Roto Arcade: Give Me a Despot

Roto Arcade This Week : April 23 | April 24 | April 25 | April 26

I'm all for open debate, freedom of expression, rejection of tyranny, and various other guiding principles of American democracy. Just so we're clear. But in fantasy leagues, they stink. Give me a despot.

Your league commissioner should be decisive, and he/she should be the only person whose opinion matters when it comes to league settings and in-season transactions. Otherwise, you'll have dissention, anarchy, flame wars – that sort of thing. Pretty soon the owner of Snell The Glove vandalizes The Big Fred Machine's minivan, and your league erupts in violence and criminal mischief.

A clear-headed commissioner with total authority can prevent all that. If you don't trust the commish or you don't like the settings, then don't join the league. It's that simple. Similarly, if you can't make decisions, don't be a commissioner. And don't make stuff up on the fly. As much as I appreciate having a commissioner with absolute authority, I don't like an activist commissioner. They don't need to intervene unless a specific rule has been violated. The commissioner's role is to develop an acceptable set of rules, recruit a group of compatible owners, then enforce the rules whenever necessary – and hopefully enforcement won't be much of an issue. League settings should never be altered after a draft, either. If a commissioner is any good, they won't have much to fret about once the season begins.

Why am I writing about league governance? Because I foolishly got involved in a trade dispute in a private Yahoo! league, that's why. Some owner had dealt Grady Sizemore and Claudio Vargas for Matt Cain and Jason Frasor. The league exploded, believing the deal to be grossly one-sided in favor of the team acquiring Sizemore. One of the trading partners emailed to ask for my opinion. Here's what I wrote:

As long as a trade doesn't involve collusion, there's no reason for a commissioner to object. There are always owners who think any trade is wildly unfair. Trades are about need. If he needs a SP and a closer, it's totally reasonable. Especially if he can afford to trade an OF. Vargas doesn't compare favorably to Cain.

There's at least one owner in any league who agitates against every trade. They're reflexively angry when they see a trade pending, believing that whatever it is, the deal disrupts the competitive balance of the league. So they start sending emails. They write the commish, demanding that he or she void the deal. If that fails, they email other owners, demanding they protest. It's miserable, and a dispute like that can ruin a league, depending on its commissioner.

Usually, the sort of owner who protests everything doesn't really consider the needs of teams involved in a transaction. While I don't know the complete rosters or the free agent pool in the league referenced above, I can imagine a scenario where the deal makes sense for both sides. Let's say the guy trading Sizemore already owns Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, and Lance Berkman. And maybe he drafted Jason Schmidt and Brad Lidge. So he's desperate for a useful starter and a closer, plus he feels, rightly, that he can use an outfielder as a trade chip. Wouldn't the deal then make sense?

Trades aren't about theoretical value; they're about need. If an active owner legitimately thinks they're improving their team through a trade, then the trade should go through. No one should be protected from their own judgment. If two owners are colluding, that's a different story entirely. They should be locked. And if your commissioner turns out to be corrupt, well … let's just hope it was a free league.

Also, if an owner has a weakness for players on a specific MLB team, everyone else should try to exploit this fact. In the league where the Sizemore-Cain deal is pending, there was also a much-derided A.J. Burnett-for-Jacque Jones swap. They apparently have an owner who really, really likes the Cubs. It's hard to believe that any Cub fan actively wants to own Jacque Jones, but that's not really the point. If this deal had gone down in any of my leagues, I wouldn't waste much time complaining. Instead, I'd offer the guy Ted Lilly for Vernon Wells, or some such thing.

But that's me. I don't like an over-regulated trade market.

And now, your bullets …

The Yahoo! Buzz Index tells us that Phillip Hughes was added in 28,911 leagues today. For those of you who don't follow important global indices like the Buzz, that's really a lot of adds. However, I'd guess that if the Buzz Index also tracked the number of canceled waiver claims on players, Hughes would be atop that list, too. If you maintained your waiver priority through the first four weeks because you intended to add him, no doubt you hoped for a better line than this from his debut: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. But that's what you got.

Here's a fact from Tyler Kepner's excellent New York Times game recap: 19 of the 21 hitters Hughes faced took the first pitch they saw. That tells you everything you need to know about the Blue Jays' approach to Hughes on Thursday. When he was removed from the game in the fifth, he'd already thrown 91 pitches. If a team knows that the opposition's starting pitcher has a conservative pitch-limit, they're going to be unusually patient. Frank Thomas' first inning at-bat, which ended in an opposite-field RBI single on a 3-2 count, was basically a hitting clinic. Still, despite the loss, Hughes' talent is evident. He has a mid-90s fastball and a nasty curve. He's likely to get another start, he's still a Yankee, and he remains one of baseball's premier pitching prospects. Own him.


Ryan Doumit, who was crushing Triple-A pitching, has been called up by the Pirates. He promptly went 2for-4 with a double and two RBI against the Astros on Thursday. Ronny Paulino had caught 16 innings the day before. Doumit is a completely reasonable add in NL-only leagues, and he's worth watching in mixed leagues just in case Paulino continues this .188/.212/.266 awfulness.

Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson has returned from the DL. Do nothing with this knowledge, unless you're an AL-only owner. Keep pounding starting pitchers who face the A's. I've added James Shields in the Y! Friends and Family League for Friday just because he gets Oakland. With Nick Swisher and Milton Bradley both sidelined, they've scored a total of two runs in their last two games, losing to Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista.


Ryan Theriot has, at last, taken over for Cesar Izturis at shortstop for the Cubs. Or so it seems. This from Lou Piniella via the Cubs website: "We need somebody who hopefully can get us going a little bit. I've been trying to figure out where to play him. He's been getting work at shortstop. We'll put him out there at shortstop and let him play." Rumor has it that Lou owns Willy Taveras in his NL-only league, and he's pretty (expletive) mad at Clint Hurdle. He needs stolen bases bad. Thus, Lou claimed Theriot off waivers and decided to give him a regular starting gig.

Weekend probables for your consideration: Jason Hirsh (9.4 percent owned) versus Atlanta, Gil Meche (60.9) at Seattle, and Tom Gorzelanny (43.8) versus Cincinnati on Saturday. I don't particularly like anyone on Sunday, but if you need the Ks and you've given up on ratios, try Jason Bergmann (0.1) versus New York or Paul Maholm (0.2) versus Cincinnati.

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