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Fantasyland: True Tales from America's Most Compulsive Fantasy Baseball League

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Every spring, millions of Americans prepare to take part in one of the oddest, most obsessive, and most engrossing rituals in the sports pantheon: Rotisserie baseball, a fantasy game where armchair fans match wits by building their own teams. In 2004, Sam Walker, a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal, decided to explore this phenomenon by talking his way into Tout Every spring, millions of Americans prepare to take part in one of the oddest, most obsessive, and most engrossing rituals in the sports pantheon: Rotisserie baseball, a fantasy game where armchair fans match wits by building their own teams. 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 league reserved for the nation’s top experts. The result is one of the most sheerly entertaining sports books in years and a matchless look into the heart and soul of our national pastime.


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Every spring, millions of Americans prepare to take part in one of the oddest, most obsessive, and most engrossing rituals in the sports pantheon: Rotisserie baseball, a fantasy game where armchair fans match wits by building their own teams. In 2004, Sam Walker, a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal, decided to explore this phenomenon by talking his way into Tout Every spring, millions of Americans prepare to take part in one of the oddest, most obsessive, and most engrossing rituals in the sports pantheon: Rotisserie baseball, a fantasy game where armchair fans match wits by building their own teams. 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 league reserved for the nation’s top experts. The result is one of the most sheerly entertaining sports books in years and a matchless look into the heart and soul of our national pastime.

30 review for Fantasyland: True Tales from America's Most Compulsive Fantasy Baseball League

  1. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Believing the positive reviews I read of “Fantasyland” by Sam Walker, I started this book – about a sports journalist with no fantasy baseball experience who plays for a season against the top fantasy experts in their league, called ‘Tout Wars’ – looking for a funny, insightful look at the game of fantasy baseball, and its hard-core practitioners. I imagined that the book would appeal to at least one, if not both, of the two following groups: a) baseball fans who know little about fantasy baseba Believing the positive reviews I read of “Fantasyland” by Sam Walker, I started this book – about a sports journalist with no fantasy baseball experience who plays for a season against the top fantasy experts in their league, called ‘Tout Wars’ – looking for a funny, insightful look at the game of fantasy baseball, and its hard-core practitioners. I imagined that the book would appeal to at least one, if not both, of the two following groups: a) baseball fans who know little about fantasy baseball but are either interested in the game or think it’s hilariously dorky or both, OR b) fantasy baseball nerds looking for insight into the strategies of the best fantasy baseball players currently at work. I consider myself enough of a baseball fan to enjoy a scathing look at baseball nerdery, and enough of a fantasy baseball nerd to enjoy analysis of the top experts. What I got was forced, dull comedy, and a deadening lack of interesting insight. Walker’s comedy is strained – “can you believe these CRAZY CHARACTERS!” he shrieks; if only he had done more than barely, hesitantly sketch his characters they might be funny. As they stand, they are paper-thin quasi-people who are introduced so haphazardly as to be utterly indistinct and unmemorable. Further, he offers no real substantive insight into fantasy baseball play or the larger statistical revolution currently underway in Major League Baseball. Again, he brushes against both topics, but never manages to say anything of any real value. Turns out – you might want to sit down – that some fantasy baseball strategies are better than others but there is no sure thing or foolproof method when it comes to managing a team! (Be still, my beating heart.) Moreover, we learn – hold onto your hat – that BOTH quantitative (statistical) and subjective (traditional) analysis have value when it comes to the real game of baseball. (What a breakthrough.) Really, Sam Walker? I read your book for THESE middle-of-the-road opinions? Now tell me something I DON’T know. Please! What a snore. Walker saps his narrative of naturally occurring suspense by jumpily and erratically describing the inherent drama of an up-and-down fantasy baseball season. His team finishes dully in the middle of the pack – not a disaster, far from a success. Which is also essentially how I feel about the book. It’s not the worst book ever written, but I sure wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The epilogue, which could have been an interesting peek at the men (all men, by the way) who peopled the story, ended up making me wonder over and over again: “which one was this guy?” Finally, in the last line of the epilogue, Walker mentions that the next year when he played in the Tout Wars league for a second time, he won(!), which is a decently impressive accomplishment. I wish he had put off publishing his book for another year to show us that season – or, better yet, BOTH seasons! Imagine watching our hero scaling the steep learning curve! Imagine the glee with which our fearless narrator would beat all the uber-nerds who had taunted him the previous year! Imagine the ultimate triumph! And, I imagine that his readers could maybe have drawn some interesting conclusions, drama, or humor out of this dull tale.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark Geise

    I liked "Fantasyland." I am a big baseball fan and a somewhat serious fantasy baseball player (though nothing on the level of what Sam Walker discusses in this book). "Fantasyland" is an adventure through Walker's first season playing Rotisserie fantasy baseball. He joins the Tout Wars league, an experts' league that is populated by some of the most prominent fantasy baseball players in the world. Walker must learn about the Rotisserie game and determine what his strategy and identity will be in I liked "Fantasyland." I am a big baseball fan and a somewhat serious fantasy baseball player (though nothing on the level of what Sam Walker discusses in this book). "Fantasyland" is an adventure through Walker's first season playing Rotisserie fantasy baseball. He joins the Tout Wars league, an experts' league that is populated by some of the most prominent fantasy baseball players in the world. Walker must learn about the Rotisserie game and determine what his strategy and identity will be in this league. He goes to oftentimes ridiculous lengths to try to secure an advantage on his league mates; he attends the spring trainings of most AL teams (this is an AL-only league), he hires two employees to aid him throughout the season, and he approaches a multitude of players, coaches, and front office types to try to coax insider information from them. I wouldn't say that much of the book is particularly humorous, but Walker's willingness to put himself out there and potentially look like an idiot is endearing. I can see how some readers may be turned off by how gimmicky some of his antics are, but I think most will agree with me. Walker chronicles his descent into fantasy addiction, telling how his mood shifts with the performance of his team. Any serious fantasy player can likely relate to those types of mood swings and the addictive nature of the hobby. His discussions of trade negotiations and psychology are entertaining, too. I generally think that both the baseball expert and baseball novice can find some entertainment value in this book. Walker will not blow you away with any novel statistical analysis or approach, but serious fantasy players will appreciate how quickly he becomes addicted to the hobby. Baseball novices can hopefully appreciate why those that they may denigrate as fantasy nerds are so entrenched in their favorite hobby.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This is one of the funniest books I have ever read, in any category. I think it goes without saying that you need to be a fan of fantasy baseball to have more than an passing interest in Sam Walker's Fantasyland. If you are, you will find many of the experiences Sam went through ring true. His grilling of major league baseball players and executives, in the name of gleaning an inside information edge on his competition, had me laughing so hard that I had the put the book down at times. The amount This is one of the funniest books I have ever read, in any category. I think it goes without saying that you need to be a fan of fantasy baseball to have more than an passing interest in Sam Walker's Fantasyland. If you are, you will find many of the experiences Sam went through ring true. His grilling of major league baseball players and executives, in the name of gleaning an inside information edge on his competition, had me laughing so hard that I had the put the book down at times. The amount of time he spent with his quant sidekick trying to build a more predictive system for player performance is something many, many of us have done (and failed miserably at). Walker's love for all things baseball and fantasy comes through in spades. This is just a fun, fun book, and pretty well written for non-fiction sports. I had a great time reading it. I put it right up there with Moneyball as an all-time favorite baseball book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Longfellow

    To enjoy this read, it helps if one likes fantasy baseball, but being a fan of baseball is enough. Walker tracks the 2004 MLB season through his eyes as an obsessed rotisserie league owner. Thanks to his credentials as a sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal, he is able to meet with his rotisserie players, their managers and GMs, all with the rather delusional goal of helping the players perform better on the field--or in some cases to get on the field at all. With all this in mind, "A Se To enjoy this read, it helps if one likes fantasy baseball, but being a fan of baseball is enough. Walker tracks the 2004 MLB season through his eyes as an obsessed rotisserie league owner. Thanks to his credentials as a sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal, he is able to meet with his rotisserie players, their managers and GMs, all with the rather delusional goal of helping the players perform better on the field--or in some cases to get on the field at all. With all this in mind, "A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe" seems a fitting sub-title.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Way more interesting than I expected, considering I really don't enjoy baseball or watch it, and certainly have no desire to play fantasy baseball. It's very surprising to me how much I enjoyed this book, since I expected it to be much more statistically driven instead of a narrative. I didn't get any insight to use in my sports stats class or really any math at all, but I still really liked the book. It held the story of sports and all their magic.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    One of my favorite baseball books

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    This book is funny, interesting, and an outstanding look at the "stat" side of baseball from the view of fantasy baseball. I enjoyed the book as a better understanding of baseball and also just a lighthearted look at what might constitute an "obsession" -- the various fantasy, rotisserie and other leagues, whether in baseball or all sports. Sam Walker writes well, has an engaging sense of humor, and with his two "employees" Sig and Nando, takes on the elite of baseball's fantasy players. The book This book is funny, interesting, and an outstanding look at the "stat" side of baseball from the view of fantasy baseball. I enjoyed the book as a better understanding of baseball and also just a lighthearted look at what might constitute an "obsession" -- the various fantasy, rotisserie and other leagues, whether in baseball or all sports. Sam Walker writes well, has an engaging sense of humor, and with his two "employees" Sig and Nando, takes on the elite of baseball's fantasy players. The book has the feel of a "travel" book, where there is a destination and you're following along. I would say the type of writing that Walker does is sort of like Bill Bryson's writing -- wry and sardonic. I would say this book is worth a look for anyone who likes 1) baseball and 2) a touch of humor and 3) a study of what draws people's interests and obsessions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Cork

    If you play, or ever have played, fantasy baseball, or any fantasy sport for that matter, this book displays going to all extremes; jet setting across the country to scout players, lobbying to GM's, and putting on hold all aspects of a social life. Fantasyland follows somewhat along the theories of "Moneyball" - If you read Moneyball, then Fantasyland may interest you.

  9. 5 out of 5

    themacinator

    I love baseball. I know that's obvious. When I was little, my dad was in a "rotisserie" league. I don't think I ever knew why it was called a "rotisserie" league- maybe I thought they made that up, since everyone else played "Fantasy" baseball, or maybe I thought they ate a lot of rotisserie chicken. I don't know, but I do know that I played a lot of rotisserie baseball with dad. I collected baseball cards at the time, so I knew a lot of the stats in my pre-teen brain, although I didn't always k I love baseball. I know that's obvious. When I was little, my dad was in a "rotisserie" league. I don't think I ever knew why it was called a "rotisserie" league- maybe I thought they made that up, since everyone else played "Fantasy" baseball, or maybe I thought they ate a lot of rotisserie chicken. I don't know, but I do know that I played a lot of rotisserie baseball with dad. I collected baseball cards at the time, so I knew a lot of the stats in my pre-teen brain, although I didn't always know what they meant, and I rarely knew more advanced (or nerdy) stats like WHIP or OPS- just thinks like strikeouts, saves, HRs, etc- things actually printed on TOPS or Upper Deck cards. (Sidenote- weren't Upper Deck cards cool? When they came out it was like baseball cards had just soared to a new level.) Anyway, Dad and his good friend Harvey were in this league of dorky baseball dudes (I don't remember any other women) and every year for a few years Dad had a team- LODI- which stood for "Long Distance" because he was always travelling, and Harvey was the "Commissioner" of the league, who we called, and still call, the Commish, and together, we'd have this father/daughter bonding experience of planning our draft in the off season, and I would go with him to draft our team. I even got to help him pick our players. Pretty nifty for a baseball dork. This was before the internet (yes, I remember that time) and we would go to get the newspaper and read the boxscores every morning to see how LODI was doing. So much fun! Well, Sam Walker has written the book about my childhood. Or at least, why Rotisserie leagues are what they are, where they came from, why they're controversial, and who the big-wigs are in fantasy baseball. And my dad's league didn't make up the name, and they didn't eat a lot of chicken. (My family ate a lot of rotisserie chicken, but we don't get the credit here.) This is a pretty awesome book, if you care about stats, or if you like to dorkout about balls hit hard vs contact, etc. Sabermetrics vs fantasy vs scouting, etc. If this is greek, or boring, this book will not interest you. If you still want to trade baseball cards, and not just on their value as cards themselves, but on the value of the player, to help complete your little roster, then this book is awesome. It's a nice supplement to "Moneyball," which describes Billy Beane's now not-so-new method of building a successful low-budget team, using mathematics. Walker jumped into the league for the experts in fantasy ball, and expected to do well. "Fantasyland" is his story, and the chronicles of his humbling. Go Streetwalkers!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joeji

    This book is a very entertaining adventure into the extremes of fantasy baseball. I play fantasy baseball on a much more modest level than Sam and the others that are profiled in the book, and I found that it actually fulfilled my 'fantasies' - that is, breaking down the barriers between "fantasy" and "real" baseball. For instance, the book opens with a magnificent anecdote about Jacque Jones, who upon reading his fantasy profile seems close to tears. Walker uses his baseball contacts to move in This book is a very entertaining adventure into the extremes of fantasy baseball. I play fantasy baseball on a much more modest level than Sam and the others that are profiled in the book, and I found that it actually fulfilled my 'fantasies' - that is, breaking down the barriers between "fantasy" and "real" baseball. For instance, the book opens with a magnificent anecdote about Jacque Jones, who upon reading his fantasy profile seems close to tears. Walker uses his baseball contacts to move in and out of the "real" world of baseball - meeting his players in lockerooms and calling GMs and managers on a regular basis - all in the service of improving his fantasy team. Players, GMs and Managers respond with a hilarious mixture of skepticism, support, and patronizing eye-rolling advice. Through his manic embrace of fantasy baseball, Walker gives you the history of the phenomenon. He also investigates the two warring sides in baseball management today - those who are "old-school" and trust character and hunches, and those who are stat-crunchers who reduce players to a series of a numbers that become more and more peripheral to winning games. In many ways, this book is a companion to Moneyball. Walker seems like he did a lot of planning before he began to write to "set up" these tensions, as his fantasy employees and consultants (really, he hired people) were a "hunch-master" who absorbed player bios, a NASA engineer who ran complex formulas to make decisions on individual players, and a baseball fortune teller. My one complaint with Fantasyland is that sometimes you get the sense that everyone is striving to create the most exclusionary world possible and women, in Walker's narrative, are completely peripheral - as either "patient" or frustrated wives, sexual distractions, or in the case of his third employee, fortune tellers. Sure, fantasy baseball is played overwhelmingly by men, and maybe Walker succeeds in implicitly critiquing these "fantastic" male worlds. Maybe I am just overly defensive because Alexa's "A Team of Their Own" took 2nd place in our fantasy league this year. I don't want fantasy baseball to be exclusionary! Anyway, Walker's book is a pure page-turner for baseball and fantasy nerds, and I'd say that even fans who don't play fantasy would enjoy it purely for its adventure. It's extremely fun to watch his best laid plans go awry, and his inability to find the Unified Theory of baseball statistics helps support what is so great about the game to begin with.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    There are hundreds of terrific books on baseball, but none capture the pure love of the game quite like "Fantasyland: A Season's on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe", by Wall Street Journal columnist Sam Walker. My friends know I am an avid fantasy baseball player, but you certainly don't have to play fantasy (or "Rotisserie") baseball to enjoy this book. Walker, in fact, had never played fantasy baseball in his life when he set out to write it. Walker was a skeptic about Rotisserie going in, but decid There are hundreds of terrific books on baseball, but none capture the pure love of the game quite like "Fantasyland: A Season's on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe", by Wall Street Journal columnist Sam Walker. My friends know I am an avid fantasy baseball player, but you certainly don't have to play fantasy (or "Rotisserie") baseball to enjoy this book. Walker, in fact, had never played fantasy baseball in his life when he set out to write it. Walker was a skeptic about Rotisserie going in, but decided to try it out for himself, and garnered an invitation to join the "Tout Wars", a league consisting of the nation's most renowned fantasy baseball experts. Walker thought he could exploit his contacts inside baseball to gain an edge on the competition. The results of this "experiment" were hilarious. Walker hired two men (at $1500 a month) to act as his advisers - one was assigned to learn personal facts about the players, the other was a mathematics and statistics expert. Then, Walker proceeded to "scout" his fantasy team himself. He attended winter ball games in Puerto Rico, spring training in Florida and Arizona, and interviewed countless players, scouts and general managers. Three months of full-time prep work, just to draft a fantasy team. After the season began, Walker scouted his own players, talking to them after games to try and steer their stats toward his fantasy goals. Players like David Ortiz, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jacque Jones, Miguel Batista, and Bill Mueller not only spoke to Walker, they were actually willing to help him. In the case of Mientkiewicz, for instance, Doug suggested that Walker trade him. Walker also interviewed GMs (such as Billy Beane of the A's) to try and get them to make trades that benefited his team. And spoke to managers to try and get more playing time for his players. In other words, he did what every fantasy baseball player dreams of doing: affected the outcome for his own team and league. What's most enjoyable is not whether Walker's team wins or loses (I won't give that away), but that his pure love of the game shines through. He shows us why we love to play fantasy baseball, and why we love to watch baseball in general.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Billy

    This book promised to be a humorous, entertaining look at the national pastime, and the people that play Rotisserie Baseball. I'm a sports fan (especially baseball and football). I'm a geek. I've spent many hours managing my fantasy teams (thereby combining the "sports" and "geek" parts of my life). I've also been told that I am a humorous, entertaining writer. How come it didn't occur to me to write this book? I think I would've done a better job... and I don't think I'm better than anyone at an This book promised to be a humorous, entertaining look at the national pastime, and the people that play Rotisserie Baseball. I'm a sports fan (especially baseball and football). I'm a geek. I've spent many hours managing my fantasy teams (thereby combining the "sports" and "geek" parts of my life). I've also been told that I am a humorous, entertaining writer. How come it didn't occur to me to write this book? I think I would've done a better job... and I don't think I'm better than anyone at anything. The fact that author Sam Walker's regular day job is columnist for the Wall Street Journal should've been a warning for the boredom ahead. I was hoping for more stories about the players (both MLB and fantasy), observations of their individual mindsets, and what makes the way we are. How about some pop culture references, ala Dennis Miller or Bill Simmons? I mean you can't go wrong with a line like "The name of Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz is harder than Peter North on the set of Pump Friction". Ok, maybe that isn't my best line ever... it's just an example. By the way, the name Mientkiewicz is pronounced Men-Kay-Vich (I think). While there are many entertaining anecdotes scattered throughout the book, there are also too many breakdowns of obscure stats, confusing math, and tired sports cliches. By the time I realized I wasn't getting the kick out my reading time that I'd hoped it was too late. I still wanted to know who won, and how they did it. In a way it was like the last Indiana Jones movie... not as much fun as I'd expected, but just enough twists to keep me mildly interested in the outcome. Now I'm thinking I should start working on a comical diary of my upcoming Fantasy Football season before someone else does... I just wish I wasn't so f'ing lazy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This book almost requires four reviews: Casual sports fan who isn't that into baseball - 3 stars as it's a well written and humorous book even if it's not up someone's alley. Would get lost a bit sometimes in the intricacies of the fantasy stats probably. Heavy baseball fan but non-fantasy player - 4 stars. It's a great baseball book as the author takes advantage of his insider access and interviews players and coaches around the league, all with the goal of helping his fantasy team. Heavy baseball This book almost requires four reviews: Casual sports fan who isn't that into baseball - 3 stars as it's a well written and humorous book even if it's not up someone's alley. Would get lost a bit sometimes in the intricacies of the fantasy stats probably. Heavy baseball fan but non-fantasy player - 4 stars. It's a great baseball book as the author takes advantage of his insider access and interviews players and coaches around the league, all with the goal of helping his fantasy team. Heavy baseball fan and heavy fantasy sports player, like myself - 5 starts. The guy lived the the dreams by taking a year out of his life to do nothing more than try to win his fantasy baseball league. You see some of the intricacies of an experts only league, with most of the owners being very familiar names in the fantasy sports world. The back and forth with some of the players on Walkers team was very intriguing, with some guys being supportive and even asking for detailed feedback on themselves, and other guys just cursing him out. This sort of story seems to almost be the basis of some of the ESPN fantasy commercials where the players interacted directly with the fans/fantasy owners. In addition, the devolving of his personal life to become nothing more than things in the way of seeing how well his team is doing. If you like fantasy sports, it's a must read. Fourth, the non-sports fan....would never pick this book up, and rightfully so - be bored silly probably and think it was all a bit ridiculous. That's why I don't know any of these people...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Since I myself am a former fantasy baseball GM with a pretty appalling track record, this book held a lot of appeal for me. I appreciated the tales of obsessed rotisserie nuts, each more ridiculous than the last, which prefaced every chapter; I empathized with the frustrations and little humiliations; and I left it with a clearer sense of at least some of the fatal trading and drafting mistakes I made in the past. All in all, this was a pretty decent gatecrasher's account of the popular pastime, Since I myself am a former fantasy baseball GM with a pretty appalling track record, this book held a lot of appeal for me. I appreciated the tales of obsessed rotisserie nuts, each more ridiculous than the last, which prefaced every chapter; I empathized with the frustrations and little humiliations; and I left it with a clearer sense of at least some of the fatal trading and drafting mistakes I made in the past. All in all, this was a pretty decent gatecrasher's account of the popular pastime, comparable to Word Freak and The Horsemen of the Esophagus. The last part of this book dragged, however---the author is so brutally honest and transparent when it comes to the process, his methods, and results that the reader has a very good idea of about where he'll end up in the league standings quite a bit before the end of the season rolls around, and this is where the book's only real flaw comes in. It really appears, that this particular gatecrasher went a little too deep, to the point where it might actually be impossible to separate Sam Walker the author/sports writer from Sam Walker the almost insanely-committed fantasy owner of the Streetwalkers. At times, particularly toward the end, the book begins to take on the quality of comprehensive stats notes-to-self for reference at future drafts, and loses a bit of its perspective. Baseball fans may or may not appreciate this book depending on their view of fantasy (or "rotisserie") teams/leagues, but it's hard to imagine a true blue rotisserie player passing this up.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Seruyange

    If you looked up a list of things to do which are more geeky than playing fantasy baseball, I've no doubt one of the items on that list would be reading about people playing fantasy baseball. If you are in the mood for not just being a geek, but squaring that geeky behavior, look no further than this book: you will love it. This book is a memoir about the 2004 baseball season in which the author attempts to win one of the most competitive fantasy leagues of the time, the "tout wars" stashed with If you looked up a list of things to do which are more geeky than playing fantasy baseball, I've no doubt one of the items on that list would be reading about people playing fantasy baseball. If you are in the mood for not just being a geek, but squaring that geeky behavior, look no further than this book: you will love it. This book is a memoir about the 2004 baseball season in which the author attempts to win one of the most competitive fantasy leagues of the time, the "tout wars" stashed with baseball statisticians, writers, and other fanatics of the game (no, not the real one, the fantasy one!). And if you want to know how serious of a league it is consider this small spoiler: an equally if not more serious Walker drops $50,000 in his attempt to win. Although I want to say this book will appeal to baseball fans my intuition is that it's more specific; only those who have struggled with lineup choices for a fantasy roster will get a kick out of Walkers stories of obsessing over single players or his conversations with them as the season progresses. One broader theme that Walker addresses is the tension between a use of statistics and the use of old fashion scouting and knowledge of the game. For those who play fantasy sports Fantasyland is a can't miss. Although I can't judge it as a non geek, I think it makes for great reading to just about anyone who likes sports and wants to look at baseball from a novel point of view.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ken Heard

    Sam Walker captures the obsession of baseball fantasy games in Fantasyland well. Walker, a Wall Street Journal sports reporter, begins "Fantasyland" with a passing interest in the game, but, like the participants, he begins the obsession. It comes over well in his writing. Fast-paced, funny, detailed, informative and insane. He admits to spending well over $45,000 in his quest to win Tout Wars, a competition among several admitted baseball stat geeks. Walker writes of the psychology of the draft, Sam Walker captures the obsession of baseball fantasy games in Fantasyland well. Walker, a Wall Street Journal sports reporter, begins "Fantasyland" with a passing interest in the game, but, like the participants, he begins the obsession. It comes over well in his writing. Fast-paced, funny, detailed, informative and insane. He admits to spending well over $45,000 in his quest to win Tout Wars, a competition among several admitted baseball stat geeks. Walker writes of the psychology of the draft, of bluffing during proposed trades and the worry about his players. Because of his sports writing job, he is allowed access to the players and some of the exchanges between Walker and players on his team are priceless. Check out the dialogue between he and David Ortiz, for example. I played fantasy baseball once, finished in the middle of the pack and became bored with the game during the middle of the season. It takes a lot of work and study to maintain a winning team and Walker deftly describes that. He also opens each chapter with an anecdote that helps convey the obsession and mania of fantasy baseball. I've been thinning out my book collection; I read books and donate them to the local library. But "Fantasyland" has earned a permanent space on by bookshelf at home along with the other sports books such as "Ball Four," "Seasons in Hell" and "Nice Guys Finish Last." It's a great read even if you don't care for sports fantasy games.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bill Krieger

    You better be into fantasy baseball if you plan on reading Fantasyland. Duh. The fantasy baseball stories ring true and are fun to read... as long as you are a fantasy baseball head yourself. QOTD1 I didn't know Mo Vaughn was pregnant! - Fantasyland smack There are two problems with the book though. First and most important, it reads like a magazine article. This isn't surprising since the author writes magazine articles. Nonetheless, it's less fun reading a book that is so, um, linear and style-f You better be into fantasy baseball if you plan on reading Fantasyland. Duh. The fantasy baseball stories ring true and are fun to read... as long as you are a fantasy baseball head yourself. QOTD1 I didn't know Mo Vaughn was pregnant! - Fantasyland smack There are two problems with the book though. First and most important, it reads like a magazine article. This isn't surprising since the author writes magazine articles. Nonetheless, it's less fun reading a book that is so, um, linear and style-free. The other, weirder problem is that the author is the least likeable character that he writes about. This wasn't that distracting, but it was just kind of odd. People love to talk about their fantasy baseball team... as Sam Walker found out. QOTD2 When [my fantasy baseball article] appeared, it wasn't the volume of correspondence that surprised me but the fact that nobody had much of anything to say about the column itself. All they wanted to do was recap their own fantasy seasons. One message, typical of the lot, said, "I can't believe I traded Keving Millwood!" - Sam Walker, on response to one of his early fantasy baseball articles I sure hope my superstar IF comes through for me this year: Longoria at 3rd, Hanley at short, and Uggla at 2nd. He he.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm a bit of a math geek and I was obsessed with baseball and baseball stats when I was a kid, so this book was right up my alley. I enjoyed Walker's commitment to his goal and after reading a bunch of similar books where the author spends just as much time talking about their personal life as they do the quest they are on (and the whole reason I am reading the book), it was refreshing to have Walker spend almost 100% of the book focused on what was promised, fantasy baseball. He described the l I'm a bit of a math geek and I was obsessed with baseball and baseball stats when I was a kid, so this book was right up my alley. I enjoyed Walker's commitment to his goal and after reading a bunch of similar books where the author spends just as much time talking about their personal life as they do the quest they are on (and the whole reason I am reading the book), it was refreshing to have Walker spend almost 100% of the book focused on what was promised, fantasy baseball. He described the lives of many key players in the fantasy baseball world, but since all of them also have such an obsessive personality, it always came back around to baseball and baseball statistics in the end. I especially enjoyed Walker's attempts to connect with his players, either in an attempt at garnering information that he could use to select who to hold onto and who to keep, but also when he tried coaching them out of a slump or simply encouraging them to keep up the good work. I rode the roller coaster ride of his fantasy season the same way I have many a real baseball season. Watching his players go down with injuries time and again was painful to see and eventually led to a anticlimactic finish, but it was gratifying to see that Walker obviously learned something in his rookie season since he came back to win the next year. Overall a fun book for baseball nerds like me!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt Schinsky

    Fantasyland is a memoir about a sportswriter who finds out about a rotisserie baseball league and ends up joining it. But this league isn't any normal fantasy league. All of the contestants of this free league either run blogs, write in newspapers, or write their own books about fantasy baseball. The first thing I found crazy yet awesome was that these fantasy managers had MLB coaches and gm's in their back pockets. When rookie Kevin Youkalus blasted a homerun in his first big league game Sam ca Fantasyland is a memoir about a sportswriter who finds out about a rotisserie baseball league and ends up joining it. But this league isn't any normal fantasy league. All of the contestants of this free league either run blogs, write in newspapers, or write their own books about fantasy baseball. The first thing I found crazy yet awesome was that these fantasy managers had MLB coaches and gm's in their back pockets. When rookie Kevin Youkalus blasted a homerun in his first big league game Sam called Red Sox Manager Terry Franconna and asked if "Youk" would make a good adition to his fantasy team. Basically this book is about Sam's crazy obsession with winning this league. He ends up going to Spring Training For a month, "hiring" two statisticians, and going crazy about how to win. Fantasyland was easily the best book I read this quarter. It is a very funny memoir that includes a lot of humility mainly from Sam Walker's hypocritical feeling towards the other contestants of his fantasy league. I read this book in one sitting but it took forever to finish it. Fantasyland by no lengths is a quick read but if you have any interest in baseball or fantasy sports you will love this book!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ori Fienberg

    I read this about a year after it came out, and since I find myself wallowing in the basement of my first fantasy league I decided to reread it. This book is hilarious and the passion for baseball is apparent on every single page. It won't take long before you find yourself rooting for the Streetwalkers as if they were your hometown team, or thinking of how to apply Walker's methodology to your own fantasy team. Astrological predictions anyone? The characters, from his fellow league members, to t I read this about a year after it came out, and since I find myself wallowing in the basement of my first fantasy league I decided to reread it. This book is hilarious and the passion for baseball is apparent on every single page. It won't take long before you find yourself rooting for the Streetwalkers as if they were your hometown team, or thinking of how to apply Walker's methodology to your own fantasy team. Astrological predictions anyone? The characters, from his fellow league members, to the baseball players and staff he interviews are lovingly rendered, the tension is palpable, and the anecdotes that start each chapter are hilarious. This book has the wit of Douglas Adams and the tension of the best Stephen King thriller, and yet it's about baseball. I'd recommed it most to baseball fans, but the writing is so good that anyone looking for pleasant summer reading should pick it up. Fellow Red Sox fans: Walker has several great exchanges with David Ortiz and Theo Epstein.

  21. 4 out of 5

    jag

    This book was an interesting take on fantasy baseball as described by an outsider playing in his first league- which just happened to be the biggest league of them all. Walker offered insight into the all too familiar delusions and compulsions of fantasy sports owners, but ultimately I didn't find it enlightening with regards to the actual game of fantasy baseball. What it did highlight was the creation and history of the game, and in a more interesting take, the attitudes of baseball players an This book was an interesting take on fantasy baseball as described by an outsider playing in his first league- which just happened to be the biggest league of them all. Walker offered insight into the all too familiar delusions and compulsions of fantasy sports owners, but ultimately I didn't find it enlightening with regards to the actual game of fantasy baseball. What it did highlight was the creation and history of the game, and in a more interesting take, the attitudes of baseball players and executives towards fantasy baseball. It even made me like Jacque Jones, who comes across as a fighter who cares what people think about him a little too much, which is refreshing to hear from an athlete. Overall, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't like baseball, and probably more specifically fantasy baseball. It's a niche book about the compulsion and intricacy of fantasy baseball that doesn't quite break out and tell a larger story to someone outside of its target audience.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Fantasyland is one of the few baseball books on my shelf that I'd actually recommend to non-fans. The gist is that the author, a well-established sports writer, joins the country’s premier fantasy baseball league & documents his “rookie” season while also providing a history of fantasy baseball and the key players involved. However, as I implied, this book is not just for fantasy geeks. You don't have to be at all familiar with fantasy sports to understand and enjoy it - it's far more about Fantasyland is one of the few baseball books on my shelf that I'd actually recommend to non-fans. The gist is that the author, a well-established sports writer, joins the country’s premier fantasy baseball league & documents his “rookie” season while also providing a history of fantasy baseball and the key players involved. However, as I implied, this book is not just for fantasy geeks. You don't have to be at all familiar with fantasy sports to understand and enjoy it - it's far more about the history, process, and culture surrounding the phenomenon than it is about actually playing the game. I mean, the dude hires someone who WORKS FOR NASA to create custom statistical analysis models for his team. If that does peak your interest, then I don't know what else to tell you. It's just interesting, regardless of your status as a baseball fan.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kip

    Let me start by saying this probably only appeals to fantasy (or rotisserie) baseball, or perhaps hard core baseball fans in general. If you fit either criteria, this book is a must read. If not, move along. **** for the baseball junkies * for everybody else Walker does a great job describing the complexities and highs and lows of bulding your own team to follow during the year. It was interesting as an experienced player / owner to see the learning curve for a new guy. Nice to see him use his insi Let me start by saying this probably only appeals to fantasy (or rotisserie) baseball, or perhaps hard core baseball fans in general. If you fit either criteria, this book is a must read. If not, move along. **** for the baseball junkies * for everybody else Walker does a great job describing the complexities and highs and lows of bulding your own team to follow during the year. It was interesting as an experienced player / owner to see the learning curve for a new guy. Nice to see him use his inside connections -- access to players, managers, GMs -- and still suck. Ha! It's a harder game than it looks and takes some luck. Anyway, a breezy read if you're into the subject. * Couldn't finish ** I had nothing else to do *** Passed the time, would be **** for genre / author fans **** Everyone could enjoy this book ***** Everyone should read this book, I'll read it again

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris Van Dyke

    This is not a book that you think a non-fantasy baseball playing non-sports nut would like; I've only followed baseball for a year, and I still have a hard time remembering which teams are in the National League and which are in the American, let alone being able to understand what would drive someone to absorb so many numbers about so many players in order to play a game. Okay, coming from a man who is currently reading a rule-book for mass combat in a role-playing game he knows he will never pl This is not a book that you think a non-fantasy baseball playing non-sports nut would like; I've only followed baseball for a year, and I still have a hard time remembering which teams are in the National League and which are in the American, let alone being able to understand what would drive someone to absorb so many numbers about so many players in order to play a game. Okay, coming from a man who is currently reading a rule-book for mass combat in a role-playing game he knows he will never play, perhaps "not able to understand" is a bit of a stretch, but my point is still valid. Wait, I haven't made my point yet. My point is that I'm loving this book even though I know little about baseball and nothing about fantasy baseball. Walker is a great writer and keeps the book moving along with a light, very witty touch.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marshall Layne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The best thing about this memoir is that the author is not afraid of looking like an idiot. In fact, if he were, there might not have been a book at all. Walker abuses his position as a member of the legitimate press; he tries to corner the market on pitchers; he even ditches his pregnant wife to watch a baseball game, but he's so unapologetically sleazy about winning, you gotta love the guy. This is not a book about dry statistics. This is a book about becoming a legendary manager, if only in y The best thing about this memoir is that the author is not afraid of looking like an idiot. In fact, if he were, there might not have been a book at all. Walker abuses his position as a member of the legitimate press; he tries to corner the market on pitchers; he even ditches his pregnant wife to watch a baseball game, but he's so unapologetically sleazy about winning, you gotta love the guy. This is not a book about dry statistics. This is a book about becoming a legendary manager, if only in your own mind. There's no greater defeat in the book than when a player continues to hit home runs after Walker traded him and there's no greater victory than when Walker gets invited back to play the next year (despite his lewd, crude and socially unacceptable behavior). The book's a winner, even if Tyler isn't.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom Pintong

    My friends have been pushing me for years to play fantasy baseball because I just know ridiculous amounts of nonsense about players from reading too much on the internet and listening to too much sports talk radio and keeping up to date on all things baseball on every channel that I can watch. After reading this book, I think this year may be the year I try my luck. I'm sure this book review won't ever get used on any future editions unless I win a league some year, but it was Frikin' awesome. T My friends have been pushing me for years to play fantasy baseball because I just know ridiculous amounts of nonsense about players from reading too much on the internet and listening to too much sports talk radio and keeping up to date on all things baseball on every channel that I can watch. After reading this book, I think this year may be the year I try my luck. I'm sure this book review won't ever get used on any future editions unless I win a league some year, but it was Frikin' awesome. There were times when I just burst out laughing at some of the stories the author describes, only because I understood them so well. I caught myself at times saying as he ruminates over certain trade "don't do it!" For a real baseball fan, this is a must-read. I don't know if I will ever watch a baseball game in the same way ever again after reading this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Barry

    I've just recently started playing rotisserie baseball after playing fantasy football for years. A few years ago I gave up fantasy football because I spent too much time on the game. I also kind of dislike football on general principle. I love baseball, however, and anything that adds to my enjoyment of the game seems worthwhile to me. In moderation. Moderation is not the story in Fantasyland. Sam Walker spends tens of thousands of dollars trying to crack the nut that is Tout Wars, an invite-only I've just recently started playing rotisserie baseball after playing fantasy football for years. A few years ago I gave up fantasy football because I spent too much time on the game. I also kind of dislike football on general principle. I love baseball, however, and anything that adds to my enjoyment of the game seems worthwhile to me. In moderation. Moderation is not the story in Fantasyland. Sam Walker spends tens of thousands of dollars trying to crack the nut that is Tout Wars, an invite-only, expert rotisserie league. The story starts slowly, but as a rotisserie player myself I was pretty engrossed by the middle and read quickly to the end. Great book for anyone with a strong interest in rotisserie baseball.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Perhaps the only time someone talking about their fantasy baseball team has been interesting. Really well-written for what can be a difficult, jargon-filled topic. The sheer scale of Walker's efforts to win an expert fantasy baseball league, spending thousands of dollars on research and staff, are great nerd wish fulfillment. It's interesting to read this book six years after it came out--I could've looked at all the stats for that year, but it seems so obvious, fated even, that David Ortiz and Ma Perhaps the only time someone talking about their fantasy baseball team has been interesting. Really well-written for what can be a difficult, jargon-filled topic. The sheer scale of Walker's efforts to win an expert fantasy baseball league, spending thousands of dollars on research and staff, are great nerd wish fulfillment. It's interesting to read this book six years after it came out--I could've looked at all the stats for that year, but it seems so obvious, fated even, that David Ortiz and Mariano Rivera would be excellent, while Jacque Jones would be Jacque Jones. Same with Josh Phelps, only with his name.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Lunatic, just like the subtitle. In 2004, he played in a high-level Rotisserie league with no prize money, spending an estimated $65,000 to finish . . . . 8th! He captures the insane feeling of team ownership with the added fillip of professional sports- writer access to "his" players. Although the one year I played a Rotisserie-style league I didn't like it, this book makes me want to try it again. But not today, I have to go check the standings in my baseball points league. And my fantasy footb Lunatic, just like the subtitle. In 2004, he played in a high-level Rotisserie league with no prize money, spending an estimated $65,000 to finish . . . . 8th! He captures the insane feeling of team ownership with the added fillip of professional sports- writer access to "his" players. Although the one year I played a Rotisserie-style league I didn't like it, this book makes me want to try it again. But not today, I have to go check the standings in my baseball points league. And my fantasy football league is drafting today. I have the 8th pick. Now, should I take the best available RB, or go for the top WR or QB from that spot? Hmmm . . . .

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ak.

    Here is a book that is as fun as the baseball season is long. A behind-the-scenes look at the very origins of fantasy baseball as we know it today. Walker is witty, his cast of "characters" lovable, and his seamless blending in and out of the reader's world into his own, that of baseball and its stars and money, is fantastic. Seamhead dorks and baseball novices will love this book. As Walker delves into sabermetrics/Jamesian baseball, it's not boring; it's riveting, and it's not condescending—it Here is a book that is as fun as the baseball season is long. A behind-the-scenes look at the very origins of fantasy baseball as we know it today. Walker is witty, his cast of "characters" lovable, and his seamless blending in and out of the reader's world into his own, that of baseball and its stars and money, is fantastic. Seamhead dorks and baseball novices will love this book. As Walker delves into sabermetrics/Jamesian baseball, it's not boring; it's riveting, and it's not condescending—its plain speak. Before you join a fantasy league, this is a must read. I would absolutely recommend this to non baseball fans, if such a person—gasp!—exists.

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