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Tuesday 27th Jun 2017

With more and more of our baseball time taken up in preparation for the upcoming NFL season, some of the differences between the unwritten rules between the two sports have been recently brought into the forefront of my thinking.

I am not talking about such “rules” in the real sports – moves viewed with universal disdain that virtually no one would defend them. For example, in football, going for a two-point conversion when already up by 40 points in the fourth quarter or calling for a double-steal when up by nine runs in the ninth inning. Tony La Russa was fond of calling it “respecting the game.”

In the fantasy world, those problems do not exist – nor do the avenues of direct retaliation – such as a fastball drilled into the hip of the first batter of the next inning. That was also a common La Russa team reaction.

Some of these unwritten rules in our games are less clear and can be most perplexing.

Here as we reach mid-August, with 4 ½ of the six-month MLB schedule complete, we can pretty clearly see which teams in our fantasy leagues have a realistic title shot and which do not.

In keeper baseball leagues, many owners of non-competitive teams in 2014 made this assessment long ago and executed trades more with the future than the present in mind. Assuming the deals are fair, they are rarely controversial, as the ebbs and flows over time are understood and generally accepted.

However, in any league, owners are expected to compete until the end – or are they?

In National League Tout Wars, a prominent industry league, penalties were enacted to incent owners to fight through game 162. Finishing below a pre-defined point threshold leads to an owner being taxed one dollar of FAAB the next season for each point below the line.

In an industry keeper league, the Xperts Fantasy League, or XFL, the next season’s draft used to be in the inverse order of the prior year’s standings. That actually led to certain teams trying to lose points late in the season to improve their draft position – sort of like when NBA teams are accused of tanking to help their lottery chances. Certain owners were benching starters, keeping injured players active and the like in a legal, but ethically questionable attempt to alter fate.

As a result, the XFL rules in this area had to be flipped to almost the opposite of the prior implementation. The following year draft order was changed to 2, 3, 4, etc, 14, 15, 1. In other words, only the league winner was disadvantaged the next season and in the process, there became a clear reason to want to finish second instead of third, for example.

But here comes some of that inconsistency. In FAAB leagues, I have experienced some team owners in contention expressing concern about teams out of the hunt continuing to aggressively bid on players as the season nears its end.

I guess they feel it is more chivalrous for the losers to step aside for the winners. I don’t buy it.

I am in the also-ran group in NL Tout this year, with considerable money remaining. I will continue to compete to the best of my ability, whether in first or 11th place. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why any reasonable person would expect otherwise, but they are out there.

Fantasy football can be just the opposite.

Because of the head-to-head nature of the pigskin game and the relatively limited number of matchups each season, teams that quit trying are invariably attacked violently by their peers.

After all, if I had to play the eventual weak sisters early in the season when they were still interested in their teams, but my main competitors did not draw the quitters until later in the year, I would be upset. Picking up an easy late-season win over a team with a blank roster or a crew of injured players active could decide the title.

So, fantasy football’s unwritten rule is to “compete to the end,” while the answer in some corners of the fantasy baseball world is “maybe not.” That is not the case where I play, however.


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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