Kicking Rocks: Early Tankers

“Winners never quit and quitters never win,” is probably one of those old adages you had shouted at you numerous times growing up. It doesn’t matter if you played a competitive sport, were in the math league or on the chess team (think I’ve covered our base demographic here, no?), you’ve heard it countless times. And if you haven’t, that’s probably because you weren’t paying enough attention and why you’re now living in your mom’s basement, working some dead end job, using a fake name and email to troll on the internet. But I digress. We’re here to talk about quitters — quitters in fantasy baseball leagues, obviously, not in life.

In relatively new re-draft leagues, particularly ones put together at the office, it’s somewhat expected. There’s always one guy, whether it’s a Lumbergh or a Milton, who begs his way into the league because he wants to be “one of the guys” yet as the season progresses and his team drifts towards the bottom of the standings, his interest wanes to the point where you now have what is known as a zombie team in your league. For those unfamiliar with the term, that’s the team that is mostly dead — the active roster is littered with players who have either lost their jobs, been shuttled down to the minors, or are on the DL for an extended period of time. There are still a few quality guys there, but you have no hope of obtaining them as the owner either never responds to trade emails or he constantly gives you the brush off, saying that he’ll look tonight when he gets home, but never does. The team may steal a point in the standings here or there, but with almost no life, he’ll give it back eventually. Usually to your opponent at just the wrong time. Like I said, mostly dead. And not even a pill from Miracle Max will bring it back.

In keeper leagues, the quitters can be an even bigger and more disruptive problem. Occasionally you end up with a zombie team as the league was forced to replace a retiring owner and found someone they thought would be dedicated but in the end, turned out to be a flake. It happens. The one-and-done is something we’ve all seen before and while it’s annoying for that particular season, you know the issue will be corrected with a more thorough search the following year. The problem in keeper leagues are the ones who find themselves in the middle to lower end of the pack two months in and rather than fight their way back to the top and be competitive, they quit on the season and begin offering their entire roster for any semblance of a protect for next year.

Like them or not, dump trades are a regular part of a keeper league. I often lobbied against them, but also found my team suffering in the standings as I was holding myself to a higher standard in trading only to see the teams behind me cast off a star player with a bunch of filler in exchange for four and sometimes five quality guys. I couldn’t beat ‘em, so I joined ‘em and after a few seasons of that, the league began to police itself and all became right with the universe. But there’s always one bad apple who spoils the bunch and tries to push through some non-collusive yet utterly egregious trade that fires up a nice email war.

But dump trades aren’t for now. They’re for further down the road closer to the trade deadline. They’re for after you’ve done everything you possibly can, exhausted every possible resource, and made every possible attempt to improve your squad and be a competitive force in your league. Doing them now is just lazy. It means you either don’t know how to play this game and negotiate a trade or you just don’t want to. It’s easier to quit on the season now than to fight for a better place in the standings. And for lack of a better way to say it, that’s just lame.

If you make a commitment to play, then play the season out the way it’s supposed to be played out. Be as competitive as you can be. If it’s a re-draft league, it’s one season out of your life. Play it out. Even if you don’t think you can win, be an active participant. Zombie teams suck and it ruins the game for everyone. If you’re in a keeper league and want to tank the current season, fine, but do it at the appropriate time. Too early and you’re basically cutting the number of teams in the league by half as others near the bottom will undoubtedly follow suit so they don’t miss out on all the best protects. The rest of us, we want to fight it out the way it’s supposed to be done so don’t screw us over with your quitter’s mentality. If we wanted to play in an eight-team league we would have done so from the start.

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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

21 Responses to “Kicking Rocks: Early Tankers”

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  1. Dancing Homer says:


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    • Howard Bender says:

      Whoops. Yes, edited. Thank you. Too much San Francisco in my diet.

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      • Dancing Homer says:

        Hey, I’ve fallen victim to many a late night at Kennedy’s Irish Pub and Curry House. I know where you’re at. Love these Kicking Rocks pieces.

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  2. jon says:

    Hey Howard – are you liking what Leonys Martin is doing these past 7 days or so? Washington said he’s gonna “ride him and see what he can do”? What kind of leagues should Martin be added in given dearth of speed across the league?

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    • Howard Bender says:

      Definitely like what he’s done recently. A must-own in AL-only play and is probably a good pick-up in mixed roto leagues or 12 or more teams. Not so sure how he’ll do for you in H2H play yet. Would need to be in the lineup 5-6 times per week consistently for that.

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  3. Fedee_ says:

    It’s also annoying when the league manager won’t kick out those quitters you speak of. Very frustrating for those of us who actually care

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  4. John M says:

    I have one of these. He quit in mid-April and worse yet he has several upper-tier third basemen (Longoria, HanRam, and Headley) while my team gets by with Kyle Seager. :-/

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  5. Jonathan Sher says:

    It’s so easy to say it’s too soon for dump trades but the truth depends upon the context of the league. In a deep keeper league — think 12 teams, AL or NL only, with 40 man rosters including reserve, the truth is that some team are out of it by June – there just isn’t enough left of unclaimed talent to make up for systemic weaknesses. Yet you would have them sit on their trade-able assets until the trade deadline, by which time their trade value has been reduced in half.

    In a keeper league owners jockey between the goals of winning this year and building a team that will win in future years. Sometimes owners concede one of the goals to pursue the other. Sometimes they seek a balance. But as long as they are pursuing one goal or the other, they are in no sense of the word “quitters.”

    Smarter owners take that tension into account as they build their teams. They know the value of having low-priced assets that can be traded to make a run for this year and having higher-prices stars that can be traded to build for the future.

    Of course, some owners make bad trades too but that happens with both dump-trades and the non-dump variety. Some owners disengage so much from following baseball they can’t be smart, active participants, and that’s bad too.

    But making smart trades for the future? That’s being a quitter? Hardly.

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    • Theo says:

      Agreed. Context. As a losing team in a 16-team Keeper w/ 25 man rosters where 5 players can be kept each season as long as the owner likes, you don’t see much turnover in terms of the top, game-changing players. Therefore, it makes sense for me to move a package of solid players for Braun in what might be a lost year for the Brewers slugger (injury, suspension,etc), if the Braun owner is uneasy about him and has enough other stars/pieces to make a run. Or to eat a roster spot for Taveras all season in hopes of him emerging as one of those 5 players I build a team around for the next 5-10 years, even if it does cost me a backup 3B or #7 SP this year in the process and a random point or two in the standings. If it’s a good league not dominated by 1-3 teams every year then odds are it will be cyclical and everyone will go through the winning and losing process.

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  6. Cybo says:

    I quit a keeper after one year cause the LM was one of which you speak. The lamewad had 3 3rd round picks for this year after tanking his team around this time last season.

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  7. tommy says:

    My mom’s basement is quite comfortable i’ll have you know. sometimes the sunlight creeping in hurts my eyes, but thats about all i can complain about.

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  8. Millsy says:

    Sounds like you would have been upset at my plan for this season after 5 straight years of competing in my H2H categories keeper league (and 2 championship appearances). All my keepable assets were traded last year to get to the playoffs, and therefore no real keepers this season. Went into auction simply to buy superstars to trade for top prospects and ended up with Votto-Kemp-Tulowitzki.

    Traded those 3 at the beginning of Week 3 of the season. Now still have Reyes to send off for some more to add to Myers-Buxton-Bundy-Correa-Donaldson and a slew of picks for our upcoming midseason and 2014 preseason minor league drafts.

    Part of the game. If I had waited, I’d be screwed with Kemp and Tulo on the DL and nowhere to go.

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    • Jason B says:

      Totally agree…one man’s “too early” may be another’s “just the right time”. Plus you should be able to get more back in prospects for 4 months of your studs rather than 2.

      If it causes too much consternation, then set a trade window (a fairly wide one) in the calendar that the entire league can agree to.

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  9. CPT Sean says:

    I think good players need to exploit the weaker or rebuilding teams to be successful. They are basically sharks. They must prey on the weak to survive. I poached Ryan Braun from a team when he lost Griekne to the brawl. Then traded for a closer with another team. Then traded for Grienke with the same team when he came back. Then traded for another closer. I think it’s also important to trade for value though too. I have traded away Posey, Stanton, Bruce, Fowler, Gomez, and countless others to get where I am. I never really give up either. I actually took a 7th place team at the All Star Break into a first place team and settled for second. They key to winning is to be always moving forward….just like a shark. Its important to be a a fair shark, though and be willing to move your good talent for upgrades.

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  10. Sandlot Scrub says:

    These Kicking Rocks columns have become my favorite reading and this one is spot on. Obviously, pay to play leagues help to discourage zombie teams, but I am in some free public leagues where you can almost see the cobwebs forming on the rosters $#@$!!$#!!!!

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    • jfree says:

      This. Free leagues are worth exactly what you pay for them. Complaining about “other owners simply aren’t willing to waste as much time as they should in return for nothing at all” is – well – a real waste of time.

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      • Sandlot Scrub says:

        Your point is well taken. However, I enjoy playing in several different leagues and my budget does simply not allow me to afford avoiding free leagues. I guess I am old fashioned, but once I commit to a league, free or pay, I feel a certain responsibility to compete each week, regardless of whether I am in first or last place.

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  11. dirck says:

    There is a guy in one of my dynasty leagues who has never made a single trade in over 10 years . In fact from personal experience and in talking to other owners,he has never even responded to a single trade offer . I stopped sending him trade offers years ago as did everyone else except new owners who come in .He makes out his line-up every week ,drops guys who crash and picks up free agents ,but he has never made the play-offs or been in contention at any time .He doesn’t really qualify as either a quitter or a non-participant but it is strange behavior .

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  12. Drongo McReddickbeard says:

    For the sake of having a life, I only play one standard roto team per year, but I play it out fairly obsessively. It seems most zombies are those guys that play in 20 different leagues and give up on the ones that aren’t winning early. The league that I’m in this year may be the worst ever – 12 teams and only 7 still active in June.

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  13. skip says:

    We simply have a rule that anybody traded can’t be kept. It works out pretty well.

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  14. Jumpinjoe says:

    Play in a kepper league thats going 10+years now, We have a guy who has tanked for a couple of years , getting #1 picks in the redrafts, I call him the Contributor, and now last week made a trade for Hosmer, Cespedes for McCann and Profar with another guy, who ststed “he’s out of it ” as we speak he is tied for second place in his division , I believe he doesn’t understand that baseball changes year to year and players have such up and down careers….good luck to everyone

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