The Verdict: fantasy baseball FAAB issue.

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 the concept of codified Constitutions to more efficiently 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 rule-making power and 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.

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Comments

  1. Millsy said...

    Brad,

    Dothraki is generally correct, that in blind auctions the optimal strategy is to bid your valuation.  It’s pretty standard economic blind auction theory.

    However, in the case of fantasy baseball, you have information about the other teams which may or may not allow you to go in without being completely blind.  In that situation you estimate their valuations and make a strategic move.  So I think you are both correct in some ways.

  2. Brad Johnson said...

    You hit my counterpoint in that last paragraph. If you know the other owners in your league and their roster needs, then the auction isn’t really blind at all. I might not be able to able to narrow things down more than Owner X will bid 8-12 dollars, but that still allows me to bid off their signals rather than my own.

  3. Dothraki Horde said...

    I realize now where I may be confused:

    I was under the impression that if I bid $20 for Ackley, and the second highest bidder bid $12, then I would win Ackley for $13.

    If that’s not the way that FAAB works, then I apologize.  That is, if you are locked into your bid regardless of whether the second-highest bid falls several dollars shorter, then I definitely see your point, Brad (and Millsy).

    If it’s not that way, though, then I don’t see why you wouldn’t bid your valuation ($30), and if you are right in being 90% confident that $14 will be enough,” well then 9/10 of the time, you’d still pay the discounted price. It sounds like that’s not the way FAAB works, though, in which case I apologize for missing the point.

  4. Brad Johnson said...

    What you’re talking about is called a Vickery Auction. I’m not familiar with CBS’ FAAB system, but Yahoo! does not use Vickery. I imagine they probably will offer that as an option next year. At least I hope they do, I prefer it.

  5. Kevin Wilson said...

    I generally enjoy reading these, but yeah, this one was awful.

    I feel bad criticizing free content, but I can’t believe you spent time writing this.

  6. Dothraki Horde said...

    It’s a moot point anyway, actually.

    “A-holes and Pujols” ostensibly put in a bid for the most amount of FAAB dollars that they were willing to spend on Ackley.

    Since “Mad Cow Disease” bid more, it’s actually irrelevant whether or not he could see A-Holes’s bid(from a practical standpoint, not an ethical one). (One exception to this might be if Mad Cow specifically did not want A-Holes to get Ackley, but didn’t care if he went to another team.)

    If the commissioner could see bids (and he can’t), a more serious allegation would be that he bids one FAAB dollar less than the high bid to always maximize the FAAB dollars spent.

    To return to my original point: if A-holes thinks Mad Cow sniped him, and A-holes would in fact have been willing to pay $14 or more, the question is: why did he only bid $12?

  7. Brad Johnson said...

    ““A-holes and Pujols” ostensibly put in a bid for the most amount of FAAB dollars that they were willing to spend on Ackley”

    I wouldn’t assume this at all. My rule of thumb is to bid the least amount of money that I think will win the player subject to how badly I want him. So if I really wanted Ackley, I might bid a price that should win him 90% of the time. If I only kind of want him, I’d bid a price that would win him 50% of the time.

  8. Dothraki Horde said...

    Brad,

    You basically just repeated what I wrote.

    If you “really wanted Ackley”, you would (according to your post) bid more than if you “only kind of want him.”

    In either case, if you are outbid, it’s because someone was willing to spend more than you.

    My original point stands: if “A-holes” regrets that the commissioner got Ackley for only $14, he had an easy way to remedy that: he could have bid what he thought Ackley was worth (or, in your slightly more confusing construction, he could have bid an amount commensurate with his desire to own Ackley).

    If he didn’t think Ackley was worth $14, then he should be glad the commissioner over-spent.

  9. Brad Johnson said...

    Ok, to elaborate, if I am willing to pay $30 for Ackley but I’m 90% confident that $14 will be enough, I bid $14 even though I’m willing to pay $30. The only time I would ever bid my actual valuation is if I absolutely must have a player.

  10. Andrew said...

    For those who have ever served as Commissioner on CBS in leagues with FAAB, you’d know that there’s no way to cheat the system.

    Yes, you can see everyone’s bids, but that’s only after the deadline. You can’t somehow input a bid after viewing others.

    If I were Commissioner of this league, I would warn the owner that any similar comments in the future would be grounds for removal from the league.

  11. Michael A. Stein said...

    The issue was an obvious one to me as well, but I will issue decisions on whatever cases people want to submit.

    I understand the skepticism about a league commissioner’s power assuming people think he can see everyone else’s bids.  But the truth is that they cannot.

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