Gotta love Frank Zappa, who lifted the name of his great band from the timeless and brilliant Plato's The Republic, wherein the Greek philosopher noted that "necessity is the mother of invention."
I believe Plato -- as affirmed by Mr. Zappa -- is correct: We human beings do our best and most creative thinking when both the means to a solution are limited and the need for that solution is critical.
As a fantasy player and writer over the past 20-plus years, one thing I have indeed always tried to do is deconstruct and think of different ways to get to first place in my respective leagues. In other words, to embrace Plato's statement, within the construct of the rules of my respective roto leagues, I try to find a way to win that is outside the box, as they say.
For the most part I have had some success. In a mixed league in the mid-'90s, I remember trading in the offseason for all the stars I could. I wound up freezing the maximum number of players -- 12 -- at an aggregate cost of $231 dollars.
Who knew? Great FAAB grab
That meant I had $29 to spend on my remaining 11 players, and when I announced my freezes, the co-owners all laughed and joked about what an idiot I was.
However, we were in a 12-team mixed format, and I knew from experience there would be plenty of starting players left over to fish at the end.
The bottom line is I slaughtered them all, winning the league by 12 points, which was, needless to say, very satisfying.
When I was first invited into Tout Wars, in 2001, the league shifted to a 5x5 format, adding runs and whiffs to the scoring mix, and all the pundits noted that saves were now devalued. I thought not, since a good closer will both earn saves and strike guys out, so I nabbed two closers -- Derek Lowe and Keith Foulke -- right away and never looked back, winning the league as a rookie.
Of course at times I have become a victim of my own twisted visions, finishing last with epically bad teams. But, I don't really care in that I always learn something even if the bottom line is "hmm, that doesn't work."
This brings me to last Saturday's Tout Mixed auction where Fantasy Baseball Sherpa head Scott Swanay found himself in trouble by draft's end, with $61 on the table.
What did Scott do?
Well, to start let me note that Scott boxed himself in enough by simply not being decisive enough. Drafting, in particular auctions, is tricky and subtle, with essence of being able to negotiate through the process successfully being rooted in reading the player values and costs, in seeing how the pool is disseminating, and then knowing when to be bold and make a move.
So, Scott may have managed the first two items above, but he failed miserably with that third step, which is the most important as that is the trigger that actually builds rosters. Had Scott moved with Darth Vaderian "swift strokes," he would not have had that much money left over (easily enough for one major star plus, or two very very good players).
However, Scott did present a path to potential redemption by bidding that $61 on the dead-armed Brandon Beachy. And, this is a brilliant potential solution, although truth be told, it was Glenn Colton who reasoned the plot with his partner Rick Wolf during a spot on SiriusXM as they were analyzing the draft in process. So, even though the solution is terrific, Glenn gets the genius credit, while Scott simply borrowed the idea.
The trick here is that once Beachy is put on the DL, Scott will be able to claim the money spent, thus giving him a serious FAAB edge with $161 to the rest of the league's $100.
Of course there are questions about whether there should be a rule preventing such a move, as in should a player who was never active during the season be eligible to be part of that reclaim process?
Owners have already argued that the tactic will seriously tilt the free agent pool, where Scott can either dominate, or trade some of his excess FAAB for an active player, which is legit in Tout.
Personally, I see this as more hoopla, whether the plan is devious or legit. That is because aside from the question of how many impact players fall into the player pool, identifying those players as soon as they are called up is equally challenging (and note, Scott is in the mixed format, where interleague swaps are moot).
A case in point is Jose Fernandez, who was a great addition last year, and who went both in Tout and LABR for around $21 of FAAB.
Had we known, however, just how good the young Marlin would be, the price for his services would likely have tripled.
But, well, we didn't know how good Fernandez would be at that time, proving that the guessing game of how to manage those precious FAAB resources in an optimal fashion is not as easy as some might make it sound.
As for me, I am indeed anxious to see how all this unfolds over the course of the season (in fact you can follow along at Mastersball.com, where we run a weekly report on the FAAB transactions for LABR and Tout).
That means the only other question is whether Scott's team will prove to be an unexpected sleeper, or one of those "epic failures."
Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.