Chris Carter: My Season Tracking the Oakland A's Best Young Player

Ian ChaffeeCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 07:  Chris Carter #75 of the Oakland Athletics bats against the San Diego Padres during the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 7, 2009 in Peoria, Arizona  The A's defeated the Padres 15-6.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

By far, the dorkiest fantasy sports league I play in—and, trust me, they all qualify as dorky, only to varying degrees—is a fifty-dollar-entry, long-term keeper, auction-value league I just started playing in this year with a bunch of different friends I've been doing fantasy sports with for the better part of the decade. 

At this point in my column, I imagine the reader might be asking herself or himself, "Why the hell is this A's columnist talking to us about his fantasy team?"  (If they haven't already clicked on the link for "Today's Hottest Sports Content," I don't blame you.)

I learned it by reading Bill Simmons, all right?  I LEARNED IT BY READING HIM!!!

Well, I know hearing about other people's fantasy teams is about as interesting as hearing about their fishing trips or bad beats in poker, but just go with me on this for a little bit.

Now, my fantasy team happened to feature two of the players in the A's organization with the most Tremendous Upside Potential (copyright Mr. Simmons), at least until Lew Wolff, spurned by the South Bay, is unable to keep signing their checks. 

They would be pitcher and Rookie of the Year contender Brett Anderson and minor-league slugger Chris Carter.  Having those players on both of my teams, fantasy and real, has me invested in their futures just a little beyond the typical A's fan (unless they also happen to have the same players on their fantasy teams). 

Strangely enough, my team's arc has also eerily resembled that of the A's this season—horrible start, premier slugger who appeared to die in some horrible Cinco de Mayo tragedy (in this case, pre-Visine David Ortiz instead of pre-Cardinals Matt Holliday), management cut bait on said strong slugger (good riddance), and finished with a strong run to end the season.

In this fantasy league, we were able to draft five minor-leaguers from last season who we could stow away until they were called up to the majors. The first minor-leaguer I drafted was Brett Anderson (seems to have worked out okay).  Another was Matt Dominguez (you might ask "Who?" To which, I would respond, "Meh.  Don't ask.")

The thing is, before this minor-league draft, I had completely intended on using that last pick on Carter, but you know how a fantasy draft can be.  The action can get fast and furious! 

20-and 30-something-year-old dudes poring over spreadsheets and fantasy mags! 

Only two or three minutes to make a pick that could affect your team for the next five years! 

And one may or may not have been unwise enough to have imbibed alcohol during this delicate and grave process! 

Things can escalate more quickly than an anchormen's brawl.

Anyway, the season—real, or fantasy, or otherwise—started.  Time passed.  Dominguez struggled in Single-A Jupiter.  The A's struggled in Quadruple-A Oakland.

Meanwhile, holy cow, Chris Carter was tearing the cover off the ball in the Texas League in a manner not seen since Andre Ethier (what, too soon?). 

I noticed. 

Oh, yeah, I noticed. 

I set up a Google News alert for Carter.  I kept refreshing his stats page on Baseball Reference daily.  If he were on Facebook, I probably would have tried to be his friend.  I did everything up to the point of having Robert DeNiro or Patton Oswalt play me in a movie.

It was killing me that I had so stupidly passed on Carter.  I had nightmares that he would be called up to the majors overnight, as I was sawing logs, and one of my wily competitors (some of whom also happened to be A's fans) would be one of the early birds that beat me to the worm.

Something had to be done.  I had to get Carter, even if that meant a pre-emptive strike.  I mean, historically, pre-emptive strikes generally work, right?  Um, don't answer that.

At the end of June, as my team floundered somewhere around .400, I made the decision to spend one dollar of my fantasy budget and one of my regular major-league slots on Carter, a slot I could otherwise use on a player who was enjoying major-league production. 

That was that. 

Sure, Carter could end up being the second coming of Daric Barton, but that was a risk I was willing to take. 

Better that—at least in the odd, looking-glass world of fantasy sports—than to have a competitor snag him and have Carter transform into the second coming of Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard before my eyes (as much as it would gladden my "real sports" heart).

Since that time, neither the A's nor I looked back.  The A's made their own bold leap into the future a month later by trading away Holliday to the St. Louis Cardinals for prospects, including Brett Wallace, whom Billy Beane had wished he could have taken with Jemile Weeks in the 2005 amateur draft.  I feel your pain, Billy.

In both cases, we had added by subtracting.  The Athletics and my fantasy team started winning.  Carter continued to put up ungodly numbers in the Texas League, where at the end of August, he was named Player of the Year.  Hey, just like, never mind. 

Carter then received a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento, where he promptly hit four home runs in four consecutive games to propel the Rivercats past the first round (they would subsequently be eliminated from the playoffs).  Then, on Sep. 19, a very interesting transmission came through the series of tubes popularly referred to as "the Internet":

Chris Carter now a possibility for promotion: #Athletics #As #Oakland

San Francisco Chronicle Oakland A's beat writer Susan Slusser's tweet sent my heart a twitter.  As the A's were considering calling up Carter, I was, unimaginably (and unlike my "real" team), fighting for a playoff spot.  If the A's called up Carter, his major league stats would actually count toward my fantasy total. 

In a fantasy season that had seemed so improbable, the impossible was about to happen (again, too soon?).

But, just as quickly as this rumor surfaced, it was smacked down.  The A's instead called up perpetual fourth outfielder Travis Buck and decided to continue allowing Barton to make his case that he still belonged in the majors.

As for my fantasy matchup, I ended up one RBI out of the playoffs.  Yup, you read that right.  One RBI.

Now, I still have nightmares regarding Chris Carter, but they're about the A's not nabbing Carter in time, preventing the young batsman from displaying his major league talents in 2009. 

I sometimes daydream of the two-homer game that should have been against Fausto Carmona on that Sunday, right after his should-have-been-call-up, which should have given the Oakland faithful a glimpse at why they should be excited about next season, and which should have sent my fantasy team to the playoffs in this one. 

But, Mr. Beane, I understand that sometimes you have to handle young talent with kid gloves if they've gone through an accelerated track in the system, and especially if they're expected to actually hit in the Oakland Coliseum, as opposed to Midland's ballpark or Sacramento's Raley Field. 

Better to give the young Mr. Carter another circuit in the Cactus League and a little more time in the state capital before putting the weight of Oakland's rebuilding project on his 6'4", 210-pound shoulders.

Now, if you'll just make that $50 check payable to one "Mr. Chaffee," we can both move on and start officially daydreaming about 2010.