This Friday, the Free Agency period comes to a close with the eight factions filling the top three slots in their roster for the 2021 season. With this in mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to predict how a few of the factions are going to shape up after the conclusion of Free Agency, beginning with The Dungeon led by John Kaiser.
DISCLAIMER: This article is an editorial, and is based entirely on the author’s opinion. Consequently, the opinions portrayed in the article should not be conflated with the “Free Agency Updates” articles as this is not based on the information heard in any form from around the league. Additionally, it is obvious to say that the best option for each team is to land the best talent available, but that is not realistic. On that note, one should treat all of the “Best Fits” articles as “canon” to one another. If a player is predicted to go to one place, they will not also be predicted to go to another.
To say The Dungeon had a bad season is a bit reductive. Kaiser entered the year with an outside-the-box strategy by drafting two top Innergeekdom talents with the ninth and tenth overall picks in the 2020 Draft. The thought was that Innergeekdom and Star Wars matches were worth more points than Singles and Teams matches, so if The Dungeon wrecked shop in the Innergeekdom Division no one would be able to catch the faction in the standings. It was a bold strategy, and Kaiser might have gotten away with it if it weren’t for that meddling coronavirus. The pandemic threw a massive monkey wrench in the sophomore manager’s plans for the season by severely limiting the champion heading into the year, Kevin “The Smasher” Smets, to just one match on the year, and isolating the total number of Innergeekdom matches to a tournament and some change. Ultimately, the midway schedule shift put the kybosh on a 2020 Faction Championship for The Dungeon, and a 7-14 record resulted in a second-to-last place finish for Kaiser’s squad.
The upside to the lackluster season is that The Dungeon heads into 2021 with the first overall pick in the Draft. This asset alone puts Kaiser in a strong bargaining position for free agents, but that is not all he has going for him. In his first season as a manager, Kaiser managed two rookies to championships, demonstrating the important ability to mold talent into gold. With these factors in hand, The Dungeon seems primed to land top talent in the offseason. Specifically, I believe that Robert “The Spider” Parker, Ben “The Boss” Bateman, and Paul “The Powder Keg” Preston will be signing with John Kaiser at the Free Agency Special.
Robert “The Spider” Parker
Let’s start with the most obvious of the three, Rober “The Spider” Parker.
Parker had a disappointing 2020 season. Much of this can be attributed to the hype that surrounded the rookie coming into the league. He was drafted by Kaiser tenth overall and was touted as the heir-apparent to the Innergeekdom title before even stepping foot in the ring. Anything short of holding a belt at the end of the season was going to feel lackluster, but that does not mean Parker deserves to fall to the 2021 Draft. A closer look at The Spider’s 2-1 record reveals that he only missed four total questions across his three matches in 2020. Additionally, Parker was one of just two players that closed out the year with both an accuracy rate and a PPE% above .900, and the only other person to do that last season is currently in possession of the division’s top prize. The now sophomore competitor may fall under the radar, but make no mistake, he is a top-talent in the league, and Kaiser would be smart to capitalize on the connection formed during the last season and re-sign him to The Dungeon.
Ben “The Boss” Bateman
With Innergeekdom locked up, Kaiser would then need to solve one of the major flaws with his strategy in 2020 and sign an elite Singles and Teams talent. Enter Ben “The Boss” Bateman.
Setting aside Bateman’s 2020, there has been a lot of talk about The Boss this offseason. The prevailing rumor is that he is going to be making a return to Tom Dagnino and The Finstock Exchange at the Free Agency Special despite constantly dismissing Dagnino as the worst manager in the league. Personally, this does not make any sense. If reports are to be believed, then Dagnino is attempting to acquire the number one overall pick from The Dungeon with the intention to snag four top-tier Singles and Teams Division players to lead his faction, with Bateman and John “The Outlaw” Rocha at the forefront. Sound familiar? It should because that is essentially how The Finstock Exchange assembled last season prior to the implosion that left them sitting in fourth place in the standings. History has shown that this strategy is a recipe for disaster, and this time they would have to try to make it work without the greatest player of all time, “Dangerous” Dan Murrell. It would be a fool’s gambit for Bateman to attempt to rehash the 2020 Finstock Exchange, and I believe he is too smart to go through with it.
Instead, I predict that this is a massive lead up to Dagnino’s public humiliation at the hands of The Boss. That’s not to say that my sources are not credible. I do believe that Bateman and the Exchange are nearing a deal. However, I do not think that Bateman has any intention of following through on it.
The smarter choice for The Boss is to move to a faction where he gets to be the top dog, like The Dungeon. We know from other shows that Bateman has a friendship with Kaiser outside of the game which could motivate a signing with the faction. In addition, The Dungeon offers Bateman much more control over the roster than any other faction with major stars. Bateman is considered as highly as he is because he is a strategist. He is not going to take his talents somewhere where he is unable to be used to his fullest potential. One could argue that The Den can also make that offer to The Boss, but that’s where Kaiser’s pedigree as a manager comes into play. At the end of the day, Kaiser has had more managerial success than Kate Mulligan which makes him more likely to land Bateman. It is a win for all parties involved, and Bateman gets the additional opportunity to embarrass Bobby Gucci to boot.
Paul “The Powder Keg” Preston
From here, Kaiser needs to sign a partner for Bateman that creates a powerhouse team, and I think that should be Paul Preston.
My philosophy when crafting a potential team is to pair a strategist with a brute knowledge player. Pairs like Final Exam and Shazam have had a lot of success over the last few years in the league, and I think that managers would be smart to use them as the template for crafting teams going forward. In this case, you already have a “student of the game”-type player in Bateman, so you need to find a partner that has a wealth of knowledge but also has a vibe that seems to mesh well with both The Boss and The Dungeon.
Bateman is not going to return to Mark “Yodi” Reilly. He’s already ruled out someone like “The Elusive” Alonso Duralde or Witney “The Beauty” Seibold. And, I do not believe that players like Ethan “Big Time” Erwin or “Dangerous” Dan Murrell would fit with The Boss’ current heelish attitude or the overall tone of Kaiser’s squad. Preston, on the other hand, fits both of the criteria outlined above.
All of that is without mentioning The Powder Keg as a player in his own right. I truly believe that Paul Preston is primed for a massive comeback next season. His passion for the game that he demonstrated on Schmoedown Backstage proved to me that he is ready to take the next step and become one of the elite talents in the league. The Powder Keg had a down year in 2020, but even with that, he is the eighth-most accurate player of all time. Combine that with Bateman’s game savvy, and I believe you have a championship-caliber team.
At the end of the week, John Kaiser and the players mentioned here are going to make the best decision possible about their 2020, and I believe that the best outcome for all involved is outlined above. Locking up these three players puts The Dungeon is a stronger position for the faction championship, and it gives Kaiser options for the number one overall pick. He can either take the top Star Wars player available or perhaps even better, he can trade down a few picks and still land a potential top tier competitor in that Division.
Nevertheless, only time will tell what will tell where everyone really ends up. Be sure to tune in to the Free Agency Special on Friday to see how this all goes down, and be on the lookout for the rest of my predicitions throught the week.
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