The Power of Precedents

Yesterday, we had a innocuous little trade in the Screw Cancer ottoneu league between one of the new owners and an existing club. The new guy sent $15 Michael Brantley for a $4 Eduardo Rodriguez. Those are two very cut-able players. However, nobody is going to shred your fantasy credentials if you keep them.

A glance into the trade notes reveals why this little detail rated an article – a $2 loan to the new owner of Brantley, to be distributed after the draft. Fine, right? $13 Brantley for $6 ERod smells fine. You see, there’s just one problem with that – offseason loans are specifically disallowed in ottoneu.

This article has an alternative title – The Reason Why You Need Clear And Enforceable Rules. In the case of this trade, we quickly and civilly stepped in and said “woah, not allowed. See rule.” The two parties involved apologized and decided to keep the trade without the loan. It was a pain free resolution. No hurt feelings.

And really, for this specific swap, it would not have mattered to anybody if we allowed the loan. Who cares about $2? My concern, which I noted to the league, is that loans in ottoneu are already poorly understood “assets.” They’re often treated as a throw-in so a non-contender can get a nice keeper. In some cases, the cash is actually the biggest acquisition in a swap. If we collectively struggle to receive value for in-season loans, it probably doesn’t make sense to manually allow offseason loans. It’s also a hassle for the commissioner.

Had we simply allowed these two owners to self-police, it’s almost certain it would have had no effect upon the 2018 season. The bigger issue is the precedent. If they can swap $2, then I can swap $5. Pretty soon, we’re at the bottom of the slippery slope with $3 Ronald Acuna being traded for $65 Clayton Kershaw, $25 Gregory Polanco, and an $87 loan.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is a complication of a format that’s already complicated. And one of the hallmark features of ottoneu is that teams all have to whittle their way back down to the same budget over the winter. It creates interesting opportunities.

In non-ottoneu formats, I usually use the phrase “loans are expressly prohibited.” This covers auction and FAAB budgets along with player transfers. If anybody tries to set up any type of loan… “hey, it’s prohibited. Expressly.”

Loans aren’t the only issue in want of clear rules. The when, why, and how of trade vetoes should always be clearly delineated. Too often, vetoes are simply used as an indication that you wouldn’t take one side of the trade. You think it’s lopsided.

Aww, you didn’t get to win the crappy trade. Shall I loan you my tiny violin? Sorry, I can’t. Loans are expressly prohibited.

In my opinion, and it is just an opinion, lopsided trades aren’t a reason to veto a deal. Again, it’s too easy to find yourself on the slick slope. A terrible trade is vetoed. Then a questionable trade is vetoed. Feelings are hurt. Everybody vetoes everything because it happened to them. League dies.

My leagues reflect this ideal. Rather than use a veto process, I allow for a 24 hour period to rescind trades – no questions asked. If you see a bad deal, convince the owners involved that it’s a bad deal. To add some stickiness to trades and prevent excessive tampering, if an owner rescinds a trade, they can’t trade the players involved for 10 days. In this case, I’ve created a very custom experience while also addressing the issues that can occasionally ruin leagues with vetoes. It’s worked very well.

There are plenty of other scenarios where clear rules can help to keep things civil. Let’s talk about them in the comments.

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The trickiest one I ran into is the Ottoneu rule that: “Each team should maintain at all times a roster of 22 major-league players that can fill out a starting lineup. The remaining 18 roster spots can be used for reserves, consisting of both major and minor leaguers.”

There is no mechanism built in to make sure a team complies with this requirement and the use of the word “should” makes it unclear if this is an enforceable rule. In one league, there was a team that went so hard into a rebuild that they did not have 22 major league players well into the season. There was some consternation but it was eventually settled on it being unenforceable because “should,” and because we figured it would be a nightmare enforcing compliance if someone was close to the line and then players hit the DL or get sent down, etc.

Baller McCheese
Baller McCheese

“Should” means it’s ultimately optional. If you want it to be mandatory, the word needs to be “shall”.