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Fantasy Baseball - Rules Are Rules?

By David Owen Cymerman of

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Maybe you want to try a different style of fantasy baseball. Maybe a friend dragged you in. Maybe you just wanted to add another league to your personal roster of teams. Whatever the reason, many of us have, at one time or another, made the decision to join a public fantasy baseball league.

Public leagues are a crap shoot. Sometimes you get a good group of guys. I actually met my partner at through a public league years ago. Other times you get the dregs of society.

In my one public league this year, there was one controversy that got so ugly that I almost dropped out ... and it had nothing to do with me! The bitter feud may have been painful to endure, but it's a good topic of discussion here. First, I'll lay out the details. Then, I'll debate both sides. Finally, I'll play judge and weigh in with my verdict.


An owner dropped Jim Johnson by mistake. He immediately sent an email that the transaction happened by accident when he was trying to drop another player using his cell phone. The owner appealed to the league that the drop should be canceled and Johnson put back on his roster. (It's a 16-team league, so obviously closers are in limited supply.) As part of his plea, the owner posted a poll for owners to vote on the situation.

The commissioner replied to the league, stating that he was going to confer with another owner who serves as a co-commissioner when conflicts arise. A day later, the commissioner ruled that Johnson remain a free agent. Then all hell broke loose on the message board. There was name-calling, cursing and lots of bad grammar. The owner even changed his team name to an expletive to voice his displeasure with the decision.


Nobody's perfect. Mistakes happen. One miss hit of a button shouldn't ruin a fantasy season. Clearly, the drop was a mistake, as Johnson has been one of the top closers in 2012. Also, the owner who's first in line on the waiver list gets a free All-Star added to his team. That could disrupt the competitive balance of the league. Even though the entry fee for this league isn't chump change, no one is making the equivalent of even a minimum wage salary by winning the title. We're still primarily playing for pride and fun. And it's no fun to lose one of your best players because of a brief mental lapse or technical gaff. Lastly, in a public league, the commissioner shouldn't have all the power. Who's to say his interests are swayed by his own team's status. Each team should weigh in equally, which is why a vote can be an acceptable way to settle the dispute.


Simply put, rules are rules. Every completed transaction is official. Every other owner is responsible for making add/drops correctly. It's not fair to make an exception for one owner. Once you do, you open the door for future rule-bending and more ruffled feathers. In a public league, most people don't know each other. Preferential treatment is not an option. Especially with a substantial amount of money in play. The commissioner must strictly enforce the rules to uphold the integrity of the league and to properly serve the other franchises. A vote is not the answer because many owners will be biased by the standings. The owner who has first rights to claim Johnson as a free agent isn't going to vote in favor of the guy who dropped him. This is the commissioner's call.


I believe every dispute like this needs to be viewed on a case-by-case basis, depending on the makeup of the league. In this case, I do think the proper decision was made and justice was served. I am commissioner of a long-standing league comprised of a group of friends. Owners constantly ask my permission to make a late lineup change or to fix a transaction mistake. In that league, the owners understand that there's a precedent for leniency, so it's okay. In a one-year public league, there is no history of forgiveness and rules do have to be rules. No exceptions.

As for the nasty fallout, the commissioner needs to step in there, too. As an innocent bystander, I was bombarded with rant after rant on the league message board (which gets forwarded to my inbox). One blast was more abusive and rambling than the last. Owners should be able to express their opinions. But when decorum is lost, the commissioner should halt the ill will and block any offending parties from using the message board.

The judge has ruled. Case closed.

David Owen Cymerman is also known as The Fantasy Geek. He runs a fantasy sports web site appropriately named Stop by for more observations, advice and absurdity from the world of fantasy sports, including articles, live chats and podcasts.

07/18 10:54:46 ET

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