Grand Theft Roto: Be judicious with trade protests
INT. JOHN'S LIVING ROOM -- NIGHT John Cregan (early 30s, Lombardi-esque build, sage-like countenance) is totally immobilized on his futon. JOHN (woozily) Oh hey. Welcome to my office. Both Zydrunas Ilgauskas and I have been out the past few days with back issues. (flipping off the TV after the Wizards' eighth straight loss) Of course, when Big Z is out, he gets to watch LeBron James while sitting courtside in a natty tailored suit. (staring at the ceiling) When I'm out, I watch Roger Mason lose via satellite in a Vicodin- and chamomile-infused haze. (opening laptop) I'm writing the intro to this week's column in script form to celebrate the cessation of the writers' strike. Unfortunately, this is bad news for the 8 to 10 thousand of you who were planning to pitch a reality series based on your fantasy league. And when I say "8 to 10 thousand," that's a conservative estimate. And for God's sake, don't try to turn it into a documentary.
THE CURRENT MRS. CREGAN (early 30s, pregnant) walks to the front door.
THE CURRENT MRS. CREGAN I'm off to our pregnancy class. Have fun playing fantasy basketball.
JOHN I'm not "playing." For the last time, this is a job.
THE CURRENT MRS. CREGAN (opening door) You're allowing Matthew Berry to come between us and our unborn child.
JOHN Did I mention my back prevents me from doing certain things, such as walking to the car?
THE CURRENT MRS. CREGAN (closing door) I'm late.
JOHN Can you at least help me take off my shoes?
JOHN Don't think ill of her. I get difficult to deal with when my lumbar region goes all Peja Stojakovic on me. Hence the snarkiness in my "Decline Trade" e-mails. (looking at the laptop screen) Here's an offer. Kirk Hinrich for my Shawn Marion. (typing response) "I take it this offer is actually a muted cry for help. If you need someone to talk to, please e-mail me." (hits "Decline Trade") Now. Here's an offer of Michael Redd and Anthony Carter for my Tim Duncan and Mehmet Okur. (typing) "I'm sorry. You must have me confused with Chris Wallace. Try drafting a center before the 10th round next time." (hits "Decline Trade") Now. Here's yet another trade protest, which happens to be from the same owner who just offered me Hinrich for Marion. Ugh
John slams his laptop shut, spills some Sleepytime tea down his sweater, then curls into the fetal position.
Let's discuss. What were the messages contained in the script?
1. It's difficult to balance one's home life with one's fantasy life.
2. John is in a lot of pain this week but can't use it as an excuse to get out of a column. He also is under the influence of heavy prescription drugs, and as such, his writing has been affected.
3. Protesting trades is for the weak-minded and ill-willed.
Let's focus on item No. 3.
The issue of protesting and vetoing trades tends to be one of the hottest-button issues in fantasy. So, please, just take this as one person's pure opinion.
I love -- no, I adore -- leagues in which trade protests are turned off. (You can do this. Take a look at "League Referenda.")
I really don't like to get all Lou Dobbs-ian in this space, but trade protests hamper and violate the vital inner workings of a free and fair fantasy trade market. They slow fantasy growth and, if overdone, can prevent owners from making deals for fear of being held up for scorn.
I've seen nine trades get protested this season, and it's not even Valentine's Day. This is getting ridiculous. (Have any been actually vetoed? Not a one.)
I feel this way because 99 times out of 100, trades are protested because of one of these two reasons:
• Lack of understanding from an inactive owner.
Of course, the commissioner's office upheld the trade, but that owner who really needed Dalembert was robbed of one game of production. Say that owner finishes a point lower in the standings because they finished two blocks behind another owner. That means someone who didn't know Bynum was injured could affect the outcome of a league. (It's not that farfetched. I know, because I once lost a league by two blocks.)
• Sour grapes from an inactive owner.
Yes, a lot of one-sided deals happen. Some deals can be grossly unfair to one team. My response to that is to make a one-sided deal of your own. Protests tend happen when other owners feel outmaneuvered.
I've witnessed between 120 and 150 fantasy basketball trades in my lifetime, and I've voted to veto a trade twice. Once was when a wife traded her husband Brent Barry for Eric Snow. The other time was a trade I made, because I felt bad that Ray Allen went down with an injury six hours after the trade was accepted. (Yes, I was feeling guilty and actually filed the protest myself).
With apologies to William Jennings Bryan, here are my laws of Natural Trade Selection:
1. I don't believe in vetoing trades because of injury.
I think it's a slippery slope. If Marion breaks his ankle this week, can the Heat ask for Shaquille O'Neal back? (If they would even want to is another question for another columnist.)
2. I don't believe in vetoing trades because of lack of name recognition.
This happens a lot when injuries strike and a bench player is thrust into a starting role. Think of players such as John Salmons and Thabo Sefolosha, both valuable players who have come out of nowhere. Does that mean their trade values are diminished? This is America, for crying out loud.
3. In keeper leagues, I don't believe in vetoing trades that are one-sided because one team is trading for next year.
I know from Chad Ford's excellent podcast that there were a lot of owners upset with Chris Wallace in the wake of the Pau Gasol deal. But unless they had secret information that a high-level coven involving Jerry West, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (the prime minister of Spain) and the Priory of Sion brokered this trade, no one actually would publicly complain. No, I bet the savviest GMs immediately picked up the phone and started making offers for Mike Miller.
Wallace might have made a bad deal, but it was somewhat justified because he cleared cap room, acquired draft picks and picked up two cheap, promising players. After all, the NBA is the ultimate keeper league.
4. If an owner makes repeated, bad, one-sided deals that affect the outcome of a league, don't invite him/her back.
The same goes for owners who never respond to trade queries. Team Mike 311000780102, this means you.
5. I do, on some very, very, very rare occasions, believe a trade is voidable when clear-cut collusion is readily apparent.
Some warning signs: an owner works with another owner, an owner is married to another owner or an owner is in love with another owner. I sometimes see an "I'm gonna lose, so I'll help my friend/spouse/lonerish crush win it all" type of deal. Then, and only then, will I entertain the idea of a "no" vote.
Now, I realize many of you don't agree with me and will continue to protest to your heart's content.
Feel free to disagree because that's where the ESPN commissioner's office comes in. And there is no fairer and more even-handed judicial body on all of the Internet.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.