A Bad Hairston Day
Tout Wars Mixed
The first thing you think â€“ or ought to think â€“ when youâ€™re asked to join a 17-team mixed league is, man, thatâ€™s a tall mountain to climb. If you play it straight, you maybe have a one in-ten-chance of getting to the top, because at least that many of your opponents know as much as you do about major league baseball players and what they are capable of doing. The only way to increase your chances is to cheat.
The only way to cheat in fantasy baseball thatâ€™s not considered â€“ you know â€“ cheating, is to dump categories.
The Tout Wars mixed league uses the standard 5×5 categories. The obvious one to dump in 5×5 is saves.
So obvious that clearly a bunch of other teams are going to be dumping that one.
Which means that saves are going to be very, very, very abundant. And ridiculously cheap.
Why not collect saves and punt wins?
And if youâ€™re going to punt wins, might as well punt strikeouts.
Wins are frustrating, because theyâ€™re so flukish. Strikeouts are expensive, because theyâ€™re so predictable.
Punt â€™em both, run the table in the other eight categories and getâ€¦ however many points the winner gets in a 17-team mixed league. I mean, who knows?
That was the plan.
The next thing to decide was, how shallow is a 17-team mixed league?
If itâ€™s shallow, prices arenâ€™t linear. You pay what it takes to get at least a few of the very best players in the game, because there are going to be plenty of good players left in the end game. So many that itâ€™s kind of hard to tell them apart. Much easier to tell who the best players are, so buy as many of those as you can possibly afford.
In essence, go for stars and scrubs because the scrubs arenâ€™t scrubby.
Unless they are. Iâ€™ve played in a 12-team mixed league that morphed into a 15-team mixed league, and I have to admit, the scrubs got a lot scrubbier.
What if you added two more teams? I did the math.
17 x 2 = 34
The $1 catchers will be scrubs.
What else is new?
17 x 5 = 85
The $1 outfielders will not be scrubs. Most definitely, they will not be scrubs.
The $1 middle infielders and corner basemen arenâ€™t going to remotely resemble the $1 middle infielders and corner baseman in AL- or NL-only leagues.
My not-so profound conclusion: a 17-team mixed league is still shallow.
But the implications of this seem to escape many people who play in mixed leagues. The injury phobia that is so natural in deep leagues is misplaced in shallow leagues. Much better to have three-quarters of a season from Chipper Jones with Geoff Blum as your fill-in than a full season of Garret Atkins.
So that was Part Two of my plan: buy injury-prone, or even injured, players at a discount.
I targeted a bunch of players who fit what I was intending to do, but only one had a big circle around him with a bullâ€™s eye penciled in.
Who might that be, you ask?
Aaron Cook, I answer.
Spend what it takes to get Aaron Cook.
I believe Iâ€™ve failed to mention that there is an innings requirement to discourage one of the more egregious forms of cheating: the all-reliever strategy.
But itâ€™s only 950 IP, and with Aaron Cook giving me 200 and five relievers giving me 300, I figured Iâ€™d find 450 good-quality IP from the three other pitching slots, for a grand total of $3 (not counting FAAB bids), no problem.
Okay, it could be a big problem, but itâ€™s a gambling game, right?
I misread the address of the hotel in Manhattan where the draft was being held, took the subway to the wrong stop, got to the auction with less than a minute to spare, and, while I was still out of breath, found that I had spent $180 on five players.
$44 Ryan Howard, $38 Jimmy Rollins, $37 Ian Kinsler, $31 Ichiro, $30 A-Rod.
Just need to wait now â€“ like maybe go out and get a bite to eat â€“ until the other 16 teams spend a similar amount of money, and I can start filling in.
But I wasnâ€™t hungry, and I sat there waiting for Aaron Cook.
To my surprise, he came up in the middle rounds. Aaron Cook a dollar.
I waited a tic or two as the auctioneer started counting, then said two dollars.
Whoever the pest was who nominated him (it was a huge horseshoe of a table â€“ thanks to my late arrival, I was at one of the corners â€“ and I couldnâ€™t tell), the same voice said, â€œThree.â€
As I waited again, another voice said, â€œFour.â€
A moment of panic. There was going to be a bidding war for Aaron Cook? In 5×5 SO?
Nah. I said, â€œFive,â€ and it was done.
The auction proceeded at warp speed, and it wasnâ€™t long before I had three closers for a total of $25 (Francisco, Percival and Ray) and we were in the end game.
When I was pretty sure I would get a nice middle infielder for the minimum, I said, â€œJerry Hairston, a dollar.â€
Somebody else said two.
I was puzzled, but I knew that I was still shy on SB so I said, â€œThree.â€ And that did it.
When it came my turn to nominate, I said, â€œBrett Gardner, a dollar,â€ to fill up someone elseâ€™s outfield spot, and got crickets.
Now I had too many SB. But that was all right; Iâ€™d trade him.
In the next round, Will Carroll, sitting next to me, nominated Troy Glaus. By now I had filled my corner base slot (with Cantu $10), so Glaus, if I got him, would have to be my DH. But if Will Carrollâ€™s going to nominate Troy Glaus, Iâ€™m going to say, â€œTwo dollars,â€ and I did.
Which was the end of that bidding.
â€œDid I do you a favor?â€ I asked Will.
He said, â€œProbably.â€
I wasnâ€™t thrilled; but to the DL with you, Troy, in the first week, and Iâ€™ll find myself a healthy hitter in the reserve draft.
Even in the end game, catchers kept getting big prices, and I had to pay $2 for Barajas and go all the way to $4 for Inge. That left me with $1 to spend for my last outfield slot. But that was fine, because there were â€“ as predicted â€“ just a ton of outfielders left.
I had $2 left to spend on two pitchers and $1 left to spend on one outfielder. I mean, how cool was that?
I was in the catbird seat.
The only trick when you get to this point in the auction is to nominate in the right order. A few teams still had $2 maximum bids, so I nominated Jonathan Sanchez.
Surely he was a nice little strikeout speculation for anyone who cared about strikeouts?
All right, to the trading block with you, Jonathan. Please give me 20 good IP, thatâ€™s all I ask.
In my next turn to nominate, $1 was in fact the max that anyone had, so I said, with ill-concealed satisfaction, â€œJosh Willingham.â€
â€œSorry, Alex. Your outfieldâ€™s filled.â€
â€œNo itâ€™s not. Hairston qualifies at shortstop.â€
â€œJerry does. You said Scott.â€
â€œI said Scott?â€
â€œYou said Scott.â€
I hate Scott Hairston!
Love Jerry Hairston.
I cursed again, more loudly.
Todd Zola, tracking the draft for the big screen, said, â€œThe game has passed you by, Alex.â€
Finally, I said with a sigh, â€œJerry then,â€ and filled my middle infield.
Full details on how to buy the 2009 edition of Patton $ On Line â€“ complete with quite different bids for standard AL, NL and mixed leagues â€“ are at Peter Kreutzerâ€™s web site: www.askrotoman.com. To join a truly unique forum that talks about baseball all year round, and obsesses on prices right now â€“ and is free â€“ visit www.pattonandco.com.