Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fantasy Trading

Hi, my name is Von and I am a fantasy addict.   There, that’s out of the way.

Let me start with a story.  A few winters ago, I made a trade in our Fantasy ACC Hoops league…I gave up Georgia Tech’s Lewis “I jack up threes” Clinch in exchange for UVA’s Sylven “Now I play in Israel” Landesberg.  I was in first place at the time of the trade and comfortably ahead in threes.  The other owner, let’s call him Smitty, was middle of the pack in the standings and really needed threes.  After the trade announcement, some owners howled and said I was raping Smitty and thought the trade should be vetoed.  It wasn’t vetoed.  Landesberg went on to be horrible for the rest of the season as he prepared for an NBA draft that ignored him.  Clinch decided to be Tech’s leading scorer and went on to help extend Paul Hewitt’s tenure another season.  I went on to finish third while Smitty ran away with the league title, thanks in large part to Clinch.  Had that trade been vetoed, history would have recorded a very different story.      

My topic is trade protests and vetoes…one of the touchiest topics in the fantasy world and one that I feel VERY passionate about.  Not to overstate things, but I think that the whole concept of protests and vetoes are about as useful as the compound walls around Bin Laden’s last residence.  I hate protests more than I hate Duke basketball, Bill Walton game analysis, a Phillies losing streak, and cauliflower all put together. 

But that’s part of the problem with the topic…fantasy owners get WAY too emotional about trades, and emotion almost always clouds the fantasy world in a bad way.  Let me explain, in (mostly) non-emotional terms, why protests and vetoes are bad for fantasy sports and should never happen (except in cases of flat-out collusion ).

Point #1: We all have the right to run our own teams as we see fit.  Especially in money leagues, we all have earned the right to make whatever decisions we feel are best for our team.  And NO ONE has the right to tell another owner that he is making a bad decision for his team.  Maybe the guy has a hunch about a player.  You might think the guy is an idiot for having that hunch.  The whole fantasy world might think the guy is an idiot as well.  The folks in that ACC league definitely thought Smitty was an idiot.  Heck, I thought he was an idiot for doing it and was convinced I had clinched (no pun intended) first place when he accepted the offer.  But it turned out Smitty was right and we were all wrong.  Had the veto occurred, it would have cost Smitty winning the league.  So, let me repeat, we all have the right to run our own teams as we see fit.

Point #2:  No trade is dead even, never has been, never will be.  Nothing tires me out more than reading the endless email trail of a trade protest bitch session where people are dissecting every player down to the nth degree to prove “this trade isn’t fair”.  Typically it includes stuff like:  “yeah but Cordero will lose his job to Chapman soon”…”yeah but LaRoche always has a big second half”…”yeah but Cargo is gonna get hot”…blah, blah, blah.  Well, the day that you can absolutely, positively guarantee a player’s future performance, you should quit your job and get your resume on over to Billy Beane real fast.  We all THINK we know what a guy will do in the future and we all look at historical data to GUESS what a player will do in the future.  But to say we know with 100% certainty what they WILL do in the future is just folly.  There are so damn many forks in the road between now and the end of the season that this whole business of analyzing a trade to death is just a waste of energy.

And this doesn’t even call into question the “true” value of hitting vs pitching, power vs speed, starters vs closers.  You want proof of just how much fantasy owners disagree on those fundamental questions?  Just look at the bid patterns of 12 owners in an auction draft.  Does every owner place an equal value on bog boppers, starters, closers, and leadoff hitters?  Of course not.  So just because you value closers very highly, don’t go protesting a trade with a closer because, in your mind, the closer makes it unbalanced.  You may be a very smart person, but the guy doing the deal might just be smarter.  And even if he isn’t, see Point #1 above. 

“But Von”, you say, “we have to veto bad trades because (according to traditional fantasy thinking) otherwise the trade will upset the balance of the league”.  Oh really?  Using math, tell me exactly how that statement is true.  Show me how the math (which is all fantasy sports is, in the end) of it proves that a “bad” trade will hurt the competitive balance of the league.  You’ll need to focus now and throw out your conventional thinking (remember, we already ditched our emotions) because this is a mathematical issue.

Let’s say that on May 1st Owner Smith trades Albert Pujols to Owner Jones for Lyle Overbay.  Is that balanced?  No.  Is Smith an idiot?  Clearly.  Should every other owner in the league get an offer to Smith just as soon as possible to try and benefit from his next stupid decision?  Absolutely.  Should it be vetoed?  No.  Look at the math of it:  Albert is going to hit thirty more home runs, Overbay will hit 10.  But does it REALLY matter which fantasy owner Pujols hits those 30 homers for?  Does it REALLY matter in the standings for the league?  Forget that Smith is an idiot – does it REALLY matter who Albert hits them for?  The answer is no, across the entire league, it really doesn’t matter.  The owners who are just ahead of Jones in homers will now fall behind him, but the owners who are just behind Smith in homers will move ahead of him.  So, yes, SOME owners do lose out because of this trade…but other owners will benefit.  Albert’s gonna hit 30 more homers and it JUST DOESN’T MATTER OVERALL who he does it for.  But, half the owners will be happy, the other half will be sad, and odds are it’s the sad half that will want to protest, which leads to my final point…       

Point #3…you don’t have the right to protest a trade just because you are pissed someone else beat you to the league idiot.  If that were the case, then every Redskins player move over the last decade would have been protested by the teams who weren’t lucky enough to deal with the Skins.  (Reminder memo to self – see if Vinny Cerrato is bored and wants to join our fantasy football money league.)  Every fantasy league has them – the owner(s) who make crazy deals.  So, quit whining about missing out on taking advantage of the idiot owner and go out there and find him and take his best players.  If you don’t have the time or energy to do that, fine…but then don’t sit back and protest when you see a trade go down that you’re just pissed you didn’t get in on for yourself.

Point #4: At the end of the day, fantasy is supposed to be fun.  Protests and vetoes and emails about protests and vetoes aren’t fun.  If we wanted to debate and argue for a hobby, we’d watch C-SPAN with our in-laws.  But we don’t; we’d rather beat the snot out of our best friends in a fantasy league, and part of that is getting the best of them in a trade that probably helps both teams, but you obviously hope helps you a lot more.  And the next time you get the urge to email your league about the insanity of the trade that just happened, take a deep breathe, remember the 4 points above, and then instead go figure out a way to do a deal just like it.