The Oral History of The Swan

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by Joe DeLessio, foreword by Will Leitch

I’ve gotten to do a lot of things in my career. I’ve interviewed Presidential candidates. I’ve traveled to Russia for the Winter Olympics. I’ve been to multiple Super Bowls and World Series. I even briefly had my own television show, albeit one that nobody watched.

But I don’t think I’ve ever been more professionally flattered than when a man named Paul Penland sent me the following direct message on Twitter:

Hi Will — this is completely random but hang with me for a second. The fantasy baseball league I’m in is dying for entertainment and with no baseball we are looking for alternative sources. After watching The Last Dance, we decided that we would pull some money together for someone to coordinate an oral history article of our league. I know it’s absurd but we are convinced it could be good, especially if we get someone who knows what they are doing. I realize you are probably too big for something like this, but it also seems right up your alley. We pulled together $1k for this, which isn’t exactly life changing money but it could be a fun side project for you? Feel free to ask any questions, and completely understand if this isn’t for you.

I do not know if Paul approached other sportswriters about this project, if he only contacted me once they all said no or ignored him entirely. If this is the case, I kindly ask Paul not to tell me, or at least reassure me that he came to me before, say, Darren Rovell, or Clay Travis.

But I was delighted. If this was the direction my career was going, it was all well worth it.

I did recognize immediately this wasn’t for me, not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I am a middling reporter and absolutely terrible at oral histories. But I knew my old colleague at New York Magazine Joe DeLessio would be terrific at it, so we came to a deal: $750 for Joe, $250 to my chosen charity — Cure SMA, by the way — to write the intro. And thus the brilliance you see before you.

I’ve been running a fantasy baseball league myself for 20 years, but, having read this, it’s clear we don’t have the personalities and drama to sustain a full oral history. This league clearly does. Having read the oral history, I have to say, this is the only fantasy sports league I’ve ever come across that was inspired partly by a Darren Aronofsky movie. (I shudder to think what a Requiem for a Dream league would look like.) I do feel like I know this league now, and these guys. I am going to laugh about Trevor picking Jesus Montero — who currently weighs 4,000 pounds, I think — over Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for a very long time. I also think it’s hilarious that there is a massive constitution written for this league, and not only has no one read it but the person who wrote it, the owners refuse to read solely to annoy the guy who wrote it. (This is how my friends treat everything I write.) And this constitution involves the Kentucky Derby, for some insane reason.

I also love how the league tracks the spending of habits of American males in Texas as they get older. Your payroll expands with your wallet which expands with your pant size. Getting old’s quite a trip, gentlemen.

This oral history pulled off the ultimate feat: It made me want to follow this league, not only to see who wins it, but how long you can all keep it going. If it ever ends, I am going to personally be angry with all of you. You should make your grandchildren do it. Or at the very least, you should make it so ubiquitous that they all must publicly disavow it, or specifically sponsor legislation so that it not be left to them in any of your wills.

Thank you for asking me (and Joe) to do this. I feel like I know you all now, and yet, somehow, I’m still interested. You and your league are gloriously absurd. I absolutely love you for it.

Will Leitch
28 July 2020

I. Beginnings

Matt Falcone (2010-present): Like any other crew of dudes our age, we had a fantasy football league that started during our college years.

Paul Penland (2010-present): I was getting bored of fantasy football even though everyone in the league was obsessed with it. I distinctly remember trying to implement some new rules to make it more interesting, and getting shut down by the league. So in 2010, I decided to start a fantasy baseball league where I had the freedom to basically make it whatever I want.

Matt Leatherwood (2010–2011, 2018-present): Paul wouldn’t shut up about it. Not everyone was interested, including me. He made the pitch that this would be a very simple head-to-head league with no bench spots and weekly roster locks and got people to join.

Trevor Meeks (2010-present): Paul tried to sell it as casual. I believe he said it would be “silly.”

Matt Leatherwood: What a fuckin’ hoodwink that was.

Paul Penland: We are mostly Astros fans, and they were awful at the time, so nobody really cared about baseball, and therefore nobody cared about whatever ideas I had for this new league.

Trevor Meeks: Most of us have been friends 15, 20-plus years. It was a struggle for Paul to get even eight guys, so we pulled from our closest friends.

Louie Nichol (2010-present): We all needed to continue some form of gambling in our lives and bought into the idea.

Paul Penland: A group of us went to the 59 Diner after the first draft. We were drunk and ordered milk shakes and made fun of ourselves for doing a fantasy baseball league — especially because we probably knew less than 50 percent of the players we drafted. It’s funny to think about now. I imagine this is a feeling Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak can relate to when they think about their old garage.

Matt Falcone: That first year a number of us named our teams after different desserts to further emphasize how not seriously we were taking it. I was the Chocolate Covered Bananas.

Matt Falcone: The Black Swan was a hotel bar in Houston near Trevor’s old condo. A number of the fantasy football league members were out-of-towners that would crash at Trevor’s place on draft weekends, and post-draft we’d end up making our way over to the Black Swan to blow it out.

Paul Penland: Our fantasy football trophy became a black swan statue for a while, but that quickly broke after it was exchanged one or two times. The Swan name stuck, though, and we carried it over to baseball. “Swan” also carries multiple meanings: The league as a whole is considered “The Swan,” and the finals are also known as “The Swan.”

Matt Falcone: This is all also around the time the movie “The Black Swan” was popular, hence the “Kunis” and “Portman” division names.

Paul Penland: I’ve thought about changing the division names a lot, but I can’t think of anything better or any reason to change them, really. After 10 seasons it would now be hard to separate owners from their divisions. Separating Falcone and Louie from Portman would be like taking the Yankees and Red Sox out of the American League.

Trevor Meeks: The first year was a bit of a shitshow. We could barely field eight teams. One guy, Zach Flechsig, was overseas playing from Bahrain. He selected five total players in our draft and could check the internet once a week. Setting a full and healthy lineup was rare.

Paul Penland: Falcone beat Vince in a classic Swan, but since it was the first year, it’s hard to give that achievement the same respect as today. I’m not even sure I’ve ever heard Falcone actually defend its legitimacy, so that should tell you something.

Trevor Meeks: He was in grad school during the season and had nothing else to do but pay attention. Good for him but not much to be proud of.

Matt Falcone: I was happy to win, and people were definitely trying, but I think my early years dominance is better reflected in winning in year two and coming incredibly close to winning in year three.

Vincent Cangiamilla (2010–2017): Falcone beat me. I didn’t know who half the players on my team were. I still probably wouldn’t if I looked at it again. Baseball is the worst of all sports.

Paul Penland: All that said, a Swan is a Swan, and it counts just the same — with the exception of the prize money, which was vastly lower than other Swans. It was an extremely simple league that first year and the buy-in was only $20. The league was purposely designed to be as easy as possible because playing fantasy baseball seemed like such a daunting endeavor at the time. I just wanted the league to make it past the first year.

***

II. Expansion

Trevor Meeks: I don’t think a “next” season was assumed or anticipated for the first few years. Paul, though, has a way of convincing you to play each year until one day you get hooked. It worked.

Matt Leatherwood: I voted to end it after the first season and threatened to quit, but kept going out of FOMO.

Ryan Burke (2010-present): Something triggered in everyone’s head after that first season. The next year at the fantasy football draft, the attitude started to shift and there was a lot of complaining about “I can’t wait for baseball season,” and, “This is just a distraction from fantasy baseball season.”

Paul Penland: Going to a live auction with no salary cap and bidding actual dollars completely changed the league. Having different levels of buy-ins created a new form of trash-talking. It was also the first crazy idea that I implemented, and it was well received, which gave me the leeway I needed to become the authoritarian commissioner over the next several years. And having a live auction with no cap created a compounding degenerate gambling angle. A league pot does not grow from $120 to $10,000 in 10 years without this specific type of auction.

Matt Falcone: If we didn’t make the switch in approach, I think this league would have died a while ago like the football league.

Vincent Cangiamilla: It was the beginning of the total lunacy that ended with my not wanting to spend thousands of dollars on a game I actively hated.

Paul Penland: The league needed to get to 10 teams just so we could respect ourselves.

Matt Falcone: The first two years had been successful and we’d been talking it up to other folks, so I think we thought it was time to grow, and we had interest from other people wanting to join.

Paul Penland: The two cornerstone rules that make this league better and more interesting than the average league are the live auction with no salary cap and the keeper system. Because people still didn’t care that much about baseball, I unilaterally implemented this keeper system. I remember being super nervous when we started the first prospect draft because nobody had agreed to this huge shakeup in the league.

Trevor Meeks: I think we realized the actual game of fantasy baseball isn’t that exciting to us. It’s actually a bit of grind. Also, the Astros were in the middle of their rebuild and we were more in tune with the minor leaguers and prospects coming up.

Louie Nichol: Trevor took Jesus Montero over both Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Trevor defended it for the first year and even the subsequent year or two.

Trevor Meeks: This was around 2012 when Buster Posey was the MVP, and there was this general consensus that an actual catcher that could hit was a huge fantasy value. Montero was also major league ready and projected to hit like gangbusters.

Matt Falcone: He’ll never live it down.

Casey Bass-Clements (2015-present): It gets brought up frequently to mock Trevor.

Jeff Cairns (2012-present): I knew that Trout was a big time prospect, but so was Brien Taylor and how did that work out? As far as mockery, Trevor is the perfect target. He takes the bait every time and I love winding him up.

Trevor Meeks: I grew from it. I am unquestionably the best prospect drafter in the league. My resume includes Jose Fernandez, Xander Bogaerts, Masahiro Tanaka, Alex Bregman, Ronald Acuna, and Shohei Ohtani to name a few.

Paul Penland: Owners were still getting their arms around the prospect system and the idea that you could trade future draft picks for really good players. That was a lot for some owners to digest. Mainly because they didn’t think this league would be around for very long.

Louie Nichol: We tried to make the prospect system close to real life where teams that were out of the hunt would trade their better players for prospect and future prospect rights. People had some issues with that early on because it felt like they were unbalanced on the surface for that given year.

Paul Penland: There was a lot of bitching happening whenever a trade was made for a future draft pick or prospect because people felt like it was messing with the integrity of the league. People wanted me to step in and block trades that seemed unfair but I refused to do it.

Trevor Meeks: After about five years, the prospects finally became stars and many are owned as keepers. That has helped reduce the wild trades but it still happens. There are still plenty of guys that aren’t keepers that one has no reason to hold onto.

***

III. More Money…

Matt Falcone: Jeff basically came in and tried to blow us all away with his spending.

Jeff Cairns: I came into the league when the top payroll was like $75. I was by no means wealthy, but I am an opportunist and if I can stack a team for twice the top payroll and increase my odds to win the pot, I am going to do it.

Trevor Meeks: It was annoying at first because I felt we had a social understanding amongst the original members that this league was not to be taken seriously. Jeff made the game more serious in a good way. The stakes were higher now. You either had to spend more or actually pay attention to be good. Imagine that.

Louie Nichol: Jeff spent the most in 2012 and won the league, ending Falcone’s two-year win streak.

Trevor Meeks: The next three years the biggest spender won the league. It was pretty embarrassing for Paul. His no-salary cap league seemed to have a flaw.

Andrew Gruss (2010-present): It became stupid seeing how certain players would go for hundreds of dollars. It makes no sense, but we all still do it.

Trevor Meeks: Greg and Albrecht were huge for the game. They came in that first year and blew Jeff out of the water in terms of spending. We now had multiple “big market” teams which helped spread some of the top-end talent at least between a few teams.

Brian Albrecht (2012-present): Greg and I steamrolled Jeff when we joined.

Paul Penland: The fact that there were two of them for one team was the game-changer. They also happened to be attorneys at the same big law firm in Houston, so they both had discretionary income that others didn’t have.

Brian Albrecht: I was going to spend $1 per player and just view it as a way to enjoy some shit-talking and have a few happy hours. But I mentioned it to Greg at work, and when I explained that it was a real-money, no-salary-cap auction, his eyes lit up. He told me to not be an idiot and just buy all the best players. He clearly wanted in, so I brought him to the draft unannounced. The other owners bitched about it immediately, and made me promise that Greg was just there as a friend. That was stupid, but I lied and said it was just my money. So Greg opened up his laptop and would type in the values of players he wanted, and I would bid. For certain players, he typed “infinity.” I think Miggy was one. We maybe paid like $60 for him and people lost their shit. I think our payroll was around $300 that year and was twice as much as anyone else’s.

Vincent Cangiamilla: I had to bring in a second owner because I didn’t want to take out a second mortgage to fund a stupid fantasy baseball team.

Casey Bass-Clements: Investors were brought on because the payrolls have sky-rocketed. But there’s more to it than that, I suppose.

Louie Nichol: There are tons of different arrangements.

Paul Penland: I brought on Casey Doherty because I just enjoyed strategizing/celebrating/crying with someone. A lot of people want to talk about their fantasy team, but no one wants to hear about another fantasy team. So having a co-owner fills that void.

Jeff Cairns: None of these millennials, myself excluded, can make decisions for themselves so they need someone to rub their back while they do so.

Louie Nichol: Some owners are purely money investors.

Vincent Cangiamilla: No sane person wants to have to send their kids to bed hungry cause daddy spent the food money on fantasy baseball.

Nick Petito (2010, 2016-present): If you aren’t invested, this is not the league for you.

***

IV. … More Problems

Paul Penland: The league was getting complicated, mostly with the keeper system, so I kept telling myself I needed some sort of document to reference. I’m pretty sure I wrote the first draft of the constitution stuck on a layover in 2013.

Matt Falcone: I think Greg and Albrecht blowing everyone away with money was one of the first things that put us on a path to having a constitution.

Paul Penland: Given the moving parts within the league, we found ourselves constantly having arguments over incidents that would occur within the season. So every offseason I would edit the constitution and distribute a redline for everyone’s review. The document itself has grown to 18 pages and for good reason.

Robert Mundinger (2018): I didn’t realize what I was getting into until I had to take a class to join the league.

Matt Falcone: It’s pretty hilarious that we have a wildly complicated legal document, drafted by a non-lawyer in a league full of lawyers, that the non-lawyer exclusively interprets. I’d be surprised if more than 25 percent of the league has actually read the entire document.

Zach Flechsig (2010-present): I have never actually read the constitution. This seems to infuriate Paul.

Andrew Gruss: I have not read one word of it, ever.

Ryan Burke: I’ve never even seen the constitution. I hear it’s cumbersome.

Paul Penland: Nobody would read it, which I quickly realized, so I started using this as a way to slip in some new ideas I had for the league. Whenever these new ideas would come into play during the season and people questioned what was happening, I would just refer back to the constitution that I circulated for their review and approval. It was the diplomatic way to be a dictator.

Matt Leatherwood: Paul will tell you it’s tongue-in-cheek, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he sleeps with a copy of it.

Brian Albrecht: Its existence is simultaneously pathetic and highly impressive.

Paul Penland: Albrecht and Greg’s first season was 2013, and they came in without any budget. They bought a super team with a payroll that was 19 percent of the league pot. Trevor had a great season with the second lowest payroll, and lost to Albrecht in the Swan. They actually tied 5–5 but Albrecht won the tiebreaker since he had a better regular season record. Trevor claims a co-championship but those don’t exist.

Brian Albrecht: It’s ludicrous. This isn’t pre-playoff college football.

Trevor Meeks: I didn’t lose! Paul just arbitrarily awarded the money to Greg and Albrecht. The fact is we tied 5–5 in the final. Paul said that because Greg and Albrecht had a better regular season record they won the tiebreaker. We have since changed that tiebreaker because it makes zero sense. Paul will write 42 pages on prospect rights but lets a meaningless stat be a tiebreaker for the Swan Final.

Paul Penland: The luxury tax was introduced because of Albrecht’s 2013 team. People lost their minds and there were arguments for a hard cap. Obviously their opinions didn’t matter at the time, because I was in full dictator mode, and I implemented a luxury tax if a team spent over 15 percent of the total pot.

Vincent Cangiamilla: It’s designed to try and stop people from spending ludicrous amounts of money. It didn’t work.

Paul Penland: One of the most unforgettable days in league history was the auction the following year.

Trevor Meeks: Greg had just co-won the league by buying the best team by far. The strategy worked, so we assumed they would do it again. However, Greg viewed the introduction of the luxury tax as the league having a temper tantrum. He rebelled by not spending any money and fielding the cheapest team possible. He showed up to the draft, ate free pizza and beer, and just never jumped into the bidding.

Matt Falcone: I think Greg’s approach this year was wildly more impressive than when he won the year before. He was able to take minimum payroll players and wheel and deal his way into almost winning the whole thing.

Brian Albrecht: I think we got second with like a $30 payroll.

Matt Falcone: Other than Paul, Greg has easily been the most influential force in the Swan.

Paul Penland: It is one of the most incredible seasons in league history. With the bare minimum payroll Greg managed his team to the Swan only to lose to Jeff who objectively had the best team in league history. (Jeff still had Trout for $0.25 and he got Altuve for cheap during Altuve’s breakout year.) Greg had single-handedly caused the league to implement a luxury tax after the 2013 season, and in 2014 he exposed another flaw in our league: There were no caps on starts for pitchers. He would pick up new starting pitchers every week to max out as many starts as possible in a week so he could get as many wins and strikeouts as possible.

Matt Falcone: As with most of Greg’s innovative approaches, there was a league backlash and then rule changes were made to prevent the loophole that Greg exploited.

Louie Nichol: He had 110 acquisitions that year. We instituted an acquisition cap to avoid teams from dropping and adding tons of two-start pitchers every week.

Paul Penland: Here’s another example of every nuance being exposed and justifying the need for a written constitution. We have always had 12 picks in the prospect draft. Ten for each owner and two supplemental. One of the supplemental picks is awarded to one of the four worst teams based on how well they play during the last month of the season — an incentive for remaining interested even if you’re likely not going to make the playoffs. The other is awarded based on the results of the Kentucky Derby. The assignment of horses is one of the more convoluted processes in the league, but essentially if your horse wins the Derby then you win the supplemental draft pick for the following season.

Andrew Gruss: This may be the dumbest part of this league and makes no sense.

Ryan Burke: Roping the Kentucky Derby in is where this league completely jumped into the absolute absurd. One year Paul decided to just randomly give every team an additional horse. Well, the additional horse that Trevor and I had gotten ended up winning the Derby. But we’d traded a horse to Louie eight months ago and now he feels entitled to all our horses.

Louie Nichol: It led to 100 emails about equestrian law, as you can imagine.

Ryan Burke: There were multiple days of discussions over whether or not he had the rights to our second horse that no one knew was going to exist when the trade was done. And he ended up getting it!

Paul Penland: We had to clarify in the constitution what “horse” versus “horses” meant.

Casey Bass-Clements: There’s a rule that can own your prospects without having to use a roster spot on them. So you can just leave them on the waiver wire and add them when and if you see fit. It’s on the other owners to not accidentally add someone else’s player.

Paul Penland: Hunter Renfroe was Tim’s prospect, but Greg didn’t realize that, or so he says. Greg picks up Renfroe and plays him for almost an entire week before Tim alerts the league that Greg has his prospect. I immediately went to the constitution to see what the ruling was and realized that for some reason I never really considered this happening. Based on the language Greg would only receive a penalty for failing to set a correct lineup, which is just a warning since it’s his first failure of the year, but he’d still get to enjoy the stats Renfroe has racked up for the week. Huge miss on my part in the constitution. Falcone is playing Greg at the time and he is livid. I felt like I had a duty to the league to own up to my mistake in the constitution, so I tell the league the literal interpretation but also admit it’s not fair. This pisses Greg off.

Matt Falcone: I decided to be a little bit extra in my email to the league, calling Greg out and questioning his motives.

Paul Penland: So Falcone calls a vote to overturn this ruling with some proposed remedy. I come out and vote in favor of Falcone’s remedy because I want to make this right — and that pisses Greg off even more. He is furious that I’m going against what I wrote in the constitution after I had treated it like the word of God in previous conflicts. Falcone didn’t do a good job of politicking for the votes, he lost, and Renfroe ended up contributing to Greg’s team that week.

Trevor Meeks: Another classic case of self-serving buffoonery by the usual suspects.

Matt Falcone: To this day I’m still not quite sure where exactly I stand with Greg.

Zach Flechsig: I mostly just laughed that this was the most that anyone had talked about Hunter Renfroe or the Padres as a whole for the last few years. I say this as someone who has lived in San Diego for 12 years.

***

V. The Meltdown

Louie Nichol: Trevor’s “Memorial Day meltdown” in 2017 may be my favorite moment of the league.

Paul Penland: Every Monday a new matchup begins and the lineups lock whenever the first game starts. Since it was Memorial Day, the lineups locked earlier than a typical Monday, and Trevor was caught trying to be too cute with his strategy. In his mind, Trevor thinks his opponent is strategizing his lineup based on whatever Trevor’s pitchers are going to be, so Trevor removes all of his pitchers from his lineup so his opponent doesn’t have any idea who will be in the lineup. This came back to bite Trevor in the ass because the lineups set and he didn’t have one pitcher in his lineup.

Matt Falcone: Just another example of Trevor’s continued ability to out-think himself in new and innovative ways.

Paul Penland: He blamed it on being in Baby Gap with his wife and not paying attention to the time.

Trevor Meeks: The Memorial Day meltdown has to be the most egregious example of league members trying to rationalize being complete dickheads. The way pitching is set up in our league, you can essentially stack your lineup relative to your opponents to nearly guarantee victory in quantity categories. You just need to know your opponent’s lineup which ESPN lets you look at. Thus, to prevent your opponent from doing the same to you, you should really wait until close to lineups locking for the week to set your pitching. This is what I and many other members do. However, while you are waiting to set your lineup, you typically have a previous pitching lineup saved with no empty slots. Unfortunately, the night before I was playing around with different lineup possibilities and saving them as I navigated from the waiver wire back to my team page. Once I had a lineup I liked, I needed to move guys around again to create a “fake” lineup in case my opponent, Jeff, was looking. Here is where I messed up. Instead of creating a fake lineup, I just emptied all the slots and hit save. Jeff would see all empty spots if he looked. I went to bed and planned on filling my actual lineup in the morning as I do every Monday morning during fantasy season. We were in Baby Gap when I checked my phone and saw the time. My heart sank. Paul had given me League Manager access in the past to help him from time to time. I could have just set my lineup manually right then and no one would have known. But no, I emailed the league and explained the situation.

Louie Nichol: Trevor sent an email the morning of and said “Memorial day brunch with fam and early game screwed me.” This was the biggest b.s. email in the history of the league.

Trevor Meeks: I offered many compromise punishments over forfeiting all pitching categories. I offered two empty slots. I offered that Jeff could pick my pitchers from my team. A few guys replied rationally, “Of course.” Sacra, Casey Bass, Greg, and Vince were all cool. Ironically, the guys I have been friends with over 20 years were all dicks about it and refused to make any adjustments to my lineup. Paul, Matt, and Louie were the worst about it. Louie even made up lies and said I was messing with my lineup that morning which made no sense. I wasn’t even playing him. Why would he be looking at my lineup? It was just a blatant lie that turned the voting against me. I was best man at this guy’s wedding! I had even helped him in previous fantasy controversies. Total betrayal. I thought surely a compromise sentence could be brokered to properly “learn my lesson” and move on with fair play. Instead, what happened was certain members saw an opportunity to be shitheads for personal gain.

Louie Nichol: To leave your roster blank, especially out of pure sneakiness, is a travesty. I think several of us grew habits of looking at his lineup the day of because of his sneaky tendencies and multiple changes within minutes of the deadline. My comments did not sway the voting. I love the kid to death, but he was never winning this vote.

Ryan Burke: Poor little naive Trevor thought he would just waltz into the emails and say, “Oh hey guys, I’ve made a boo boo, can I get a pass on this?” and he was just eaten alive. No mercy from this group.

Mark Sacra Jr. (2015-present): Trev has meltdowns like they’re his part-time job.

Trevor Meeks: I was pissed.

Paul Penland: Every time I opened up the site to check scores and would see his empty lineup, I would literally laugh out loud. It was great comedy.

Louie Nichol: Trevor ended up winning all five hitting categories and tied the week 5–5, which was pretty funny.

***

VI. The Walkoff

Paul Penland: We’ve had some pretty fantastic finishes over the years, but only one walk-off homer in a playoff matchup: a meaningless Chris Davis homer in a September game between the Orioles and Indians that sent Sacra and Casey B. to their first Swan.

Matt Falcone: It was my most memorable, and heartbreaking, Swan moment. We ended up having a super close match-up that ended up coming down to Sunday Night Baseball. I had Trevor Bauer going for the Indians with WHIP hanging in the balance. All other categories had been settled, so whoever won WHIP would go to the Swan. I started the game down in WHIP, but Bauer threw a great game and by the sixth inning, I was up. I just needed Bauer to either get pulled or allow no more than a walk or hit per inning pitched. Bauer goes out for the seventh and manages to escape with me still barely leading in WHIP. At that point Bauer is over 100 pitches and I’d started celebrating in my head.

Casey Bass-Clements: All that had to happen was for him to come out after seven and we lose.

Matt Falcone: My heart dropped when Francona decided to send Bauer back out to start the eighth. Bauer gets the first batter, but then gives up a slicing opposite field fly ball to Chris Davis that manages to barely clear the wall in left field near the foul pole to give Sacra and Casey the lead in WHIP. Francona then immediately comes out to pull Bauer and my fate was sealed. I love that I hate Francona to this day for a stupid decision he made in a random game towards the end of the season with zero postseason implications. Classic fantasy.

Mark Sacra Jr.: It’s one of those moments one can recall exactly where they were when it happened.

Casey Bass-Clements: Mark called me freaking out. We advanced to the finals off of that and beat Paul there.

Matt Falcone: Even more heartbreaking is that my team would have stomped Bryce City in the Swan, like Sacra and Casey did, so that stupid decision by Francona cost me another Swan.

Trevor Meeks: I was happy to see Falcone’s heart broken after he was a cocky jerk about the Memorial Day fiasco. I know he was sick to his stomach for days.

Mark Sacra Jr.: God bless Chris Davis forever and always.

***

VII. The Future

Zach Flechsig: I think this league is so time consuming that if you don’t put a decent amount of money at risk, there is no way that you could justify the amount of energy that you are spending on it. Juice has to be worth the squeeze. I also think that the league learned something from the actual MLB and this league has become a bit of an arms race.

Trevor Meeks: Investors or co-owners I think played the biggest part. Most teams have an investor now. Everything feels half price. It gives you that confidence you need to bid $400 on Mike Trout.

Ryan Burke: I feel like there were a few people who went really high the first couple of years, and it’s just spiraled out of control as everyone has started making more money in their personal lives.

Casey Bass-Clements: Too many damn lawyers making too much money.

Nick Petito: We’re highly invested in this league, and not just monetarily. The desire to create the “perfect” league is taken seriously by all the owners.

Paul Penland: Tim wouldn’t attend the auction most years. He would show up at the end and spend as little as possible, which means he never had a chance. There are no rules or league loopholes to expose anymore to my knowledge and you need to contribute some kind of capital to field a team that has a chance to win the Swan. He consistently did not do that. It was really tough because he would step up and contribute on league emails and debates, and he was always entertaining. He’s also a friend, and I haven’t talked to him since I kicked him out.

Zach Flechsig: As more money got involved and people took it more seriously, Tim chose to go the opposite direction. Less money, less fucks given. He just took it to the extreme. He was basically relegated to the minor leagues except there is no minor leagues.

Paul Penland: This is my last year as commissioner. This year I got married and my wife is pregnant with our first child, so I have a lot coming my way. We are now at a point I never could have imagined back in 2010. These last few years have been a lot of work to try and get the league structure to a point where anyone can be commissioner and the league can continue to thrive. Unfortunately, I think people are sick of my ideas and quite honestly I’m running out of them. My hope is that the fresh and interesting elements of the league going forward will come out of new commissioners along the way.

Louie Nichol: He has dealt with an immense amount of bitching from every owner, and I would imagine he needs a break.

Andrew Gruss: He realizes that his power grab was crumbling and had to get out before the revolt ended in the league folding.

Paul Penland: Falcone volunteered last year to take over when I’m done, and I’m holding him to that.

Matt Falcone: He’s created a new position, “Chairman,” that he’ll step into, so practically speaking, it’s not clear Paul is moving on from controlling the league, which is in perfect keeping with how everything has been run to this point.

Robby Miller (2020-present): I’m pretty sure this is similar to what Putin did when he had to let somebody else be president for a few years.

Zach Flechsig: I will believe it when I see it. Is Putin out of power in Russia? Is he ever going to be really out of the picture?

Written by

Writer, New York, NYT, MLB, WaPo, others. Founder, Deadspin. Author of four books, with fifth, “How Lucky,” coming May 2021. https://williamfleitch.substack.com

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