Crisis management

A sense of entitlement can often inhibit sensible and timely decision making in fantasy baseball. One of my favorite articles from the THT Fantasy archives covers the problems of the endowment effect. An oversimplification of this phenomenon is that one tends to overvalue what he holds and undervalue what others hold. When dealing with crisis management, anything that prevents you from acting decisively and quickly is especially detrimental. In this column I’ll discuss a few strategic and mental pitfalls to avoid when dealing with a crisis.

The young fantasy season has already yielded some injuries that would reach the level of “crisis” for owners. From an owner’s perspective, perhaps the most detrimental injury thus far has been that of Jose Reyes. Not only is Reyes one of the most valuable commodities in the fantasy universe, but he also plays a shallow position and was likely relied upon by his owners to carry a tremendous load in the stolen base category. A player of his nature is among the most irreplaceable assets. Still, Reyes owners are now forced to make lemonade.

The standard endowment effect may even be enhanced in the Reyes situation. In addition to glorifying Reyes and shortchanging other options, an owner may be tempted to anchor his expectations for a replacement to the elite level player he had in the first place. This is a problematic thought to which one must not succumb—you are not entitled to a new superstar simply because you lost one. Following such faulty logic will hurt you in two ways.

It is important to realize that one must, in the immortal words of John Wooden, be quick, but don’t hurry. If you limit yourself to having to find ways to get a Troy Tulowitzki or Starlin Castro to fill that spot, you drastically foreclose your options and lengthen the amount of time it will require to work a deal—presuming you are even able to do so.

The best thing to do is to take a solid player at your deepest position and look to trade him for a solid shortstop. That’s the first manifestation of faulty thinking in a crisis—the longer it takes to act, the longer the crisis will severely impact operations. Acting quickly means minimizing the amount of time you will bear a replacement level player in your active roster. It is also best if you can find a player who approximates the skill set of Reyes—maybe somebody like Elvis Andrus.

This brings me to the other pitfall of miring oneself in the pursuit of another superstar. Other elite level players may be fantastic assets, but they don’t necessarily fill the same role and balance your team as it was originally constructed. Adding Tulowitzki would be fantastic, but it would probably lead your team to having a power surplus without addressing the speed deficiency.

Another strategy might be to take a player who is highly valuable, but not a five-category player and try to redistribute that value more evenly across the shortstop position and the needed categories. I’d guess that the closest Jose Reyes clone out there would be Jimmy Rollins. So, you might want to take one of your best players and try to trade for Rollins, plus a poor man’s version of the player you offer. Maybe Prince Fielder was your first round pick and Reyes your second, and you try to trade Fielder for Rollins and a fifth-to-eighth-round first baseman.

If your options are not so nearly laid out, you may need to retool at multiple positions. This can be necessary at times, but I try hard to avoid relying on plans that add multiple layers of variables. Each trade you require to make your team whole is essentially an assumption that you will be able to execute a trade—and trades can be hard to execute.

So, if you turn a speedy top-of-the-order shortstop into a middle-of-the-order shortstop with no speed, you now are essentially presented with the same challenge again—flip another player in the reverse direction—before you are back where you need to be. Again, sometimes circumstances force us into difficult choices, but a cascade of moves to retool is always harder to execute than you convince yourself it will be.

These are obviously all hypothetical situations, but the underlying idea is that you need to do what is practically most useful as opposed to what you might be tempted to want to do psychologically.

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