Kicking Rocks: Fantasy Darwinism

They’re baaaaaaaaaack!

Remember the jumpers? That’s right, just three games into the regular season and they have returned. You know who I’m talking about. They’re the ones in your league who just can’t seem to control themselves. They’re the ones with the itchy trigger fingers when it comes to the waiver wire. They’re the ones who have to make a trade right now. They’re the ones who blow through the majority of their FAAB budget before the end of April. And you know what…? They’re the ones who trash their fantasy season before it even really starts.

Justin Smoak is batting .462 with two home runs and seven RBI? He was such a highly-touted guy when he was a rookie. I knew he’d come around. Matt Adams may not even play every day, so I can just drop him for Smoak, right?

I have three closers on my roster but Jose Valverde is taking over the job for the Mets. How much should I spend out of a $100 budget for the year? $20? $30? I dunno. I really don’t want anyone else in my league to get him so I’ll put $36 on him. That should lock him up.

Or how about the guy who, on the day after the draft, announces to the league that he is putting Justin Upton on the trading block and will deal him for the best offer? Then less than three hours later you get an email notification that he has already made a deal. What happened to comparison shopping? Are you so crazed and impatient that you couldn’t possibly wait for more than one offer to come your way? Maybe see if there might have been something better on the horizon?

You know who they are. Every league has them.

Now normally, I like to use these pieces as a way to educate the fantasy-challenged. That was actually the original premise when I first started this series. It was a look from the “everyman” perspective and a way for you, the readers to see just how silly some of the behavior actually is. But now I’ve seen the light and have realized that you simply can’t make someone realize their own stupidity. They’re that dumb. I’ve used the example before and it’s very apropos here. People with seriously rank body odor have no idea how bad they smell because they can’t smell themselves. Well, fantasy jumpers will always be around because they just don’t realize that they’re doing it wrong. South to drop off, moron!

So with that, I turn to you, the savvy GM; the competitive and wise fantasy player who knows what it takes to win a championship in your fantasy leagues. Treat the jumpers like chum in the water. Be the shark. Feed on their stupidity. Take full advantage. They say a fool and his money will soon part? Well a jumper and his fantasy studs will too. Rip them to shreds. Devour them. Win your league at their expense. If the rest of the owners don’t like it, then either they can join the feeding frenzy or find more competent owners to bring into the league. It’s called ‘Fantasy Darwinism.”

While every league loves to have their annual donators, let’s face it, the competitiveness of the league dwindles the more there are of them. Your league becomes less about knowledge and skill and more about which shark feeds off the fat seal the most. You’ll see a division form within the league where you have six great owners at the top fighting for a championship every year and six dumbfounded idiots who just can’t seem to get a hold of this darn game. Well, why not just play in a six-team league then? That’s basically what you’re doing.

Get rid of these buffoons. Give them the heave ho. Don’t kick them out for being bad owners, but simply make them want to quit. Or better yet…make them want to be better players. Make them want to learn how to do to you or to some other bottom-feeder what you’ve been doing to them for years. Those who get it will stay in and work harder. Those who don’t will simply quit. Survival of the fittest. Fantasy Darwinism. Just don’t bring in another jumper. Your league will never find competitive balance that way.

So now that I have you all fired up here and ready to gnash your teeth on the fantasy flesh of your moronic rivals, allow me to bring down the room here for a moment.

Writing for FanGraphs has been a privilege that I have enjoyed for nearly four years, but all good things must come to an end. With the permission of my esteemed editor, Eno Sarris, I would like to take a moment to say goodbye to all of you dedicated and loyal readers. I have accepted a managing editor job with another company in the fantasy sports business and will be writing exclusively for them from now on. This has been an absolute pleasure. To those who have supported me, I thank you for all the encouragement. For those who enjoyed trolling my posts, I thank you for making my skin that much thicker. This has been an amazingly fun ride.

You can still find me on Twitter (@rotobuzzguy) and from there, you’ll be able to find my work which will continue. Yes, even my Kicking Rocks series will live on.

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do, I saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

Bender out.

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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

24 Responses to “Kicking Rocks: Fantasy Darwinism”

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  1. Paul says:

    Well, that was an iffy farewell. What if the Justin Upton owner knows he has too many OF and wants to get a good IF return on a trade? What if, after a draft, an owner realizes he didn’t get himself enough high-end speed? Or what if he just thinks tinkering with his team is part of the fun of fantasy? Yes, of course you’re right on Smoak/Adams, but early moves are sometimes critical moves. Chill.

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    • Howard Bender says:

      Not saying that tinkering isn’t a part of the fantasy experience. I was saying that the guy jumps at the first offer that comes his way rather than shopping the player around. There’s a difference.

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      • Paul says:

        “They’re the ones with the itchy trigger fingers when it comes to the waiver wire.”

        And really, buffoons? Does this upset you that much?

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      • Paul says:

        BTW, usually like your stuff a lot. Sorry to be commenting when I don’t.

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      • Howard Bender says:

        All good, Paul. Maybe try imagining that this was written by George Costanza and he takes his fantasy baseball verrrrrry seriously.

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  2. scotman144 says:

    You’ll be missed in these parts Howard. I have loved Kicking Rocks at RG and will continue to be on the lookout for your work elsewhere. Best Wishes in your new endeavor!

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  3. Manny Ramirez says:

    Dios mio, I’ll miss you Howard! Keep up the good work. And keep me in mind for as a second-half impact sleeper. I haven’t retired yet….

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  4. Lenard says:

    Thanks for all of the articles Howard! Good luck with your new position!

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  5. MustBunique says:

    Well done Bendy. Good luck.

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  6. Kam says:

    Best of luck Howard!

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  7. Dick Schofield says:

    So, I have Nate Jones, Jim Henderson, and Casey Janssen but should just sit tight instead of grabbing every middle reliever I can? Don’t think so, April offers more newly minted closers than any other month and I’m not sitting it out. Sean Doolittle, Josh Fields, Frankie- come to papa and his empty FAAB.

    Enjoyed this series quite a bit and I guess we check in on Twitter to find its new home.

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  8. Norm says:

    A couple people in these comments read this article as ‘If you make an April transaction, you are a buffoon’.

    I got more ‘SOMEBODY in your league is going to make panicky, bad choices in April. It is incumbent upon you to improve your league by removing these owners, or at least take advantage of them.’

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    • Jason B says:

      Agreed. I don’t even think they should be booted, just take advantage of their itchy trigger finger. I’m patiently coming along behind, scooping up Jedd Gyorko after his 0/10 start.

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      • Ante GALIC says:

        Exactly! some nitwit (actually two different nitwits in two different leagues) dropped aroldis chapman!!! Chapman!!! Having Jansen and Chapman in a shallow, H2H, points, re-draft league for July, August and September is what wins the championship. No way that chapman is dropped, no way.

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  9. Zimmerman says:

    Good luck Howard in your new adventure.

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  10. MLB Rainmaker says:

    I agree to an extent, but at the same time, being afraid of change is just as lethal. There are certainly breakouts that establish themselves this early in a season and there are certainly reasons that make it justifiable to drop players despite a handful of ABs.

    For example, I drafted Nick Castellanos in a league, based on following him in a long-term keeper league and feeling good about his potential. Three games, in his average is fine, but its clear he’s going to bat at the bottom of the Tigers lineup all season. On plain statistics, he’s going to get less ABs, score less runs and get fewer RBIs. Flip to Smoak, and the guy is hitting clean-up behind Robbie Cano; even if he doesn’t slash near what Castellanos will slash, Smoak will be worth more on counting stats along given his lineup position and protection.

    I don’t think that’s being a buffoon, that’s just reacting to strategy and lineup of MLB teams, which you can only guess about before the season starts.

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  11. th3byrdm4n says:


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  12. John Elway says:

    Happy trails, Howard. Here’s one last shoutout for you:


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  13. Freddy T says:

    Congratulations Howard. Your work here as been well received and appreciated. Good luck to you and I’ll be on the lookout for Kicking Rocks and your new home.

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  14. John M says:

    Good luck on your new position, Howard!

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  15. Los says:

    Someone dropped Rizzo for Smoak in my league. I have Hosmer, Ortiz, and Abreu so not sure what to bid with FAAB. Hoping to be able to make a trade but this type of manuever is ridiculous.

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  16. Howard Sober says:

    Later Howard thanks for your excellent service. You will be gone but not forgotten. At least for a couple months. Then your memory will likely remain only in the archives.

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  17. Lamarck says:

    Major gaps in the geological record render the jumper theory inconclusive.

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  18. Jared says:

    For those of you thinking he’s just talkin about any player who makes transactions this early, I can tell you from experience that’s not what he is talking about. We have three jumpers in our league, which in ONE WEEK’S TIME has already resulted in Latos, Kuroda, and Mauer (he drafted three catchers, including Yadier Molina and Lucroy; why he chose to drop the one he drafted first, I will never know).

    This league is the worst.

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