Balancing Passion and Reason

There’s a reason why people play fantasy baseball: they love the game.

It probably started back when we were playing tee-ball and collecting baseball cards, trying to trick a friend into trading his Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card by saying that Melido Perez was actually a hitter and that 4.61 ERA was actually a .461 batting average (A hidden impetus for fantasy baseball? And no, that scenario didn’t happen to me.). We all want to prove to our buddies–and even total strangers–that though we don’t have the physical skills to play Major League Baseball, we know what a good one looks like, what kind of numbers he’s supposed to put up and that we can find the good ones better than you.

Fantasy Draft 1.jpgNow, as many (but not all) of us are long past college, the love of winning gradually crept into the picture. Where before a live fantasy draft might have looked like a frat party at the end, now you have what you see at the left: a bunch of guys (be it geeks, dorks, nerds, jocks, etc…) with their bleary eyes glued to either a laptop, print-out or magazine with a couple half-full beverages and an untouched pizza sitting on a table in the middle of the herd.

That has happened because we know there are many statistical markers and traits that, most of the time, signal whether or not a particular player is going to break out. We analyze these patters, study the player’s history, look at the environment he will be playing in and try to make the best possible decision from all this information.

But at some points during the draft, and far more often during the season, the passion comes back out, refusing to be caged in. That part makes you create certain “rules” you abide by when deciding which player you draft or pick up off the waiver wire. For me, I steadfastedly refuse to acquire any player currently on the Boston Red Sox or who was part of the 2004 team (take a wild guess as to who my favorite team is, and it isn’t the Cardinals). I mean, if you have these players on your team, you want to be able to root for them to do well, correct?

Yet that passion may cause some problems for you down the road. Let’s say that I had Adrian Gonzalez and with my team in the thick of the playoff race in late July, he gets traded to the Red Sox. Now you find yourself in a sticky situation: you desperately want to win this season, but at the same time, you cannot possible stomach the possibility of wanting someone on the Red Sox to do well. What now? This is where you can use passion to your favor, with said passion being someone else’s.

Every league has at least a couple “homers” in their ranks: guys who blindly go after almost anyone on their favorite team, even if a particular players makes Nick Johnson look like the second coming of Lou Gehrig. If you have a player who you absolutely want no part of, you must do two things:

  1. Pretend that it doesn’t even bother you (if the level of your rooting interests are not known) and keep any and all reactions bland & the same as if the one player was traded to a different team.
  2. Find that “homer” in your league and make him your new buddy.

Vladimir Guerrero 1.jpgThe point? You want to rob him blind, of course! Now if the player you’re trying to give away is a first-round talent like Gonzalez, that makes negotiations much easier than if he were someone you picked up later on in the draft, like say (for argument’s sake) Vladimir Guerrero. The objective is to tantalize the “homer” so much that he would give up just about anyone to obtain the player you’re dangling in the wind.

Casually mention about the year Player X is having to the “homer.” Remark about how fortunate you were to draft or pick him up. Ask the “homer” if his biggest regret from the draft was not selecting this guy? Then you drop the hammer:

You can have Player X, if you want.

Play it coy, but let it be known that for this player, you need someone from him that can produce A, B and C for you in return. Let the homer throw an offer out there, appear mildly interested, but then say it’s going to take a little bit more. Rinse & repeat, but always make sure you have his interest level up. Eventually, you should be able to have him offer up a package that is in your favor.

Now every once in a while, you have an incredible offer just fall into your lap like manna from the fantasy gods. It happened not just once to me (I got Paul Konerko in return for Barry Zito, straight up. You just HAVE to make that, especially in a points league.) but twice, though the second instance was too good to be true, which is something all fantasy owners should be aware of.

I was offered the great Zack Greinke for Tommy Hanson…and Rafael Soriano. Initially, I nearly jumped out of my skin to accept that deal. But I hesitated, and I’m glad that I did. Thankfully, the reason in me got up and smacked the passion in the back of its head. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details and stats, Greinke and Hanson are (value-wise) pretty much the same pitcher. Greinke may give you a lower WHIP and more quality starts (if applicable), but Hanson has the luxury of pitching in the NL, creating better opportunities for more strikeouts and he plays on the Braves versus the Royals (read: more wins).

Oh, and I’d also be giving up the fifth-best closer without a useful player available to replace him.

The moral of the story is this: ALWAYS DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE DOING A DEAL! The numbers don’t lie, but it’s up to you to find them and interpret them correctly.

Hanley Ramirez 1.jpgLastly, as I climb up on my soap box, you always want to have players you can root for on your roster. It’s more fun that way. But let’s say you have the pleasure of owning someone like Hanley Ramirez on your roster, who’s quickly becoming the poster child for immaturity and self-centeredness among today’s athletes. This is just my personal opinion, but I feel that if you think a particular player is someone you personally wouldn’t want to be associated with, you are under no obligation whatsoever to keep him.

Oh, but he was my top pick, you say? Shouldn’t have to matter. If Ramirez (or whoever is creating your minor moral dilemma) was a first pick or high pick, that gives you all the more leverage to get high-quality players back in a trade.

Some of the unofficial rules of fantasy baseball are useful, but others, like never sit your top players, for example, I feel will end up hurting a team in the long run. Like the title of the post says, it’s all about finding the proper balance between your passion and your reason. When you achieve that, you won’t automatically walk away with a league championship, but it’ll certainly help improve your chances.


– ME

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