The Unwritten Rules

Welcome to a supersized edition of The Unwritten Rules! Throughout the season I have been and will continue to answer questions based on fantasy ethics and rules in this recurring piece. You may not always like the answers I give, but I hope that it is informative and makes you think about how you construct your leagues and play the games. Typically I do 4-5 questions per piece, but with the overwhelming amount questions I received, I felt I should knock out as many as I could. You can send me more questions via email,, my twitter account, or by posting in my facebook group.

Question: Constitutional rule in our league states very clearly that certain players are to be placed on MLB roster after “x” amount of starts after they pass rookie limits (which mirror MLB rules 50 IP for pitchers, 150 AB for hitters). Manager A waits nearly 50 AB after the limits w/o promoting. Manager B notices and picks him up off of waivers. Commish comes in and says, “Hey guys, we’re trying to be lenient as most of us have lives outside of fantasy baseball (non-pay league).” Conversation among the league ensues. Some for penalizing Manager A as per stated rules and allowing said player (in this case Guillermo Heredia) to go to email waivers for the whole league to have a shot at; other managers are for granting leniency. Ultimately commish makes decision (leniency) and Manager B is upset but he’s ok. –For my part, I’m for following the rules. Just makes things easier. And hell, it’s Guillermo Heredia!– Anyway, two days later Manager A goes ahead and trades Heredia to Manager C for Domingo Acevedo. Now Manager B throws a fit and feels like Manager A has rubbed his face in this. Not only did he not get penalized, now he trades him for a very good prospect. Manager B quits the league, everyone calls him a baby, and meanwhile the league rules were not followed.

I’m sure there’s some ethics in there for you to write about. This was the drama in my 20-team home league last week.


Answer: Rules are rules. If you aren’t going to follow them, then what is the point of having them? Does it suck when things that hurt you happen? Of course, but it is in the best interest of the league to stay within the set structure of the league. The commissioner was in the wrong to offer leniency and Manager A was in the wrong accepting it. Player B overreacted in quitting, but it is understandable. If the league wanted to be lenient, people should have informed Manager A that the limit was approaching or they should institute a grace period for these situation.


Question: How a commish handles vetoing a trade that he’s part of. I’m the commish, I was offered (entirely an offer from the other party, we had no prior discussion)…. so I was offered Machado on an expiring contract for a $1 Domingo Santana and $1 Edwin Diaz, both of whom are keepable for 5 more years. And I, the commish, hold sole veto power, no voting.

It’s an off deal for how the league tends to value players. But only because it was Machado on an expiring contract I accepted. But of course there were strong complaints about the fairness of the trade, and I finally vetoed it because so many people would have quit that the league would have folded.

But my point with all of that is how to handle things as a commish/player. How to try to keep a fair eye on things given those two roles.

-James A

Answer: If you or your league is worried about how your league handles trades and vetoes, then maybe you should move to league vote or a trade committee for handling vetoes. Being commissioner shouldn’t put you at a disadvantage for winning your league. Personally, I think that vetoes should only be reserved for collusion, but if your league feels otherwise, put it in the hands of your league.


Question: Unlisted players. We have one owner who insists that owners with unlisted players be responsible for adding them as soon as CBS does. I see his point, but he throws such hissy fits, I almost want to leave my unlisted guys “as is” for the humour. If there is nothing in the constitution, what kind of default rule should fantasy leagues follow?

-Curt K.

Answer: I tend to feel like you should be able to add unlisted players within two weeks, but if there’s nothing in the constitution, then it would be up to the commissioner to make sure it is done within a timely manner. It is definitely something you should clarify in the constitution for future seasons. As far as messing with your league mate, be careful because that could be a future trading partner and pissing him off for a cheap laugh.


Question:  We had a situation in our draft this season. On our ESPN site, two guys said they were disconnected during the 7th or 8th player put up for auction. Our commish got stuck with a player he didn’t want so he restarted the draft. Many were not happy.

-James B

Answer: There is few things worse than software screwing you in an auction. In most programs a commissioner should be able to back out of players and restart their bidding. If in this case he was unable to do that, then he should have paused the auction to take a vote on how to proceed. Making a unilateral decision to restart the auction because something affected him when he wasn’t willing to do that for someone else is abuse of power. In the future have an agreed upon protocol for such events written in the constitution, so it is not an arbitrary decision.


Question: Am I breaking my league by winning too many trades?

I’ve managed to pull off a number of two-for-one deals of guys on hot streaks that end up with me having an all-star team. I’m concerned this is going to cause my fairly casual league to check out.

Do I have an obligation to consider this, or can I just focus on trying to win?


Answer: No, you’re not breaking your league by winning too many trades, but you could be hurting your future ability to make them. Trading should be treated like a new relationship. You need to develop trust and if you are taking advantage of your partner then eventually you may find yourself single. The best trades help you win while making your partner feel like they got what they were looking for in the deal. Not every trade will accomplish this, but it is something to aspire to do.


Question: Hey Justin-

First of all, thank you for everything you do within the fantasy community. I still can’t believe how quick you are with twitter responses regardless of the time of day!

Here’s my league’s situation:

12 team h2h league, and for years there have been guys that have punted saves and others who have gone closer heavy and nobody has ever had an issue with it. This year there is an owner who chose not to pick up a replacement for Tulo and McCann. He’s active and has picked up other players, just not a SS or C. There’s another guy in the league who’s replacement catcher plays twice a week. Mind you, we only start 1 catcher.

As the commissioner this doesn’t bother me, but guys have inquired about whether or not there is something in the league constitution about starting a full lineup, which there isn’t.

We currently have a poll running to see how the league feels as a whole regarding the need to start a full roster. Should there be? Or is it your right as an owner to leave a slot open if you feel a replacement would be worse for your team overall?

We have an IP minimum and will likely add an AB minimum next year and additional DL slots, but wanted your thoughts on the situation as well.



Answer: I prefer to set minimum pitching and hitting limits as low as possible to allow people to employ the strategy that best suits them while still forcing people to be active. I would recommend 400-500 ABs per every non catcher hitting spot. So, in a standard league with two catchers: 12 normal hitter slots equals 4,800-6,000 ABs then add another 200-250 per catching slot.

As far as DL slots, I have always been a big proponent of as having as many DL slots as possible. Leagues shouldn’t be decided by injuries and managers shouldn’t be forced into dropping good talent into the pool because of a rash of injuries.


Question: On the league page, it lists the most recent handful of league transactions (you can click through to see all transactions).  Suppose someone drops a player I am interested in, and I don’t want many people to notice that he has been dropped, would it be ethical for me to make several adds and then immediate drops solely for the purpose of bumping news of a transaction off of the front page?


Answer: If you are willing to drop enough guys that it would bump that player off the front page then go for it, though I figure that it’ll be pretty suspicious if you are dropping guys that you have just picked up, so keep that in mind. Ultimately, this is one of the many reason I tend to advocate leagues switching to FAAB, but I don’t feel like there is anything inherently wrong with the move.


Question: My friends and I have a league where we set up a limit of 8 SP on the roster. But the commissioner forgot to put a limit on RP (and there’s no written constitution,) so a lot of guys are loading up on SP/RP guys, because they don’t count against the limit. One owner currently has 12 guys with SP eligibility.

While changing rules mid-season is rarely a good idea, the SP limit was unanimously agreed upon before the season. Is it fair to ask the owners to abide by it, despite the loophole?

Answer: I know this is frustrating especially considering you already voted, but it is a bit late to address this problem now considering we are two months into the season. This is a pretty common loophole used in a ton of leagues so I can see why people would employ it. I would suggest making a written constitution and strengthening this rule for future seasons.

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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, 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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I had a (perfectly fair) trade vetoed by a majority vote in my league, so my trade partner and I redid the trade, and started a league message board discussion about it. Knowing most of the guys probably use a mobile app to do their business, it got buried on the “league activity” tab, and nobody took the time to veto it a second time. Whether it was a coincidence or it actually worked, I’ll never know. I certainly don’t feel bad about it.


I’ve done deals right before waivers close so it gets buried after a myriad of moves. I don’t mind transaction burying. It’s a smart strategy.

My league now, however, notifies via email, so it’s hard to keep trades a secret. Then again, we’re all adults. If someone wants to give up a boat-load of players for one guy and they aren’t colluding or cheating, that’s their prerogative.