Lenny Melnick is known as the “Godfather of Fantasy Baseball” for many of his accomplishments over the past 20 years covering and broadcasting fantasy sports. Back in the infancy of fantasy sports, he co-hosted and produced the first-ever radio show involving fantasy/rotisserie sports. His involvement played a major role in taking fantasy sports into the mainstream as he was a guest speaker at the 1997 Major League All-Star Game. Lenny went on to be the first fantasy baseball personality to appear on a regular basis on the TV shows “This week in fantasy baseball with Fran Healy” and “Pennant Chase” fantasy baseball report. He also became the first co-host of the “Major League Radio Fantasy 411.” This led to Lenny being named the Internet’s favorite fantasy baseball expert in 2009. He has won Tout Wars once and LABR twice, and was featured in several chapters of the book “Fantasyland” by Sam Walker.
Today, Lenny works for RotoExperts and is a radio host on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Lenny is a member of MLB.com Radio Hall of Fame along with the radio and TV Hall of Fame in Manhattan from WFAN. He is also the author of “Control the Draft System.”
Recently, Lenny shared time with FSWA Secretary Jeff Boggis…
How has the game of fantasy baseball evolved since you first started to today and what is your proudest accomplishment in fantasy sports?
I am truly not shocked by the enormous growth of fantasy sports. The hobby has evolved from doing your own statistics, to buying out-of-town newspapers on 42nd street in New York City, to live scoring on stat services, and the wealth of information on the Internet. On the negative side, emails have inhibited the “camaraderie” aspect of the hobby by discouraging telephone conversations.
Overall, my proudest accomplishment has been to have met so many wonderful people who have listened to my podcasts, visited my website and listened to my radio shows. You cannot put a price on having the privilege to visit almost any city in the country, and going to a ball game with my great friends from fantasy sports.
Of course, the fact that Irwin Zwilling and I produced and hosted the first ever Fantasy/Rotisserie Radio show broadcast makes me proud. There can only be one first and we did it! Forgive me for being so un-humble, but the hobby has evolved to a point that EVERYONE has some kind of show, and it was great timing that allowed Irwin and me to be the first.
What is your approach to writing fantasy baseball articles? Is this something that comes easy for you?
I am much more a “talker” than a writer, as I enjoy the more personal aspect of communication, which to me is verbalizing. I have written baseball, football and basketball articles for not only my website, but for MLB .com as well. I love the “quick hitting” style of basketball writer Peter Vescey, and the “blurp” style of the great Mike Lupica. I enjoy identifying players and backing up my opinions with one- or two-line comments rather than long-winded stories.
What fantasy baseball story do you tell most often?
Before the Internet, Irwin and I needed information on Lance Johnson, outfielder for the Chicago White Sox, getting off to a slow start. We had to keep Lance or drop him. Our contacts supplied us with the hotel Lance was in as the Sox made a trip to New York. We called Lance and posed as authors of a story on rookies. Lance assured us that the second time around the league would be as easy for him as it was for us married guys who had rough honeymoon nights. We kept Lance, and he was sent to AAA the next day!! We tried!
Who are some of the fantasy sports people in the business that you most admire?
My admiration goes to those who made a career and a living perusing their passion of sports. Ron Shandler, Jeff Erickson, Peter Schoenke and Greg Ambrosius are just a few who I grew up with in fantasy sports world I admire their success and longevity. In addition, radio personality Jody McDonald has my respect for showing me there is a story in every box score.
Where do you see the future of fantasy baseball heading?
We must never allow the word “stale” to enter our fantasy sports vocabulary. New forms of the hobby will emerge as the daily game has begun to enter the fantasy community. Next year I plan to announce a new format for auction drafts. I promise it will be a rush. We must stay on our toes and keep it fresh.
When it comes to fantasy baseball, are you a traditionalist with the standard 5x5 categories, or are you open to other categories such as quality starts, on base percentage, slugging percentage, quality starts, etc.?
We must remember to try and keep it simple. Adding or substituting additional categories makes trading more difficult and adds more effort in analyzing categories we may have paid little attention to. Personally, I’d like to conquer and master the traditional 5x5 format before I move on to another. I still have a way to go.
Do you prefer writing about auction drafts or snake draft strategies?
I much prefer the auction format. Not only is there more strategy with the addition of money management, but you have more control of getting players you covet. I hate getting “sniped “ in the snake draft
Matthew Berry released a book in July. You’ve been featured in the book “Fantasyland” by Sam Walker. Have you ever thought about writing a fantasy baseball book of your own?
Currently, Zwilling and I are laying out a format for the book we intend to write. It will lay out in detail our “Control The Draft” formula and include many anecdotes and incredible stories about our experiences in fantasy sports.