Roto vs. Reality

YF’s point in the previous comments thread, about rotisserie baseball, is an interesting one and worthy of it’s own discussion, I think. It is one that I disagree with. His idea that rotisserie baseball reduces the lovely game to simple numbers, that it removes the humanity and idiosyncracies of the sport is a common one for rotisserie-bashers. As a rotisserie baseball player myself, I would argue that only the fan is able to execute that reduction; the medium of rotisserie baseball surely enables such a reduction, but only the fan him/herself can execute the removal of emotion and subjectivity of the game. Rotisserie guns don’t kill people, rotisserie bullets do, in this case. In my case, I have enjoyed rotisserie baseball because it is a conduit for knowledge; it allows me to follow many teams, learn about their players, their farm systems, and to understand more about the statistics behind the performances. I could do this regardless of rotisserie baseball, I realize, but the structure of the game, the baseball fans I deal with on a weekly basis in our league, all this supplements my experience of the game, and not detrimentally so. It in no way replaces any other kind of rooting system, it hasn’t blinded me to the subtleties of the day-to-day actions of any given player, and it hasn’t removed a thirst for the stories that come out of any given game or series. It should be clear from this site that I hyper-romanticize things, often to a fault. That’s the way it was before I played rotisserie, and nothing has changed about that since I started.

I would venture that those who use rotisserie baseball to reduce the game to simple number crunching, to make the sport into a de-humanized contest for material gain would have done so regardless of the existence of rotisserie baseball, via sports betting or some other armature, particularly in this internet age. They aren’t fans in the same way long-standing season ticket holders, game-scorers, avid cable tv watchers or AM radio junkies, or even crazed self-important bloggers are fans. The beauty in rotisserie baseball, for me, is not that is in any way a replacement of the way I used to watch the game, but that it is a supplement and complement to how I watch.

5 comments… add one
  • Look I have no problem with Rotisserie leagues in baseball or football or any sport for that matter, I think they’re great fun and can make games more interesting, especially if you don’t have a rooting interest in the team. I have a problem when people try to equate Rotisserie graetness with actual on the field greatness. They are related, however they are also very different.
    Who’s a more valuable rotisserie player Jeter or Ichiro? Who would you rather have on your team?

    Joe (YF) October 8, 2004, 12:06 pm
  • Now there’s a tough and nearly impossible question to answer. Ichiro is unquesionably great, and Jeter has had an unquestionably great career for the team he has played for.
    This year they would have both been very highly valued, based on their statistics, and since Jeter plays shortsop, he’d probably gain some added value. A better comparison would be someone like Bellhorn vs. Jeter, both middle infielders and the subject of a thread earlier on something close to this topic of how stats talk to us. Bellhorn had a heck of a year, and one that would be slightly lesser but close in value terms to Jeter’s, but who would ever take him over Jeter? Not this poster. On the other hand, Bellhorn would have been drafted for a dollar, Jeter for 25 rotisserie dollars, so even in this comparison one can see a parallel to front-office strategies. In any league, real or fantasy, the goal is to maximize dollar value to get the best performance for the price. On the other hand, there is also, like in real life, the need for sure things – that is why any rotisserie owner (or real-life GM for that matter) might choose to pay someone like Jeter fair value or even offer him an inflated price (to lock down a known quantity), but only the best rotisserie owner (or real-life GM) will also take a gander at spending a dollar on Mark Bellhorn, or overspend on Tom Gordon, knowing the value of a cheap performer and a stellar set-up man, while the others laugh at the names. What is tough is the definition of “value”, from reality (market driven) to rotisserie (cap-driven), and that’s the subject of a whole other debate.
    Rotisserie baseball is interesting in this way, too, the way it involves managerial theories and strategies, just another reason why I find it a fascinating endeavor.

    SF October 8, 2004, 12:21 pm
  • Let me run with SF’s gun analogy. Despite the NRA’s lobbying, guns do kill people, and their prevalence has shaped our violent society. So, too, has the rotisserie fad altered the way baseball is understood generally and covered by the press. In some ways the results have been positive: as Sy Simms would say, the educated consumer is baseball’s best customer (and here we have one of SF’s essential points). But the converse is also true: players are now presented as if they are machine parts, with ever diminishing margins for error (is rotisserie alone responsible for this? Of couse not). But to argue that rotisserie does not dehumanize the game is patently ridiculous—the whole point is to design a team entirely based on stats. Does this impugn every rotiserie player? No. I certainly don’t doubt, and never have, SF’s intelligence as a fan of the game in its pure state.
    An anecdote: about a decade ago, when a younger YF was working for ESPN in the backwaters of Connecticut, he found himself at a party at which much of the SportsCenter staff was gathered in a cramped living room, debating the merits of certain potential draftees. Meanwhile, a pair of leggy blondes stood in the kitchen, ignored and alone. This worked out quite nicely for YF, but in the end says something instructive about the corrosive affects of this hobby. Unlike blogging, of course.

    YF October 8, 2004, 5:54 pm
  • We used to have a rule: never draft Von Hayes (clubhouse poison). Last year, I urged my co-owner that our drafting of Carl Everett was a deathwish, stats be damned (I was wrong). And just ask Spidey what Milton Bradley and Juan Gone have done to his teams the last two years.
    Who says personalities aren’t a factor!

    SF October 8, 2004, 6:23 pm
  • One last thing: I would argue that sports betting has done more to reduce the game to a mere numbers endeavor than any rotisserie league. A few years back, a UCLA basketball player named Tyus Edny (I think that’s right) hit a mammoth 3 pointer at the buzzer to win an early-round NCAA tourney game. The Vegas sports book announcer, knowing that UCLA was a dog in the game, calmly says “and Tyus Edny hits a meaningless shot at the buzzer”.
    Vegas (along with our quickly proliferating information-based society) has done more to harm the humanity of the game than the entirety of rotisserie.

    SF October 8, 2004, 6:30 pm

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