There comes a time in 75% of fantasy baseball owners' seasons at which they have to come to terms with the fact that they can't win the title this season. Maybe you invested heavily in Kevin Youkilis, Chase Utley, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Maybe you had a kooky strategy that backfired (and we should really look at some of those kooky strategies sometime). Or maybe there's just a super team in your league that's opened up such a lead that it's insurmountable.
Whatever the circumstances, at some point you realize this isn't your year. For me, that moment was when Clayton Kershaw gave up six runs to the Nationals last Friday. As Adam Dunn's second home run of the night cleared the fence, I realized, "There's just no way. It's over." And as the tears flowed (along with the rum), I started to look forward and think, "What now?"
As our league is a keeper league, we have a whole separate set of circumstances to consider, and that usually mitigates any rash decisions (like crazy trades or waiving players who piss you off). But you'll still see some curious moves by teams out of the mix; that's a result of frustration, and an attempt to exert control over this team that's the cause of the frustration.
So, when it comes to handling your roster after the moment of truth revealed your inevitable failure, I've encountered several approaches over the years. Here they are, along with my take on them.
The first instinct, and not a wrong instinct, is to simply ignore your team for the remainder of the season. Set a lineup, throw your best pitchers in, and start reading fantasy football material.
- It's fair. You're not targeting categories that could help or hurt specific owners.
- It's easy. There's literally zero effort after you set your lineup.
- It frees up your time. You can put it into fantasy football, as many owners do, or you can do something really outlandish and JUST WATCH BASEBALL. :)
- It's passive. As much as you may hate your fantasy team, it's still your team. This tactic means you're admitting that you wasted all of the time you put into this team.
- It's no fun. Don't forget that we all play fantasy sports to have fun. This strategy puts an end to any fun you could be having.
2) Play to Win (even though you can't)
Listen, just because you can't win doesn't mean you stop trying. Look at major league baseball teams. The Kansas City Royals continue to fight in August and September, the Detroit Lions keep at it every December, and the Memphis Grizzlies...well, I can't attest to the Grizzlies, but most other teams try to win most games, even when a championship is out of the picture. You can do the same with your failed fantasy baseball team. Try to grab any points you can, try to improve your finish in the standings, and run out your best team every day.
- It's fair. Other teams can't be mad at you for trying to get any points you can. If they do, give them the line from Saving Private Ryan: "Earn this."
- It's freeing. You can take some chances if you have a gut feeling. Feel like starting a rookie pitcher going into Yankee Stadium? Go for it.
- You're risking further disappointment. Hey, just because you know you're not going to win doesn't mean you won't be disappointed when the final days come around and you're 22 points out of first. You can set mini-goals (win a category, surpass a point total), but it's not easy to play out the string.
- You're not saving any time. You'd like to be able to devote your time to something else after you've realized you can't win, but this strategy means you're still on top of your team every day. It's a tactic for the die-hard.
Over the course of a season (or several seasons, if you're in an annual league), you'll inevitably butt heads with another owner/owners. Maybe they talk a lot of trash, or they made a trade that you thought was unfair but couldn't get your league to act on, or they just irritate you in your own trade negotiations. Whatever the reason, there's a guy you just don't want to see win. And it just so happens he's three steals ahead of you. This strategy says bench your boppers and put in speed guys to take that point, and any others you can find.
- It's goal-oriented. You definitely have a specific task you're trying to accomplish: failure by another team. Having that kind of defined direction can be gratifying.
- It's fairly easy. You can tell where you can take points from most teams. And generally you can adjust your lineup to focus on the statistics you need.
- It's sinister. Let's be clear: this is not a strategy for someone who wants to be thought of as a good guy. You're going to be one team's nemesis after this, and in all likelihood, you'll be generally disliked throughout the league as a result. So much so that...
- ...it could backfire. Remember, nothing rallies support for a cause more than taking the opposing side. There's always the possibility that a third team throws points towards your target team, in an attempt to "counter" your moves.
For the most part, people seem to find themselves somewhere in between #1 and #2, still going through the motions, but paying less attention to fantasy baseball. I actually have yet to find someone who legitimately embodied #3, but I wouldn't put it past any of you. Snakes in the grass, all of you.
I prefer #2, which probably comes as a surprise to some of you, who considered me the closest thing to a supervillain that you'd find in your lifetime. True, I enjoy being loathed, feared, etc., but, especially in our keeper league, I prefer to be thought of as a competitor. My goal, always, is to gain points. Sometimes that'll affect teams at the top, and that's how it goes. But going for a higher finish in the standings is the only goal I can feel good about, so that's what I'll do.
And I'll see you next year.
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