Listen, if you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour
at your league’s draft, you are the sucker
This article is not for everyone. (Editor’s Note: this is a guest contribution from a subscriber but it was interesting enough that we decided to run it)
If you play fantasy sports simply because everyone else does, because you think it’s fun to check in on your team once a week in the hope it’s doing well, or because it’s simply something to talk about at the water cooler and over beers at happy hour, well all power to you.
I am not like you.
Sometimes I wish I was like you. I really do. I wish I could take these games less seriously, but I cannot. I play to win. And I have won. I do win. I am a winner. I am not lucky. Don’t ever say I am just lucky. Anyone who says fantasy is all luck does not win very often. You can bet on that. Reminds me of that great line from the film Rounders: “Why do you think the same five guys all make it to the World Series of Poker every year? What, are they the luckiest guys in Las Vegas?”
Why do you think the same five guys all make it to you Fantasy League Playoffs every year? What, are they the luckiest guys in Fantasyland?
I’m also reminded of another line from that film: “Listen, if you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, you are the sucker.”
Listen, if you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at your league’s draft, you are the sucker.
The message is plain and simple. And, hey, don’t kill the messenger. Instead, try doing something about message.
Here’s my advice: If you want to make the playoffs every season, don’t just peruse the advice that’s about to be dispensed in this article. Instead, embrace this article. If you want to spot the sucker instead of being the sucker, don’t just read this article. Instead, study this article. Tattoo it on your body like that guy tattooed that map on himself in the TV show Prison Break. Or like that guy in the movie Memento.
If that’s too hardcore for you, step aside. Click something else on the WorldWide InterTubes. Head over to other fantasy sites and download podcasts that talk about 90210 while telling you stuff you already know — like it’s super-smart to draft Halladay and Holiday.
Like I said, if you like playing fantasy as a hobby and don’t really care about winning, stop reading now. This article ain’t for you.
However, if you’re still reading, let’s get to it.
Five Tips To Make You Better
These five tips are free. Take them. Or disregard them and move on if you want. Laugh at them with your friends if you want. Argue them in the comments section of this post if you want. Or shut up, listen and learn.
1. Watch the game, not just the boxscores. Why do you think Major League Baseball teams still send scouts all over the country to sit in major/minor league stadiums and watch players play? I’ll tell you why — because you see things you can’t see in just the numbers. DirectTV’s MLB Ticket is an owner/GM’s best friend. Baseball Tonight used to be good, but now it pretty much sucks. The MLB Network has some good recap shows that are useful for highlights, but nothing beats watching the games. Takes time, but it tells you the entire story. And if you love the game — reality and fantasy — it’s time well spent. Watching the games shows you things you can never see in a boxscore or within a sabermetric analysis of a player. Watching allows you to form an opinion, which allows you to go with your gut when playing fantasy (more on that in a bit). Long story short, if you’re thinking about drafting/acquiring a player, research him. Watch him play. If you’re pressed for time, Google him and/or head to YouTube. Better yet, check out places like ProjectProspect.com.
NOTE: During the fantasy football season, the NFL Sunday Ticket also allows you to watch every game and, if a game is missed, you can watch the games later in the week in what they call “Shorts Cuts”. These are commercial free replays of entire games that feature only the game action. Talk about scouting. I so wish the MLB had an equivalent. Maybe someday…
Another tip I’ll add is to tape/TiVo the MLB draft. A few years ago MLB started airing the draft and it was a godsend. I always TiVo it and save it. Then, before fantasy drafts the following year (which in dynasty leagues mainly involve Minor Leaguers), I watch the draft — especially the highlights they show before and after each pick. I study and I learn. Talk about higher learning. Same advice goes for the All-Star Futures Game, which is usually on ESPN/ESPN2. Tape it, watch it, benefit from it.
2. Go with your gut. Stop listening to the TalentedRotoRazzProfessorFanGraph. They do not own your team. You do. If you want to be a fantasy owner/GM, well then you need to own and manage your team. I’m not saying you shouldn’t read what the “experts” have to say. I’m saying you shouldn’t spend entire days reading what every dude with a fantasy baseball website has to say about the game, a team, and the players. There are better ways to spend your time (see: #1). Pick a few “experts” (two) you respect and lean on those. Watch some games, read your few (two) choice opinions and make gut decisions. Look, regardless of whatever moves you want to make, you can find a dozen opinions that support your decision and a dozen that vehemently oppose it. Plus, all the “experts” are not playing in your league with your rules, so are they ever making the best decisions for your team? When all is said and done, if you want Player X on your team, go get Player X on your team. Who cares what some InternetGuru says? After all, they’re just going by their gut, but getting paid for it. My advice: always go with your gut and stand by it.
NOTE: Having said that, you obviously have every right to discount everything I say, because what the hell do I know?
3. Know your enemy. In The Art of War Sun Tzu said, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” These days that great advice has become cliché. However that does not make it bad advice. It’s actually great advice. From day one in any fantasy league, I take notes about the other owner/GMs in the league. During the draft I note to what people say or post on the message board and in the chat room. I save trade discussions emails and trade offer notifications. When I aim to trade, I view these notes, old emails and past offers in order to garner information on how the owner/GM values players, what teams they root for, and what players they covet in order to arrive at a successful trade offer. Information is key. This isn’t rocket surgery.
4. Hold Cards Close To Chest. In the Art of War Sun Tzu also said, “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” Sound advice. However, this one might be hard for most because people are naturally communal and fantasy sports are supposed to be social. However, when I join a league, I never talk about my favorite teams and/or favorite players. I keep my cards close to my chest and utilize a poker face 24/7/365. Sure, this is hard if you’re playing fantasy sports with your friends from college. However, if you’re joining dynasty leagues via the Internet, more often than not, you’re meeting fellow owner/GMs online and, in a sense, you can be anybody. You don’t have to proclaim yourself the #1 Yankee or Red Sox fan. You don’t need to make your team logo the logo of your beloved teams. That only drives up the price of favorite players and alters any/all trade discussion you might have in the future. Having said all this, I do make friends via fantasy leagues and value those friends. Long story short, you can play poker with great friends every week. You can enjoy their company immensely. However, they don’t need to see the cards in your hand before you play them. That action simply spoils the game.
5. ABC. Always. Be. Close. Not closing. Close. In other words, always be in contact. Technology today allows people to stay in touch at all times. In fantasy sports, this is a huge advantage. I played with owner/GMs who often say they don’t like getting all the On The Block emails, Trade notifications, and Message Board banter. My unspoken response is always, “Then why are you playing the game?” iPhones/Blackberries/DROIDs allow you to essentially be at your computer 24/7. Sure, life gets in the way, but, in my opinion, technology allows you balance life and fantasy. If you are committed to winning, you need to find the time to monitor and respond to any/all league activity. You need to view technology as your best friend (or Assistant GM). I love the iPhone and lean on it heavily to play fantasy sports. I can type an email or send trade offers to a fellow owner/GM while on a train/plane/automobile, while in line at the grocery store/Starbucks/Target, or while working out/waking up/winding down. I love the game and love playing the game. I make time for it. You should too. ABC. Always be close.
That’s all I got today. Got a new league to tend to. First prize in the League is a stack of cash and bragging rights. Does it have my name on it? I don’t know. But, I’m gonna find out.