Passing Judgment – The NBA Lockout

I hope you like hockey.  That is going to become the prevalent theme for sports fans come November if things don’t change in the NFL or the NBA.  The NFL lockout has been in place for almost four months, and despite rumors of a new collective bargaining agreement being reached in the near future, there is still doubt whether a deal can get done in time to avoid missing portions of the season.  Now, the NBA can be added to the list of major sports suffering from a work stoppage.  As of 12:01 AM on July 1, 2011, the NBA owners officially have locked out the players upon the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.  The first hard-felt loss in this process was the fact that free agency did not open as it normally does on July 1.  This marked a stark contrast to one year ago when LeBron James and his circus sideshow teased with several teams by making himself available to be pitched on the idea of joining those teams.

Knowing that this was going to go to the deadline, the NBA owners and players had been engaging in discussions to try and bridge the gap between their differences on several issues, including a new salary cap, total salaries, and revenue sharing.  Despite the league experiencing its biggest success since 1998, man of its owners did not share in that success.  Collectively, the owners claim to have lost at least $300,000,000 this past season with only eight of the 30 NBA teams making a profit.

While the NFL has instituted various rules and restrictions during the lockout preventing team members from having contact with the players, the NBA has taken it a step further in terms of the penalties and consequences for such actions.  For example, teams will be fined $1,000,000 if there is contact between the staff and members during the lockout period.  Additionally, references to players and all images have been removed from team websites.

Owners want to change the salary cap structure and institute a hard cap or flex cap that players feel is close to a hard cap (this was instituted by the NHL after the 2004-05 season was lost due to a lockout, and the players ended up ceding to a hard salary cap as demanded by the owners).  The NBA owners want to relieve spending so teams do not go over the cap, as opposed to the current salary cap where teams went well over the cap to contend for championships (anyone remember where a certain somebody took his talents last year?).

Another issue at the heart of this labor dispute is revenue sharing.  The owners want to overhaul the entire system that has guaranteed the players receive 57% of all revenue.  The owners want to create a system where small market teams can compete with the bigger markets, and where all teams turn a profit as compared to the eight that did in 2010/2011. 

Several NBA owners also own NHL teams.  The memory of the 2004/2005 NHL season that was lost is fresh in their memories as those owners wanted to completely change the system.  After a stalemate lingered too long, the season was cancelled and the players eventually capitulated to the owners’ demands.  Could that be the same M.O. with these NBA owners?  Deputy NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stressed that no owner wants the 2011/2012 season to be lost. 

Not that there is ever an ideal time to have a work stoppage in one of the major sports, but the NBA is coming off of one its most popular and prosperous seasons.  With the soap opera that was LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the renaissance of the New York Knicks, the conclusion of Phil Jackson’s career, the dramatic and exciting NBA playoffs, and the storybook championship for Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, the NBA was as popular as ever in recent years as indicated by the enormous TV ratings and merchandise sales.  Commissioner David Stern stated that he is “resigned to the potential damage that [the lockout] can cause to the NBA.”  He went on further to say: “If we were out as long as it appears the NFL will be out, even on a best-case scenario, given the length of our season, that would take us to a place that would assure a lot, I think, more damage because we have such a long season,”

When a deal does get reached is anyone’s guess.  But it is a safe bet it will not happen anytime soon.  According to ESPN.com, NBPA union executive director Billy Hunter said the sides hoped to meet again in about two weeks and would perhaps start with other topics instead of going right back to economics.  “Progress is made the more time you have the opportunity to sit down and work with each other,” NBPA president and Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher said in an interview on ESPN Radio.”

But as fans, much like the NFL, this has to make us sick.  In a world with a struggling economy, high unemployment rates, and multiple wars being fought on various foreign fronts, it is a difficult pill to swallow for Joe Q. Public to hear a bunch of millionaires fight over who gets what percentage of even more millions of dollars.  New Orleans star guard Chris Paul understands this.   “At the end of the day, we just want to do what’s right. We want a fair deal. We just want to hoop. Like I’ve said before, it’s all about our fans. I think the worst thing about this whole situation is our fans.  They want to see us play.”

Chris Paul is right.  Having a lengthy work stoppage and potentially missing the entire season will make us yearn for the days of when star players have hour-long ESPN specials telling us where they are taking their talents. 

WE ARE…PENN STATE! (Everywhere in the world)

Last week, my wife and I went on vacation to Aruba.  It was our first time on that island and it was also the first time in over two years that we went away without our daughter.  Needless to say, Aruba was amazing and is a place we will definitely be going back to at some point.  So why I am I writing an article about Aruba on the Fantasy Judgment blog?  The answer is simple…Penn State.

I graduated Penn State ten years ago…May of 2001.  It is hard to believe it has been a whole decade since I left State College.  The memories are firmly implanted in my head and I look back at that time of my life as being extremely fun and emotionally challenging.  Penn State boasts one of the largest campuses, football fields, student bodies and alumni associations in the world.  I truly had no concept of how big the PSU network really was until my father and I were able to score tickets to various sporting events throughout the country thanks to various local Penn State Alumni networks.

So one morning while in Aruba, I was wearing a Penn State tank top to the pool.  Later that day, several members of a family sitting near us at the pool came up to me and asked if I went to Penn State.  As it turns out, the Maryland family’s 18-year old son was going to be a freshmen at PSU this August.  They had a million questions about the school, which I happily answered as best I could.  Talking about Penn State and what he could expect made me miss it even more.  It also demonstrated to me how vast the Penn State network is because I was having this conversation in Aruba of all places.

Throughout the rest of our vacation, I ran into several other alumni.  Once I spotted the Penn State logo on a hat, shirt, or bag, all it took was one “WE ARE…” before getting a smile and the required response “PENN STATE!!!!”  Little things like that really do bring out school spirit.  And interestingly, I didn’t hear anyone bragging about being from Ohio State or Michigan.  Yes, I just went there.

Eli Manning confirms that Tiki isn’t wanted back.

After I previously wrote about Tiki Barber’s legacy and the fact that his career with the Giants is over due to his own verbal diarrhea, Eli Manning essentially confirmed this on the Dan Patrick Show. Manning said during a radio interview that the team would likely welcome back WR Plaxico Burress before RB Tiki Barber. “I think Plaxico would probably be welcomed back a little quicker,” Manning said. Manning added Barber left the team on a bad note, including multiple public criticisms of Tom Coughlin and the rest of the Giants coaching staff. On the other hand, Burress has fond memories of winning the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for him, he literally and figuratively shot himself in the foot.

Manning said he was effected by Barber’s criticism as a broadcaster after he left the team, although the criticism may have helped him become more vocal as a leader. Barber claimed that Manning’s speeches in the huddle were comical and non-assertive.

All of this simply confirms what we already knew. Barber did too much damage that is beyond repair.

New Fantasy Judgment decision – fantasy baseball trade (Bastardo/Motte)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Road Runners v. Urban Achievers

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE ANGERTHAL LEAGUE

Decided June 28, 2011

Cite as 3 F.J. 47 (June 2011)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “The Angerthal League”) that was formed in 1988 and utilized an auction-style draft seeks an evaluation of a trade made between two teams within the Roto league.  This is a twelve-team NL-only keeper league where each team has a $260.00 salary cap to draft 23 players.  During the season, there is no limitation on players’ salaries.  Teams are permitted to retain between 7-15 players during each off-season with each individual player allowed to be kept for three years before they must either be signed to a long-term contract (“LTC”), play, or be returned to the free agent pool. 

Players with a LTC have a progressive salary structure of (Base Salary + ((N-1) * 5)) where N = the number of years a team wants to sign the player. Once a player is signed to a LTC, there is a real monetary penalty (which depends on the structure of the salary of the player – if the salary is less than $10, then there is a penalty of $20; or there is a penalty of two times the player’s salary if he is released early from a LTC). All money collected for penalties is placed into the pool for prize money.  After a LTC is completed, the player is not eligible to be signed again and must be placed back into the free agent pool for the next season’s draft. Teams that finish in 1st through 4th  place in the Roto League will win money prizes at the end of each season.   

As with many rotisserie leagues, the Angerthal League uses the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money.  For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases.  For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; and (5) saves.  Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games contained within the Roto league.

Procedural History

The Road Runners have made a trade with the Urban Achievers.  The Road Runners traded Jason Motte (RP-STL) to the Urban Achievers in exchange for Antonio Bastardo (RP-PHI).

According to the Angerthal League’s Commissioner, several other members of the league have challenged this trade alleging there is a significant disparity in the value of a potential closer in exchange for a middle reliever with no distinct inherent value.  Members of the league also argue that the Urban Achievers failed to explore other trade options that would have arguably netted them better compensation than Jason Motte.

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Road Runners and Urban Achievers be upheld and approved?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades.  The standard of review has been that people pay money to purchase a team in a league, draft their team, and manage it accordingly.  Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness.  The Court also acknowledges that the analysis for evaluating trades is much different in a keeper league than a non-keeper league.  A trade that may look uneven or lopsided on its face may receive a different opinion when it is involved in a keeper league.  The reasons for this are obvious, but must be restated.  In a keeper league, teams that are having unsuccessful seasons are more likely to continue to pay attention and make moves that will set themselves up for better success in the following season.  They can do this by acquiring young talent that is not under contract within the league, or by dumping salary (assuming it is an auction league) and allowing greater financial flexibility to sign key players in the next season’s draft.  In non-keeper leagues, there is no rationale for thinking ahead, nor is there any need to stockpile young, inexpensive talent.

Another factor that the Court must always consider is whether there is any collusion or under-the-table dealings going on between teams.  According to the league Commissioner, the league members involved in the subject trade are very close friends.  While several members of the league have challenged the trade, no one has outwardly accused the teams of colluding.  However, the general consensus of the league is that this is an instance of one friend helping another based on the impression that the Urban Achievers, currently in 11th place, did not receive commensurate value for Bastardo from the Road Runners, currently in first place.  While that is a subjective point of view in determining the value exchanged in the trade, the fact remains that there is inconclusive evidence of any collusion that would warrant immediate denial of the deal.  The fact that the league members are close friends is not demonstrative in and of itself of collusion.  See Jetnuts v. Joker’s Wild, 2 F.J. 15, 16 (September 2010) (holding that family members should not be held under any additional scrutiny when making trades outside of evidence supporting a collusive effort).  The Court is not aware of any prior complaints or allegations of collusive conduct between these league members.  Based on the foregoing, the Court concludes that there is no collusion in place or tacit agreements to share potential winnings between the team owners.

At first glance, the trade of Jason Motte in exchange for Antonio Bastardo looks fair and even.  The only reason there is potential inequity between the relief pitchers is the fact that Bastardo will be the Phillies’ closer while Ryan Madson is on the disabled list.  Both pitchers have had success this season as setup relievers, posting very similar numbers.  Another similarity between them is that their respective teams have had multiple pitchers serve as closer.  In St. Louis, incumbent closer Ryan Franklin blew several saves at the beginning of the season before he was replaced by Mitchell Boggs.  Boggs then struggled and was replaced by a committee until Fernando Salas emerged as the best option over Eduardo Sanchez.  Motte has remained in a setup role, although he does have the ability to close games if needed.  In Philadelphia, incumbent closer Brad Lidge began the season on the disabled list and still has not returned.  Jose Contreras was then given the chance to close games and was successful until he succumbed to injury as well.  Following Contreras, Ryan Madson was anointed the team’s closer and has been dominant.  However, he was placed on the disabled list and the role is now likely to be assumed by Bastardo. 

The following chart represents a statistical comparison between the two players in the relevant roto categories as of June 28, 2011:

Player

Wins

ERA

K’s

WHIP

Saves

Antonio Bastardo

3

0.96

33

0.85

2

Jason Motte

3

2.81

30

1.09

0

As can be seen from this comparison, both Motte and Bastardo have very similar numbers.  The difference is that Bastardo will now have save chances for a very successful Phillies team whereas Motte does not currently have such opportunities.  While this gives Bastardo additional inherent value, there is no guarantee that his success as a setup reliever will transfer to his new role as closer.  With few exceptions (i.e., Neftali Feliz), it is rare for a pitcher with such little experience as Bastardo to step in and immediately succeed as a closer.

When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective.  See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin).  This trade involves two relief pitchers.  The Urban Achievers did not have any other closers on their roster – only mediocre middle relievers including Bobby Parnell and Brian Sanches.  It was apparent that he has “punted” the saves category, which is not an uncommon strategy in roto leagues.  Acquiring Jason Motte fits the pattern that the Urban Achievers had created.  The Road Runners already had Drew Storen and Mark Melancon as closers.  Neither is considered a high-end closer, but they are closers nonetheless.  The acquisition of Bastardo will help in the saves category assuming he is successful.  Based on the foregoing analysis, the needs of each team were clearly delineated and equally met with this trade.

In terms of keeper league status and salary cap value, this trade is almost equivocal.  Motte is an owned player with a salary of $2.00 and is eligible to be signed to a LTC.  Bastardo was not drafted.  He was added through the league’s free agent auction bidding process and his rights through the remainder of the season are controlled by the owning team.  The salaries and contractual status of both players are not significant enough to factor into the evaluation given the equality of the players involved.  See Smittydogs v. Stud Muffins, 3 F.J. 10, 11 (April 2011) (holding that a $0.10 differential amongst the players salaries in a league where each team has a $36.00 budget was not enough to factor into the Court’s evaluation).

As referenced in Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010), the dichotomy between the Road Runners and Urban Achievers’ motivations is precisely why the Court must look at trades in keeper leagues differently than non-keeper leagues.  However, had this trade been made in a non-keeper league, the Court would still likely approve it. 

While this trade may not be the most intelligent deal that could have been made by the Urban Achievers, it is certainly not unfair.  It is not up to the Court to make a determination on what is considered intelligent.  Rather, the Court’s role in this jurisdiction is to evaluate the objective merits of a deal and ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained.  See Victoria’s Secret v. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010).  Here, a trade was proposed and agreed to between two teams on the opposite ends of the standings.  While the potential value of the two players may not be exactly commensurate given Bastardo’s upcoming opportunities to gain saves, the trade is not lopsided enough to warrant an intervention.  Unwise decisions should not be scrutinized or vetoed merely because they are unwise.  See Id. at 35 (upholding the May 2010 trade of Justin Upton and Zack Duke in exchange for Raul Ibanez and Josh Johnson).   Additionally, the claim by the amicus plaintiffs that Urban Achievers should have solicited better trade offers for Bastardo is vehemently rejected.  Teams are not obligated to shop players around to appease skeptical league members.  Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade should be approved.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Passing Judgment – Tiki Barber’s Legacy

It is fascinating to see and hear what people, specifically New York Giants’ fans and football fans in general, think about Tiki Barber.  Generally speaking, fans only care about players’ performance on the field.  The off-the-field shenanigans only gets brought into the equation when someone does something horrific, commits a crime, goes to prison, or is so completely outrageous that his personal life overshadows his athletic career.  But deep down, there is a respect and appreciation for what a player did for your team during his career – usually.  I am not so sure this is the case for former Giants’ running back Tiki Barber.

It is hard to believe that a player who holds almost every Giants rushing record in history could be booed on a night at Giants Stadium honoring him along with other all-time great franchise players.  It is hard to believe that some people argue Barber’s departure was what catapulted the Giants to becoming Super Bowl champions in the 2007 season.  It is hard to believe that people are so willing to castigate and judge a person who has not done anything illegal or so grossly outrageous like some other professional football players that are still revered despite their “mishaps.” 

Now four years after his retirement from the NFL and a failed broadcasting career, Tiki Barber is looking to make a comeback at an age where very few running backs have ever had success.  During an interview with HBO that aired on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Barber acknowledged that he now needs football more than it needs him.  This is partially due to his failures off the field after he initially retired which led to an extremely long bout with depression.

“I remember there were days where I would literally wake up, have coffee, get something to eat and sit on the couch and do nothing for 10 hours,” said Barber to HBO.

Barber has spent the past four months working out in an attempt to make a comeback, although his chances rest on the league and its players reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.  He said football represents a necessary anchor in a life turned upside down by the depressive aftermath of scandalous divorce and disintegration of his television career.  Upon his retirement in 2006, Barber was on his way to an illustrious career in television beginning as a NBC football analyst for Football Night in America.  Earning $2,000,000 per year, Barber progressed to having a featured role on the Today Show.  But things did not turn out how Barber had envisioned, and he was eventually demoted and fired.  This led to his bouts with depression.

“I crafted this career, right?  And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It’s hard to deal with.”

In addition to his career struggles, he was also dealing with major strife in his personal life as his marriage had started to fall apart just months after he ended his ten-year playing career.  Then his image as a “good guy” took a serious blow when he ended up moving in with Tracy Lynn Johnson while his wife was pregnant with twins.  Even though Barber proclaimed that he had separated from his wife before he moved in with Johnson, the tabloids and media painted him as an adulterer.  Barber did all he could to defend himself and his honor.  He tried explaining that his wife getting pregnant was right in the middle of his marital problems, and things did not change for the better.

After retiring from the game he loved to play, then having his NBC career crash and burn, and then having his reputation and integrity shattered by the public’s perception of his failed marriage and new girlfriend, Barber sorely needed something to grab onto to change the cycle.  That is when he was encouraged by friends and other players to attempt a comeback.

Assuming he is in game condition shape and works off a lot of the rust that may have accumulated over the past four years, Barber should get a shot on an NFL team to contribute.  One option that is not going to be available to him is a return to the Giants.  This is what is so disheartening about the whole situation, and Barber has no one to blame but himself.  In an ideal world, this would be an amazing story of an all-time great player making a comeback to the only team he ever played for and being embraced as a returning hero.  Unfortunately, there will be no storybook ending for Barber and the Giants.  And there are many reasons why.

First, it should be noted that Barber truly is one of the greatest players to ever play for the Giants.  Some of his career highlights include: one of twenty-one players to ever rush for over 10,000 yards; third player to ever rush for more than 10,000 and receive more than 5,000 yards; three-time Pro Bowl selection; first player in NFL history with 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in one season; one of three players to ever have at least three 200-yard rushing games in one season; one of four players to have four 2,000 total yard seasons; third player in NFL history to be the career leader in both rushing yards and receptions with their team; and holds an NFL record of leading his team in rushing every game for 80 consecutive games from 2002 through 2006.  He also holds practically every Giants team rushing record in history, despite not winning a Super Bowl.

So with a resume like that, how can this man not be revered by Giants fans?  There are several examples of how Barber crossed the line and raised the ire of Giants players and fans.  In 2002, Barber publicly criticized All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan’s negotiating stance on a new contract.  Barber commented that Strahan was being selfish and greedy, a tact that fellow teammate Keith Hamilton took exception to as being a violation of a cardinal rule never to speak about other players’ contracts.

Additionally, Barber did not hide the fact that he disliked Tom Coughlin’s coaching style and demeanor.  This, despite the fact that Barber saw his statistics and performance improve exponentially under Coughlin’s tenure.  Nevertheless, after the Giants were handily shut out at home during the first round of the 2005 playoffs by the Carolina Panthers, Barber made post-game comments that he felt that the Giants were outcoached by Panthers’ head coach John Fox (the former defensive coach of the Giants).  After receiving a lot of media attention about this comment, Barber apologized and insisted he only meant to convey that the Giants’ performance was unacceptable.  Additionally, after a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2006 season, Barber criticized the team’s play-calling for abandoning the running game too soon.  On the eve of what would be his last game with the Giants, Barber told ESPN that he is “demeaned and talked down to” by Coughlin.  Taking it another step further, Barber attributed his decision to retire to Coughlin’s unrelenting style in practice.

“Coughlin pushed me in the direction of television.  I don’t know if you realize this, but we were in full pads for 17 weeks, and with the amount of injuries that we had, it just takes a toll on you. You physically don’t want to be out there, when your body feels the way you do, in full pads.”

After he retired, Barber was interviewed just prior to the start of the 2007 season where he questioned Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s leadership abilities.  Barber was quoted as saying that Manning’s motivational pre-game speeches sounded “almost comical.”  Manning fought back in the media by bringing up Barber calling out the coaches and all of the articles written about his decision to retire in the middle of the season.  After retiring without a Super Bowl victory, Barber seemed at peace with leaving the game without a championship ring.  However, the very next season after he retired, the Giants went on a miraculous run to win Super Bowl XLII by defeating the then-undefeated New England Patriots for their third Super Bowl victory. Eli Manning led the game-winning drive down the field and was named MVP.  At this point, Barber looked foolish for his caddy questioning of Manning’s leadership skills.

Since then, Barber has been the subject of Giants fans anger and dislike.  When several Giants were honored during the last season at the old Giants Stadium, Barber received a chorus of boos when he was announced.  He has even further tarnished his reputation with his mouth when he was quoted in the May 30, 2011 Sports Illustrated comparing hiding in his agent’s attic with his girlfriend so they wouldn’t get caught to Anne Frank hiding from the Nazis.  I don’t think that Barber intended anything offensive by this comment, but it was another instance of him being unable to think before speaking and sticking his own foot in his mouth.

All of these things have added up to the point where Giants fans have ostracized Barber from their team.  His accomplishments on the field have taken a back seat to what we think of him personally.  No, he never committed a crime or spent time in prison.  No, he never did anything so truly offensive to warrant extrication.  But he had bitten the hands that fed him one too many times and attacked other beloved figures in the franchise.  All of it seemed like sour grapes because deep down, it had to have killed him that the Giants won a Super Bowl the very next year after he retired. 

Personally, I will always respect and admire Tiki Barber for what he accomplished on the field.  He progressed from being a fumble-happy third down back to one of the premiere rushers of his and other generations.  He was a warrior who played hurt and did whatever he could to help the team win.  What he chose to do and say after his retirement is unfortunate because it has effectively ruined his reputation.  But his legacy should always be that he was the greatest running back to ever wear Big Blue.  His lack of championship rings and chronic case of verbal diarrhea does not negate the fact that #21 was one of the best ever.  I thank Tiki Barber for his contributions to the Giants during his career and I only hope he finds success and happiness in returning to the NFL.  Unfortunately, he has a lot of fences to mend before he is welcomed back by the Big Blue faithful.

New Fantasy Judgment decision – fantasy baseball issue (FAAB)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

A-Holes & Pujols v. Mad Cow Disease 

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ALL-STAR FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE

Decided June 27, 2011

Cite as 3 F.J. 44 (June 2011)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league called the Southern California All-Star Fantasy Baseball League (“SCAFBL”) is a mixed NL-AL non-keeper league comprised of 12 teams utilizing the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money.  For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases.  For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; and (5) saves.  Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games contained within the Roto league.

The SCAFBL operates under a written Constitution which outlines all of the league’s rules and guidelines.  Each league member was provided with a copy of the Constitution prior to the league’s draft which took place on March 27, 2011.  Included in the rules are provisions regarding the process and method of inputting transactions, including add/drops, placing players on the disabled list, and making trades with other teams.  The SCAFBL employs an auction bidding process for free agents where each league member was allotted $100 to use in bidding for available players throughout the season.  The following represents a condensed and concise summary of the pertinent Constitutional language that governs the transaction process:

  • Each team is given a budget of $100 to use on players available on the waiver wire.
  • Teams are restricted to a maximum of five transactions per week.
  • All bids on free agents must be made before the conclusion of the final Sunday night game of the week.
  • Teams must make their transactions in conformity with the league’s roster and lineup requirements.
  • The bidding process will be managed, controlled and administered by the CBS Sports internal commissioner service.
  • The bidding process is blind and no team shall have access or knowledge of other teams’ bids.
  • The SCAFBL commissioner shall not have access to other teams’ bids.

On Saturday, June 25, 2011, A-Holes & Pujols placed a bid on free agent Dustin Ackley (2B-SEA) for $12 using the CBS Sports free agent auction bidding process.  As his corresponding move, A-Holes & Pujols sought to drop Ben Francisco (OF-PHI).  A-Holes & Pujols made no other free agent auction bids or any other transactions for the remainder of that week.

As usual, the free agent auction bidding process was run by CBS Sports on Sunday night, June 26, 2011.  Once the auction was complete, Mad Cow Disease (also the SCAFBL Commissioner) was awarded Dustin Ackley by winning the auction with a bid of $14.  As a result, A-Holes & Pujols’ bid for Ackley was denied and Francisco remained on their roster.

Procedural History

On Monday, June 27, 2011, A-Holes & Pujols sent out an email to the entire league accusing the Commissioner of abusing his power and outbidding him for Ackley.  The basis for A-Holes & Pujols’ contention is the allegation that the Commissioner has access to everyone’s bids and can manipulate the system where he can outbid any team for a free agent he so desires.

In response to this email, the Commissioner emphatically denied such accusations and reminded the league of the provisions laid out in the league’s constitution (which are also delineated above in the Factual Background).  A majority of league owners responded to the emails as well affirming the Commissioner’s decree and lashing out at A-Holes & Pujols for the undeserved accusations. 

A-Holes & Pujols still refused to accept this explanation and requested a league vote to resolve the issue.  The Commissioner rejected this request, so A-Holes & Pujols have contacted the Court to rule whether the Commissioner’s acquisition of Dustin Ackley should be upheld due to his alleged capability to see all competing bids.

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the Commissioner’s acquisition of Dustin Ackley be upheld?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is a strong advocate for having written Constitutions that govern fantasy sports leagues.  See John Doe v. Fantasy Football League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 21, 22 (October 2010).  Having a written league constitution or charter helps ensure that “all league members are aware of the rules and guidelines in place, and it shifts the burden onto the league members to read, understand, and adhere to the rules that are delineated.”  See Shawn Kemp is My Daddy v. Fantasy Basketball League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 24, 25 (October 2010).  Here, the rules explicitly stated what the procedures are for the FAAB process, including the fact that the bidding is blind and not even the Commissioner has access to other teams’ bids.  Not only were they delineated by the Commissioner in the league’s Constitution, but they are also the fixed settings set forth by CBS Sports in their League Commissioner package.  See Green Eggs & Hamels v. Megan Fox is Hot, 3 F.J. 4, 6 (April 2011). 

The Commissioner does subject himself to added scrutiny simply by having such inherent power as making the rules and having access to the league’s internal structure and settings.  However, those who choose to participate in a fantasy league run by a Commissioner should presumably have implicit trust and faith in that Commissioner – otherwise it would be foolish to entrust one’s money and time in a fantasy league run by someone that is not trustworthy. 

Here, the Commissioner is also a league member, which is often the case.  As Commissioner, he must make decisions that are in the best interests of the league.  However, he is also entitled to manage his team to the best of his ability and try to win.  The Commissioner is subjected to the same rules that apply to everyone else, including the provisions of the free agent auction bidding process.  The Commissioner is allotted the same budget as the rest of the league, and he must go through the same bidding process as everyone else.  Additionally, there is no way for the Commissioner, or anyone else in the league, to have access to other people’s bids pursuant to the settings that were input.  Any bid placed by the Commissioner is as blind as A-Holes & Pujols, and every other member of the SCAFBL.

Further, there is no way for a team to track when another team actually makes their bid.  A-Holes & Pujols stated that he placed his bid for Dustin Ackley on Saturday, June 25.  It is unknown when Mad Cow Disease placed his bid.  Irrespective of that, it simply does not matter when the bids are placed so long as they are placed prior to when the auction runs, which is typically just after 1:00 AM EST.  At that point, the only thing system cares about when running the auction is who bid more for a certain player.  Based on the blind bids placed on Dustin Ackley, Mad Cow Disease won the auction and successfully acquired the Mariners’ young second baseman.  

A-Holes & Pujols went to the rest of the league to appeal this.  The Commissioner, despite being involved in the situation, denied A-Holes & Pujols’ request for a league vote on the issue.  The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment advocates for league Commissioners to have a certain amount of authority and autonomy to run and administer fantasy sports leagues.  See FlemishUSA v. League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 35, 36 (October 2010).  In this case, the Commissioner appropriately ruled on the issue by denying the request for a league vote, and instead adhered to the clearly established rules and guidelines that govern the league and the FAAB process. 

The league’s FAAB rules clearly demonstrate that Mad Cow Disease (a.k.a. the league Commissioner) properly acquired Ackley.  The Court hereby upholds the Commissioner’s decision and rules that the subject transaction should be upheld. 

IT IS SO ORDERED.

New Fantasy Judgment decision – fantasy baseball trade (Carlos Pena/Geovany Soto)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Carson City Cocks v. Moneyball

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided June 27, 2011

Cite as 3 F.J. 41 (June 2011)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “The Incontinent League”) utilizing an auction-style draft and transaction platform seeks an evaluation of a trade made between two teams within the Roto league.  This is an NL-only keeper league where each team is permitted to maintain up to ten (10) players during each off-season with each individual player allowed to be kept for a maximum of three (3) years.  Each team is also permitted to keep two minor league players which are in addition to the ten players kept.  This Roto league also has a $36.00 in-season salary cap that is applicable for all teams.   

As with many rotisserie leagues, the subject Roto league uses the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money.  For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases.  For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; and (5) saves.  Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games contained within the Roto league.

Procedural History

The Carson City Cocks have made a trade with Moneyball.  The Carson City Cocks traded Geovany Soto (C-CHC) to Moneyball in exchange for Carlos Pena (1B-CHC). 

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Carson City Cocks and Moneyball be upheld and approved?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades.  The standard of review has been that people pay money to purchase a team in a league, draft their team, and manage it accordingly.  Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness.  The Court also acknowledges that the analysis for evaluating trades is much different in a keeper league than a non-keeper league.  A trade that may look uneven or lopsided on its face may receive a different opinion when it is involved in a keeper league.  The reasons for this are obvious, but must be restated.  In a keeper league, teams that are having unsuccessful seasons are more likely to continue to pay attention and make moves that will set themselves up for better success in the following season.  They can do this by acquiring young talent that is not under contract within the league, or by dumping salary (assuming it is an auction league) and allowing greater financial flexibility to sign key players in the next season’s draft.  In non-keeper leagues, there is no rationale for thinking ahead, nor is there any need to stockpile young, inexpensive talent.

Another factor that the Court must always consider is whether there is any collusion or under-the-table dealings going on between teams.  The Court has not been presented with any evidence of such malfeasance, so assumptions will be made that this is not an issue. 

At first glance, the trade of Geovany Soto in exchange for Carlos Pena looks fair and even.  Both players have had success in the past and have fallen on hard times over the last couple seasons.  Soto had emerged as a top fantasy option at the vacuous catcher’s position only a few years ago.  However, injuries and lack of production have relegated him to merely a second or third tier option in terms of fantasy value.  However, in a roto format, he still does possess the potential to contribute in power categories.  Carlos Pena is coming off of one of the worst seasons an everyday player can have when he failed to hit .200 during the 2010 season.  He still produces 25+ homeruns and will drive in 80-90 runs, but he is a death wish for the batting average category.  That being said, his value as a first baseman is commensurate with Soto’s value as a catcher.  They both play every day for the Chicago Cubs and have the ability to capitalize on the friendly confines of Wrigley Field during the summer months.  Neither player will hit for a high batting average, score a lot of runs, or steal many (if any) bases.  Their value lies in the homerun and RBI categories. 

When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective.  See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin).  This trade involves one catcher and one first baseman.  Prior to the trade, the Carson City Cocks lost Albert Pujols (1B-STL) to injury for four to six weeks due to suffering a fractured wrist.  Clearly this left a void at first base or corner infielder, so it is obvious why the Carson City Cocks sought to acquire Pena.  Trading Soto does not leave them without viable catching options as they also have Jonathan Lucroy (C-MIL) and Josh Thole (C-NYM).  Conversely, Moneyball had depth at first base with Lance Berkman (1B/OF-STL), Freddie Freeman (1B-ATL) and Ty Wigginton (1B/2B/3B-COL).  This depth made Pena expendable.  Moneyball’s catchers were Miguel Montero (C-ARZ) and Eli Whiteside (C-SF), so acquiring Soto made sense as an upgrade for his second catcher.  The combination of Montero and Soto has the potential to be one of the most productive duos at that position.  Based on the foregoing analysis, the needs of each team were clearly delineated and equally met with this trade.

In terms of keeper league status and salary cap value, this trade is almost equivocal.  Both Soto and Pena are in their first year under contract with their respective teams.  Soto is worth $1.20 while Pena is worth $2.00.  Moneyball, currently in sixth place, will gain $0.80 in salary cap space which is not significant enough to factor into the evaluation given the equality of the players involved.  See Smittydogs v. Stud Muffins, 3 F.J. 10, 11 (April 2011) (holding that a $0.10 differential amongst the players salaries was not enough to factor into the Court’s evaluation).

As referenced in Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010), the dichotomy between the Carson City Cocks and Moneyball’s motivations is precisely why the Court must look at trades in keeper leagues differently than non-keeper leagues.  However, had this trade been made in a non-keeper league, the Court would still likely approve it. 

Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade is fair, equal, and free of collusion.  The trade should be approved as it comports with the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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