Welcome back to a new year of Articles of Configuration. The title is most intended to relate to constitutions, in this case for fantasy baseball leagues. While articles are often built around ideas to make your league better or more interesting, the topic of the day may depend on what is on my mind or is in my mail box.
Recently, the Xperts Fantasy League, or XFL, has been in my thoughts. The most favorite of my leagues combines an annual fall auction draft with a spring snake draft and a 40-man roster that can include 15 keepers. If drafted as minor leaguers, these keepers grow at only three dollars per year instead of the normal five.
The league participants are some of the most seasoned veterans around. In fact, the grizzle factor is legislated to be high since the league constitution states members must be at least 40 years of age.
One of the most fun elements of the league is the face-to-face mixed league auction draft, held in Phoenix each year during the Arizona Fall League. Not only is it the first draft of the new season, sometimes scheduled even prior to the completion of the World Series, it is also conducted sans materials. We come to the draft room with just our writing implements. Once there, we are given team 40-man rosters in depth chart form.
What also makes the league fun at times increases risk. Two years ago, we had to create a rule to cover an unexpected situation. A desirable player, Chone Figgins, was inadvertently omitted from the depth charts. No one caught it until after the draft.
The question was what to do? Taking no action would have meant the owner with the first pick in the spring snake draft would receive Figgins on a silver platter. Not only that, his keeper price would start at just $1 – a huge bonanza for the one fortunate enough to hold the first pick.
After much debate and discussion among the 15 owners, which happen to include a sprinkling of lawyers, a decision was reached. Figgins would simply remain out of the league for one season. It was clearly the fairest approach.
One year later, it was a different, but similar problem that bedeviled our draft. Referring to the draft charts provided, an owner made an incorrect assumption about first base-outfield eligibility of a player and in the process, inadvertently drafted too many corner players. Again, this was not caught until post-draft.
In an attempt to patch over matters with the best of intentions, the commissioner suggested a trade without informing the entire league. A deal was announced between the league SWAT and the offending team which would have technically made rosters right. Good thought, but it was not in concert with the constitution or in the spirit of fairness from the perspective of the remainder of the owners, who until then were unaware of the situation. Much discussion ensued, some of it fairly heated.
As another owner quickly observed, the constitution partially addressed the problem. The offending owner had to return to the player pool his last illegal player taken, Vladimir Guerrero, who was in his utility spot. This was clear. Yet the owner who had made the last prior legal bid for Guerrero requested him and at least logically, had a good argument. He won sympathy, but his request was denied.
There were at least two other problems not clarified in the league document, however. How would the offending owner’s roster be made right, and would the illegally-drafted player be held out for the entire 2011 season ala Figgins in 2010? If made available, what price would be fair?
After several fits and starts, including the commissioner sending out an initial voting note that did not take into account all the contingencies, we ultimately came to an agreement.
Guerrero would be made available in the spring draft, but his base keeper price would be the same as the last legal bid in the fall draft. That was done to fairly establish Guerrero’s worth and keep his new owner from receiving an unfair windfall.
The owner that illegally drafted Guerrero would receive an extra selection at the end of the spring snake draft, needed to keep his roster whole.
The league constitution will be modified to reflect this. Even so, no document can pre-determine all possibilities.
The bottom line
What you should take away from this is that in such a situation, start with the constitution. Once you exhaust everything that is in writing, work with your league-mates to consider all possible solutions. Then hold a vote. Don’t forget to document it.
Don’t be in a hurry to try to “fix” problems. In this case, intentions were good, but the league leaders encouraging a behind-the-scenes trade with the offender excluded others from having the same opportunity, risking some hard feelings. Had the constitution been referenced from the very start, it would have been known this path was inconsistent with league rules, anyway.
When all is said and done, a good application of common sense is important. Make sure when you consider joining a league that you can complete as much due diligence as possible in advance to ensure you are compatible with your friends and competitors.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that year. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.