By Kent Babb
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Whoa Now, Mr. Fantasy Baseball Expert. Read this before you trade a pair of the Brewers’ minor-league prospects for a red crayon and a flat tire.
I’ll bet your league feels almost real. Maybe it is a money league, when $3 can get you two aging 1996 All-Stars and leave enough change for a post-draft Coke. Maybe, Mr. General Manager, it’s a keeper league, when next year actually matters and you have to deal with certain repercussions.
Before you pull the trigger on that fantasy blockbuster, ask Inferno coach Scott White about real trade deadlines. When the ECHL deadline passed on March 22, White finally was able to push aside the laptop computer, the three stacks of game tapes, the piles of notes and the cramp in his right hand from answering about 30 calls in the two hours before the 3 p.m. deadline.
In the three weeks before the deadline, White’s job sounded more frustrating than Newt Gingrich on the Atkins Diet. White spent the better part of those weeks studying tapes and contacting coaches about players he thought would fit in the Inferno’s system.
White also took advantage of scouting opportunities. When the Texas Wildcatters came to Columbia two weeks ago, White took an extra look at Wildcatters defenseman Dean Stork, who White acquired for Steve Slaton late on March 21.
That’s when White’s job is the most difficult. He drove to Slaton’s home in Northeast Columbia after the deal was finalized and told the 22-year-old defenseman that he should pack for Beaumont, Texas.“It’s a business, which means you can’t get too close. But it’s still hard,” White says. “It’s better to tell them in person than over the phone, even if it’s harder. If you move a guy without shaking up the group, then you’ve done a good job.”
White spent much of March 22 getting the Slaton-for-Stork deal approved by the ECHL and attempting to pull off a last-minute trade to improve the Inferno’s defense. The final attempt fell through when White received a voicemail message at 2:16 p.m. from a coach who expressed little interest.
After that message, White’s work was finished. His goal was to finish an hour early so that his final hour was relaxed. White lounged in a black windsuit and called other coaches, sizing up their deadline day deals.
It’s so relaxed, in fact, that White has to be reminded when 3 p.m. comes and goes. His demeanor makes it hard to believe the past weeks included so much work.
“Is it 3?” he asks his visitor. “Well, it’s done.”
So, fantasy gurus, get to work. Watch the tape. And when you trade your sleeper shortstop for a lock of Conway Twitty’s hair, don’t beat yourself up too much.
It is, after all, just business.