The Unwritten Rules

Over the course of the last few weeks of the regular season last year, I had explored different ethical and strategic questions posed to me via email and social media. It was a fun series to write and while some definitely did not like me or my advice, others loved it. So, I am hoping to make this a reoccurring series that will pop up periodically throughout 2017. Feel free to send me more questions at JustinMasonFantasy@gmail.com or on twitter @JustinMasonFWFB and when I have enough, I will do another installment. Thanks for playing along!

My league has a scoring system that devalues stolen bases compared to standard leagues. We also keep track of historical records in categories. My teams (in various years) have made it such that at some point various teams of mine have been the all-time leader in every category except SBs. I could theoretically fix that, but seeing as that is the lowest priority category for a competitive team, is it unethical to build a team to make a run at history–“All-time leader in everything”(… in different years, but still)– instead of building the team I think has the best shot at winning the league next year?

-Stan M.

Is it unethical? No, but it isn’t smart either. We play fantasy baseball for a multitude of reasons, but ultimately like Herm Edwards once said, “you play to win the game!” Now, if in the course of this, you set some records along the way, then more power to you. You obviously have different motivation than me. I would never do this, but there is nothing unethical about it as far as I can see.

I’m in a league has a compensation rule (from his money leagues) for the sudden and irreversible loss of a player due to injury or death (but it was never codified), so far the compensation has been rejected in the case of Taveras and Fielder, but he has imposed it on a manager that didn’t ask for it that is lavish to say the least. The league is a very deep keeper and we do a blind draft based on waivers every year to fill out our roster spots from 22-26. He wanted to give the team losing Jose Fernandez a free pick after keepers are set but before claims are sent in. This would give the manager the pick of the litter which is usually saved for the last place team. He insists that this is even light, while I’ve been saying that it’s stealing from the neediest teams to give a team that is competitive without Fernandez an unfair advantage. He insists on ‘fair value’ for the player, I insist on fair value for the team to remain competitive. I pleaded for some sort of methodology using numbers to evaluate the players in each instance, but he flatly rejected the idea. Am I wrong to believe that this opens up him and the league to questions of bias and using an uneven hand?

Chris W.

First and foremost, I really like this rule. It protects the owners in case of unfortunate events like the loss of a player. However, as much as I like the rule itself, it is not being properly employed. A rule like this should have strict guidelines to follow when such occurrences do happen. I don’t understand how the Prince Fielder owner doesn’t get compensated, but the Jose Fernandez owner does. Shouldn’t both owners get compensation? Fielder was going around pick 90 in NFBC leagues last season while Jose Fernandez was going around pick 34. Do I think the compensation is too much? No, I think it is fair, but it shouldn’t be levied unless every owner understands and/or agrees that this is the standard protocol. In my opinion, the league should come up with and vote for a future protocol for the death or career ending injury of a player and specify the compensation given to each team when this happens. This should not be an arbitrary process that is left up to the commissioner. So, I don’t think the compensation is unfair, but I do think you have a gripe about the process not being equitable or consistent.

 

Earlier this season, another owner and I got into an argument about the use of SP eligible relievers (specifically closers). I noticed that pitchers like Alex Colome could be premium closers because of their SP eligibility and started grabbing them off waivers to use in my SP slots. The other owner argued this was an unfair way to score extra points, while I thought it was simply a creative use of a roster spot. What’s the verdict? I’m playing in a daily lineup set, points league with limited starts per week.

-Ben

Personally, I am not a big fan of leagues like this that have designations for pitcher slots. I feel like they attempt to limit the flexibility of a pitching staff and force owners into certain strategies. That being said, when I have played in these formats, I have done exactly what you have done. The idea that using positional eligibility to your advantage is somehow cheating is preposterous. Was it unfair if owners used Ian Desmond or Hanley Ramirez at shortstop because they still had the eligibility there even though they had stopped playing there? Of course not! If a player has eligibility at a certain position, then not only are you well within your right to use them to your advantage, but you would be foolish not to! Unless there is some rule within the league’s constitution or bylaws, you have done nothing wrong. If other owners want to play by some misguided notion of how the game “should” be played, then that is good for them. I am going to play by the rules that are written, not the ones that aren’t.

 

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Justin is the co-host on The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast and writes for Rotographs covering the Roto Riteup as well as random topics that float into his juvenile brain. In addition to his work at Rotographs, Justin is the lead fantasy writer/analyst and co-owner for FriendswithFantasyBenefits.com, owner of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, and a fantasy football and baseball writer for Fantasy Alarm. He is also a certified addiction treatment counselor. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinMasonFWFB.

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Choos on first
Member
Choos on first

Just a bit of an update for the second question:

The league ended up voting, but only seven or so out of the 18 managers actually voted, most of them from the commissioner’s other leagues, so it passed.

The commissioner had refused to hand out compensation for guys hit with suspensions for PED’s, stating that the managers “know the risks”. Fernandez was found to have alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time of his death, but didn’t revoke or reduce the compensation.

His biggest complaint to using numbers is that it was going to penalize Fernandez because of the time he missed from 2014-2015 from TJ surgery. I had even tried to tinker with the formula I originally offered for use to try and compensate for his missing time, but he still refused to accept it because it didn’t value Fernandez properly, in his mind.

I wound up leaving the league and one of the best teams in it because dealing with this sort of thing, and what appeared to be rampant cronyism going on, just wasn’t worth it. I discovered just the other day though that he brought in a manager to replace the guy who took my team and immediately confirmed a trade with him. The other manager was also from his money league and the introduction and trade happened in the same post causing some complaints. I’m so glad I left.

Manny Ramirez
Member
Manny Ramirez

I dunno man, this whole thing just makes you sound insensitive. I’ve had Jose in my keeper since 2013, and after he passed away, the last thought on my mind was getting some kind of compensation for that in my fantasy league. I’d say the same for Prince Fielder having his career cut short due to those neck problems.

Unforeseen injuries and suspensions happen all the time in fantasy baseball, reacting to that is part of the strategy. If your league agrees to a set of rules that constitute a life insurance policy, fine, but I think you just gotta chill out with this one.

Choos on first
Member
Choos on first

Ok, so first, the rule was supposedly ‘brought in’ from his money leagues, but was never written into the rules of the league. Second, I was demanding a written rule so that we had some guidelines, and after fighting tooth and nail, he finally added it to the league rules. Third, instead of saying that compensation shouldn’t be given, I was saying that we needed to have some sort of method for determining a player’s value other than gut feelings. This was something that he refused as well. Fourth, and finally, because the team was clearly a top 5 team overall, I argued Fernandez wasn’t as valuable to the team as he would be on the 18th place team.

The argument focused on the value of a marginal win. You could use the Cubs, and argue that their 59+ fWAR from last year means that Lester was less valuable to them. Lester last year was worth 4.3 fWAR. If you replace him with a league average pitcher, the Cubs go from 59+ to 57+ fWAR which still leaves them as the best team in baseball by fWAR, and would keep their pitching staff in the top 10 from last year. Since this league was a points league, the argument makes sense as Fernandez would have been a lesser percentage of his team’s overall strong performance than he would have been on the 18th place team.

The ultimate argument that I made was that if compensation was going to be given out, which I wasn’t entirely against, it should be given out in consistent manner that would be clearly visible to all members of the league, and should be focused on keeping the team competitive. For a top team that would mean a little less than it would for a bottom team who would have relied on Fernandez as a crucial part of their long term strategy to build a competitive team. So losing him on a team chock full of talent is much less painful than a team in desperate need of it.

Manny Ramirez
Member
Manny Ramirez

Alright, I misread that in terms of who you were, and who the team that lost Fernandez was, apologies. I still think that such a rule compensating for the death of a player should not exist in a fantasy league, and I think that you did the right thing in leaving the league. If a rule does exist, it should be very clear and approved by a significant majority of the league, so that commish can’t be arbitrary with it. It’s better to move on than to continue interacting with folks you fundamentally disagree with, in the case of this league.

sngehl01
Member
sngehl01

He’s not being insensitive. He’s being unbiased.

The thought on his mind isn’t what HE gets for Jose. It’s what the owner for Jose gets, and that it’s fair when comparing to a guy like Prince.

I absolutely agree with his decision to leave the league. The commish sounds very heavy handed with his approach, and it can suffocate a league. After reading what he wrote in his follow-up, I feel he DEFINITELY made the right decision to leave.

The first rule of being the commish is to be fair and unbiased. It sounds like the commish is looking out for what benefits him the most, and is not open to suggestions/ideas based on what the league thinks.

Choo – do you have an email? I’m in a deep (18 team, 24 keeper) dynasty league. I’m not the commish, but I fully back the guy. It’s my first year in the league, it’s been around like 10 years. We have a team we suspect that won’t return, and you sound like the type of owner we’d like to have. I can email you more about it, and have you on standby in case the owner doesn’t return.

Choos on first
Member
Choos on first

sngehl01: you can reach me at choos on first @ gmail . com, the league sounds interesting and I’d definitely like to get more info and on standby to take over a team.

Choos on first
Member
Choos on first

I should also add that because the draft used waivers, it was blind outside of the first overall claim. My offer was an extra claim with a priority just after his first, and another just after his third, while losing his final claim for roster size limits. That way the 18th place team still got the guaranteed player and the team losing Fernandez would get two extra chances to get some talent.