Running towards the bench
It's the loving torture of Fantasy Baseball that keeps us glued to the box-scores.
Like living, breathing and (hopefully) growing creatures, our near-parasitic connection to those mobile stat sheets and more specifically, to that wonderful, uber-fabulous "I'll show the world I am a genius" draft pick makes us stare harder than the junkie heating up the spoon.
Sadly, we self-anointed Fantasy Baseball Gods realize, hopefully sooner rather than later that, much like the crack-addicts high, our fantasy stud is much more a creation of runaway imaginations than a product of that mean and awful place most refer to as reality.
So, you find yourself a few weeks into your fantasy season and Dickie Thon has put up more points in a softball league somewhere between a truck stop and an alehouse in Wisconsin than your draft pick.
What to do...what to do...
Let's get this out of the way immediately: If he's your No. 1 pick (think of a slumping Hanley Ramirez) then you have to ride it out—no matter what—because the longer a proven stud percolates, the greater the pending explosion.
Don't even think about trading him unless you get a ridiculous offer (think first round batter and a first round pitcher).
What would be your first concern with a slumping player?
But when dealing with your draft picks from the first round thereafter, the solution to most questions is to ask more questions.
Did you over-hype the player, or are his expectations legitimate? Is the team downplaying a nagging injury? How old is he? How young is he? Is he playing for a new team or in a new league, thus creating for himself a new environment and perhaps greater expectations to live up to? (Yes, that's you Dan Uggla.) Further, is there an adequate replacement player in the free agent pool that seams to be breaking out?
The answers to these questions will create clarity and inevitably lead you to the right decision.
Many owners, myself included, ran into this situation with Juan Pierre. I drooled over his fantasy numbers from last year and giggled to myself when my fellow drafters passed him over before I stole him in the eighth round. I inserted him into my starting lineup anticipating an avalanche of points. Instead, week after week, his ability to get caught stealing easier than Lindsey Lohan became a black hole, absorbing all of the points my other more productive players were tallying.
Eventually, a move had to be made.
In order to be successful, sometimes we have to separate the actual player from what we originally expected the player to be. I never looked to Juan Pierre for anything but stolen bases. Once I came to this realization, it was much easier to first bench him and then finally to cut him.
And to be honest, it felt sooooo good. Like the ending of the Titanic, when Leonardo DiCapprio let go of the life boat and sunk to the bottom of the frigid Pacific, I too enjoyed watching Pierre disappear into that just-as-vast pool of free agents.
This was when I realized perhaps the greatest lesson of fantasy baseball:
There is a liberating power in sitting or releasing a player spiraling downward. It lets me know that I am managing my team not based upon future hype or statistical artifacts from seasons past, but on reality.
And as it has so often been said, reality is the safest place to be.