This year, Fantasy Baseball UK is celebrating its 15th season! FBUK was originally launched in 2004 in association with BaseballSoftballUK (the national development agency for baseball and softball) and MLB on Five (Channel Five’s televised baseball coverage). The fantasy league was an oft-discussed feature in between innings during MLB on Five broadcasts, right up until the show stopped airing in 2008. Since then, FBUK has continued as an independently run online league and we reckon we must be the longest-running UK fantasy baseball game.
Let’s take a little look back at what’s happened in Major League Baseball since the fantasy league opened its inaugural season in 2004, in the form of 15 facts and figures:
- When FBUK launched in 2004, the Boston Red Sox were still in the grip of the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ that had supposedly prevented them winning a World Series since 1918. By the end of Fantasy Baseball UK’s first season of existence, the Red Sox were World Series champions for the first time in 86 years. Coincidence? Boston has since gone on to win two further Fall Classics (2007, 2013).
- Another club to have ended a championship drought since FBUK went online is the Chicago Cubs. In 2016, the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908, ending the longest championship drought in all North American major sports.
- In 2014, the Kansas City Royals ended the longest active post-season drought by qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1985. A year later, they won the World Series, 30 years after their last championship.
- The Houston Astros won their first World Series title in 2017.
- On the other hand, which clubs have we not seen in the postseason since FBUK began? The Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners. The latter are suffering what is now the longest active postseason drought in all North American sports (16 years and counting).
- There’s been some changes to MLB franchises: the Montreal Expos played their last game before relocating to Washington, D.C., to become the Nationals (2004); the Houston Astros moved from the National League to the American League (2013); the Florida Marlins renamed themselves the Miami Marlins (2012); the Tampa Bay Devil Rays reduced to just the Rays (2007); the Anaheim Angels became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2005) and then simply the Los Angeles Angels (2015).
- And some changes to the postseason format. In 2004 the All-Star Game was in its second year of deciding home field advantage in the World Series depending on whether the American or National League won the Mid-Summer Classic; since 2016 it no longer has a bearing. In 2012 the postseason was expanded with the introduction of the Wild Card Game.
- There’s been blowouts: Rangers 30, Orioles 3 (2007); Nationals 25, Mets 4 (2018). There’s been high-scoring contests: Rockies 18, Marlins 17; Red Sox 19, Rangers 17 (both in 2008). And there’s been long games: on 17 April, 2008, at Petco Park the Rockies eventually defeated the Padres 2-1 after 22 innings / 6 hours and 16 minutes of baseball.
- On 7 August, 2007, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds passed Hank Aaron’s record for the most career home runs when he hit his 756th. Bonds finished his career later that season with 762 home runs in total.
(The video takes a while to load, or you can watch it on the MLB site)
- In the year of the fantasy league’s launch in 2004, Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki set a new record for the most hits in a season, racking up 262 that year.
- Since FBUK began, eight players have entered the 500 home run club: Ken Griffey Jr. (2004), Frank Thomas (2007), Alex Rodriguez (2007), Jim Thome (2007), Manny Ramirez (2008), Gary Sheffield (2009), Albert Pujols (2014) and David Ortiz (2015).
- And seven players have reached 3000 hits or more: Rafael Palmeiro (2005), Craig Biggio (2007), Derek Jeter (2011), Alex Rodriguez (2015), Ichiro (2016), Adrian Beltre (2017) and Pujols (2018).
- In 2008, Los Angeles Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez set a new record for most saves in a season, with 62.
- While the fantasy league has been going, three pitchers have retired with at least 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts under their belts: Roger Clemens (2007), Greg Maddux (2008) and Randy Johnson (2009). Only 10 pitchers have achieved that in MLB history.
- Over the past decade and a half, there’s been bad news that has rocked the baseball world… the steroid scandal breaking in 2005… Channel Five’s baseball coverage ending in 2008 after 11 years… But more recently we’ve had good news: in May this year, MLB announced that the London Series is coming to our shores in 2019!
Become a Fantasy Baseball UK supporter!
FBUK is an independent online league with a passionate core fan base, run by volunteers. In the past few years the team has worked hard to develop the game, including:
- Creating two new side games – the $5m Game and Limited Trade Game
- Publishing the regular email newsletter during the season
- Organising prizes (thanks to BaseballSoftballUK for supporting that so far)
- Launching this year’s new website design
We’ve always operated the game with the starting principal that it is free to play. Although we generate some funds through the option for players to purchase extra fantasy teams, those only go part of the way to cover the costs of maintaining the website each year and continuing to develop the game.
If you like our work and would like to support us with a donation, you are welcome to do so using the online donation form in the ‘Support Us’ section or by clicking on the link below. We’re grateful for donations of all amounts and the funds raised go back into running the game.
Thank you to everyone who plays the game, particularly those who have been regular and returning players over the years and ensured there is ongoing interest in the game. Thank you to the players who choose to purchase extra teams, which helps financially support the game. Here’s to 15 more seasons!