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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

At last spring’s Tout Wars draft weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting one of fantasy baseball’s pioneers. F.X. Flinn joined us to present the SABR Trophies to the three 2009 league winners, of which I was one and our Lawr Michaels another.

F.X. was one of the original American League rotisserie players in 1982 and the editor of the first "Rotisserie League Baseball" book in 1984.

Recently, I received an email from F.X., who is recruiting a new owner for one of his long-time roto leagues, the Stamford (CT) Rotisserie League.

As he was explaining the basics of the keeper league, F.X. caught my eye with this remark. “…we don't use FAAB, we have salary arbitration…"

My natural curiosity led me to ask friends if they knew what he was talking about. No one did. So I went to the source for clarification. After all, I have come across many good rules ideas from others and the focus of this column is to share them with you.

In reply to my inquiry, I received an email response that was five printed pages in length, including an excerpt from the league constitution. These guys take their play seriously!

The key objective seems to be to avoid the pox of dump trading and keep as many owners in the hunt as possible until the end of each season. Certainly those are the noblest of intentions.

Here are some of the league’s interesting elements.

No FAAB. Claims from the free agent pool are executed from last-to-first place priority order. These free agents are assigned $5 non-renewable contracts. The league has no transaction fees, believing they penalize teams that incur injuries.

In-season maximum and minimum caps. The league has an in-season cap of $320, something I have seen in many leagues. However, they also have a more unique twist, a minimum cap that begins at $225 and drops to $200 in mid-May. This looks to be a real deterrent to mass quantities of dump trades.

Trade of waiver spots and farm picks. Teams can deal away as many as three of the current season’s waiver claims and as many as four of the next year’s farm picks.

Trade of draft dollars. Teams can add or spend as much as $15 of their $260 draft allotment, with a maximum of $10 allowed to change hands in any one trade. There must be at least one player going each way as well.

Arbitration. Players not given long-term contracts can be nominated (arbitrated) during the first three rounds of the auction draft. This includes the previous season’s signed free agents. The current owner has the right to match the high bid and the player then gets a new contract. F.X. explains this drives a greater level of owners guaranteeing long-term contracts.

The members of this league believe these rules and others help them create a player market that functions naturally, reflecting an MLB general manager’s job, without creating what they consider artificial assets like FAAB dollars.

Like any suggestions, view these through the aperture of your leagues, and determine if there are ideas that can be used directly, or perhaps with modification. No matter how good our leagues are today, they can eventually become stale. Hopefully, your compatriots are open-minded when the thought of rules changes come up.

That’s all for now. Until next week!

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 season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

On Thursday, I returned as one of the guests of co-hosts Jeff Erickson and Chris Liss on RotoWire’s Fantasy Sports Today show on satellite radio, Sirius 211 / XM 147. 

These appearances are a lot of fun as who doesn’t like to talk baseball with knowledgeable friends? In the back of my mind, though, there is a little question of the wisdom of disclosing my strategies with two of my toughest league competitors as I compete against both (Heck, it is still worth it!).

There is always inherent risk of another kind, as the conversation, just like any among three guys, could go off in just about any direction. This time, as I joined the show, Jeff and Chris were focused with laser-like precision on third base. We began with general agreement about how shallow the positional pool is in 2011.

The first question on the table was whether I would take Alex Rodriguez as my third baseman over Evan Longoria and David Wright. I replied that A-Rod’s price could be slightly depressed in some leagues because he is entering the gradual late-career decline stage, but for the same money, I still prefer Wright because of his stolen base potential.

The guys suggested steals could also be found elsewhere, which is of course valid, but my take is if you can get it all, why not take it? (For the record, in 15-team mixed formats, we have all three players within a dollar value of each other, in the $27-$28 range. In that kind of situation, I look for upside tiebreakers and steals could be it.)

I went on to say that in my ideal draft, I might let all three of the third basemen pass while I address other needs, such as middle infield and grab Ryan Zimmerman in the third or fourth round of a snake draft. I see him in the next tier along with Adrian Beltre and Michael Young in the low $20s in an auction format.

If these hot corner players are missed, one would drop down to those in the teens. My take is that Pablo Sandoval will get more action than he probably should and as such, I would bow out of the bidding as it gets into double digits. In other words, make sure you don’t confuse how many pounds the rotund fan-favorite supposedly has lost over the winter with his fantasy value.

I was asked about Mark Reynolds, who just happened to have been a stalwart of my 2009 NL Tout Wars title roster. I replied that I was not scared of Reynolds in the mid-teens as he offers the same power-steals appeal as Wright. Of course, the risk is the potential damage to batting average. Liss seemed to want to stay far away from a guy who could hit .200 as likely as .240. My view was that taking that risk could be ok if you were careful with not taking on other potential batting average problems.

The mention of Reynolds led the discussion slightly off-track to first baseman Carlos Pena, who we have in our Mastersball Platinum projections at the same value as Reynolds, $17. Chris tossed out the .196 average while I reminded him that even the Cubs wouldn’t have paid $10 million for one year of Pena’s services if they felt he would repeat his subpar 2010. I am not particularly high on Pena, nor am I overly down on him, either.

Jeff brought up a very interesting name, Jose Lopez, a player I hadn’t thought a lot about recently. He noted Lopez underachieved in Seattle in 2010, his only home as a major leaguer and is now moving to Colorado. He added that Lopez is just 27 years of age and second base eligibility may be coming. I was right with them until Chris suggested he might go in the high teens. My take is under $15 would be fine.

We then began to talk end-game options. After all, we’ve all been in drafts in which that corner infield spot remained open too long with nothing on the table seemingly worth taking.

Speaking of multi-position eligibility, Jeff mentioned Ian Stewart and Chase Headley. I was a Headley backer once, especially enthused by his ability to be slotted in the corner infield and outfield. Same with Stewart at second and third base. Alas, both have since lost that benefit, but you could do far worse with a $1 bid at the end of a mixed draft.

Chris chimed in with his like of Alberto Callaspo. I see potential average, but not enough power. I would prefer either of the previous two in a late-draft bargain bin dive over the Angel.

One final suggestion. I tossed out the name of a real dark horse, St. Louis’ David Freese. The former Padre, traded for Jim Edmonds a couple of years ago, got out of the gates fast in 2010. At the time he was named the NL Player of the Week on May 2nd, the 27-year-old was leading all NL rookies with a .355 average and was second in RBI with 16. His season soon was lost due to a pair of ankle surgeries so there is risk, but also high reward potential. Keep that name in mind at the end of your drafts.

That’s it for the recap of our hot stove, hot corner discussion during a cold winter week. I heard on The Weather Channel that 71 percent of the US is currently covered by snow or ice and Florida is the only continental state not affected.

Just remember that pitchers and catchers report in less than one month!

As a reminder, RotoWire’s Fantasy Sports Today show can be found on Sirius / XM live, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. ET. The call-in number is 888-XM-FANTASY and listener participation is encouraged. For those on Twitter, you can follow them @SiriusXMFantasy.



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 season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com.

It is difficult to forecast how front office changes will influence the rosters of Major League Baseball teams, but in 2010, the rumors and announcements alike seem to be coming at a faster and more intense rate than in the past.

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.

Congratulations on a trio of career milestones achieved on Thursday afternoon – two in the same game and all within an hour or so of each other.

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