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Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe

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A Wall Street Journal writer spends a season in a fantasy baseball league to explore the inner workings and contagious passions of one of the country's most popular pursuits

Every spring, millions of Americans prepare to take part in one of the oddest, most obsessive and engrossing rituals in the sports pantheon: rotisserie baseball, a fantasy game where armchair fans match wits by building their own teams. Starting with a player "draft" before the Major League season, ...

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Fantasyland: A Sportswriter's Obsessive Bid to Win the World's Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseball

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Overview

A Wall Street Journal writer spends a season in a fantasy baseball league to explore the inner workings and contagious passions of one of the country's most popular pursuits

Every spring, millions of Americans prepare to take part in one of the oddest, most obsessive and engrossing rituals in the sports pantheon: rotisserie baseball, a fantasy game where armchair fans match wits by building their own teams. Starting with a player "draft" before the Major League season, contenders spend six months scouring the box scores to see if their handpicked players can outperform the opposition. It's a pastime that threatens to overtake traditional baseball in the passions it generates.

In 2004, Sam Walker, a sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal, decided to explore this phenomenon by talking his way into Tout Wars, a private league generally reserved for the nation's top experts. Using his baseball contacts and access to locker rooms, Walker spent a year trying to dredge up information that might give him a competitive edge over his eccentric cast of competitors. But in his quest for victory he also endeavored to settle the great question that divides modern baseball thinkers: Can excellence be predicted by statistics alone or is the human element more important?

Together with his crack research team, Sig (a statistician) and Nando (a baseball savant), Walker finds himself possessed by the game and determined to win at any expense, spending weeks on the road interacting with his real Major League players and trying to "manage" them. We follow his descent into sleeplessness, panic, triumph (temporarily), treachery, and even consultations with an astrologer as he keeps his ever-blearier eyes on his elusive goal. The result is one of the most entertaining sports books in years and a matchless look into the heart and soul of our national pastime.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Walker, a senior writer for the Wall Street Journal, enters his first fantasy baseball tournament, he aims high: Tout Wars, a competition for guys who make a career out of analyzing stats to find the best Major League hitters and pitchers. He figures that because he can get to the ballparks in his journalistic capacity and talk to the players and coaches, he'll be in a better position to judge the intangibles and pull one over the pure numbers crunchers. But even with the help of a young research assistant and a NASA scientist, things quickly head south. This hilarious diary of the 2004 season includes several encounters with the players Walker has picked; from Jacque Jones's struggle to refute predictions of mediocrity to David Ortiz's razzing Walker for trading him away. Along the way there are mini-profiles of the Tout Wars competition, as well as explorations of the origins of fantasy baseball (predating even the famed Rotisserie League) and the shaky relationship between dedicated statistical analysts and Major League executives. Readers might even pick up a few tips on how to draft their teams this spring, but the real fun is in watching Walker's well-laid plans unravel. (On sale Feb. 20) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal walks right into the world of rotisserie baseball, in which fans use current statistics to create their own fantasy teams. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670034284
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/2/2006
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.19 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2007

    A reviewer

    A well-written and researched book that is funny, too. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2006

    THE PERFECT FATHER'S DAY GIFT!

    I don't play fantasy baseball, but I do follow the Braves sometimes, and I loved this book! It's very insightful about the vulnerabilities of players, their courage and determination--things I hadn't thought about before. But mostly, it's just one of the funniest books I've ever read. Walker is a great guy! He enters every situation with great good humor and amazing insight and when he isn't making you laugh, makes you think. This is on my list for my Dad, and my nephews. It's always such a relief to find things to give the men in my life!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    Funny but very smart book about baseball fantasies

    This is not a fantasy baseball book so much as a book about baseball fantasies. Sam Walker spent a year 'managing' his fantasy baseball team by going on the road and trying to get inside the hearts and minds of his players. Their interactions are hilarious, but Walker's insights into what's going on in baseball resonate. I loved it and am buying copies for all the guys in my league, okay maybe i'll just tell them to buy it. Highly recommended for baseball fans and fantasists alike. The stuff about Oritz alone is worth buying it for.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2005

    A Totally Original and Funny Look At Baseball

    I just read an advance (galley) copy of the book that a friend had gotten his hands on, and I have never laughed harder at a book (Calvin and Hobbes excluded, of course). This guy spent all kinds of money, and traveled across the globe to try and win a FANTASY LEAGUE! It's nuts! Along the way, though, you get all these characters--all the guys in the league are pretty unique (my favorite was Dean Peterson, yours will probably be Lawr Michaels or Ron Shandler), he has these two assistants, Nando and Sig, who are constantly at odds with each other at all times, and he even goes to a game with an astrologer, and has her help him with a trade. The book also gives you a pretty cool look at baseball players as people. David Ortiz, Jacque Jones, Gary Sheffield, Doug Mientkiewicz--you'll never look at them the same way again--in a good way. And all these cool locker room scenes--it's almost like being behind the scenes with a sportswriter as he tries to win the league. This book is up there with Friday Night Lights and Bringin Down the House. In fact, I'd put it above the two, just because you actually know a lot of these players. Also, I don't like the Wall Street Journal. I think it is stuffy, and I hate business. You'd never know this guy wrote for the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, he's the sportswriter, and doesn't have that business-type style. Don't let the WSJ thing dissuade you. I highly recommend reading this book (I am sure Barnes and Noble and Mr. Walker would recommend you buy it). I saw an advanced, uncorrected proof, and it was AWESOME.

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