With the 2011 fantasy baseball season now in the history books, I will be dedicating this column during the offseason to reviewing and analyzing some rules, issues and incidents that have occurred in a fantasy baseball league of which I have been the commissioner since 1999. The Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League (“OBFBL”) was created prior to the 1999 season when I gathered friends and family together to form a 16-team, non-keeper, mixed AL/NL, H2H, points league (it would be expanded to 18 teams in 2000 where it remains today). Mike Piazza was the first player ever to be drafted in the OBFBL. To really put into perspective for you how long ago this was, I started manually tabulating the statistics and points for each player and team during the first week of the season. Finally, my co-commissioner told me about TQ Stats to host our league on the internet. At that time, I was 20 years old and naïve about how the internet and fantasy sports could mesh. Now the fantasy sports industry could not exist without the world wide web.
Over the past thirteen seasons, I have seen just about anything and everything that could possibly happen in a fantasy baseball league. I authored a league constitution in 1999 and have continued to amend and modify it each year as new issues and scenarios arose. It was imperative that I adjust the rules when issues of first impression came up and needed to be dealt with on an ongoing basis. I also tried doing other different things to add some spice and flavor to the league. Some worked and some did not. These experiences are what I draw from when resolving league disputes and issues for the Fantasy Judgment. I will be sharing with you some of the more interesting issues that arose and how I dealt with them
To kick things off on this new topic within my column, I would like to take you back to 2002. I must forewarn you that this is actually a tragic and sad story, but one that did have an impact on fantasy baseball. I am referring to the untimely and unfortunate death of Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile. As we all remember, Kile was a solid major league pitcher with a no-hitter on his resume. He had resurrected his career in St. Louis after signing a lucrative free agent contract with the Colorado Rockies and enduring a few horrendous seasons in Denver. After a few years of fantasy obscurity, Kile had once again become a viable option for a fantasy baseball pitching staff. In 2002, Kile was on OBFBL member Kurt Morris’s team. Morris, the OBFBL champion in 2000, was a savvy fantasy baseball player who took the league very seriously. I recently spoke to Morris about Kile’s death and how it affected his team and our league. Here is what he had to say:
When Darryl Kile died in mid-June 2002, I was trying to jockey my team to be a legitimate playoff contender. Our league was a very deep 18-team league. While he was not the ace of my pitching staff, Kile was an important piece to my team in a points league where solid starting pitching was critical for contention.
My wife was eight months pregnant at the time, so I wasn’t able to watch ESPN all hours of the day, every day, like I had done in previous years. This was also several years before smartphones and instant information at our fingertips. I remember I was walking from the bedroom to the kitchen, somewhere between getting my pregnant wife a salami sandwich and rubbing her feet, when my good friend and fellow OBFBL member Joe called. The conversation went exactly as follows:
Joe: “Dude, Darryl Kile is dead.”
Kurt: “[expletive deleted] you.”
Joe: “No seriously—he’s missing his start today because he was found dead in his hotel room.”
Kurt: “What? Really?”
Kurt: “Somehow, I blame Stein.”
Somehow, I got blamed for Darryl Kile’s untimely and tragic death. While I can assure you that I had nothing to do with it (and I have proof I was working at a law firm in New York City as a summer associate), the fact remained that this horrible tragedy needed to be dealt with in terms of our fantasy baseball league, and specifically, Kurt’s team. He added the following:
“Immediately I was on the phone to the other members of the league asking what this meant. Kile was an integral part of my team and I needed retribution. In a swift act of justice, our commissioner decided that, due to the tragic nature of the situation, I would have the first pick-up rights for the upcoming waiver week. With my selection, I chose a young pitcher from San Diego who made his major league debut on the very day of Kile’s death. His name was Jake Peavy. While Peavy didn’t have a stellar rookie campaign (6-7, 4.52), he was a serviceable starter for me for the remainder of the year and replaced the production that I lost from Darryl Kile. Mike’s decision was swift, in good taste, and made sense given the circumstances.”
When I decided to handle the situation in this manner, not one other league member opposed or challenged my decision. Everyone felt that it was the right thing to do in order to compensate Kurt for the most extreme of circumstances once could imagine. In 2002, there were no rules in place or provisions in the OBFBL constitution for such action. However, as league commissioner, I felt it was in the league’s best interests to handle the situation that way. Since then, the Darryl Kile Rule is entrenched in the OBFBL’s jurisprudence. Fortunately, it is not a rule that has ever been invoked since Darryl Kile. The only time it ever came up as a possibility was in 2009 when Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart was tragically killed in a car accident. He was not on anyone’s roster at the time, so there was no need to award a team apriority waiver pick.
Planning ahead in case a professional ballplayer dies while on your fantasy team is a morbid and cynical thought. But before June 2002, I never would have thought it could be a possibility. While the chances of this happening again are extremely remote, the fact remains that there is now precedent and a rule in place to deal with such a situation within the league should it arise again. As a league commissioner, all that can be asked of you is to be in the best position possible to deal with an unforeseen circumstance. That is exactly what I did.