Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Difficult Ones

In nearly every league there is, they exist. Regardless of whether you play eight-team mixed or 13-team N.L.-only, every league has The Difficult Ones. They are the owners you might make some trades with now and again, but for the most part do not work well with others. Why fight tooth and nail with an owner who gives you a hard time when you can e-mail one of the eight or nine reasonable owners in the league and explore a trade fairly easily?

The Difficult Ones aren't one size fits all. There are several different types of Difficult Ones, and not every type is in every league. If you're lucky (or if you haven't been playing fantasy baseball for that long) maybe you've never even encountered a Difficult One. But if you've been playing for a long time, you've probably encountered at least a few of these personality types.

"I Have to Talk to My Partner"
Years ago, back when e-mail was a relatively new medium and I still used to talk on the phone to most owners, there was this guy in my league who was a piece of work. I'll call him...Len. Len and I would have long conversations about his players and my players and we would always seem to reach an accord on the framework of a deal. But then he would tell me "I have to talk to my partner." The first time he told me this, I didn't think much of it. I've dealt with owners who have partners before, and I was quite accustomed to waiting an extra day before finding out whether or not I had a deal.

In this case, though, the partner seemed to be nothing but an impediment to ever getting anything done. After talking to his partner, Len would come back to me in an agitated state. He was upset because he thought we'd be able to make a deal, but his partner didn't like it. He didn't have any suggestions from his partner mind you, just complaints that he thought we might have a deal but his partner didn't like it so we didn't have a deal. This happened quite a few times.

I will never forget the answering machine message Len left me that went on and on about how he wanted to make the "great" deal I had proposed but he had to get back to his partner. This was in the days before voice mail, so my then-girlfriend had the joy of hitting play on the answering machine and hearing the entire message. I don't know if I had ever heard her laugh so loudly at anything as she laughed at that pathetic message. Len must have said partner 50 times within a five-minute span, in a thick Long Island accent that made it sound like he was saying "paaaart-nuhr." While my girlfriend yukked it up, I was less jovial. While having a little fun at Len's expense was all well and good, I knew we were never going to be able to make a trade as long as his partner stood in the way of all of Len's hopes, desires and dreams. The entertainment value of Len's rambling answering machine messages gave way to frustration and I stopped dealing with him. I have generally found that when someone says they have to check with their partner 99 times out of a 100 you're not going to make a deal.

Mr. Lopsided
Mr. Lopsided isn't one particular owner, but rather a composite of every owner of this ilk I have ever dealt with in my Rotisserie Baseball playing life. Sometimes he'll start right off the bat with the shitty offer. I don't mind this so much. I'll usually ignore his e-mail and go on about my day. What's worse is when an owner who is an obvious fit with you in terms of needs tells you that he wants to make a trade and you think, "great, there's a good chance we can help each other out." You spend time looking at your roster and his roster and coming up with multiple scenarios that are reasonable and mutually beneficial. Maybe he won't like any of your scenarios, but they all provide the framework for a trade. But it turns out you were only fooling yourself all along. Because you're not dealing with a Reasonable Owner but rather with Mr. Lopsided. Nothing's going to get done unless you count getting pissed off at another human being and screaming curses under your breath so your children don't hear you as getting something done.

In the end it doesn't really matter if Mr. Lopsided starts out with the shitty offer right away or eventually comes through with it later. The end result is the same. Eventually, you learn that there is nowhere to go in terms of a reasonable negotiation and you're better off going elsewhere.

There are a couple of other things worth noting about Mr. Lopsided.

1) This isn't an episode of Family Ties (yeah, I'm old, what of it?). You're not going to have some teachable moment with Mr. Lopsided at the kitchen table in the final act like Steven Keaton did at the end of every damn episode with Alex, Mallory, Jennifer or the annoying fourth kid whose name I can't remember at the moment. Don't waste your time trying to lecture Mr. Lopsided about what a terrible offer he made. There is always going to be some specious reasoning about why his offer was pretty decent, and how Matt Downs for Aramis Ramirez is fair because Downs is a .350 hitter on Saturdays and Aramis sounds like the name of a woman's fragrance and not a baseball player so by this flawless logic you should pull the trigger.

2) Don't bother with the obnoxious counter offer. I used to send equally bad offers to an owner who sent terrible offers but the owner never seemed to understand what I was doing. He'd always ask me something along the lines of "really? You think that's what Matt Kemp is worth?" as if he thought I was really asking him to give me Kemp for a scrub and not trying to shame him with a terrible counter to his lousy offer.

What's particularly aggravating about Mr. Lopsided is that he exists because there are always one or two owners in the league who do take his crappy offers and thus justify (to him at least) what he's doing. There's not much you can do about this but grin and bear it, but it is frustrating when you're a fair minded owner and see Mr. Lopsided turn around and make such a great deal when all he does is make terrible offer after terrible offer.

Joseph Stalin
There is always at least one owner in every keeper league who is always looking at the future. I call him Joseph Stalin because it seems like he's always on a five-year plan. Joseph prefers Cheslor Cuthbert over Paul Konerko, and even if he is five points out of first place and has a great chance at winning won't pull the trigger to get the players he needs to win. Joe is a man perpetually and futilely chasing the sunset into the horizon. He desperately clings to the idea of building and building and building, ultimately forgetting that what he is building toward is a championship, not a dream team that will help him win the league in some distant future where we finally have our flying cars and our ray guns that disintegrate our enemies into the tiniest of subatomic particles.

Joe also won't consider taking your player with the $10 salary worth $15-17 because he doesn't consider this player a freeze. He wants the lottery ticket that will turn into Mike Trout next year. But Mike Trouts don't grow on trees, so while he might get a Mike Trout or Jesus Montero, usually Joe winds up with half a dozen Grant Greens: useful players (assuming Green makes it), but also borderline freezes at $10. Joe usually has a freeze list with a lot of risk and a lot to spend. This puts Joe in a nearly identical position every season: inflation eats up the value he had on his team and he's playing for next year again before you can say Sputnik. Joe is easy to trade with if you happen to have a Trout-type sitting on your roster but otherwise he's next to impossible to reason with. You're almost always better off making dump deals with someone more reasonable who knows that you need a mix of young guys and undervalued veterans to win a competitive auction-format league.

The Angry/Crazy Man
For the angry man, everything you say is a challenge to his knowledge and abilities as a player. Even when you're agreeing with him, there's always an excuse to look to pick a fight. I'm not sure if this owner isn't paying attention or if he is paying attention and is trying to rattle you, but the end result isn't what's important. There is the potential for a hostile reaction with every possible exchange, and you might wind up on the defensive or in an argument with the angry/crazy owner...even if you were in general agreement with him on the trade you wanted to make or the categories you wanted to swap when you started negotiating. In the end, you might even find yourself taking a slightly less favorable deal from a less belligerent owner because you don't feel like getting into a vicious e-mail argument over something where you don't even remember what you're arguing about and are just trying to avoid getting sucked into this owner's anger issues.

Never Responds to E-mails (Especially Yours)
You send an e-mail to an owner asking him if he's interested in some of your players and nothing. You send a second e-mail and still nothing. This goes on for days, weeks, months. You still do not hear anything. It is now the long summer of your discontent, as the players you are trying to acquire cannot be had. You pretend it is 1997 and you pick up the phone and get only his cold and impersonal voice mail. The sun rises, the sun sets, and still you hear nothing but the silence of the night, the clock on the mantle ticking away the seconds of your life.

Finally, you hear the familiar pinging sound Microsoft Office makes when a message comes to your inbox. You inadvertently spring up out of your seat. Once again, you are a child at Christmas, awake at 5:30 in the morning, knowing that your parents will not let you open any gifts until they, too, are out of bed, but you cannot help yourself for this is the moment that you were good for all year. And it is your potential trading partner, except he has made a deal with another team. Paranoia creeps in. What did you do wrong? Why did he respond to this other owner and not to you? And why did he make such a weak deal? You are crushed. You know the logical explanation is that this person is a weak and disinterested owner who never shops his players around and as a result will be caught in the dumping cycle forever, but you cannot help feeling like this is a verdict on the very core of your soul. 

Mr. Bait and Switch
You get what seems like a trade offer. You accept. Then Mr. Bait and Switch shows up. "That wasn't an offer" Mr. Bait and Switch says. You go back and look at his e-mail. It reads, "I'll trade you Eric Hosmer for Jose Valverde." There can be no ambiguity in this type of exchange. You insist that you had a deal. Mr. Bait and Switch says no, his e-mail was just asking you if you would hypothetically make this trade; it wasn't a formal offer. You ask Bait and Switch what the hell does that mean, that the offer wasn't wearing a tuxedo? He refuses to relent and, worse, doesn't laugh at your lame little joke. In the end, you stop reaching out to this owner as well.

There are other difficult owners I'm certainly missing. Or perhaps there are owners I haven't had the "pleasure" of competing against. But we all have Difficult Ones in our leagues. As you can see, my strategy is to generally try and avoid dealing with these types. My time is too valuable, both in Rotisserie and in real life, for these kinds of tactics.

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