Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
I screwed up. And I think that's important to admit.
Fantasy owners, especially the ones who write about fantasy for a living, aren't perfect.
I've lost leagues. A bunch of them. Probably more than I've won. And because of me, my current fantasy baseball league is in a state of turmoil.
Let me explain. Last March, I paid $36 for Ryan Braun at an auction draft. I still can't believe I did it. I broke so many of my own rules. I overspent and worst of all, I overspent on an alleged PED user who could blow up my fantasy team at any minute.
But I did it anyway. And that's where the trouble began.
The boom came in July when Braun was hammered with a 65-game suspension. Unlike A-Rod, he didn't fight it. He was done. And all the while, I had a giant decision to make.
If this were a re-draft league, the choice would have been simple. I would have dropped Braun like a bad habit, depositing him to the waiver wire, never to think about him again.
But in a keeper format, where talent is often harvested over a period of many years, it makes things a little more complicated.
Of course, a common misconception about keeper leagues is that superstars like Braun and Albert Pujols remain on the same team year after year. It's actually the opposite. Because we know these guys are good, it's impossible to get them at a bargain price (even when they're being met with steroid allegations, as it turns out).
Since keeping Braun would have cost me $41 (we add $5 to a player's price each year), I was fully prepared to lose him. The question was whether I should pull the trigger immediately or hold out until the end of the season.
By getting rid of Braun mid-season, I'd be opening him up to everyone. But since my team was struggling and I really couldn't afford to waste a roster spot on him, that seemed like a risk worth taking.
Unfortunately, I forgot one very important detail. Releasing a player to the waiver wire cancels out their draft day value. Suddenly, Braun could be had for the keeper price of $10 instead of $41. Basically I hand-delivered one of the three best players in fantasy to a rival owner and gave him a $31 discount.
Surprisingly, the owner who grabbed Braun has drawn a lot more criticism than I have. The consensus is that stashing Braun was an underhanded move and against the "spirit of the league."
We're swimming in relatively uncharted waters here. Players have faced PED suspensions in the past but none of them were as high-profile as Braun. He's a player that can make or break a season.
As if the issue wasn't complicated enough, the owner who got Braun ended up winning the league last season. If he's able to keep Braun for $10, he'll be the odds-on favorite to win it again this season. That makes it very difficult to be impartial on this issue.
I suppose this is also where the whole "spirit of the league" argument comes into play. If everyone already knows the outcome of the league (that we're all going to lose to this guy), it won't be as fun.
Part of me thinks that's sour grapes. Should we really punish someone for being too good at fantasy? Anyone could have picked Braun up. This guy just happened to outsmart everyone. If I was in his position, I can't say for sure I wouldn't have done the same thing. I like winning as much as anyone.
Saying this owner will be "too good" if he gets to keep Braun is a lousy excuse. Fantasy is supposed to be challenging. We shouldn't water it down just so everyone has a chance. That's not in the spirit of the league either.
Mostly, I feel like I let the whole league down. I knew what I was getting into with Braun. All this chaos could have been avoided if I had just been a little more diligent.
The vote on Braun will take place later this month and I still don't know which way I'm leaning. I'm sure regardless of what I vote for, the majority of the league will vote against it, meaning Braun will probably be a free agent on draft day.
There's a lot we can learn here but I think it boils down to three main issues.
The first is that guys like Braun are trouble. Anyone with a steroid or injury cloud hanging over them should be avoided. And if you can't avoid them, definitely make sure you don't overspend like I did.
I also think it's good to have a league constitution to refer to whenever there's a gray area. That way there won't be any hurt feelings the next time controversy arises.
The last bullet point here is that screwy things happen in fantasy baseball. We can't prepare for everything and even when we can prepare for it, there's no guarantee that we're always going to make the right call. As bizarre as this whole Braun debacle was, the dialogue that it created within the league brought us together and I think it made our league stronger.