We are not always playing the role of writers in this industry. Much of the time, like you, we are readers, consuming the content penned by our peers. The rest of the time, we are competing in our own leagues.
Beyond the usual learning from others, I often find it especially pleasurable perusing the works of those against whom I compete in various industry leagues. Not only do we gain some insight into competitors, at times, we can find ourselves in their writings – or least we may think we do.
So it was last week when I shared the results of my poll of two dozen industry friends and competitors regarding the number of leagues in which they participate. I had completed the first draft of my article when our Lord Zola weighed in with his results – a whopping 20 leagues.
That was notable enough to justify a slight re-write. Seeing his standout reply, Zola followed up with an amusing article of his own, vowing to change – or not.
This time, the shoe was on the other foot. I saw myself in a piece authored by Fantasy Hall of Famer Ron Shandler and run at USAToday this week.
Shandler is one of my competitors in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), a 40-man roster, 15-player keeper, 15-team league of some of the best and brightest industry veterans (also older, as age 40 is a minimum requirement). Prospects drafted as minor leaguers can be kept at a lower rate in subsequent seasons compared to those added as major leaguers. This increases the value of young talent.
Though I am almost always in the first division, I have never won the XFL.
Shandler may as well have been speaking to me directly when he wrote the following this week.
“When you have a legitimate opportunity to win, you have to go all-in.” Shandler advised. “You can't afford to ration playing time, sit on minor leaguers or ride the fence between today and tomorrow. No matter how much you want to protect the long term, success is fleeting in this game and you have to grab it when you can.”
You already know that I didn’t win. Ever since, the two outfielders have been stalwarts of – you guessed it – Shandler’s roster.
Fast forward to 2012. I felt I had to the horses to compete for the top rung of the XFL once again. My core of starters, led by Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright, were getting expensive, so it felt like it was the time to make my move. My offense, while well-balanced, was short a few big boppers.
When another competitor hung out the fire sale sign early - back in May, l leapt at the chance to make an impact trade with four months to enjoy the benefit.
I acquired four solid major leaguers – though none at keeper prices for next year. The price was high - my best young keeper, Cleveland’s Carlos Santana.
My new players included Albert Pujols, Brian McCann, Andre Ethier and Josh Beckett. Since then, it hasn’t developed as I had hoped. Though Santana went onto the disabled list shortly after the trade, so did Ethier. Beckett has a bad back while McCann has struggled with a sore shoulder and Pujols had been putting up below-average numbers for him.
To make matters more frustrating, two of the three “scrubs” I chose to send to my trade partner rather than drop to keep my roster in balance went on to have periods of effectiveness this season after leaving my team. They are Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Jones. They also had particular value to me as $1 players.
Because the XFL has a salary cap of $325 for the active roster, the $65 difference between that limit and the $260 draft day roster was completely absorbed by my new $66 Pujols alone.
In other words, even with injuries to mid-teens players like Stephen Drew, Michael Morse and Emilio Bonifacio, I didn’t have enough salary flexibility to fit all my new acquisitions into my lineup on any given week.
The bottom line is that I have lost about 10 points in the standings since having made this trade. Instead of sticking among the top pack (with Shandler among others), I have dropped smack into the middle of mediocrity. At eighth of 15 teams, I am once again neither in nor out.
Nothing is over until it is over, but I have to be realistic. Making up 40 points to lead the league isn’t going to happen in the next eight weeks.
I feel fine about having made the decision to go for it, but that doesn’t mean I am not going to miss Santana for the next decade or so.
So, by all means, do as Shandler says and I attempted to do – just do it better, please!
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.