How to deal with a rabble-rouser like Ron Shandler

If you’re lucky enough to be near the top of the standings in your league, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time considering those who are unfortunate to be near the bottom. But you should.

Last week, on subscription Website BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler posted a column entitled: “How to make enemies and influence pennant races.”

In the piece, Shandler talked about going into the 2009 season in one of his expert keeper leagues with a strategy to punt the year in the interest of rebuilding for 2010. Heading into the draft this year, he only kept players whose contracts would be desirable the following spring. During the draft, he built a large reserve of high-ceiling prospects. And when things didn’t go exactly as planned to start this season, he e-mailed the league to let everybody know that his best players, including Carl Crawford and Ryan Howard, would soon be dealt for attractive keepers.

Dump trades can be an irritating but inevitable aspect of keeper leagues, but Shandler took things a step further: After receiving some offers, he then upped the ante by sending out another e-mail that publicized in full detail all of them—inviting league members to step up to the plate and win the competition for his players with full knowledge of what everyone in the league was offering.

Unfortunately, in many fantasy leagues and particularly in keeper ones, those who are out of competition can, as Shandler’s column title accurately puts it, influence pennant races.

Not every hard-luck team is a rabble-rouser like Mr. Shandler either. Some can shake up the competitive balance of the league in more subtle ways.

Consider the team who falls out of competition, loses interest, and fails to make basic lineup adjustments like replacing an injured player in the active lineup. That team’s neglect may amount to free points and standings gain for some teams who under normal circumstances might languish.

Other teams may do things much more drastic like cutting a good player out of spite.

In short, any team that loses hope becomes prone to irrational roster moves, rash trading behavior, and unbecoming conduct that dampens the competitive security of those who are in the lead.

Successful teams need to take time to consider how to deal with the less fortunate.

In some instances, this requires, yes, charity.

If I’m doing well enough in the standings and I see a player on waivers who I can’t use, but I know this player might help one of the struggling teams, I might tactfully point it out to the team. (Besides, a good player that’s added to the last-place team’s roster doesn’t get taken by your nearest competitor.)

Also, I try not to go into trade negotiations with a struggling team with the idea that I’m going to rip them off and rob them of any competitive hopes. First, being generous makes a potential deal more likely. Second, the strategy raises the bar on negotiations between the struggling team and other competitors. And lastly, I want to mitigate the risk that a struggling team’s further performance decline becomes beneficial and advantageous to other teams.

Sometimes, however, being nice won’t do the trick.

Some stubborn teams have given up hope and wish to have some fun and excitement at the expense of others. What to do? Challenge their pride? Organize some sort of collective action against the trouble-maker? Sink to their level and become the beneficiary of the league’s king-maker?

It often depends on circumstance.

The Incompleat Starting Pitcher
The end of the nine-inning start and how we got here.

In Shandler’s case, he is, no doubt, a rabble-rouser, but at least he’s got his team at heart.

If I’m playing in his league, I don’t ignore him. Being non-cooperative can only result in ending up as the loser. Dealing with Shandler becomes the only choice.

Playing Shandler’s game by Shandler’s rules, however, is a completely different story. In next week’s column, I’ll be delving into some classic game theory to try to figure out a strategy that counters Shandler’s gambit.


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Andrew
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Andrew

“If I’m doing well enough in the standings and I see a player on waivers who I can’t use, but I know this player might help one of the struggling teams, I might tactfully point it out to the team.”

That is collusion in my opinion.

Eriq Gardner
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Eriq Gardner

Collusion implies an agreement between parties. There’s no agreement or secret arrangement. It’s advice, pure and simple, and the other team is free to accept or reject the advice.

Fowlezeroth
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Fowlezeroth

Delightfully Machiavellian!  I am near dead last in my league.  I’m going to drop Bedard, Fielder, Pedroia, Harang, Nolasco and others. Then tell other teams to pick them up!!! They will all then love me next year!!! INGENIOUS

Toffer Peak
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Toffer Peak
It may not be collusion per se but many people, myself included, would consider it slightly unethical. Teams shouldn’t be persuading other teams to make moves with the intent that they will weaken their competitors. Sure you should feel free to talk about players amongst teams in your league but pointing out specific waiver wire players that you think will weaken your competitors seems like its going too far. As far as preventing dumping in keeper leagues, I have always felt that if this is a problem then there is probably something wrong with the league set up. Assuming it… Read more »
Scooty Puff, Sr
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Scooty Puff, Sr

shandler’s behavior in publicizing trade offers received in hopes of getting better offers, AS USUAL, is unethical, poor sportsmanship, and smacks of the “take my ball and go home” mindset he so often espouses in respect to “his” fantasy leagues.  I can’t believe I ever bought his book.

Nathan
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Nathan

I guess I’m confused as to why this is bad for Shandler to do?  GMs of real teams, during trade times, are certainly letting other GMs know who is available and what others are offering, with the hope of getting a better offer.  This seems no different. 

Now, it’s perfectly within the rules of the game for that guy to pull back his trade offer in response, but I’m not sure why he’d do that.  Hopefully your offer stands up.  If it doesn’t, improve it or go without.

Eriq Gardner
Guest
Eriq Gardner
Not sure that Shandler’s behavior is unethical. That would mean he’s exercising poor morality, and the issue of how he trades doesn’t really hit that territory. At worst, Shandler is displaying poor etiquette. I assume that other owners sent him offers with the expectation that the negotiations would remain private. When Shandler publicized the offers, he betrayed that trust. Shandler certainly had the right to do what was in his team’s best interest, but I expect there could be repercussions the next time that a fellow owner in his league negotiates with him. Shandler may end up making a trade… Read more »
Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Wait, what? Did you really just say that offering advice to another owner is NOT collusion?

Eriq Gardner
Guest
Eriq Gardner
Yes, again, collusion is a secret arrangement between two owners. It implies some quid pro quo. If a team agreed to chase a certain category at the behest of another owner in return for future considerations, then I would agree that would be collusion. I don’t think that giving a team some feedback goes quite that far. Replying to Toffer’s point, I’m not talking about persuading teams to make moves counter to their own interests. I would agree that would be unethical. I don’t think that giving a team some advice on how to improve goes quite that far either.… Read more »
Scooty Puff, Sr
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Scooty Puff, Sr

Ok, I’ll give you the breach of etiquette.  Give me poor sportsmanship and I’ll call it even.  It’s up to his fellow owners to enforce a code of conduct and refuse to trade with him.  I wouldn’t (and haven’t) let that kind of thing fly without consequence. 

As far as suggesting that another owner pick somebody up, well, advice is free and I certainly don’t see anything wrong with it.  Presumably your colleague knows why you are suggesting it and can make up his or her own mind.

Mad Bum
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Mad Bum
Real life teams hold fire sales as well. They may not do so as publicly as Shandler did, but after awhile everybody learns what the price is for the fire sale players. Since fantasy is supposed to be a reflection of real life baseball, it doesn’t really offend me as to what Shandler is doing. As for providing helpful advice to loser teams. I do it all the time. It helps build rapport with another owner who you may want to deal with later on, or the following season. If you check, you might see that a lot of teams… Read more »
Fowlezeroth
Guest
Fowlezeroth

First!!!!!

you have to build trust by selling off your team in my league. I know guys who would not trade matt kemp to save their mother’s life. that dude speaks only spanish has an extremely large forehead and has been caught touching his &*!@# during draft day.

i for one think that there is no such thing as morality in a game.  its fantasy dudes. it counts for nothing.

kwak
Guest
kwak

In my keeper league (i’m commish) i instituted a rule to help prevent tanking. We are in a 3-year “contract” where we all bought in. As part of my pay out there is a Dynasty Winner, the team that has the best overall finish over a three year span wins an extra $200. Hopefully that will prevent gratuitous tanking. Plus, the 5th place guy gets his choice of draft spot the next year, and on down from there, with 3-2-1 getting the last spots.

Owen
Guest
Owen

I just joined a keeper Survivor league.  The last place team each year gets kicked out.  We start with 9, and by the end of year 3 we only have 7 teams competing.  This helps tanking too.

Millsy
Guest
Millsy
We’ve run into this problem the past couple years in my keeper league (actually, I think I had something to do with it).  This year we implemented a consolation tournament (winner gets an extra keeper slot or minor league slot for one season).  I’m all for allowing people to trade what they want (though sometimes I vehemently argue with trades that make my competitors any good…whether or not they’re worse than the deals I make).  No one likes it…and there’s ways to incentivize not totally dumping.  It’s going to happen, though, and it actually brings some realism to the league… Read more »
Rico
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Rico
1. Shandler Unethical? Wow…really?? Let me put it this way – if Shandler’s gambit has offended, outraged, or has otherwise ruffled your feathers, well then…you squat to pee. Unless Shandler promised the offering owner that he would not divulge said offer, or, there is a league rule that forbids the advertising of trade offers, then Shandler did nothing unethical, immoral, or beyond the pale. He simply used a guerilla marketing technique (unconventional marketing intended to get maximum results from minimal resources). I understand that the ‘advertising’ of trade offers can irritate some team owners and/or make them uncomfortable (I get… Read more »
Ted
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Ted

Shandler is so 2002

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