2009 Fantasy Baseball – Winning a keeper league

by Todd Lammi

Do you care if you win your fantasy baseball keeper league? It seems like a simple question but the answer seems to be a little more complex for some people who play fantasy baseball.

Let’s assume a few parameters and you will see what I mean. The assumptions are as follows: it is a keeper league (the number of keepers does not matter), the league will redraft every 5 years and there is an entry fee to play of over $100.

Now you might say, a $100 or more does not matter to me as an entry fee, I am paying that money for the joy of playing fantasy baseball for six months and that is a cheaper form of entertainment than anything else I could do for that same time period. To which I say, that is probably true, however, if that is your mindset, you are better off playing fantasy leagues at Yahoo or some other free service where there is no entry fee involved then.

Most owners, will buy a magazine or several magazines, sign up for newsletters / projections / draft software, etc. so in addition to the entry fee you are paying, tack on another $50-$100 in draft materials / seasonal information. On top of that, factor in the time that you will spend playing fantasy baseball. Wading through all of the information over the internet, watching Baseball Tonight or watching games on ESPN, add on another 10 hours per week of your time spent on fantasy baseball. Taking that 10 hours per week times an average of $20 per hour (or insert whatever $ amount you think your time is worth) times 30 weeks of the fantasy baseball season equals $6,000. I know, I know, this is not actual money coming out of your pocket, but my point is regardless of the entry fee, there is a cost (investment) associated with playing fantasy baseball, and like any investment in stocks, or certificates of deposit or even a savings account, you should want to see a return on that investment, either in the form of a check or trophy or both.

So with that out of the way, let’s examine the difference between a keeper league and a one year or annual league. Mmmm, there really is no difference. The categories are the same, the rules are the same, the only thing that changes between the two in most cases is the mindset of the owner. Okay, stop, go back and re-read that last sentence again, because it is important to think about.  The one thing I have noticed most in the years I have been playing fantasy baseball keeper leagues when determining the difference between the people who win leagues and the ones who don’t is the mindset of the owner.

For example, we just had a trade deadline in one of my basketball leagues recently. I offered another owner who is bunched together with five other owners in a tight race three players for LeBron James. These were three solid players who would have most likely given him the title and the cash prize. His response when he rejected the offer was, I can’t do the trade, it gives me too many keepers for next season. Wow! I can’t say that I was shocked, because I have heard a similar type answer in different sports, in different fantasy leagues  every year I play, but it still baffles me that when an owner has a great chance to win the league, they pass on it, in order to protect their keepers for the following season.

There are no guarantees for next year in a keeper league. Improvements of players, declines in performances, injuries, and changes in players roles all make it hard to assume that because your team is in the top three one year it will be in the top three the following year.   My advice is when the opportunity presents itself, go for the win every time.

If you have only played keeper leagues in the past, it is a good idea to try a one year league to get yourself in a different mindset when it comes to trading and waiver pickups. This will help you strike a good balance then in your keeper league for still keeping young talent, while at the same time playing to win your league.

Bill Simmons of EPSN had a great line in one of his recent articles regarding the Portland Trailblazers, saying “Portland seems content to be just a Promising Young Team With a Huge Internet Following for the next 12 years.” Don’t let this happen to your fantasy baseball team. It might be nice, to have the best collection of young talent, but if you have no league titles attached to your name, it doesn’t really matter, especially since your team will be broken up in a few years anyway for the redraft.

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