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Co-managing Expectations: What's in a Fake Name?

March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) dives for a ground ball in the first inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) dives for a ground ball in the first inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

This is a new feature about co-managing a fantasy baseball team with my brother that debuted last Friday. There will be bits of statistics and advice sprinkled throughout, but this series is intended to be more of a narrative than anything else.

I spend way too much time thinking about the inconsequential minutiae of fantasy sports, like team names. There are several major schools of thought regarding how one goes about naming his fake team, and the philosophy one follows reveals a lot about his or her personality and character. They are:

1. A pun based on a player or players' name(s). These seem to be the most popular among serious fantasy players for some reason; perhaps because they are cheap jokes and the internet loves cheap, repeatable jokes. There are three major sub-categories, though they can overlap: (A) The owner makes a pun based on the name one of his favorite players, or at least a player that plays for his favorite team. (B) The owner makes a pun based on the name of one of the players on his fantasy team. This calls for a little more creativity, since the player pool is more limited. (C) The owner simply chooses the pun he finds funniest, regardless of team affiliation. Usually these team names involve some sort of double entendre (or in some cases, simple crudeness suffices). That caveat can certainly apply to the other types of puns as well.

Generally, the owner that chooses the player name pun is trying to impress the other owners in the league with their cleverness and/or dedication to the sport. After all, if he spent all that time crafting the perfect pun, imagine how much free time he has to scour the waiver wire or devise his own projection system in advance of the draft. Because this team name philosophy is so popular, the use of the device itself is not a reliable indicator of the fantasy mettle of the owner, but an especially lazy or obvious pun can be a red flag that says, "Don't take me seriously as a person fantasy player."

2. An homage to the owner's favorite team. These team names can range from the somewhat subtle, like a reference to a long-forgotten fan favorite, to the incredibly blunt and uncreative, like "White Sox" or "Bombers." These names are especially popular in dynasty leagues (where they are sometimes even mandated) and standard leagues alike. The main drawback to broadcasting one's allegiance is that opposing owners will often take note of this so they can try to take advantage of them in trades. John and I named our team the Senators as a nod to the history of our favorite team, the Texas Rangers, who spent the first years of their existence as the Washington Senators. To me, this is a fine way to walk the line of broadcasting one's biases, since the reference isn't obvious to an outsider and is even a bit ambiguous (The Twins also have a Washington Senators team in their franchise history).

3. A pop culture reference. Often these can be directly related to sports, like teams named after the Springfield Isotopes or the St. Louis Wolves, but they can also be the name of a band or a line from a TV show or movie. Conclusions can sometimes be drawn about the owner based on the content of the name (especially if you're a pop culture snob), but usually there's not a lot of information to glean from the owner that espouses this philosophy.

4. (Name of hometown or current location) (High school mascot or made-up name). Displays a lack of creativity and may even reveal the owner's age. It's fine when you're creating your own Madden franchise, but you can name your team anything you want, and you chose the town that you're sitting in, which is itself probably named after a Civil War general or generic European settlement? You can do better. Naming the team after oneself also applies here, and I'm not just referring to the default name assigned in ESPN leagues.

5. A generic brag. Sometimes overlaps with #3, though usually there's little nuance involved. 85% of the names in this category are a variation of "Baller" or "Pimp." This owner is overcompensating and only knows the players on the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers (but probably not all 3).

6. Gibberish/nonsense. Sometimes the team name can mean something very personal to the owner or may be some sort of inside joke. However, I can't remember the last time I was in a league that was won by xrg325gremlin.

I bring this business about team names up because I had already prejudged several of the people in our league by the time we had even drafted. I'll let you decide how wise that is. As far as I know, our Yahoo! public league contains 2 Yankees fans, 1 Cubs fan, and 1 Royals fan (and us. We're either fans of the Rangers, Twins, or Ottawa Senators, or we are congressional aides, as far as anybody knows). We've also got 1 "baller," 1 high schooler, and 3 guys who couldn't resist playing the sexual innuendo card, though calling it innuendo is generous in 2 of those cases. If I had to bet on the one owner that won't touch their team all season long, it would have to be either "Bust-her-Posey" (really weak pun, dude), or the guy who changed his name from "AZZ KICKERS" to "Nads."

Perhaps I'm overconfident or a little too willing to see the stupidity in others while refusing to look in the mirror myself, but it seems like we're competing against some real helmets here. I've been a little nervous about doing business with my "fantasy sports retarded" brother.* A quick audit of my opponents had me very confident heading into the draft.

*Those are his words, not mine, and really, we should tone that rhetoric down.

On the other hand, I had no idea how this was going to work. Usually when I'm about to sit down to draft, I'll simply print out my own cheat sheet, that two page document that represents more hours of preparation than I care to admit. Represented on that sheet are all of the internal struggles and arguments that I've had with myself. Sure, I do my fair share of reading and taking other people's opinions into account, but this is all me. Now, I've got to share, and I'm not really even sure how to go about doing that.

There were two ways that I reasoned we could go about this. We could each take responsibility for roughly half of the positions, and when the time came to draft a second baseman, whoever was in charge of the keystone would have the final say. The other thing we could do was present our rankings to each other and average them out, creating a hybrid list.

Ultimately, we settled on the latter so that we could avoid arguments about which position should come up next. The result was probably less than ideal. I thought about gaming the system a little and ranking certain players lower than I normally would so that they would end up at the bottom of the list, but that's a jerk move, and I did want my brother to have as much say in this as I do. As it turns out, John simply deferred to me for the most part on the positions I ranked for Fake Teams (C, 3B, SP) anyway. Great, right? I'm a little conflicted on this. This experiment isn't going to work if one of us is taking the lead, but at the same time, I did put in many, many hours ranking those players. I decided to let it go. We had plenty to discuss elsewhere anyhow. John apparently doesn't like young players as much as I do, and if you've seen where I ranked Brett Lawrie among third basemen, you know that that's saying a lot. All of a sudden I'm fearful that our team is going to be filled with Adam Dunn types.

After sorting out some major disagreements that we had on a few players, we were ready to go. All along, I've been treating having a co-manager as a disadvantage, and I believe that's true in many ways. However, if you're in the same room as your partner and you each have a computer, it can be a significant help on draft day. He ran the draft software, and I was in charge of the spreadsheet and looking up stats whenever we had a question or a disagreement. It made the minute and a half time limit feel like 5 minutes. It also helped that we were on the end of the draft. I usually prefer to draft in the middle, but we had plenty of time to plan for our next picks this way.

We were the #2 pick, and after a cute little episode where the guy picking number 1 "tricked" us by telling us he was taking Jose Bautista and then grabbing Matt Kemp (we wanted Miguel Cabrera anyway), we were off. We only had a few strategic goals:

1. We decided that we wanted to grab power whenever we could. It's easier to make up ground in the SB category due to the availability of speedy guys on the waiver wire.

2. We would grab 2 high strikeout pitchers early in the draft (preferably in rounds 4 and 5; thanks, mock drafts!) and wait until much later to grab several high-upside guys that we had identified.

3. We wanted to have 3 relievers that were closers for their teams at that moment. In a 12-team league, each team can only have 2.5 closers at any given moment, so if you can grab 3, you're ahead of the game when it comes to saves.

4. We wanted at least 1 middle reliever that could benefit our rate stats.

5. We wouldn't be slaves to our rankings. We both felt that since we had thrown our rankings together, there would be instances where the spreadsheet would betray our true feelings about the players that were available at any given point in the draft.

After snagging Cabrera, we took Teixeira and Stanton while almost every other team went after aces. Since we had a long time to wait in between our third and fourth round picks, I began to worry that we may miss out on an elite arm. We ended up with Dan Haren, who isn't top tier but is pretty close, and we added David Price on the return pick. Not bad. At least we hadn't lost the league in the first few rounds, as the cliche goes. We almost ran out of time in the 9th round and ended up reaching for Jayson Werth, but we were sticking to the plan. Except that we weren't. All around us, people were drafting closers as if they had never even heard of Matthew Berry. Our first reliever was Sergio Santos in the 12th, and we were hoping to grab another in the 14th, but then there was a serious run. We had a list of 6 guys lined up and ready to go, but by the time it was our turn, every single one was taken. We settled for Joe Nathan, and our dream of taking 3 closers was gone. Instead, we grabbed a couple of guys in Sean Marshall and Sergio Romo who might luck into some saves.

Most of the rest of the draft occurred without incident. We played chicken with the wrap-around pick once and lost, but it wasn't the end of the world. Our only major disagreement came with the next to last pick. I wanted to take a long shot with Justin Smoak, but John insisted that we needed a backup infielder, and more than that, he really liked Danny Espinosa, whom I am not particularly fond of. There was a brief moment where I considered pulling rank (not as a fantasy expert, but as a big brother), but I decided to relent instead. I think it was the right choice. We didn't need another first baseman or another guy who we were probably going to drop at the first chance anyway. More importantly, this exercise is on some level about giving up control. I didn't just agree to do this so that I could have something to write about. I need to work on my "plays well with others" skill, and part of that is trusting that the other guy knows what he's talking about once in a while. That doesn't mean that I'm not keeping my eye on Justin Smoak...

The Senators
C Matt Wieters
1B Miguel Cabrera
2B Howie Kendrick
3B Ryan Roberts
SS Jimmy Rollins
OF Giancarlo Stanton
OF Logan Morrison
OF Jeff Francoeur
Util Mark Teixeira
Util Jayson Werth
Bench Jhonny Peralta
Bench Danny Espinosa
Bench Colby Rasmus
Bench Ryan Doumit

SP Dan Haren
SP David Price
RP Sergio Santos
RP Joe Nathan
P Sergio Romo
P Sean Marshall
P Cory Luebke
P Derek Holland
Bench Jaime Garcia