Court is now in session to resolve your fantasy baseball disputes.

All rise. The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is now in session. You may be seated. If you are reading this, I certainly hope you didn’t actually stand up and sit down on those commands. If you did, then chances are you are either very impressionable or you are an obedient dog who can read. Either way, there is no need to be formal at this moment. I am the presiding Chief Justice of Fantasy Judgment, an independent, expert dispute resolution service for fantasy baseball leagues.

Fantasy Judgment is comprised of a five-person panel of expert judges who impartially render professionally-written decisions resolving any and all issues, disputes and conflicts that arise within fantasy baseball leagues. It is a virtual court (although I will hold court in person for the right price) where members of a fantasy baseball league can air their grievances and obtain a neutral, third-party opinion on how to resolve such dilemmas.

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you and let you know that I will be contributing a bi-weekly column that focuses on various issues that commonly arise in fantasy baseball leagues. The most common types of disputes are over trades where people challenge the fairness and equality of deals made between league members. I would estimate that 80% of the cases submitted to Fantasy Judgment are trade disputes. The other 20% of cases vary from a wide range of topics, but I don’t want to give out those examples now. I need to whet your appetite and make you come back for more. I am thinking of names for this recurring column, and the one that resonates well with me right now is “The Verdict.”

The world of fantasy baseball dispute resolution combines both fantasy sports and the law. I am a lawyer, so that is extremely helpful when doing legal analysis. But the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment does not cite blackletter law in its decisions. We are trying to build a body of work where a ledger of fantasy sports jurisprudence can become a standard reference for any fantasy sports player to utilize. Writing a recurring column called “The Verdict” will allow me to present various fact patterns, hypotheticals, and scenarios of issues within leagues in a way that will allow you, the audience, to decide whether to agree (concur) or disagree (dissent) with the Court’s ruling. I will also be sharing with you some of the decisions issued by the Court as they happen.

In order to give full disclosure, I must tell you that Fantasy Judgment requires payment in order to receive a formal written decision. There are two different pricing options – either $15.00 per individual dispute, or $100.00 for the unlimited season package. We dedicate a lot of time and effort into writing the decisions and analyzing the issues presented, so it is impossible to consider doing the work pro bono.

That being said, I want to create an environment with this column that will promote discussion, debate, questions, answers, advice and information. I want to educate you about how to handle certain situations internally to try to maintain the integrity of your league. I want to share with you the reasons why neutral, third-party dispute resolution is the fairest and most economical way to ensure that all parties’ best interests are taken into consideration. I want to enlighten you as to why there is a need and desire for such a service now as compared to ten years ago. The whole point of this is to be honest with everyone and their expectations, and that there are reasons why it is worth paying for such a service.

For some background, allow me to tell you the story of how Fantasy Judgment came into existence. I am the Commissioner of my 18-team, head-to-head fantasy baseball league that has existed since 1999. In 2008, I was the proud owner of C.C. Sabathia , who had a magical run down the stretch with the Milwaukee Brewers. On Sunday, August 31, 2008, it was the final day of the week in my league’s wild card playoff round. That day, I was driving home from a bachelor party with my best friend, who also happened to be my opponent that week. We were listening to the Brewers vs. Pirates on XM radio because Sabathia was pitching and our matchup was close heading into Sunday.

That infamous day, Sabathia would go on to throw a complete-game, one-hit shutout in which the only blemish on the scorecard was an infield hit by Andy LaRoche on a ball that Sabathia bobbled and threw too late to first base. When LaRoche reached first, the announcers questioned the official scoring, saying that it should have been an error on Sabathia. He would go onto the finish the game without allowing another hit. After the game, Brewers’ manager Ned Yost stated that he would be protesting the official scoring to Major League Baseball requesting they change the hit to an error, thus giving Sabathia credit for a no-hitter.

In my fantasy baseball league, a no-hitter is worth 50 points. Also, when scores or statistics were modified, they were retroactive to when it actually happened. So I told my friend that if the league changed the official scoring, it would change the scores of our fantasy game. We later heard that Major League Baseball would be reviewing all of the evidence presented and make its decision later that week. Because of this delay, I had to make a decision on how to handle the next round of the playoffs since the result of my game was not conclusive yet. The winner of my game would be playing the Co-Commissioner, so he had a vested interest in the result, as well.

Given that all parties involved were not neutral and the fact there was precedent in how retroactive points were applied, I felt comfortable autonomously making a decision even though my own team was directly involved in the dilemma. I decided that both I and my opponent would submit lineups against the Co-Commissioner for the semi-final round and play concurrent games that week. If the league ruled that the official scoring would be changed to a no-hitter, then I would get credit for the 50 points and win the game. If the league ruled that the official scoring would remain as a one-hit shutout, then I would lose the game, since that was how the result stood.

Either way, the winning team would continue its game against the Co-Commissioner and the losing team would have its game removed. I also decided that if no decision was made by the end of that week, I would accept the loss and remove myself from the playoffs. I believed this was the fairest way to handle the situation without unduly prejudicing anyone else. Unfortunately, my Co-Commissioner and a few other league members took exception to the fact that I autonomously made the decision when it directly involved my own team. In the end, Major League Baseball upheld the official scoring and Sabathia was not given credit for a no-hitter. I kept my word, accepted the loss, and removed my game from the playoffs.

Because of the backlash I received from this decision, I wondered if there was a third party who could have intervened and made the decision independently. I did some research and found that there were a couple websites out there that performed dispute resolution services for fantasy sports leagues. I was not overly impressed with these websites or companies, and I believed that I could perform these type of services myself given my experience in fantasy sports and my background as an attorney. In 2009, I created Fantasy Judgment and focused a lot of time and energy on promoting it based on who we are and not just smoke and mirrors. I felt it was imperative to give full disclosure as to who is making the decisions and why we are qualified to do so. That type of transparency did not exist with the other websites I found.

Now I look forward to sharing with you the ins and outs of fantasy sports dispute resolution. I am open to questions, comments, suggestions and recommendations for issues and topics to discuss. My goal is to help you enjoy your fantasy baseball experience in a league that is free from drama and conflict. But, like anything else that involves money, sports and competition, there will always be drama and conflict in some capacity. It is just a matter of how you handle it that will help maintain your league’s integrity and protect your sanity.

Court is now adjourned.

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  1. ducat2 said...

    I hate to side against you and with your disgruntled league members, but you should have recused yourself because of your obvious conflict of interest.
    And only bi-weekly sessions?  Do you realize the awful backlog of fantasy controversy this may cause?
    Many championships that need immediate resolution, such as yours, could be in peril. 
    Had Fantasy Judgment existed last year, your dilemma would have been solved.

  2. Michael A. Stein said...

    @ducat2 No need to apologize for siding against me.  While I am comfortable with the decision I made and believe it was the fairest conclusion possible, I would probably do things differently if given the chance. 

    Fear not about the bi-weekly columns.  While my writing may be posted every two weeks, the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is in session 24/7/365 (except for November 12 because that is the anniversary of the Hill Valley lightning storm in Back to the Future).

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