by Brian Walton
In what had to establish a new article length record of seven pages at KFFL, our Lord Zola recently set off a major disturbance in the Force - I mean, moderated a passionate discussion - among a number of industry writers and players on the subject of the appropriateness or inappropriateness of league leaders trading with also-rans.
Having been at or near the top of the standings for the previous three seasons in National League Tout Wars, this topic really struck a nerve. Not only have I encountered resistance trying to actually make trades in the past, I was experiencing trouble even getting replies to some e-mail inquiries.
I finished first in National League Tout Wars three years ago, and came in second the two subsequent seasons. Whether I could have closed the gap in either 2010 or 2011 will never be known, but I feel like I never fully had the chance because some refused to deal with me.
What if you don't need Kimbrel?
Not surprisingly, I happen to be among the stated majority (at least among the group of Zola's responders) who will consider all deals at all times if they can improve my team.
In fact, some leagues like Tout Wars penalize low-finishing teams with less FAAB the next season. At its essence, every point really does matter.
Yet, some fantasy players have developed their own vague value system ("I know it when I see it") about when and with whom trades are OK and when and with whom they are not.
Some believe in a self-defined credo that restricts them from even considering trades with teams near the top of the standings. This can cause considerable frustration in their league-mates when trying to make a deal to improve one's team.
I have challenged them with these questions, but have yet to be given any clear answers.
* Precisely which teams are off limits as trade partners? First place only? Top three? Top five?
* How many points ahead do the leaders need to be before it isn't kosher to deal with them? 10 points? 20 points?
* How many places in the standings can two teams be apart for a trade to still be acceptable? Two places? Six places?
* Same question as above for points apart.
* Do the answers to the above questions change on some sliding time scale that tightens up as the end of the season nears?
If those who live by these rules could start by just writing them down, the rest of us could at least know what we are dealing with. Of course, that isn't possible. The reality is that no one can articulate the above with any certainty. It is just subjective mush.
Many leagues already partially address this by having a set trade deadline. I wonder why those who complain about top teams trading with also-rans don't bring forward a nomination to change their league rules.
Move up the trade deadline, for example. Chances are these proposals would fail, though, because I suspect most owners are in favor of free trade.
Other owners are even less specific. They would consider trading with league leaders - perhaps - as long as the deals don't swing the balance of power in the league and affect the final results - as if they are capable of seeing the future.
In my view, when a trade is considered imbalanced, there is one of three possible reasons.
* A knowledgeable owner taking advantage of a less-knowledgeable one.
* A difference in view of player valuation/future performance.
In high-profile leagues, there isn't going to be collusion. Nor is any measurable disparity in knowledge levels present.
While I have made many trades over the years in Tout Wars, I don't think I have ever executed one with my Mastersball site-mates, Lord Zola and Rob Leibowitz. Though we have never discussed the reason why, I bet we are all extra careful to avoid creating any negative perception. I doubt we are alone in that.
That leaves the third option. Well, duh.
Let's face it - differences in player assessment is what makes our business go 'round.
It amazes me when others claim they know enough to gauge ahead of time which trades could "turn a league" or be "the difference-maker." I call BS on that.
No one knows ahead of time who is going to end up closest to the pin. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just blowing smoke.
In other words, that is why they (we) play the game. Given your leagues' trade deadlines are likely approaching, make sure you give improving your teams your best shot. Here is hoping those in your leagues play the game the right way - to win - but with all the opportunities to do so fairly.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league's 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.