Roto Fantasy Baseball League vs. Fantasy Baseball Rookie
Roto Fantasy Baseball League v. Fantasy Baseball Rookie
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE ROTO FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE
Decided April 29, 2010
Cite as 1 F.J. 25 (2010)
An anonymous fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “fantasy league”) is operated in a rotisserie style where certain batting and pitching categories count for accumulation of statistics performed by major league baseball players. In this fantasy league, batters can score points and assist in the overall league rankings in the following offensive categories: batting average, homeruns, runs batted in, runs scored, and stolen bases. Pitchers accumulate points and assistant in the overall league rankings in the following pitching categories: wins, earned run average, strikeouts, saves, and WHIP (walks+hits per innings pitched). Additionally, this fantasy league permits teams to trade players with each other.
According to the rules set up by the fantasy league commissioner using Yahoo’s fantasy commissioner services, the commissioner has the sole authority to approve or disapprove a trade between teams. There is no league constitution in place to govern the overall operation of the league. As it is set forth, the only advertised criteria for the commissioner to use in evaluating trades is his own subjective evaluation. There are no additional checks and balances in place, such as a league vote or self-imposed committee review.
This fantasy baseball league is comprised of twelve teams, each of which has a roster of twenty players. Each team must include nine offensive players and six pitchers in its starting lineups each week. The pitchers can be of any designation (i.e., they can all be starters, all be relievers, or be some combination of both as long as they total six). The offensive players must comprise of one catcher, one first baseman, one second baseman, one third baseman, one shortstop, three outfielders, and one utility player (he can be eligible at any offensive position, including designated hitter).
The commissioner began this fantasy league in 2005 and has run it ever since. Over the years, he has brought in new members to replace departing team owners. Most of the people he has brought into the league were personal friends with him, or at the very least, good acquaintances. Not all team owners know each other outside of the fantasy league. Besides interacting through email, chat rooms, message boards, or internal league instant messages, most team owners do not interact with each other outside of the fantasy baseball world.
One new league member that the commissioner brought into the league has no prior fantasy baseball experience (hereinafter referred to as “rookie”). Prior experience is not a prerequisite for fantasy baseball participation. However, all other league members in this fantasy league have some form of experience, whether it be in this league or another. The other league members have no say in the commissioner’s choice for entry into the league, nor do they know the background of these new league members. There are no provisions in the rules which permit league members to request this information from the commissioner.
The rookie has expressed interest in making trades with other teams in the league. However, he has only proven to be responsive to trade inquiries or negotiations with the fantasy league commissioner. As stated previously, the commissioner personally knew the rookie and brought him into the league. The rookie did not know any other league member prior to entering the league.
The rookie ended up trading Mark Teixeira, the first baseman on the New York Yankees, to the commissioner in exchange for John Lackey, starting pitcher on the Boston Red Sox, and Francisco Rodriguez, relief pitcher on the New York Mets.
This trade was put through and approved by the commissioner himself. The trade was permissible in that it was a two for one player trade and was made in a timely fashion during the middle of the week.
Given there is no league vote or opposition allowed to a trade, even one made by the commissioner himself, the other league members have no recourse prescribed within the confines of the league to challenge the validity of a trade.
An anonymous member of the fantasy league has contacted Fantasy Judgment to determine whether this trade made between the rookie and the commissioner is fair.
(1) Is the trade of Mark Teixeira in exchange for John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez fair?
When deciding whether this trade is fair, the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment will look at several factors to determine its validity. The first set of circumstances to establish are the structural parameters of this fantasy league. All that is known to the Fantasy Judgment universe is that it is a 12-team Rotisserie style league with typical 5×5 categories. It is not known whether it is a keeper or league or not. However, this does not matter as it will not figure into the analysis. Each team has a roster of twenty players, including nine batters, six pitchers, and five reserves. The Fantasy Judgment universe is also not aware of the involved teams’ rosters. There will be certain things assumed in regard to the rosters of the involved teams.
This fantasy league does not have a constitution that governs the overall league. The only rules that are in effect are the ones selected by the commissioner on Yahoo’s platform. Within these rules is the provision that the commissioner has sole authority to approve or disapprove of all trades, including trades that he is involved in. Teams must make trade proposals or inquiries within Yahoo’s platform, and once accepted, the trade goes to the commissioner for approval. There are no other rules or guidelines in place to handle challenges to the commissioner’s decisions.
When looking at the trade of Mark Teixeira for John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez, the first thing this Court notices is that it is a first baseman in exchange for two pitchers. It is assumed that the rookie is in need of pitching while the commissioner may have a surplus in that category. Assuming this is true, the needs and motivations of the teams can be understood based purely on roster depth and strength.
Besides roster depth and strength, this Court looks at each player’s individual statistics as of the date of this decision. As of April 29, 2010, Mark Teixeira was batting .139 with two homeruns, nine runs batted in, ten runs scored, and no stolen bases. Clearly these are not impressive numbers for a player presumably drafted in the first or second round of any fantasy draft. However, it is directly consistent with Teixeira’s history. Ever since Teixeira reached the big leagues, he has always started the season extremely slowly leading fantasy baseball players to question their decisions to draft him. However, as has been the case every season, Teixeira begins heating up in May and ends each season with similar numbers, all averaging above thirty homeruns and over one hundred runs batted in.
As of April 29, 2010, John Lackey had two wins, no saves, eleven strikeouts, an earned run average of 5.08, and a WHIP of 1.65. These numbers are not spectacular either, especially for a top starting pitcher who just recently signed a lofty long-term contract with the Boston Red Sox and was projected to be the team’s number three starter. This would presume that Lackey would be facing other teams’ number three starters. The benefit of this is that Lackey, for all intents and purposes is a number one starter (as he had been for many years in Anaheim), and he would not have to go against other teams’ number one starters.
Finally, as of April 29, 2010, Francisco Rodriguez had one win, three saves, sixteen strikeouts, an earned run average of 0.84, and a WHIP of 1.21. Rodriguez, the closer on the mediocre New York Mets, has not had many save opportunities and does not figure to as the season goes on. Even when he has been in save situations, he is no sure thing.
It is fair to say that these three players all were playing below their respective expectations and did not have the statistics that fantasy baseball players are accustomed to seeing. However, Teixeira clearly has the biggest upside given his ability to help his fantasy team ascend several rotisserie categories, including homeruns, runs batted in, and runs scored. On the other hand, Lackey, who has a history of injuries as well, does not figure to make a significant impact on any category. He may end up winning 12-15 games with the Red Sox, but he will not be any great help with any of the other four pitching categories. At his age, he seems beyond the days of striking out 7-8 batters per game. Rodriguez’ primary upside in a rotisserie league is obviously the saves category. It was just two seasons ago that he saved an all-time record 62 games for the Angels. Expectations were high when he signed with the Mets, but not enough save opportunities have materialized for Rodriguez to even make a run at numbers like that. He is also no longer the once dominant flamethrower that he used to be, and at 28 years old, he is more hittable now than ever. This equates to more baserunners and a higher WHIP, so his value in the other pitching categories is not as prolific as it was a few years ago.
Based on all of the preceding arguments, this Court opines that the trade was not an intelligent one made by the rookie. However, that does not mean it was unfair. The rookie did acquire two pitchers with enough talent and statistical ability to justify the trade.
The more glaring issue that needs to be analyzed goes deeper than whether this particular trade is fair. The fact that the commissioner can approve his own trades is overtly questionable. On top of that, the fact he is trading with a league member he personally brought into the league who has no prior experience raises some serious concerns about the integrity of the commissioner. With good reason, the other league members are up in arms about this situation. Unfortunately, the trade made is not unfair. Additionally, there is nothing the other league members can do outside of either quitting the league or collectively requesting that the rules be changed going forward regarding the commissioner’s ability to approve trades. This Court, as it always does, recommends that the league draft a constitution to provide guidelines and rules that govern the league and any unforeseeable circumstance that may arise.
For the purposes of this case and in the best interest of the fantasy league, the Court concludes that the trade made between the commissioner and the rookie is fair and should be upheld.
IT IS SO ORDERED.