Yesterday I had the honor and pleasure of participating in the Tout Wars Mixed League Auction, which was held at the Sirius/XM Radio studio in midtown Manhattan. It’s a 15-team league with $260 to spend on the standard 14 hitting spots and 9 pitching spots. It’s a 5×5 league - we use the standard pitching categories, but switched over from AVG to OBP last year on the hitting side.
Assuming that you’re prepared for an auction, the two biggest auction-day faux pas are
- Purchasing players for significantly more than they’re worth
- Leaving money on the table at the end of the auction
The first item is somewhat subjective - if I think a player is worth $30, and you think he’s worth $35, we may be using markedly different projections for the same player, or we may be using similar projections and have different ideas on how to act on that information.
Unfortunately, the second item is objective - either you’ve spent all your money at the end of an auction, or you haven’t. If it’s just a buck or two, you probably haven’t done an irreparable damage to either your roster or your chances of a competitive squad. However, if it’s more than that, then chances are good that you could have gone a dollar or two more on several players you lost out on, and ended the auction with a better roster than the one you wound up with.
I usually consider myself a pretty flexible thinker, able to adapt to challenging situations and new information and make the best of whatever predicament I find myself in. Sadly, that was not the case yesterday at the Mixed Tout auction. I was way too rigid in sticking to my predetermined values for the top players, and as a result, left a lot of money on the table.
Mind you, not just a dollar or two. But $61.
I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the floor, stop laughing, and regain your composure.
“How on earth did you do that?” ”What happened?” ”Weren’t you aware of what was going on?” Those were three of the more polite comments I received following the auction from fellow participants and others who heard about or witnessed my train-wreck.
I had prepared well (or so I thought) for the auction. I’ve done numerous auctions, both in previous years and in the weeks leading up to this one. Sure, I’ve left a few dollars on the table at the end of an auction before, but never anything even remotely close to this. In fact, I’ve never heard of anyone, in any fantasy baseball auction, not even a total newbie, leaving even a third of that much on the table.
How exactly did this happen? There were a handful of top players whom I thought I was willing to pay enough to land, but when the time came to go an extra dollar or two on the likes of Miguel Cabrera (the one I regret most), Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw (the other one I regret a lot), and Ryan Braun, I held back, figuring I’d be able to get better values later in the auction. Once all of the top hitters and most of the closers were off the board, and my only purchases so far were Jose Fernandez, Matt Adams, and Rex Brothers, I knew I was in trouble.
I had a choice to make. Either become more flexible in my willingness to deviate from my pre-auction values and go an extra dollar or two on second and third-tier players, or risk ending the auction with a ton of money left over and sub-optimal roster. Unfortunately, I stubbornly refused to acknowledge what was obvious to everyone else in the room, and I plowed ahead with my inflexible mindset, damn the torpedoes.
By the time I finally pulled my head out of my sphincter, it was too late - the damage that I’d done was irreversible. I wound up with quite a few “bargains” among my late-auction purchases, but I had left myself with way too much money for the final stages of the proceedings.
At this point I had another choice to make - should I throw out overbids on players who would otherwise go for a buck or two, just for the sake of appearances (see, I spent all my money!), or should I just play out the string and leave myself with a lot of unspent money when the auction was over?
It got so bad that during the auction’s final break I was invited to go on the air with Jeff Mans, Rick Wolff, and Glenn Colton (who were providing commentary on the auction for Sirius/XM) to discuss my sanity (or lack thereof).
Fortunately, something good did come out of that interview - Glenn Colton suggested that when it got down to my last player (I believe I had two left to buy at that point), I should spend all my remaining money on an injured player such as Patrick Corbin.
Why? Because the Tout Wars’ rules state that if a player you purchase during the auction is subsequently placed on the DL before the All-Star break, you’re entitled to reclaim 100% of the amount you spent on him during the auction as Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) money.
So, after purchasing Mike Zunino as my second catcher for a mere $3, with my remaining $61 I decided to purchase Brandon Beachy, who has already had his Tommy John surgery, but hasn’t yet been placed on the DL (note: I decided to eschew Corbin just in case he opts for rehab instead of surgery, even though the rehap option would almost certainly result in his being placed on the DL, which would have given me the opening needed to reclaim the money I’d spent on him).
The silver lining here, if there is one, is that I will have at least $60 more than my league-mates to spend improving my roster once the season starts. However, unless three Yasiel Puig equivalents get called up during the season and aren’t already on a roster (that leaves out the obvious candidates like Oscar Taveras, Javy Baez, and Gregory Polanco), I’m likely out of luck. I can always use some of my FAAB to sweeten the pot in trade talks with other owners, particularly those who may be starting the season with less than the full $100 due to a sub-par finish last season, but there’s no possible way to spin this situation as a good thing for Team Sherpa.
On the lighter side, who knows - perhaps my experience yesterday will result in a change to the Tout Wars rules - either a rule capping the amount of FAAB that can be reclaimed or a rule banning participants from acting on suggestions from radio hosts made during the auction. If such a rule is passed, I would hope that it is dubbed “the Sherpa Rule”, although “the Beachy Rule” is a more likely candidate.
Of course, I’m doing my best to keep yesterday’s events in perspective - no one was hurt or killed, no job or home was lost, and no relationship was destroyed; and if screwing up a fantasy baseball auction is the worst thing that’s happened to me lately, then life is good. Still, when you’re a competitive person and realize you didn’t do your best (or anything remotely close to your best) in a competition, that stings.
I could be pollyannaish and think that the extra FAAB dollars will allow my team to be competitive, but there’s just no way you can leave that much money on the table with that smart a group of fantasy baseball players and expect to have a shot at winning. At this point, a more realistic/achievable goal would be to finish with enough standings points to avoid a FAAB hit for next season, but even that may be a stretch.
I’m never one to shy away from a challenge, but there’s something that seems less satisfying about overcoming a self-created challenge than an externally-imposed one. Either way, I just have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and make the best of the situation. Failing is never fun; failing so publicly is even less fun. Still, failure is often the best teacher, and if that’s indeed true, I certainly learned a lot yesterday.
Okay, enough of the public hand-wringing - if you’re interested in seeing the results from the auction, here’s a link to the Tout Mixed Auction spreadsheet.