Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Area Man Finding That His "Fantasy Umpiring" League Just Isn't Catching On

Scranton, PA. (Apr. 9) - Baseball fan Mark Borsch is seriously considering abandoning his fledgling Fantasy Umpire League, friends report.

Borsch, a self-described "officiating zealot", is discouraged that his idea for monitoring the exploits of Major League Baseball umpires through his new FUL (Fantasy Umpire League) just hasn't caught on yet.

"The men in blue are integral to the outcome of every single game," Borsch explained yesterday as he sat in his home office, tabulating the latest numbers for every one of MLB's 77 umpires. "Yet no one seems to think that their abilities are worthy of track-keeping," Borsch added as he studied a self-written computer program that ranks umpires in six key categories. The categories are: Strike Zone Efficiency; Safe/Out Percentage; Positioning; Player and Manager Relations; Game Management; and Command, an admittedly extra-subjective look at various intangibles that Borsch says "separates the men from the boys."

Borsch, thanks to his subscription to DirecTV's MLB Extra Innings package and spending 14 hours per day watching game casts over the Internet, tirelessly keeps meticulous stats on the umpires, as well as serving as commissioner of the new FUL.

"My wife keeps telling me I should look for a job," Borsch, unemployed since last May from his occupation as a meat-cutter, says. "But this is my dream -- to open up a whole new world of baseball stat-keeping for the ardent fan."

Borsch claims to have eight teams in the FUL, who each paid a $15 entry fee -- almost.

Mark Borsch, at his local library, tries to interest casual baseball fan Julie Higgins in why bad Strike Zone Efficiency is harmful to American League West teams

"Five paid me. Two are going to pay me, they promise, and one ... well, I might let him slide," Borsch says. "Maybe he can chip in something for the end-of-the-year party."

Borsch held a draft in early March, in which each "franchise" selected 12 umpires, who were assigned "salaries" based on their success, using Borsch's six categories as the barometer. Each franchise works under a salary cap, and can cut and pick up umpires as often as it wants, as long as it stays under that cap.

"Sunday night, 11 o'clock. That's the drop-dead deadline for the week," Borsch says firmly as he waits for another weekly, 44-page printout to finish spitting out. "After that, no changes. None."

But the FUL is struggling. Four of the franchise owners have already stopped making moves, which is a bad sign, according to Borsch.

"They're like, 'Just play whoever I had last week,' " Borsch says with a sigh. "That tells me that they've lost interest. I don't know; I try to reach out to them and explain why they should look at Doug Eddings this week because his crew is in Boston and Eddings does well with Strike Zone Efficiency in smaller ballparks. But they just don't seem to want to take that stuff into consideration. I mean, that could make or break your week, ya know?"

Borsch vows to keep the FUL alive despite his friends' reports to the contrary, even if he has to assume ownership of the disinterested franchises himself.

"In time, baseball fans across the country will see how an umpire's Game Management rating is directly rated to the won/loss percentages of teams with young pitchers and veteran catchers. You'll see," he says.

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