Those who read my columns regularly (when they are actually about fantasy baseball league rules) may recall that I often stress two things. One is to religiously follow your league constitution to the letter wherever possible. The other is to keep your league rules fresh and current.
Ideally, if the latter is executed well, the former can more easily follow. However, being realistic, no set of rules, no matter how comprehensive they are, can handle every possible situation. Or can they?
In one of my keeper leagues, populated by a group of highly-experienced, opinionated and very busy industry players, a problem recently presented itself that brought this to life. When submitting keepers this past fall, one owner inadvertently listed a player at first base and outfield, when in reality, the player had lost his prior eligibility at first.
For the November auction draft, the player in question was placed at first base on the keeper roster, but no one noticed the problem until afterward. Now, the situation had multiplied. This owner had six outfielders and no corner infielder, with no multi-position eligibility players who could be shifted. In other words, an illegal roster had been drafted.
The good news in the bad is that not only had this happened before in the league, but a rule change had been enacted afterward to address the situation.
In the current case, draft day logs verified that the last outfielder chosen was considered the illegal transaction, so that purchase would be voided. (The owner’s utility spot, another possibility, had been filled earlier in the draft.) That extra outfielder will be returned to the free agent pool for the league’s Stage Two draft in March and carry a cap and keeper value of one dollar less than the price paid on draft day. The rules clearly spelled this out.
The bad news is that the formal rule change was incomplete. As written, it did not specify how the illegally-drafted player would be replaced on the offending owner’s roster. In this example, governing how and when the owner would be allowed to fill his open corner infield spot was not explicitly documented.
An approach was initially suggested that seemed fair - at first blush. The offending owner could pick a replacement corner infielder from the undrafted player pool. That replacement player would carry the same value – relevant for cap and keeper purposes – as the illegally-drafted one.
However, I was less comfortable with this idea the more I thought about it. Since this same situation had occurred before, how did we deal with it then? Though we probably don’t remember, let’s try to go back and reconstruct how we dealt with the replacement player at that time. Even if we did not write it all into the rules, we should act consistently.
Fortunately, the league SWAT found the old emails. From them, it was determined the prior offending owner was allowed an extra pick to fill his roster at the end of the league’s Stage Two draft. That is a serpentine-style draft held in March. Of course, the owner does not have to wait until the last round to select a new corner infielder to ensure he has a valid lineup for opening day. Also, he is not precluded from re-drafting the initially illegally-chosen outfielder as a reserve.
Once we discovered we had a clear precedent, how to address the problem was as simple as A-B-C - Always Be Consistent.
Our final step was to add one sentence to the constitution - to put the already-established precedent into a clear rule governing how the replacement player is to be chosen. That way, when this happens again, which it likely will, it can be resolved even more easily.
In this example, the rules did their job, but they still needed our help. Making sure that past decisions were remembered kept us from potentially creating a new rule when the old one ended up serving us just fine.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-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 @B_Walton.