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July 10, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

League Norms and Trade Markets

by Jeff Quinton


Many a fantasy baseball player is trying to make a trade right now. Many trades will be made that should not have been made. Many trades will not be made that should have been made. League norms, while usually helpful, can play a role in distorting fantasy baseball trades and trade talks. More specifically, league norms often cause us to make trades outside of what the market dictates. Again, this can cause trades that should be made to go unmade and trades that should not be made to be made. We will take a look at league norms and how they impact trades. We will then look at what we can do about it.

League Norms:
I am usually all into books and journal articles and stuff, but sometimes good ol’ Wikipedia has just what the internet writer ordered:

“A norm is a group-held belief about how members should behave in a given context. Sociologists describe norms as informal understandings that govern society’s behaviors, while psychologists have adopted a more general definition, recognizing smaller group units, like a team or an office, may also endorse norms separate or in addition to cultural or societal expectations.”

As you have astutely guessed, each league has its own norms. Just as society’s norms dictate who we are willing to give our public transportation seat to, just as company norms dictate whether meetings start on time or five minutes late, our league norms will often dictate or at least influence the types of trades we make, the timing of the trades, as well as many other trade related and unrelated decisions. Norms, in general, are great; however, there are times when norms get in the way of optimal decision-making. Let us take at a look at both the good and the bad.

The Good:
Like heuristics, norms help us subconsciously or less consciously make the many decisions we have to make throughout the day; essentially, norms help to lower our cognitive load, which would be unbearable if we had to fully analyze, from scratch, every decision we make. Norms also help groups to function more efficiently. For example, when you extend your hand to another party and say, “Hi, my name is Pat,” norms indicate to the other party that you are interested in conversation or at least an introduction, that you would like to know their name, and that your name or preferred nickname is most likely Pat. This is helpful because otherwise a stranger might interpret such a movement as a sign of aggression or a disrespect of personal space. Similarly, in our fantasy baseball leagues, norms help us to begin trade talks and structure trades. If you have ever played in a free, internet league with strangers, then you have probably experienced the downsides of the absence of league norms. In these leagues, ridiculous trade offers are sent off into the abyss and trade talk is nonexistent or not constructive. By looking at this alternative, we can see how norms help our leagues operate more efficiently. League norms seem pretty rad at this point, but of course there is always a downside.

The Bad:
Norms tend to be built around normal or “most common” trade markets. Consequently, norms often lose their helpfulness when we face abnormal or uncommon trade markets. This means that when we face an abnormal trade market (which we probably face more frequently than we think), norms will get in the way of properly adjusting decision making to the new, abnormal market. Norms will do so mainly in two ways: precedent and fairness.

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