1. Know the importance of the Cubs hiring Grady Little.

Is this the man you want whispering in Dusty Baker’s ear when your fantasy cornerstones Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are on the mound in the eighth inning after throwing 428 pitches in the previous seven?

Dusty: “Grady, what do you think we should do?”

Grady: “The pitcher stays in.”

Dusty: “But Kerry’s fastball seems to have lost some velocity since his arm fell off in the fourth.”

Grady: “The pitcher stays in.”

At this point Dusty would choke on his toothpick and Grady would become the acting manager of the squad, leading the storied Cubs to a 14-148 record, with six different arms falling off (surprisingly, all six of those pitches were called strikes).

One arm actually implodes into itself, becoming a black hole that engulfs the world and ends time as we know it. A few select beings are then chosen to experience life without dimension and discover that the universe rests on the back of a giant Ronnie “Woo-Woo” Wickers bobble head. The moral of the story? I am a White Sox fan.

2. Don’t trust anyone named Dontrelle.

During the second half of the season, Dontrelle the Deceptor collapsed worse than Howard Dean’s campaign after his guttural speech was mixed with AC/DC’s TNT. Dontrelle’s second half featured a very Mike Hampton in Coors-esque 5-5 record along with a 4.60 ERA in 14 starts.

Many will be drafting him high after he was the poster child for Marlins Marketing Madness ’03, but it seems as though everyone in the majors has already caught onto his “See my back, see my back, see my back, see my … BALL!” style of pitching.

In the same way, scan for dropoffs in anyone’s second-half production last year. In many cases, the poor batting or pitching trend will follow into at least the first half of this season. Also known as the Paul Konerko Syndrome.

3. Positions mean something.

Like doggy-style, baby! Booya!

But seriously, folks …

Know that the player pool in the outfield is about as deep as the wound left on Ben Affleck’s heart after J.Lo announced the end of their relationship. And the nerve of her to get back together with Marc Anthony! I hate her.

And yet, I love her. Oh, the vixen!

To reiterate: A great second baseman is more valuable than a great outfielder.

4. Don’t be fooled by the inevitable closer run.

At some point in the first two rounds of the draft, Operation: Canadian Bacon (Eric Gagne) will be chosen. When this happens, one of two events will occur. Either they will ignore it and continue the draft as normal. Or else, scared that closers will soon qualify for the Endangered Position List, they will snatch up everyone from Armando Benitez to Rocky Biddle in the next few rounds.

If closers start to be taken right away, don’t draft a mediocre closer early just to make sure you have one. Instead, act cool like professional poker master Howard Lederer: sit back, wait it out, and take advantage of those poor suckers. Unlike Howard Lederer, don’t stare down your opponent. He is not in the same room as you.

5. Draft with your mind, not your heart.

If you’re a Yankees fan and Keith Foulke is left on the board in the eighth round and you choose Jose Contreras because of your Yankee loyalty, you are an idiot.

If you are a White Sox fan and you take a gamble on Jon Garland instead of drafting Kerry Wood, you are an idiot.

If you draft Chan Ho Park at any point in the draft, you are also unsmart.

6. Make sure to test your Internet accessibility.

Nothing is more frustrating than sitting down at your computer with your fantasy scouting reports, your newly installed laser mouse, your No Use For A Name CD pumping on your 1989 Sony Stereo system, your freshly opened Sam Adams beer resting on your homemade Harold Baines coaster … only to have your Internet freeze and not let you draft.

Make sure to have access to a secondary Internet source, but don’t trust any of your so-called friends. They are all out to get you.

Instead, use your phone book to look up the local library and inquire about their hours of operation. If it’s Sunday and they are closed, be prepared to spend up to $30 at an Internet café. It might be costly, but if you don’t you risk drafting Kaz Sasaki, who is sitting out this season after seeing Lost in Translation.

Of course make sure to check your Internet connection a half hour before the draft begins. If your speedy Ethernet falls apart, as a last ditch effort you could always resort to the late, great Dialup Bonanza.

7. Warm up your message board trash talking.

Studies have shown that trash talking is exactly 82.3 percent of the fun quotient in fantasy baseball.

Start off the electronic commotion with a nice insult about someone’s mother or their sexual preference and watch the replies roll in. There’s nothing like checking the board for new hilariously sophomoric content twenty times a day.

8. Know your enemy.

Research every other GM in your league, finding out who they have picked in years past. If you know that someone has an unhealthy attraction to Todd Helton’s batting average or Vlad the Impaler’s Boomstick, be prepared to draft them early in order to trade them for a huge profit margin.

If you can’t figure out your opponents, then take the fiscal hit and hire an army of midget private investigators to rake the muck. Compromising photos of an erotic night with Jayson Stark’s recently misplaced mustache or video of someone “breaking in” their newly purchased Fantasy Baseball Team Photo (for the low, low price of $39.95 from www.fantasyteamphoto.com) sure would get my attention.

If I knew someone had such items I would probably listen to a few more trade offers coming from that direction. Pedro Martinez for Benito Santiago and all copies and negatives of said compromising material? Deal!

9. Don’t drink and draft.

Last year my roommate came home after a four-hour excursion to the local bar, drunk and ready to do some drafting. By the time he had stumbled into his computer chair, his first two picks had already passed and his third was quickly approaching.

Needless to say, by the end of the draft he had five first-basemen on his team. You can start two at once. He had five.

He did not make the playoffs.

10. Have fun.

And the only way to have fun is to win. Win at any cost.

Remember that Fair cannot be spelled without an A. Also, Cheat cannot be spelled without an A. Unless you spell it phonetically. That would be Cheet. You can spell that without an A, but not without a Che. And that has the same number of letters as Fun!

So, in conclusion, don’t draft Ken Griffey, Jr.