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Saturday 23rd Sep 2017

One of the quickest actions to drive me out of a league is when commissioners and league members decide to make up rules on the fly and enact them during the season. Such an example was brought to Mastersball’s attention this week.

Here is the background from the affected owner:

“My league is 5 years strong with daily active participation amongst team owners,” he wrote. “It's a FAAB waiver wire that in the past has allowed waiver wire pickups to be 25th round keepers. (Each year keepers move up a round)

“We follow ESPN undroppable rules and had an interesting scenario play out today.

“The team owner of Bryce Harper dropped him today as he was taken off the ESPN undroppable list and it so happens that he has retained the most auction money to this point of the year and plans to pick him up tomorrow by out bidding all other teams and thus Bryce Harper becomes a 25th rounder for his team.

“How would you guys handle a situation like this?

“We have already come up with solutions going forward but team owners aren't thrilled allowing Bryce Harper to become a 25th rounder, however no rules were broken, should we allow this (as it was beautifully planned and executed within league rules) and make change in the future season?”

Todd Zola and I answered very differently. He was of a mind to talk Harper’s owner out of the move.

“The canned answer is rules are rules and the league should live with the consequences and fix the loophole,” said Zola. “My guess is that would be the majority answer.

“The ploy had to be in the conscious of the league since that's what the no-drop protects.

“That said, if the league is more for fun, with just bragging rights on the line, I'd approach the team and ask them to reconsider, even if it means adding Harper back, reversing the drop.”

I came out on the opposite end in my advice to this league owner.

“Todd likely knew what I was going to say,” I wrote. “The rules are the rules and they were not broken. The owner in question saved his money all year, passing up other players. He had no idea if/when ESPN would make Harper droppable. There is no chance there was cheating or collusion.

“As you said, you already have plans to close the loophole going forward, but in the interim, there is no reason he should not get to do what he is intending to do. Whether the league is for fun or for money does not matter. Either you back your rules or you don't. Personally, I don't want to be in leagues in which rules are made up on the fly.

“P.S. If you want to give the league these kinds of powers to circumvent the rules in the future, you should add a "for the best interests of the league" clause to your constitution. I would highly recommend you not put this in the hands of any one person, however. Consider league majority or maybe even better, three quarters vote.”

To be completely honest, I despise these “best interest” clauses. I know why they are there, but they can be misused to cover laziness or worse.

The “spirit” of the rules is nothing more than someone’s opinion - if not documented in the constitution.

One of the assumptions here is that this has never happened before. Among his many other skills is that Todd is an excellent historian, often remembering past situations in a particular league that could have established a precedent.

However, the best-run leagues don’t have to rely on memory. They put these past situations right into the rules, so next time it will be covered in writing.

Since there does not seem to be a “last time” here, I will move out of my sidebar and back into our story.

Two other commenters agreed with my position and my reply also seemed to resonate most with our owner.

“Thanks guys, I really appreciate your responses,” the owner wrote. “The statement about being a league commish that backs the rules in place really made me set in how this should be handled. As you said a league that can make rules on the fly could be a slippery slope for precedent and other unique situations in the future.”

However, his league mates shouted him down. The disappointed owner shared follow-up news a few days later.

“The league wasn't allowing it and gave him a 7th round value. Booo,” he concluded.

Don’t you wonder how they came up with seventh, instead of sixth or eighth?

I don’t have all the details of how this went down, but from what I can see, had I been participating, this would soon become an ex-league of mine.

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.

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