In 2003, I traded Albert Pujols for Roy Oswalt. Worst fantasy trade I ever made.
Oswalt wasn't terrible but he only pitched 21 games, winning 10 while striking out 108 batters and posting an ERA under 3.00. Good but not spectacular.
Pujols, on the other hand, was Albert Pujols. He had a .359 average, 43 home runs, 124 RBI, and 137 runs -- 137 runs!!!
Fantasy baseball (and all fantasy sports for that matter) provides the casual fan to the stat guru an opportunity to build and manage a team. Players are drafted, added and dropped, traded, started and benched, sat for strategic purposes. Trades are proposed, rejected, counter-offered, and made.
Some play like it's a life-and-death situation, agonizing over every little detail in the box scores and scouting reports; others play with a more laissez-faire attitude, going with their gut or sticking with the same line up every day of the season. There is one objective -- points/stats -- and that is all that matters.
At the end of the day, a fantasy manager believes that he is in complete control, but, in reality, the chance and randomness of the game wins. Players have bad games and weeks and seasons. The Astros and Angels have the same terrible record after 14 games. A player misses a couple of games after falling asleep in a tanning bed.
Many of us, myself included, can approach the spiritual life, the journey of sanctification and divinization that we embark upon in the waters of baptism as though we were somehow in control. I can play it closely and scrupulously or I can play it fast and free. In both situations, the Holy Spirit is equally lacking.
What we are called to, however, is the life of virtue and grace. We, too, have but one objective -- salvation -- but we accomplish it not through something quantitative. We are saved by grace alone. We must work hard to remain in God's grace, but also have the humility to realize that God's grace alone makes that possible.
This is inherently difficult, but we have a fantasy team of our own to help us: The Communion of Saints in union with God in heaven.
I can choose to model my life, my spirituality, my love of God on the model of the saints to help better my relationship with God. Certainly my relationship with God will be unique from my favorite saints, but the writings of St. Francis de Sales or the preaching of St. Anthony of Padua might be the goad that helps me along the way. Saints are loved and venerated hundreds of years after their deaths not because of something they did historically (though that is important) but of what they continue to offer us spiritually.
To point, in worldly terms, Mother Teresa failed to rid the world of poverty and disdain for the poor, but her spirit of love for the poor and service to the most needy and outcast survives and, in some souls, thrives.
We want saints on our team. We need them on our team. Like baseball, it is not enough to have one or two All Stars and a bunch of fourth outfielders, a team is required. The spiritual life doesn't have an All Star team; it has the All Saints team. We have at all times the saints united with God in heaven at our disposal.
The saints don't hit ground balls or give up walks, either. As Revelation 8:3-4 tells us, they hit home runs and throw strikes every time:
Another angel game and stood at the altar holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.
When life throws us a curveball, St. Joseph helps us to let the ball get back in our stance and to use our hands to take it the other way. When we get into a bases loaded, none-out jam, we go to the bullpen where we have a power righty like St. John Chrysostom, who never backed down from a challenge, or the crafty veteran left hander like St. Therese of Lisieux, whose writings and spirituality have the subtlety and grace to bring even the proudest sinner to the Confessional.
This is your team. They will be with you this season and next. Who are you choosing first?