The Verdict: fantasy baseball trade dispute with league commissioner

Being the commissioner of a fantasy baseball league is often a thankless job. Not only must the commissioner consider the best interests of the league when making decisions, but he also must manage his own team and strive for the same success as other league members. Balancing those interests is not always easy. That is why league commissioners must be cognizant of any trades they make, especially when they also possess authority to approve or reject transactions. The case below is about a questionable trade on its own (made two weeks ago) and also involves a league commissioner who hypocritically sought to benefit from a decision made using his own discretion.

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

It Byrnes When I Peavy vs. Buster Pujols

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE DAILY GRIND 2012 FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE

Decided April 11, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 35 (April 2012)

Factual Background

A fantasy baseball league called Daily Grind 2012 is comprised of 12 teams and has been in existence for ten years. The Daily Grind 2012, hosted on Yahoo, is a weekly head-to-head roto league that utilized a snake format for its annual draft. It is a mixed AL/NL non-keeper league where teams can make transactions and change lineups on a daily basis. Teams are limited to a maximum of 35 roster moves in one given week, and there is a weekly 35 inning minimum for pitchers. Rosters are comprised of 21 positions including: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, UTIL, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, four bench spots and one DL spot.

The Daily Grind 2012 is a 7×7 roto league using the following categories for offensive players: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; (5) stolen bases; (6) hits, and (7) walks. For pitchers, the seven categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings); (5) walks; (6) complete games; and (7) shutouts.

The league utilizes Yahoo’s default “do not cut” list. However, according to the commissioner, he “monitors every transaction for fairness to ensure the league’s balance is not thrown off by reckless or foolish adds, drops and trades.” One of the self-created rules he enforces is not allowing a team to add and drop pitchers on a daily basis by plugging them in to gain a statistical advantage in volume-based categories.

The commissioner also admits that he can be a dictator because he enforces strict penalties for violations of rules. For example, he will use his power as commissioner to pull all players from a league owner’s roster for one day and lock them out of making any transactions or lineup changes. Additionally, he admits that he tends to be in the middle of what the league perceives to be questionable trades.

On the day of the league’s draft, the owner of the team named Buster Pujols (who also happens to be the commissioner’s uncle) showed up for the first pick at the live draft but then unexpectedly left, leaving his team to autodraft. However, there was apparently a glitch with Yahoo’s autodraft because it did not fill his roster with all of the positions required. Buster Pujols was left with no catcher, only Chase Utley at second base (on the disabled list), and only four pitchers (two of which were Chris Carpenter and Joakim Soria who were on the disabled list and the weekly minimum is 35 innings). The penalty for not reaching the 35 inning minimum is automatically losing all seven pitching categories.

Procedural History

In an effort to fill out his entire roster and build a pitching staff, Buster Pujols began making transactions and trades. Those moves are not the subject of this dispute and will not be ruled upon, but to put the case in perspective they will be listed here:

1. Add Jonathan LuCroy-C-MIL, Drop Chase Utley-2B-PHI. The commissioner vetoed this move because Utley, when healthy, is a premier second baseman and could be put in his available DL spot.
2. Add Tyler Clippard-RP-WAS, Drop Joakim Soria-RP-KC. Approved.
3. Acquire Mat Latos-SP-CIN, Jaime Garcia-SP-STL, and Tim Stauffer-SP-SD, Trade Ichiro Suzuki-OF-SEA, Jhonny Peralta-SS-DET, and Jeremy Hellickson-SP-TB. Approved. At this time, the commissioner placed Michael Pineda-SP-NYY in his own available DL slot and added Ivan Nova-SP-NYY.
4. Add Ryan Vogelsong-SP-SF, Drop Tyler Clippard-RP-WAS. Approved.
5. Add Bud Norris-SP-HOU, move Vogelsong to DL slot. Approved.
6. Acquire Erik Bedard-SP-PIT, Trade Carl Crawford-OF-BOS. Approved.
7. Acquire Neil Walker-2B-PIT and Brandon Beachy-SP-ATL, Trade Matt Holliday-OF-STL and David Ortiz-DH-BOS. Vetoed by the league and commissioner.
8. Add Daniel Murphy-2B-NYM, Drop David Ortiz-DH-BOS. Two days later, the Porch Monkeys add Ortiz as a free agent and drop Yonder Alonso-1B-SD. The commissioner vetoes that transaction places Ortiz back on Buster Pujols’ roster and Alonso back on the Porch Monkeys’ roster.

On April 7, 2012, the commissioner (It Byrnes When I Peavy) received a trade offer from Buster Pujols of David Ortiz in exchange for Ivan Nova. The commissioner waited until Nova made his first start of the season on April 9, 2012 and then accepted the trade.

Several league members are protesting this trade between Buster Pujols and the commissioner arguing that trading a waiver wire player such as Nova is no different than the Porch Monkeys simply dropping Alonso to pick up Ortiz as a free agent.

Issue Presented

(1) Should the trade between Buster Pujols and the commissioner be approved?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades. People pay money to participate in fantasy leagues, and generally they should be afforded the freedom to manage their team accordingly. Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness. See 4 Ponies v. Carson City Cocks, 3 F.J. 13 (May 2011).

The scope of the Court’s authority is to govern and advise when there is a dispute as to the validity of trades, rulings, decisions or other issues that arise within the league. See Silveramo v. Nation, 2 F.J. 38, 41 (October 2010) (holding that making a judgment on whether an individual did something stupid falls outside of the Court’s jurisdiction). It is not up to the Court to make a determination on what is considered intelligent.

Unwise decisions should not be scrutinized or vetoed merely because they are unwise. Road Runners v. Urban Achievers, 3 F.J. 47, 50 (June 2011) (holding that the main criteria for evaluating a trade is its inherent fairness, not whether it was an intelligent decision by a league member to make the deal). 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. Victoria’s Secret v. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010).

Besides evaluating the trade at issue, we must also analyze its validity given that the league commissioner is involved. Commissioners are constantly under more scrutiny than the other members of the league simply because of the power and authority that is granted with such a position. As such, league commissioners should be cognizant of the perception of whatever decisions they make because they will be analyzed under a very thick microscope. See America’s Team v. The 1987 Denver Broncos are Cartman’s Father, 3 F.J. 51, 53 (July 2011).

It is undisputed that commissioners who are also team owners in the league have as much right to manage their team and try to win as everyone else. However, they must do so without taking advantage of the position they are in as commissioner. A-Holes & Pujols v. Mad Cow Disease, 3 F.J. 44, 46 (June 2011); Johnny Bench’s Baseball Bunch vs,. Yuniesky Betancourt’s Revenge, 4 F.J. 13 (February 2012) (holding that a commissioner’s acquisition of free agents during his league’s playoffs should be upheld because he complied with the long-standing rules).

No evidence has been submitted indicating any alleged collusion or malfeasance. As such, the Court will operate on the presumption that there is no collusive conduct between the parties.

At first glance, the trade of David Ortiz in exchange for Ivan Nova looks uneven. Ortiz is still one of the better power hitters in baseball who normally hits close to .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. After a couple sub-par years, Ortiz has put together back-to-back seasons of his typical production. Assuming he remains healthy, there is no reason to think he will not replicate those numbers hitting in the middle of the Red Sox potent lineup.

Even though Ortiz is 36 years old and may not have many productive seasons left, we need only consider his prospects for 2012 because the Daily Grind 2012 is a non-keeper league. See Willie McGee’s Beauty Parlor vs. Sizemore Matters, 4 F.J. 29, 30 (April 2012) (holding that when analyzing a trade in a non-keeper league, there is no need to consider the long-term benefits).

On the other hand, Ivan Nova burst onto the scene in 2011 as one of the Yankees most successful starting pitchers. He amassed 16 wins with a 3.70 ERA. While those are impressive numbers for a young starter, he only has 98 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.33. Nova will certainly benefit from the run support he will get from the Yankees’ offense, but it remains to be seen whether he will become a dominant starter as opposed to a Liven Hernandez-type pitcher.

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). The record is devoid of the commissioner’s entire roster. However we do know that Buster Pujols was in need of pitching help because of the improper autodraft done for him. That being said, it is understandable why Buster Pujols would be seeking a pitcher like Nova. However, the price being paid for him is inequitable.

The commissioner argues that Nova would have been drafted if Michael Pineda was on the disabled at the time of the draft. While this is highly speculative, it is also without merit because Nova’s spot in the Yankees’ rotation was never in question even when Pineda was pitching during spring training. Nova was likely not drafted because of his limited value in a roto league as indicated by his aforementioned statistics. The commissioner also justifies this trade because Ortiz is only eligible as a utility player. While that does inhibit any flexibility with him on a roster, it does not diminish the value of the statistics he will accumulate.

In the submission to the Court, the commissioner was very open about his methods of running the league. He admits that he is viewed as a dictator and tends to impose his will where he sees fit. There have been challenges to various moves and transactions within the league already, and now there is an outcry against a move that the commissioner himself is making.

When a commissioner ignores complaints or differences of opinion from a majority of the league members, it is likely he is not considering what is best for the league in general. See America’s Team v. The 1987 Denver Broncos are Cartman’s Father, 3 F.J. 51, 53 (July 2011) (holding that a league commissioner’s credibility is endangered when he steadfastly refuses to consider logical and meritorious complaints).

It would be one thing if the trade of Ortiz for Nova was more equitable. But since the commissioner has already vetoed another team adding Ortiz as a free agent in exchange for Yonder Alonso (who was also undrafted), it is pure hypocrisy on behalf of the commissioner to acquire Ortiz for another undrafted player such as Nova. It isn’t the fact Nova was undrafted that is the problem. It is the fact that Nova is a marginal fantasy pitcher who does not possess equivalent value to Ortiz within the confines of this roto league.

Based on the foregoing, the Court hereby rejects the trade made between the commissioner and Buster Pujols. While it is unfortunate that Buster Pujols was provided an incomplete team via autodraft, it does not mean that the rest of the league, and commissioner, should be able to take advantage of his need to revamp his roster. This trade is not so grossly inequitable that it should be rejected outright. However, it is imbalanced enough that it should be rejected under the circumstances of it involving the commissioner who had recently disallowed a similar transaction involving the same player.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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Comments

  1. Alpine McGregor said...

    Amazing writeup. This commissioner needs to focus on finding GMs who can be trusted to fend for themselves, not on evaluating and overruling add/drops and trades. And I thought garden-variety trade vetoes were bad… This sounds like a miserable league to play in.

  2. Richard Justice said...

    “according to the commissioner, he “monitors every transaction for fairness to ensure the league’s balance is not thrown off by reckless or foolish adds, drops and trades.””

    Problem #1.

    “…the owner of the team named Buster Pujols (who also happens to be the commissioner’s uncle)”

    Problem #2.

    “Two days later, the Porch Monkeys add Ortiz as a free agent and drop Yonder Alonso-1B-SD.”

    Problem #3.  (I keep seeing that clip from It’s Always Sunny.  Charlie:  “Objection!  Extremely racist!”)

    What a horrible-sounding league.  You couldn’t pay me enough to be in a league with a comish like that.  At that point, you’re really not even playing fantasy baseball anymore.  It’s the comish’s world, you’re just living in it.

    The best leagues always, always, always have no “league vote” veto option and a comish who vetos for collusion and that’s it.

    When a comish starts imposing his own player valuations on the rest of the league, it’s not only horrible for the league, it’s insulting.

    Ironclad “fairness” rules like this won’t save a league from bad managers.

    Ironclad “fairness” rules like this are unnecessary in a league with good managers.

  3. Michael A. Stein said...

    There are certainly a lot of issues going on in this league.  It is unfortunate that this has happened, but hopefully the commissioners’ eyes are now open and he can change his ways going forward.

  4. kyle said...

    this sounds like the worst league of all time to play in. only way people get better is by making mistakes and learning from them, this commish is intense.

  5. Kyle said...

    If you are going to be in a fantasy article maybe you should ask them to change your team name to something less blatantly offensive than porch monkeys.

  6. AtomicDumpling said...

    Vetoing trades is so 15 years ago. Good fantasy leagues do not allow trade vetoes unless there is proof of collusion. Trade vetoes are 100x more likely to ruin a league than a boneheaded trade.

    I would never play in a league with that sort of trade review process ruining all the fun. Absolutely ridiculous.

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