How I Botched the RotoWire Steak League Auction (Again)

This is the third time I’ve written this headline. Once in 2015, once in 2017. Both times I was among the league’s top point scorers, and more importantly, did not have to shell out for steaks.

The way the steak league works is six of the 14 teams (most of the Los Angeles division) have a side bet wherein the top three points finishers (Weeks 1-17) eat for free at Taylor’s Steakhouse in Koreatown, the fourth place finisher buys his own steak, fifth buys his own and one other, while sixth buys his own and two others. Put differently, fourth pays for one sixth of the tab, fifth one third, and sixth one half. (The Madison, Wisconsin division has its own, similar sidebet.)

Over the 18 years we’ve done this league, I’ve had the indignity of buying for myself once. I’ve also been the double-buyer once. That’s it. Every other year I’ve eaten for free except sadly the last two years where I couldn’t make the dinner despite being an eater because I’m in Portugal.

When I have made the dinner – 2001-2016 – I’m proud to say I did more damage to the buyers than anyone. Entree-sized shrimp scampi as an appetizer, surf and turf at “market price,” soup, salad, shrimp cocktail, 5-6 drinks, wine, coffee dessert and dessert wine. Only rule, sadly, is you can’t take anything home with you. If you order it, you have to eat it.

Suffice it to say that when my day comes, and surely it will at some point, the consequences will be severe, i.e., karma is a bitch.

I don’t hate this year’s team as much as those previous ones, but I made three errors, two of which were unforced and one was just a bad judgment call. Before I get into the specifics, here are the results of the auction:

(As for the league’s basic parameters, it’s standard (20/10, 4/6) non-PPR scoring, plus three IDPs instead of team defenses.)

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My judgement call error was not going $55 on Saquon Barkley. Ken Crites was purposely bidding me up, Alvin Kamara had just gone for $49 and I thought I should pass and wait on a bargain like Kareem Hunt. Except that Hunt himself went for $55, and so I bought Gurley for $62 (a fine price) and went to the mat for Leonard Fournette ($56), a few dollars high, but it’s non-PPR, and at that juncture I was much happier to have won him than to drop into another tier. As a Giants fan, and simply from a total usage standpoint, I like Barkley slightly more than Fournette even in this format where it’s closer.

But my biggest error came when I got Carson Wentz for $13. The way ESPN’s auction software works, the default nomination amount is $1. You can go higher, but if you do nothing, which most do, the player, no matter how good he is, starts at $1. For some reason, people in the room love to bid $2, then $3, then $4, etc., even if the player being auctioned has a zero percent chance of going for less than $45. It’s a huge waste of everyone’s time, so I speed things up by bidding on every decent player, whether I want him or not, to about $7 less than I think he’ll fetch. If it’s David Johnson, for example, I’ll jump from $1 to $48, and then whoever’s serious can take him off my hands if they want (or I can get back in if I choose.)

When Wentz came up, Deshaun Watson had gone at $21, Cam Newton at $18 and Aaron Rodgers at $23. Wentz started at $1, and I jumped to $13 on the idea he’d go just under Newton. As soon as I did it, I realized I had screwed up. The incremental, linear decline in price as you go down your cheat sheet only applies for players in the same tier. Once you get out of the elite tiers, there’s often a precipitous drop. Where that drop is differs from year to year, but it’s always there. Put in draft terms, a fifth round player is often closer to a ninth rounder in value than he is to a third. So Wentz stuck, and I watched as people swooped up Matthew Stafford for $3, Jared Goff for $2 and Matt Ryan for $1 later in the auction.

The other – arguably even dumber – thing I did was bid up Tim Schuler on Charles Clay. Schuler, a Buffalo guy, nominated Clay at $1, I already had my TE Trey Burton at $10, was down to $15 with lots of spots to fill, but for God knows what reason went $2, assuming he would go to $3. Of course, he didn’t go to $3. Clay is borderline even at $1. My only explanation for the temporary insanity is the other auction I did was the 2-TE Stopa League, in which case Clay was worth $3-$4. Totally boneheaded, not only because it cost me a valuable dollar for the end game, but also because it clogged up a roster spot with a useless player.

Otherwise, I like the team. My errors made me thin at WR (Marqise Lee is my No. 2, and No. 3 is TBD), but I have elite IDPs, two top-10 RBs, a top-15 WR, and a solid TE in a 14-team league. Hopefully Wentz can answer the bell Week 1, but I can always pick up Nick Foles or some other undrafted QB if he’s delayed a few weeks.