?
And besides: It's not like everyone knew about Johan Santana, right? We'd have a good shot at getting him in the next round...wouldn't we?
As our moment on the board came up, we confidently selected future All-Star, Hall of Famer, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and Bronze Spikes winner Kaz Matsui.
And with the very next pick, our pal Darren selected Johan Santana. And he's kept him ever since.
We spent much of that season staring on in disbelief as Santana went on to win the Cy Young (and Darren went on to win the league), while Matsui would fumble his way through 114 games to the tune of a 0.4 WAR. (We didn't know what WAR was then, but there were plenty of conventional metrics that convinced us to toss Matsui to the scrap heap before the season was out.)
And as a result of such a folly, we saw our team fall back from a second place finish the previous year to a fourth place finish in 2004.
We should have learned our lesson. But somewhere along the line, the pain that we felt in that season would cease to seem tragic in our memory of it, and came of more as a farcical anecdote. And so, somewhere in the early-middle rounds of a 2008 draft, we found ourself jumping ahead on our list and grabbing the brand-new, can't-miss Japanese phenom, Kosuke Fukudome.
Once again, Fukudome didn't last much more than half a season on our roster before we tossed him asunder, probably in favour of one of the game's true greats...like Ryan Langerhans or Austin Kearns. Whoever it was, they helped lead us to an inauspicious ninth place finish (out of ten teams) that year.
All this is prologue to one immutable law of our fantasy baseball draft season: We will not draft Twins newcomer Tsuyoshi Nishioka. No matter how many great things we hear about him, of how he'll fit perfectly in the lineup between Denard Span and Joe Mauer, and will in all likelihood score 200 runs without really trying this year, he will not find respite on our roto rosters.
When it comes to fantasy baseball, our road to abrogation generally starts with the selection of a first year position player from Japan.