I had won this competitive league on four separate occasions - including in 2007 - and was gunning for back-to-back titles. It had never been done. Yet, in the middle of June, I was sitting in first place.
I had come in with a terrible freeze list, and the auction I had didn't look good either. A hot April for my $6 Emil Brown and a lights-out month for my $9 Jose Guillen was keeping me looking good on offense, but I could hear the ffffffft as the air slowly escaped from my tires. I knew I needed offense.
At the same time, I also knew that my $37 bubble gum pitching staff wasn't going to hold up. Joakim Soria and George Sherrill had given me a fat lead in saves, but thanks to another owner's K-Rod/Ryan combo, I was in a dogfight. Cliff Lee had pushed me pretty far ahead in ERA/WHIP, but I knew that my Lee/Jose Contreras/Dana Eveland/Jesse Litsch/Aaron Laffey rotation was heavy on the smoke and the mirrors.
The bigger problem I had was that it was June 9 and I hadn't made a single trade.
With the exception of a late April swap of Melvin Mora for Jon Garland, the league had seen nothing but dump deals go down, and because I had won in 2007, I didn't have the chips I needed to make a big splash.
Then on June 16, I pulled off a trade that had more than a few howling bloody murder.
I gave: Mike Aviles ($10), Eddie Guardado ($1), Jesse Litsch ($1), George Sherrill ($10) and Kurt Suzuki ($13).
I got: Carlos Guillen (option year), Bobby Jenks ($31), John Lackey (option), A.J. Pierzynski ($13), Javier Vazquez ($16).
Even without the benefit of hindsight, I thought people were overreacting:
I don't think anyone thought Pierzynski was going to hit .301 the rest of the way, but he certainly looked better than Suzuki. Guillen would be a $20-25 player, and if he picked it up in the second half could have been a high $20s earner.
Aviles was probably just up for a cuppa joe.
With both Sherrill and Litsch, I was operating on the buy low/sell high strategy (though I still liked Litsch at $1)., Still, I thought both pitchers would take their lumps, and that Litsch might wind up at less than $8 when the season was over. I knew Lackey wasn't going to put up a 1.62/0.925 the rest of the way but expected a solid pitcher. Vazquez was OK, but I was hoping he'd be a better option than Eveland/Contreras/Laffey so I could move one of them sooner rather than later.
I know why people were overreacting. Litsch and Sherrill were perhaps OK component chips but not guys to build around. And who else did my trading partner get? Aviles at $10? Junk!
Meanwhile, I got a top 10 starter, another guy in the top 20, and someone in Jenks who would outperform Sherrill.
Suzuki out-earning Pierzynski stung a little bit, though my bad BA hitters had already led to me neglecting BA anyway. But having Aviles out-earn Guillen by $13 stung, bad batting average or no.
Even as the owner who made this trade, I wouldn't have told you that Litsch out-earned Lackey by $5. The only thing that worked out as I would have hoped was swapping out Sherrill for Jenks. Even Vazquez - who didn't quite kill me - didn't help enough to make me feel comfortable enough to swap out Lee in a dump trade.
As it was, the offensive categories were mostly a wash. I lost 1 HR, 16 RBI and 4 SB, which only lost me half a HR point. Even losing a 79 for 182 batting average (.434) was a wash; I would have been much closer to the two teams ahead of me, but still no better off.
Grabbing the extra starter did give me another point in wins. Because of Sherrill, the trade actually netted me .003 in WHIP - another wash. But where Vazquez was slightly positive in WHIP, he killed me in ERA. I lost a point here. I won saves going away (K-Rod's owner moved him at the deadline); Jenks made no difference there.
So this trade - that all of my colleagues were either patting me on the back for or grinding their teeth over in June - lost me half a point.
Even at this late date, my complaints fall on deaf ears. You didn't give up much, my colleagues say.
I agree. But that's not the point.
Because I had so little to give up, every trade had to be a win for me. I didn't expect Lackey to throw up a 2.00 to rest of the way. But a 3.50/1.2 would have been nice. Carlos Guillen didn't need to earn $32 like he did in 2006. But a $23-25 season would have made a huge difference.
One of the toughest things in carryover leagues is trying to compete year in and year out. Looking at the trades that went down after this one, I don't think I did poorly. I just didn't have the resources to grab Kevin Youkilis, Magglio Ordonez, and Josh Beckett (like an opponent did in a trade around the same time). I was stuck taking fliers on guys who were good but not elites.
And it didn't pan out.