As many of you in the ottoneu world know, the format which has been playable on FanGraphs for the past five years got its start with a single league. Originated by three high school friends and bringing in six of our college friends (yes, our first year had nine teams). Well, 2015 is our tenth year playing ottoneu and I recently discovered a treasure trove of emails from before, during and after that first season.
One of these emails included a spreadsheet of rosters from the last day of our first season. With everyone busy with auctions right now, I thought it might be fun to glance back at what the league looked like in year one.
My team was pretty terrible that first year. As evidence, I ended the season with a $27 cap penalty on Adam Dunn (yes, I cut a $54 Adam Dunn, it seems), as well as cap penalties on Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Zack Greinke, Andruw Jones…clearly my big ticket purchases did not pay off.
But through a series of trades, I ended that year with a $5 Matt Cain, $4 Hanley Ramirez, $4 Prince Fielder, $3 Cole Hamels, $3 Dustin Pedroia, $3 Brian McCann, $2 Shin-Soo Choo, and $1 Carlos Quentin. That would be the core that allowed me to win years two and three.
The fascinating thing is that I also ended the year with a $55 Albert Pujols – the most expensive player in the game at that time.
Oh, and while that $27 cap penalty is impressive, it was actually only the second highest – another owner still in the league today had a $33 penalty on Vladimir Guerrero.
While Pujols was the single highest paid player, the highest paid pitcher was a $48 Johan Santana, the ace of the league champion team, Negative EV – owned by the man behind ottoneu, Niv Shah. He also had a $47 David Ortiz, $34 Manny Ramirez, $31 Travis Hafner, $30 Chris Carpenter, $25 Victor Martinez and a number of others. On the low end, he had $1 Corey Hart, $5 Evan Longoria, $6 Jose Reyes, and $1 Brad Hawpe. That team, by the way, is the only team in the league to have never changed names – Niv still owns Negative EV to this day. That was Negative EV’s last championship to date.
One of the more fun things going through the roster is finding the prospects people owned who never panned out. I had Chuck Lofgren and Ryna Goleski. Reid Brignac was still a guy with big potential. Jose Tabata, Lastings Milledge (who I desperately tried to trade for that whole season).
Of course, there were plenty who did pan out. The list of players I owned above were either breaking out or just about to. $1 Joey Votto was at the very bottom of one roster. $1 Adam Jones on another.
Perhaps my favorite fact, though, is that the man who drafted the original league constitution, Geoff Newton, had a $39 Miguel Cabrera as his cornerstone. He was one of the most expensive players in the game and the most expensive on Geoff’s roster. And yet, had Geoff kept him, and kept keeping him, with a $2 per year increase, Miggy would cost him $57 this year – and still be well worth the salary. There are obviously some cheap players that applies to, but that is a testament to how good Miguel Cabrera has been over the last decade.
Only one other high priced player ($30+) falls into that camp. Our resident Mariner fan owned a team named King Felix’s Merry Men, in honor of his ace, a $33 Felix Hernandez. Felix was his third highest paid player, behind a pair of $40 corner infielders – David Wright and Derrek Lee (yeah, 2006 was a long time ago). Felix would cost him $51 today and, like Miggy, still be a steal.
That seems kind of crazy to me. This league has been around a decade now and yet in that first year, there were two players, already stars, already among the fantasy world’s elite, who could have been kept for literally the entire history of the league, and still be good deals today. Nuts.
I’ve posted the rosters in a Google doc for anyone who wants to check them out and play around. Curious if you see anything else interesting from 10 seasons ago.
Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.