TGFBI Cinderella story

I “met” Michael Richards in April 2020 – just weeks after the pandemic began and the country was locked down. Those were crazy days when we all stayed indoors, hoping and praying we could survive the COVID-19 breakout. The baseball season was still up in the air, and neither Michael nor I knew whether we would be starting our new jobs, writing about fantasy baseball for CreativeSports.

In the 21st century, it has become the new norm to meet people virtually, and this was the case with my introduction to Richards. Todd Zola provided the virtual introduction as we received the virtual tour of CreativeSports. Todd told us we needed to sign up for Twitter to build our brand. Richards was able to attract several hundred followers in the next few months. Then the season began in July.

In the last two years, Richards has moved on to another fantasy baseball outfit, but we’ve stayed friends. We talk on the phone, exchange text messages and emails. When I was invited to participate in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) last February, I immediately contacted Richards. He told me he had participated in TGFBI the previous year and would return for his sophomore season.

Michael and I spoke on the phone several times, texted, emailed and tweeted each other. During one of our draft prep conversations, I asked what his goal was this year. He said he had finished in the top third of the field the previous year and would like to do better. I asked him how much better, but he had no answer. I didn’t know what to make of a guy who didn’t have a goal for everything. 

Michael invited me to join him in a mock draft a week before TGFBI’s draft. It took five days. The draft was a 30-round slow draft with a similar format as the real draft. Michael and I texted back and forth. There were many questions that needed answers, and he was kind to answer each question. One of the things he believed was that 5-category players were worth investing in. He loved Ozzie Albies.   

Michael didn’t get very many of the players that he mentioned to me in the draft. I remember checking his team roster after the draft ended and thought he had a decent team. Not great, but decent. I’m sure I spent as much or more time researching players before the draft the draft. I liked my team better than his – on paper. But Michael had an advantage. He’s a much better player than I am.

He build a formidable pitching staff that included Emmanuel Clase, Dylan Cease, Luis Garcia and rookie George Kirby. Richards had the wisdom to draft Manny Machado when many were fading him. He went “all in” on Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. He caught lightning in a bottle with catcher Daulton Varsho, who delivered a career year. He knew what he was doing.   

Okay, I buried the lead. Michael Richards won TGFBI. The prestigious fantasy baseball event ended Wednesday night, and my friend beat 464 of the best fantasy managers in the world. Richards dug deep to hold off Jeffrey Zimmerman of RotoWire in the final hours. Zimmerman is a three-time FSWA award winner, the 2017 Tout Wars Mixed Auction champion and 2016 Tout Wars Head-to-Head champion.

If you’ve played a season of fantasy baseball, putting every ounce of effort you can into your draft preparation and research, daily lineups, FAAB bids, waiver wire moves for seven solid months, you know what is involved in managing a team. Consider what was required from Richards to beat the best and finish on top of the standings in a tournament like TGFBI. 

In one day, Richards went from an obscure fantasy writer at Fantrax and Triple Play Fantasy to a celebrity. But I’m proud to say that I knew him before he gained worldwide acclaim. Richards  was interviewed by Justin Mason, TGFBI’s head honcho, on utube Thursday. On Friday, he was on Rotowire with Zola. I’m sure he will be a popular guest on many fantasy baseball podcasts. 

“It’s been an incredibly stressful month,” Richards told me on the final day as he watched the scoreboard. “I haven’t been writing for Fantrax during the final days. My full attention has been on trying to close it out.” And close it out he did, finishing with 4,166.5 overall points – just 16.5 better than Zimmerman. At one point, just hours before the final MLB game ended, they were five points apart.

“I think I did it!” Richards said in a tweet moments after the MLB regular season ended, which also ended the fantasy baseball season. He admitted that he was exhausted. “I’m just trying to soak up this feeling while it’s here. I really can’t believe it happened.  It’s been very difficult. I don’t want to do it alone again. I’d like to co-manage with someone else. Ideally, someone better than me.”

That’s easier said than done, now that you’re the King, Michael. Now that Richards is a celebrity, I am waiting in line to complete my interview. Hopefully, he’ll give you some helpful hints at how to become great In this game we love. Check back with me for a complete interview with TGFBI’s champion in a future installment of Doubting Thomas.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

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