With the first two calendar months of the season in the books, the time to look towards next season is occurring whether one wants to or not. Even if you think your team needs just a couple more weeks to recover, the other four or five teams at the bottom of the pack may think otherwise and make decisions that force your hand. For standard leagues, this essentially means focusing on the upcoming fantasy football season. For keeper leagues, though, it means something entirely different. Well for at least the week or two it takes to restructure your roster for a run at the league championship in 2010. In other words, bailing.
Bailing is an interesting phenomenon in 2009. The rules from the Official Rotisserie Baseball Handbook spoke specifically about player contracts in subsequent years. Essentially, the game was intended to be of the keeper league variety and AL- or NL-only. Then came the internet with its ease of standings calculation and free mixed leagues from internet service providers looking to bring eyeballs to their websites to bury traditional rotisserie baseball.
Before long, the game of “rotisserie baseball” morphed in “fantasy baseball” and its most popular format was the mixed league re-draft version. After several years of this, most participants playing fantasy baseball don’t know any better. So bailing becomes just another phrase with no real meaning.
For the hardcore minority who know only the “pure” version of the game, bailing brings all sorts of mixed feelings. On one hand, you understand and accept it as a rational decision by those who see little chance of finishing in the money this season and look to improve those chances for the following season. On the other hand, you know it destroys the competitive balance of the current season by juicing the teams who receive the players from the bailing team while watching the bailing team drop in the counting categories and give points to those teams who happened to be trailing the bailing team before hand.
The question is how to balance the two competing forces. Like water going downhill, teams in keeper leagues will find a way to prepare for the next season when they are no longer competitive in the current one. Mitigating the competitive destruction bailing wrought, or attempting to do so, is the goal.
The unhip way to do it is to allow a free-for-all that puts no limits on who and what can be dealt from the bailer to the bailee. Typically, this leads to a team dealing Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes for Gerardo Parra and Buster Posey. This is a scary environment and doesn’t ameliorate the corrosive and divisive effects of the bail.
So the next to come is the in-season salary cap. Essentially, the goal is not to unlopside the bail trade, but keep any one team from acquiring both Pujols and Reyes. Instead, each goes to separate teams for a player whose future value (a combination of salary, ability and control) is greater than the current value of Pujols or Reyes. This retains the freedom each team has to make whatever deal they feel best serves their future interests but prevents a team from supercharging his roster with two or three superstars.
From this point, the subjective evaluations of the bailing team turn towards the subjective evaluations of the other teams. Whether it is a commissioner veto or a league wide one, the teams not involved in the trade get final say on whether the bail trade moves forward.
Or rules can be established prescribing a fixed amount of distance between teams in the standings determines who can and cannot trade or a fixed distance between players salaries/round drafted are set. Penalties can also be assessed towards the teams who decide to violate these rules such as costing a team a draft penalties such as hits in draft order or salary cap.
All these efforts are attempts to balance the ability of a losing team to construct a more successful team for the following season(s) versus the inherent unfairness of the bail trade. All are also efforts to balance the subjective player valuations of the two teams involved in the bail trade versus those of the other six, eight, 10 teams in the league whose seasons are not completely sunk or hoping to still make a run for the Yoo-hoo.
And that is how teams are compelled to think bail even if they do not want to do so.
Are there solutions to the bail crisis or are there just not-as-bad options?