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Friday 22nd Sep 2017

Last week’s column regarding rule changes for September quasi-disabled list players evoked some further thoughts. Such a rule change is what I would term a gentleman’s rule. To put it simply, you want to win, but in what fashion?

I admit, I typically have taken the shark approach, using the rules to my advantage. If there’s a loophole, use it. If an action isn’t specifically prohibited, do it. You do whatever it takes to win, as long as it’s legal. Sometimes though, winning this way can feel a bit hollow, particularly with respect to injuries as they impact your competitors. This is applicable to just about any fantasy sport and like with the September injury rules, you want to at least give your opponent the ability to fix their roster and still compete.

So moving beyond September and just baseball to football, it is a common situation, team A loses Eddie Lacy to a concussion and he may miss a week. James Starks is coming off a good game replacing Lacy and is on the free agent wire in many, if not most leagues. You’re playing the team with Eddie Lacy the coming week and manage to grab Starks, who you can either use to improve your own roster for this week or simply to block your opponent from getting points.

On the one hand, you can say “That’s perfectly legal. Starks was up for grabs. You were quicker or put in a stronger bid and you got him fair and square.”  You can pat yourself on the back for job well done, knowing you just increased your odds of winning this coming week.

On the other hand, what is the harm that the team or teams suffering an injury get first dibs on the player’s most likely replacement? By allowing first dibs to occur, you allow things to balance, somewhat anyway. Most likely, the team getting the replacement is already suffering from likely having lost a superior player for some amount of time. Whether you are competing in fantasy football or fantasy baseball, when you do not grant “first dibs”, you may create a downward spiral whereby they lose out on a player that could have saved or at least let them tread water. Then, if they have any further injuries, the problem can become more compounded until they are quickly out of competition and might in the case of redraft leagues, become a dead team.

Some leagues might go so far as to require that if team B has team A’s backup, that they might have to engineer a trade so everyone has a healthy/competitive roster. I don’t think I could advocate such a rule. Players already rostered, at least in my humble opinion, should be sacred.

I am not 100% sold on playing with a “first dibs” rule though I might be interested in testing it out as an experiment. I am not sold because there are legitimate counter arguments to be made.

The argument that stands out the most to me is research. This may typically be more apparent in AL and NL-only baseball leagues where having a deep knowledge of the player pool is paramount, but it is certainly a factor in mixed baseball and fantasy football leagues too.

If a team loses a player to injury, they should have to at least put in the time and effort to figure out who is likely to get the playing time. If a team owner automatically gets “dibs”, then that owner does not have to do any research at all and it levels the playing field in favor of more casual owners. Part of the glory of playing fantasy sports is being able to point towards your prowess of grabbing potential keepers or key players who put you over the top. There’s nothing exciting about some team lucking its way into an organization’s next stud rookie simply because he is getting called up to replace an injured veteran. That player should be on the free market for all to acquire.

So while I believe there is room for instituting some Gentleman’s rules, there are some boundaries that perhaps should not be crossed less civility trump competitiveness and the free agent market to a degree that it takes the fun out of playing fantasy sports. It is a matter of finding that fine line.



0 #5 John Verdello 2013-09-20 17:29
I think Todd's idea has the most merit. There should be no freebies allowed after draft day. Paying via FAAB seems to be the most equitable solution. It also allows free agents to be accessible in a "put your money where your mouth is" type of environment, rather than right place, right time.
0 #4 Ryan Carey 2013-09-20 15:40
Yeah - I can perhaps see the benefit of "first bids" in a friendly league (read - no money on the line), but don't see the utility in most of the leagues I play in. If you are playing for a prize of some kind, then I just don't see the utility of giving anyone a safety net like this.

The bigger problem with the majority of leagues, especially those on the "public" level - is that most still use the stale waiver-priority system of allocating available free agents. In this system, often the team that lost Lacy, for example, wouldn't even have a shot at getting Starks unless they were at the top of the waiver-priority list. At least with FAAB - everyone has the equal chance to get all available players. Savvy Lacy owners would have grabbed Starks after Week 1, once it was clear he was the handcuff to own in GB.

Of course - most leagues don't employ a deep enough bench to carry too many backup RB's.

I am not sure what the answer is here - maybe a rule where every owner in the league gets a special free-agent "Voucher" to play once during the season. It would allow them to jump in and claim a player they want - bypassing the normal allocation system. Maybe having conditions set so the player in question claimed has to be a backup to a player you drafted etc. But you only get to play that card once.

In the end - it is up to the individual league to decide how it wants to handle these things. I am all for finding ways to keep people invested and engaged in any league i am in.
0 #3 Todd Zola 2013-09-20 15:29
Using FAAB and not waivers is one means of helping the Lacy owner in the event Starks was available.
0 #2 Rob Leibowitz 2013-09-20 14:19
Like I said, not sold on it at all. The example regarding Lacy above is real one. This is my brother in law's first league. He's from Wisconsin and purposely set about drafting Packers. I swooped in and grabbed Starks without a moments hesitation. Of course though I have Trent Richardson and Reggie Bush in that league, so I need some help this week too.

I don't at all feel guilty about making such a move. I did what I was supposed to given the rules and league configuration.

Generally - I do not like rules that do not contain some verifiable component. Rules that have fuzziness/subjectivity are indeed far more trouble than they are worth.

So what I am trying to move towards is figuring out a way to remove some of the subjectivity from rules and provide a mechanism for some gentleman's rules. Again still not 100% sure they would work or if it would take some of the fun out of things, but I believe it is at least worth investigating.
0 #1 John Verdello 2013-09-20 12:53
Pass on first dibs. It is your job to gain the greatest competitive advantage for your team within the rules. I just so happen to have Eddie Lacy on my team as well. I'm sorry he got a boo boo - but that's why I picked up guys like Ben Tate ...they may not pay dividends now .. but later on maybe a different.

To me this proposal is just a stone's throw away from "I'll start the Dallas QB's or the GB Running Backs" Injuries are part of the game ...we shouldn't be allowed to try and mitigate them by allowing the easy way out. You want the guy? Draft him. You want gentlemen's rules? Try the Marquis of Queensbury.

And there are almost enough holes in first dibs as there are in baseball trade vetoes. Invariably, that type of rule will cause more arguments and bad feelings than the situations they are supposed to resolve.

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