- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

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.