The primary slant of this column, which runs irregularly during the off-season, is fantasy baseball rules. I always reinforce points made with real examples. That is why I am back today.
The baseball world was shocked by the passing of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras last weekend. After fans all over the world dealt with the tragedy and unfairness of the loss of two young lives (Taveras’ girlfriend and the mother of their young son also died in the automobile accident), questions lingered in a fantasy context.
For those in keeper leagues, and especially in those in which multi-year contracts are involved, the untimely death of Taveras created situations not previously considered.
Before we get into the details, my personal philosophy is that when a new situation is encountered, a strict interpretation of the constitution should prevail for the current issue on the table.
However, if rules clarifications are needed going forward, they should definitely be made with an eye on the future.
Against that backdrop, here is the Taveras situation in the XFL (Xperts Fantasy League), whose 2015 draft was held Halloween night.
2015 keepers were due two weeks prior, giving league members prep time and organizers a window to prepare materials for our in-person draft, held in Phoenix, Arizona. As one would expect, Taveras was kept by his current owner, for $4.
After Taveras’ death, his owner contacted the league commissioner with a three-part request. He asked that Taveras be removed from his keeper list, the $4 returned to his $260 overall budget and that he be allowed to replace Taveras on his keeper list with another player.
The league constitution simply states that the freeze date is two weeks prior to the draft. No exception cases are noted.
Initially, the commissioner showed compassion, granting two of the three requests. Taveras could be removed from the owner’s keeper list, with the $4 returned to the owner’s budget.
However, it was ruled that the roster opening could not be filled with another prior to the draft. After all, each owner’s non-keepers had already been released into the draft-eligible pool. Still, Taveras’ owner would be allowed to fill the vacated outfield roster spot with a replacement during the draft with his full budget.
As has been the case traditionally, once the 15 league owners assemble to draft, a preamble to the festivities is a recap of rules changes voted in during the previous weeks. In addition, the Taveras ruling was divulged to the league for the first time, with a recommendation to allow post-roster freeze date exceptions in the future.
While there was remorse over the loss of Taveras and the impact on that owner’s 2015 roster, the majority of the room ultimately voted that the freeze date was firm and fair to all and that exceptions should not be made.
The commissioner then recommended that for this one case his initial ruling be honored, allowing Taveras’ owner to refill his roster spot in the draft.
Before a second vote could occur, Taveras’ owner made a stand-up move that entirely diffused the matter. He explained to all that he was uncomfortable with an exception being made on his behalf, given the majority of the league being against the spirit of such a move.
As a result, Taveras remains on his roster. However, when our March/April auxiliary draft occurs, our rosters will fill out to 40 players. At that point, ample replacements for Taveras will be available. Taveras could be dropped and his roster spot re-deployed as soon as the first of May. (The XFL has a monthly free agent draft.)
It appears that the league constitution will not require a change.
The commissioner, who always has a tough job in any league, initially ruled with compassion, but in doing so, granted an exception with which the majority of the league disagreed.
In this case, the system ultimately worked.
The message for you?
In your leagues, even if you are not in charge, do your best to foster meaningful discussion among league members on issues like these. In doing so, stick to the written rules as much as possible. If changes are needed, by all means, make them – to take effect for next time.
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.