FantasyLand Book Excerpts
© 2006 Sam Walker. Reprinted with permission of the author.
The following are excerpts from Sam Walker’s intriguing book on Fantasy Baseball, FantasyLand. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Sam, a sportswriter for the Wall Street Journal, in the summer of 2004. I shared my unique niche of sports astrology, aiding Sam with his myriad of choices in Tout Wars, a private “Rotisserie” baseball league populated by some of the nation’s most renowned fantasy experts. Based on my planetary research, I provided a truly one of a kind competitive edge. Skeptical at first, Sam later exclaimed, “her track record isn’t just good, it’s spooky.” Read on for more revelations…………..
…… “Once we finished incorporating all this information into Hunchmaster, Nando and I turned to the final and most unconventional category. Back in February, while trawling for any and all forms of baseball knowledge, Bonecrusher had Googled the term “baseball astrology” just to see what would happen.
There was a match.
Andrea Mallis lives in Berkeley. She’s been as astrologer since 1989. Her fee is ninety dollars per hour and her speciality is reading the charts of major-league ballplayers. “With four planets in Virgo, I’m a rather analytical soul, dedicated and serious about my craft,” she wrote by way of introduction, “I do a lot of research and number crunching myself, as astrology is a metaphysical science, I’m not a psychic that gets information from thin air….Not that there’s anything wring with thatJ. Right then and there, we added a new category to Hunchmaster called “Zodiac.”
I’ve hired Andrea Mallis to run charts on twelve players we’ve had trouble making jusgemenents about, Since Mallis gets up in the afternoon and works through the night, we made arrangements to talk late on Wednesday, and at the appointed hour she picks up the phone, cheerful and full of spunk, ready to interpret the planets.
Yankee pitcher Kevin Brown, with his Mars in Virgo, should have an excellent year, she tells me, gaining strength in August and September. On the other hand, Seattle closer Eddie Guardado seems likely to struggle with a cycle of low energy. Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia, with Jupiter nine degrees Virgo, was a good bet to pitch well until late June, when he might suffer a setback. In a bid to engage Sig in this process, I decided to ask Andrea Mallis about Jarrod Washburn, the Angels pitcher he’d cornered at spring training. Mallis says Washburn will be fine for the first two months.
“Then what?” I ask.
“then Neptune gets in the picture.”
After I hang up, Nando opens the Hunchmaster and we being trying to assign Zodiac “scores” to these players. This results in a lengthy conversation about the relative merits of a favorable Mars cycle versus the potentially deleterious effects of a Saturn return………….
Two days later, I’m sitting in a thirty-dollar box seat behind the third base dugout at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, where the Athletics are preparing to host the White Sox.
My trip to Houston was only the first leg of a three-city western swing that will allow me to visit three ballparks, eight of my players, and four of my Tout Wars opponents. Tonight’s plan is to watch a ballgame while flanked by Sign my expectative vice-president for statistics and unceasing torment, who’s driven up from Silicon Valley in his blue Honda, and Andrea Mallis, my director of baseball astrology, who’s just arrived from Berkeley via mass transit. The topic to be discussed is , of course, whether to trade David Ortiz for Alfonso Soriano.
Andrea Mallis is a bright and bubbly woman in her forties with long dark curly hair and hazel eyes. When I meet her at the ticket windows, she’s wearing black shoes, a black skirt, black tights, and a black shirt embroidered with the zodiac wheel. She’s carrying a backpack that’s brimming with newspapers, notes, astrological reports, two yogurts, and a sandwich—along with a pair of plastic bags to handle the overflow. As we took our seats, she handed me a yellow bookmark with all the upcoming date of when Mercury is retrograde, “Goddess knows when you might need it,” she explained.
Mallis grew up in Queens, where she followed the Mets through the 1970’s. She knew she’d be a baseball fan for life on the day she saw a group of nuns at Shea Stadium holding a sign that said “Ya Gotta Believe.” While attending Berkeley, she discovered astrology and eventually decided to combine her two loves. She’s since become such a ballpark regular that the A’s flagship radio station, KFRC, has given her a regular segment called “The Astrology Minute,” which is introduced by the theme music from the Twilight Zone. By sitting with the player’s families during ballgames and attending team functions, she’s been able to get precise birth times for some players.
Early on Mallis explained to me that she doesn’t make exact predications-there are too many variables involved to determine, for instance, how many strikeouts Rich Harden will register tonight. “I can predict energy,” she says, “but not necessarily events.” In her view, astrology isn’t a substitute for scouting or statistical and analysis. “It’s really about being more holistic and getting information from many different oracles.”
Sig is doing everything in his power to be polite. When I told him about the evening, he’s written back: “going to a ballgame with an astrologer? What has happened to me?’ Already there’s been one close call: Outside the ticket window, Sig asked Mallis how long she’d be doing astrology. “In the past, many lifetimes,” she said. “But in this lifetime only since 1989.”
“Geez,” he said, turning to me. “And I thought I padded my resume.”
“Be nice!” I whispered.
As dissimilar as their methods may be, Andrea Mallis and Sig Mejdal have the same ultimate goal: to work as a consultant to a major league ball club. “I’m so unique, people don’t realize they need me yet,” Mallis says.
“Me, too,” adds Sig, dryly.
When I decided to consult an astrologer for Rotisserie advice, I’ll admit my expectations were low. I’d incorporated Mallis’ forecasts into Hunchmaster, but during the Tout Wars auction I couldn’t bring myself to make any draft picks solely on the basis of something she told me. But now, more than halfway through the season, I wish I’d paid more attention, Her track record isn’t’ just good, it’s spooky.
Mallis said pitcher C.C. Sabathia would hit a rough patch in late June. He walked off the mound with a tweaked shoulder on the twenty-sixth. She told me Seattle closer Eddie Guardado would struggle early in the season with a low energy cycle. He blew three saves. She prophesied that Jarrod Washburn would have two good months before Neptune crosses him up. He won seven games in April and May and only one in June. She’s warned me to stay away from Barry Zito (Neptune again), whose ERA is currently 4.62.
As the game begins, Mallis rummages through her backpack and pulls out a black folder containing the charts she’s prepared on Ortiz and Soriano and spreads them out carefully on her lap like sacred texts. Each sheaf of paper has a zodiac wheel overlaid with so many numbers, points, and coordinates that they look like flight plans for the Mars Lander. There are two types of astrologers, Mallis told me: those who just pull things from thin air and those who keep up with the latest software.
She’s one of the latter.
Mallis starts with a caveat. Ortiz and Soriano are both from the Dominican Republic, where municipal record keeping is notoriously inexact. If the birth dates on file for them are not accurate, this could change the results considerably.
“Understood,” I day.
“Ortiz,” she begins, “is a monster. I’m hard pressed to be against Scorpios-there so determined and intense and thoughtful-and he’s got Saturn in harmonious aspect to this Sun, which is his vitality. His Mercury, which is movement on the field, is more stable. I’m thinking a strong second half.”
“So no trade?” I ask.
Mallis tilts her head and sighs. “I just hate to part with Ortiz, unless there’s a really compelling reason to trade him I don’t know. Do you need a second baseman“?
“And steals,” I say.
“Yeah, Ortiz isn’t going to steal any bases.”
Mallis pauses for a half minute, staring at the chart, “You really want Soriano, but you don’t want to give up Oritz….What do you think, Sig?”
Sig has been sitting stiffly in his chair, watching the game and trying to think beneficent thoughts. Still staring forward, he clears his throat and answers Mallis slowly and evenly. “I like it because we’re in fifth places, half the season is already gone, and we should welcome some chance and uncertainty. If we get twenty extra steals from Soriano, we’re hopping over quite a few people.”
“But Ortiz is such a monster!” Mallis repeats even more emphatically.
Sig turns stiffly, his expression controlled, “Ortiz’s first half has been wonderful, as good as you could expect.’ He says. “But there’s not much more for him to do. If there’s anybody whose stock is high, it’s his. So yea, I hate to lose the monster and his totals, but were’ not trading him for a fringe players, we’re getting another monster which I think has more upside.” He stops for a second. “How are Sorianos’s stars, have we looked at that?”
(Now this is synergy.)
“Capricorn,” Mallis says, holding his chart up to her nose, looking for signs of Mars and activity in the sixth and tenth houses. “There’s no real red light saying he's not going to be good,” she says, dropping the chart to her lap. “He does have this wiry energy about him. But he sort of makes me nervous.”
By the late innings, Sig has done a commendable job stifling his scientific gall and giving Mallis her say. Other than asking her a few loaded questions (What is somebody is born by induced labor?”) He’d been courteous, cordial, and even chatty, He gave Mallis his exact time of birth so she could run his chart.
After the, game we give our team astrologer lift back to Berkeley, where we drop her at a modest apartment complex. One we've waved good-bye, Sig and I exchange a silent glance. On some level, I’m hoping he may have turned a corner tonight, that talking to Mallis made him that that maybe there is some part of baseball that’s influenced by celestial forces. Of course, if I was to tell him the truth, that I’m pretty impressed with her work, I know he’’ spend the entire ride home pounding me like doughnut batter.
But back at the hotel bar, I can longer restrain my curiosity. “So,” I say, “do you believe any of it?’
“Not even a little bit”
Sig takes off his glasses and rubs his face, something he does when he hears a question he can’t believe he really has to answer. “Let’s see. Do I believe the exact moment David Ortiz came out of the womb has something to do with how well he hits a spherical ball with a cylindrical bat?’
He pauses for effect.
“No, I don’t.”
…………Even though a couple of her predictions fizzled in September, I should have paid more attention to Andrea Mallis. Her instincts were correct about the Ortiz-for- Soriano trade, which we ended up losing by 3 Sig value points. But what impressed me most was something Mallis had mentioned offhandedly in Oakland: that the New York Mets should trade the streaking Ty Wiggington, because his chart suggested he would “really bottom out” in August. When the month was over, I looked up Wiggington’s numbers.
The guy hit .178.
The Front Office
Andrea Mallis attended baseball's winter meetings in Anaheim in December 2004 and had audiences with a dozen general managers. While she remains in regular contact with one team, she’s still a free agent.