Anti-dumping arguments for keeper leagues

by on September 15, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT


And now... our dissenting opinions. (See Pro-dumping arguments in keeper leagues for the other side of the argument).

Matt Carter... Anti-dumping has become the Microsoft issue of rotisserie baseball. Those who oppose it, like the author of the submitted question, reward the oligarchs with the temerity to make that championship trade. Anti-dumping advocates prefer the regulatory arm of the rotisserie goverment, sometimes freezing needless quality on mediocre teams.

I've been staunchly anti-dumping for several years now. Teams will always act in their best interests, as they should, but winning teams will additionally act at the expense of others. Given no regulatory arm, they can have the effect of artificially rewarding runner-up teams as a quick fix for months of inferior team management.

Anti-dumping has its historical roots in the rules of the game. When you go to your auction, you bring the same $260 to the table as your opponents. One owner could probably afford to spend 350 to 400 real dollars, while another owner will balk at the expense. This is certainly more capitalistic (and reflective of real baseball), but cacophony to the poetry of $260 for 23 that makes the game artistic. Anti-dumping retains the level playing field upon which the game is based.

Nostalgia aside, the example cited by the submission's author did have a significant effect on the league. With no anti-dumping, the third place team finished second, the second place team finished first, and the first place team dropped to third. In other words, the third place team boosted his/her take by 67 percent, the second place team 100 percent, while the erstwhile league leader who did not benefit from a dump trade, fell a whopping 233 percent. Because dump trades rarely admit wannabes into the money slots, this series of dump trades had a profound effect on the final awards.

No keeper league I've played in abolished the anti-dumping rules along with the RLBA. Nor have they adopted $280 for 25. It's not a matter of keeping my head in the sand and being afraid to question authority. I believe the rules are well-tested over fifteen years and thousands of leagues. It's not a simulation, it's a challenge. I call it a Chinese finger puzzle. Rotisserie baseball is more egalitarian with anti-dumping regulations and better promotes the long term health of individual leagues.

Art McGee... I can only rely on the limited evidence of my experience, but I'm convinced that dump trades can have a significant influence on the outcome of leagues. Even in the example given by your reader, the first place team did not participate in dumping and finished third.

The restriction I favor is a rule that any player traded during the season has his contract status changed so that he is in the final year of his contract.

Ron Shandler... I don't like player dumping. I don't like the concept. And I don't buy any of the arguments from the PRO side of the ledger.

Fantasy baseball is a competition designed to test our abilities to evaluate baseball talent and, in the case of rotisserie, also test our ability to budget our resources to acquire that talent. Much emphasis is placed on draft preparation - and rightly so - because that is when we set our foundation for the year. Over the next 26 weeks, roster management skills - including trading - are important for everything from fine-tuning to changing course, but all the effort is still based in our ability to judge talent and project future performance.

For a single deal to have the effect of radically impacting the standings in a league is in direct opposition to everything that these leagues are based on.

In any given season, the goal is to win this year. As time passes, each team may vary from that goal somewhat, shooting for second instead of first, or just a money spot. At some point, some teams may pack it in for this year and focus on the next. But there has to be ways to accomplish this without upsetting the efforts of those who are still playing for this year. Draft planning and roster management should yield their just rewards, and certainly exceed the short-term reflex to mortgage one's future for the present. That takes no skill whatsoever.

As Matt so articulately puts it, "Given no regulatory arm, (dump deals) can have the effect of artificially rewarding runner-up teams as a quick fix for months of inferior team management." This is not what we're all about.

And as for some of the arguments from our experts...

1. ...the first assumption is that all the players in a league are on the up and up as far as their motivations are concerned. A bad assumption, for starters. Unless you assemble a league of Stepford Wives, there will be a variety of personalities and a variety of motivations. And as the season progresses, the chemistry changes... that laid-back competitor who seems to cruise each year watches his team drop 8 points in two weeks and suddenly shifts into panic mode. Nearly every league has its wheeler-dealers and spectators, its sharks and guppies, and in order to maintain that 'level playing field', as Allen puts it, there need to be at least some guidelines for fair play.

2. I've often seen reference to the need for fantasy to parallel the real thing as much as possible... This is an incredibly hypocritical statement, especially in rotisserie circles. We want to emulate Major League Baseball so we'll allow dump deals that are bad for league chemistry yet at the same time say that we're comfortable that stolen bases have the same measure of value as home runs? Yes, we should emulate all that is good about Major League Baseball, but not all is good. I don't think anyone would agree that the Marlins' massive purge was good for the game. Nor was the White Sox payroll purge. These were all financially motivated dumps - business decisions - and had little bearing on what was good or bad for the game as a whole. Given that we play fantasy baseball for some measure of enjoyment, and these type of deals invariably cause internal rift, why do we continue to allow them to exist?

3. ...dumping serves to help a league maintain its competitive balance in the long run. If we need these types of deals to redistribute talent, then there is something inherently wrong with this game. Rules should allow for liberal stocking of reserve and farm systems. Teams should be rewarded for doing their homework.

4. ...people were actually upset about (the dump deal because) they didn't get Jordan even though they would have paid a higher price for him. You hear this a lot, but it never eases the hard feelings. Somebody always loses out, because only one team can land that marquee player. And those that fail to deal are hurt by the arbitrary decision of the guy who just happens to have a $45 Barry Bonds on his roster. It takes no great skill to have a $45 Bonds on your roster; in fact, in many cases, it takes much less skill, which is why they are in a position to deal in the first place.

5. It helps if there is a tradition of enforcement and integrity by the commissioner, and integrity among owners that any apparent "unbalanced" trade can rationally be defended by all participants, to the satisfaction of a majority of owners. Now we put the onus on the commissioner and other owners to determine the difference between a "good" dump deal and a "bad" dump deal. "If it smells like the city dump, the trade gets voided" seems like a highly subjective way to handle things. Can we really trust the impartiality of someone's olfactory faculties?

6. The only time such a bottom-to-top trade can throw off the proper balance of competitiveness is when a GM is dumping his entire team... The allusion here is that a single player dump has little impact, but this is wrong. Fantasy leagues measure player and team performance quite differently from MLB. Several years ago, the Athletics dealt Mark McGwire to St. Louis in a classic MLB dump deal. Despite an excellent 14-HR half season after coming over to the NL, McGwire could not single-handedly lift the Cards into the playoffs. But those 14 HRs could very well have meant the difference in a rotisserie team's title quest. Shifts in talent have more far-reaching effects in fantasy baseball than in the real game, and we have to come to terms with that reality.

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Ron Shandler began publishing statistical reports for baseball analysts and fantasy leaguers in 1986. Since then, his enterprise has grown into one of the largest information providers in the industry, producing quality products continuously and over a longer period than any other fantasy baseball company.

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