The Unwritten Rules

I didn’t grow up a fan of baseball. I was born and raised in Washington DC; an area that was devoid of a professional team until after I moved away. However, just like many kids, I played it growing up, but because I didn’t watch much of it growing up, I didn’t know about many of baseball’s unwritten rules until later in life.

I do remember the first time I saw a pitcher intentionally hit someone. I was watching an Orioles game with my father. The pitcher threw a pitch into the side of an opposing hitter. The batter was none too happy about it as he made his trip to first.

I looked up at my father and asked, “Why did he do that?”

“The other team hit one of his guys last inning. That’s what you do. If someone hits you, you hit him back,” he responded.

A number of years later, I was the starting pitcher for my freshman baseball team. I was the best player on a really bad team. It was the bottom of the fifth inning in the second to last game of the season and I was pretty angry because in the top half of the inning I got beaned. It probably wasn’t on purpose, but I didn’t care. When the first batter of the inning came up, I threw a fastball as hard as I could, which wasn’t very hard, at the head of the hitter in the box. For the first time all season, I hit my spot exactly. The ball hit the helmet, the batter dropped to the ground, and as the helmet rolled away from the hitter we all noticed her ponytail. Yes, I had hit the coaches’ daughter from other team. Needless to say, that was the last pitch I threw or inning I ever played in organized baseball.

So, what are the unwritten rules of fantasy baseball? That is the question that this piece aims to discuss. I reached out to a number of people via social media to get real life ethical questions or scenarios. The response was so overwhelming that I have decided that I will spend the next few weeks answering questions that people have submitted to me in hopes that if the reaction to these pieces are good, that I can make this a semi-regular series.

Team A and Team B agree to a trade. Team A needs the trade pushed through before the next day’s games start in order to make the playoffs. Does Team B have a moral obligation to ask the commissioner to process the trade in time for Team A to use the players for the next game? – Alan N.

Unless there was an understanding that you needed these player immediately or there was a stipulation agreed upon that this would have to happen, then the answer is no. Most leagues have a set waiting period for trades to process. In leagues that don’t and are left to commissioner approval, one should make sure that this kind of action is stipulated. Team B’s only moral obligation is to his team. If Team A had said that he needed these players ASAP, then Team B should ask the commissioner to process the trade, but he is not obligated to do so. The commissioner should be obligated to process the trade at the same speed he would any other trade. If the history of the league is such that trades are processed immediately, then it is responsibility of commissioner to do it. In an age of fantasy sports in which almost everything is automated for us, this issue should be standardized by your league. If the league does not want to insert a standard waiting period enforced by the site in which you play on, I would recommending adding a co or vice commissioner to assist the commissioner in expediting trades.

A guy in my league is benching his players to purposefully drop in the standings because he wants to get a better pick for himself for next season. Does this undermine the integrity of the league? – @justchuckingit

Does this undermine the integrity of the league? Yes. However, if there is no rule against it, then it should be allowed. Teams do this in professional sports all the time, so why shouldn’t fantasy owners do it. I personally recommend either a lottery system for draft picks in keeper leagues or rules that force people to start a full active lineup to help prevent tanking, but if those safeguards are not in effect, then why should someone not use the rules to their own advantage?

A team that is eliminated from playoff contention in my redraft league, but is continuing to pick up players like Moncada and De Leon despite no chance at winning. Is this ok? – @MdThomp24

Of course it is! I would much rather have a person who is active than a person that checks out after the All Star Break. Many leagues dream of having an active owner that is still playing after they are eliminated. Especially in a head to head format where the competitive balance can still be greatly affected by inactive owners, it is awesome that you have an owner that is playing it out regardless of his own inability to win the title. Wouldn’t it be worse if this player was starting a bunch of injured guys and cost someone a playoff spot because he wasn’t keeping an active lineup?

Last week I was matched up against the 6th place team. In our head-to-head league, six teams make the playoffs and I already have the 1st seed locked up. In my opinion, the 6th place team is stronger than the 7th place team, so I threw the week to ensure the worse team made the playoffs. Is this good strategy or poor ethics? -Jeff L.

This is good strategy. We play to win the game and if you can easily give yourself a better schedule rest of the way to do so, then more power to you. May you lose a friend? Yes, but you can find new friends! This was done to me in my 3-Sport league. The first place team threw the week against the fourth place team to ensure I couldn’t pass him in the standings and get the last playoff spot. Was I pissed? Yes, but when the anger subsided and I took an objective look at it; I realized it was a brilliant move on his part.

In my main league, there have been several rules made with the intention of dictating how each manager manages his team. I’ve argued it’s unnecessary as we all should be allowed to manage as we see fit. Should leagues league do this?

I absolutely agree with you. Teams should be allowed to manage their teams in the way they feel best suits them as owners. Part of the fun of fantasy baseball is seeing the different strategies and how they play out. People should be allowed to employ any strategy that doesn’t affect the integrity of the league. Leagues should not be in the business of restricting or attempting to protect owners from themselves. People need to make mistakes of the moves that they deem fit for themselves. Rules are needed to inform owners of what is and isn’t ok, but they shouldn’t be used to restrict strategy.

For example, I was in a league for 15 years. Over the course of the last five of those years, the league continuously changed their rules on trading because they felt it gave me some sort of advantage that was unfair. Year after year they made changes and I adapted. Finally they just decided to not invite me back for year 16 and from what I have heard all the rule changes has made the league less fun this season for the remaining owners. What they should have done was adapt their own play or done a better job at competing with my style of play. The rule changes hamstrung others than it did me and opened up other unforeseen complications.

If you do not see your question or scenario, check back next week. If you would like to submit a question or scenario, ask me on twitter @JustinMasonFWFB or you can email me at JustinMasonFantasy@gmail.com.

I am also looking for a catchy title for this series. So far The Unwritten Rules is the clubhouse leader. If you have suggestions post them in the comments or tweet them at me.





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.

newest oldest most voted
fredfotch
Member
fredfotch

Given your answers in this column, I am not surprised that you were not invited back to your league.

A player should absolutely not be allowed to bench players in order to improve his draft position for the upcoming year. Give me one example of a professional sports team fielding less than a full roster in order to drop in the standings. Trading veteran players for young prospects to “tank” is one thing, not fielding a team is another.

Similarly, throwing a game in order to get a better playoff matchup is definitely against the unwritten rules of the game in my opinion. If playing against the 7th seed instead of the 6th is worth losing a friend, then there are more serious issues in your life.

Baller McCheese
Member
Member
Baller McCheese

If a team is determined to lose, I’d much rather they bench their players than have to field a bad team. Having to field a bad team would force them to drop what good players they have in order to replace them with bad players. The #1 unwritten of fantasy is that you don’t dump your team when you’re not in it anymore. The safeguards that Justin recommends for this situation are the way to go.

dl80
Member
Member
dl80

“Give me one example of a professional sports team fielding less than a full roster in order to drop in the standings.”

The 76ers have been doing this for years.

Pirates Hurdles
Member
Member
Pirates Hurdles

They still play 5 everynight

Pirates Hurdles
Member
Member
Pirates Hurdles

Not surprised either, a lot of these answers border on the preposterous. Its a game, not life and death, be a man, not a d’bag. Fantasy Baseball is a lot more fun when the league behaves in a civil manner instead of trying every trick in the book to win at all costs. That environment leads to a dead league real fast.

Thomas
Member
Member
Thomas

You’re comparing fantasy directly to managing a real team, and that’s not totally accurate. On a real team, you can field a whole roster while still tanking, since players can adjust their efforts so as to maximize their chances of losing the game without outright throwing it. In fantasy, this is impossible. I can’t phone up Trout and tell him I’m trying to tank, so he should stop trying so hard. The only option is to bench the roster. A bit shady? Sure. Wrong? Only if it’s against the rules. I think Justin’s overarching emphasis is simply everything is ok unless it’s explicitly against the rules, and things shouldn’t be against the rules if they hinder manager innovation and gameplay. If you have a problem with something you can make it against the rules, but you can’t fault someone for operating within the rules to do something that gives them an advantage, even if it may seem a little shady or arguable.