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Sunday 17th Dec 2017

Some of us – perhaps even you – have problems stepping away from a bad decision – compounding the mistake with incremental related moves.

It is a natural behavior, believing in the reasons you made your initial decision, sticking with that plan, hoping for future validation - even as the idea more quickly circles the drain.

Such is the case in a saga that began with a Fall 2013 trade I made in the Xperts Fantasy League, or XFL. As is often the case in this column, I outline my foibles in hopes that you might avoid a similar pitfall.

The XFL is a dynasty league in which we are allowed 15 keepers against a 40-man roster. One unique challenge is the requirement to declare our keepers for next season before the current World Series is done. The draft follows at the start of November.

In the process of analyzing one’s roster, the wise owner also looks at potential difficult keeper decisions his competitors may be facing.

I’ve written about the continued success that fellow Mastersball staffer Don Drooker has demonstrated in this format. One reason why is his approach in trading. Don does not send out the lazy broadcast note to the entire league offering up his borderline players, nor does he send out general communications about his needs.

Instead, he takes the time to craft specific one-on-one trade proposals, considering the position of the other owner. I don’t always trade with Don, but when we do talk, it is never a waste of time, nor does it take long to do an evaluation. I respect that.

In October 2013, Don contacted me with an offer for a player coming off a bad season that he suspected he could buy low – Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. Making a potential trade easier for me was the fact that I had some young infielders coming up who could provide a lower-cost roster replacement.

Drooker correctly noticed that my potential keepers for 2014 lacked outfield talent and power.

In return for Castro, he offered another player with a +$3 contract (compared to the usual +$5), but with even greater questions in Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton. Despite Hamilton’s contract being higher ($23 vs. $13, as I recall), I accepted the deal.

As the 2014 season played out, Castro had a solid bounceback campaign, while Hamilton played in just 89 games while battling rib cage and shoulder ailments in what became his worst season in eight as a Major Leaguer.

Preparing for 2015, Drooker had a strong keeper in Castro, while Hamilton was clearly getting thrown back into the free agent pool.

Anyone can make a bad trade, which I did, but here is where I made matters far worse.

When Hamilton was nominated in the XFL auction last November, I made a $12 bid. I am not sure why. No one said, “$13,” so in a matter of a few seconds, the troubled Angel was back on my squad.

Instead of cutting my losses, I went against the odds and gambled that I could recoup some of my lost 2014 investment in 2015.

It was a questionable decision at best in November 2014. By early February, the downward slope increased with news that Hamilton had waited until then to have shoulder surgery, a decision that would cause him to open the regular season on the disabled list.

The icing on the cake was the late February news that Hamilton had come forward with an admission that his alcohol and substance abuse problems had returned. That put not only his 2015 season, but potentially his entire career, in jeopardy.

In most leagues, at least those with March drafts, Hamilton became a persona non grata. That was further reinforced in April when Angels owner Arte Moreno cast doubt upon whether Hamilton would ever return to his team. Now it appears the outfielder will be returning to the Rangers, but has rehab time still ahead.

I am not complaining about the timing of the November XFL draft. I love the challenge it presents. The problem is my own – the refusal to cut my losses on an obviously-flawed player left a major hole in my 2015 lineup.

So, please learn from my mistake. Leave the decisions of the past behind. Make today’s decisions based on today’s facts. Had I done that, Hamilton would be someone else’s XFL problem, not mine.


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.


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