Ask NotGraphs (#20)

Dear NotGraphs,

I manage a fantasy baseball team for my father. “Our” team is in 2nd place. He likes to brag to his friends that he’s the greatest Fantasy Team Owner ever, because he hired a great GM to do all the work for him. He hasn’t paid me yet, so I assume I still have time to negotiate an appropriate salary. What’s the going rate for a fantasy GM of a 2nd place team in a free fantasy baseball league?




Nice gig you’ve got there. And nice job getting him to 2nd place, although if you’re hoping he’ll pay you, perhaps you should wait until you’re in 1st place to have that conversation. Though maybe not… since if you’re in first place, I’m not sure you have a lot of leverage to ask for compensation. Assuming he’s not completely inept at the whole fantasy baseball thing, he might think, already in first place, he’d be better off taking over the team himself than paying you to coast. I suppose it depends on how much you’re asking for, and how much disposable cash he’s got. It was almost certainly pretty early in my first semester of contracts class in law school (where I was taught– and taught well– by Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren, but that’s for another post, and probably another blog entirely) where I learned that you negotiate terms in advance because once things actually start to play out, it’s too late to land on a fair bargain. One side inevitably has more leverage than the other. You can stop managing his team, but at some point, he can decide that your management for the rest of the season isn’t valuable enough to be worth what you’re asking. He has all the power.

Which means you should have negotiated the deal in advance. $X up front, and then a bonus depending on where you finished. Sort of like a hedge fund manager. A management fee, so you win even if you lose, and then a percentage of the gain, which in this case is non-monetary, but, still, his pride and ability to boast is surely worth something.

Disregarding the fact that you should have sent this question in two months ago, I will attempt to figure out fair compensation. I assume part of your job was the draft. The draft itself was, what, three hours, with, say, fifteen hours of prep (am I revealing that I spend too much time preparing for fantasy drafts, or too little?). Each week, let’s suppose you spend two hours on lineup changes, add/drops, and trade negotiations. Maybe we can add another hour per week on research. Reading FanGraphs, stuff like that. So that’s 75 hours over the course of the season, plus 18 hours of pre-season prep. I don’t think anyone would argue if we round up that 93 hours to an even hundred. We’ll call the extra seven hours the time you spend debriefing your father and updating him about the team. So, a hundred hours of time over the course of the season.

A terrible fantasy baseball manager probably isn’t worth anything over replacement value. Replacement value, in this case, perhaps being the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour. That gives you $725 for the year. Not bad, if you’re asking me. I’d take $725 to manage someone’s fantasy team, and wouldn’t even think twice about it. That may mean my numbers are too high. More likely, it means I put very little value on my time.

But a high finish means you’re better than replacement value, and deserve more in compensation. I don’t think $15/hour for the skilled labor of managing a fantasy team is an outrageous number. That would get you $1500 for the season. Childcare in big cities, I am told, goes for something closer to $20/hour. Surely no one would argue that taking care of a baby should be better-compensated than leading a fantasy team to victory. That gets you $2000 for the season. That feels like an upper limit.

So: $725 base fee. And, say, if there are 12 teams, $100 for every place above last that you finish, with an extra $175 bonus for finishing first, to bring you to an even $2000. That would be my proposal.

My Scoresheet team is currently in first place, trouncing the competition. Meaning: anyone who wants to pay me the rate I’ve just proposed, to manage their team, any league, any format, you know where to reach me. (Somehow, I don’t expect the e-mails to start overflowing my inbox. Why your father, or anyone, wants to own a fantasy baseball team but hire someone else to manage it, I can not understand. Maybe if it were a money league. Even then, I don’t think I get it, but at least I can see why it would cross someone’s mind.

(Also, if your father was a good father, and you like each other, I think you should probably just chalk this up to relationship-building and skip handing him an invoice. Just steal some stuff from his house next time you’re over there and sell it on eBay. People have too many things. They can’t possibly notice if some of them start to disappear.)

Good luck,

Have a question for Ask NotGraphs!? Send! About baseball, not about baseball, doesn’t really matter, I’ll answer (almost) anything. E-mail me, or leave your question in the comments!

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Jeremy Blachman is the author of Anonymous Lawyer, a satirical novel that should make people who didn't go to law school feel good about their life choices. Read more at McSweeney's or elsewhere. He likes e-mail.

5 Responses to “Ask NotGraphs (#20)”

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  1. Guy says:

    you should give career advice. i just found myself a new job in fantasy sports management.

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  2. MikeS says:

    When did Brian Cashman start writing letters to notgraphs?

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  3. Zippy says:

    Please send me some of whatever you are smoking. It must be some pretty good stuff.

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  4. Paul says:

    As I know both the father and the GM for hire in this situation, my suggestion is that the GM take the advice and begin selling things on e-bay. I’d suggest power tools, he has so many that one or two won’t go noticed, hell he may even forget he owned them and just go buy new ones to replace them.

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  5. John R. says:

    A problem with your analysis: you’re using the U.S. minimum wage for the replacement GM, but I see no reason why the management of a fantasy baseball team can’t be outsourced. Sadly, not many people in China or India follow baseball, but I’m sure there you can hire a cheap fantasy GM somewhere in the Carribean.

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