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Q&A - What is the best city/venue to host a fantasy draft?
Week 7

Last Week’s Question:

How Should Commissioners Handle the Teams of Owners Who Drop Out Midseason?

Tim wrote in about an owner who has stopped managing his team and who does not respond to communications from anyone in the league. He was active at the beginning of the season, so the teams that played against him had to earn their victories. But now that he has abandoned his fantasy football league, the owners who will face his team in the coming weeks should have little trouble defeating a squad that fails to respond to injuries and/or line-up complications resulting from bye weeks.

I agree with all of those readers who wrote in to remind me that an inch of prevention in fantasy football is worth ten yards of cure. Commissioners should carefully screen the people they admit to the league so that they don’t end up with owners who will simply quit playing. Many leagues also have apathy-preventative measures in place (such as weekly payouts or draft order priority) to give owners who feel that they have no real shot at the playoffs an incentive to play out the season to the best of their ability.

However, my question was not about how to keep owners from dropping out; it was about how leagues should respond when owners go MIA. As Cooper writes, this kind of situation really does crop up from time to time—and can ruin the FF experience for an entire league if handled improperly:

This exact scenario played out in our league two years ago, pretty much [the way] you described—except the owner didn't win the lottery but instead decided he was [angry] at everyone in the league and fired off one last angry diatribe before disappearing. A borderline playoff caliber team squeaked in because he played the absent owner's team in the final regular season week. This team then went on to get amazingly lucky and won it all. To this day, people are saying that his championship needs an asterisk.

After the owner left in Week 6, heated discussion occurred concerning how we should proceed.

We argued about how all of his players should be released into the free agency pool, but since the guy had Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees and the commish had waiver priority number 12, he didn't want that to occur. So he froze his roster. Ultimately the commish did say that he would set lineups based on the auto player ranker. But [thanks to byes and injuries, some lineup spots were left] empty. Needless to say, it was unfair.

A lot of us at the time wanted automatic wins [retroactive to the beginning of the season] for everybody who faced the abandoned team. His record was actually 3-2 when he quit. Everybody but the three teams who lost to him objected, saying that those owners that lost had lost fair and square. So it didn't happen.

I think that was a huge mistake. I think when somebody quits, records should be adjusted as if the guy was never in the league. Obviously the best solution is to find a substitute owner, but that's not always easy to do.

Although Cal does not advocate giving every owner who plays the abandoned team an automatic win, he essentially agrees with Cooper about adjusting the standings in such a way that the abandoned team is simply factored out of the league:

I am entirely in favor of making them a BYE week the whole season through.

Turning match-ups against the abandoned team into a bye week for its scheduled opponent is probably the cleanest and simplest solution, but most leagues will only go that route as a last resort. After all, very few of us join fantasy leagues to have heated contests against nobody in Week 8.

In sixteen years of commissioning a 12-team league, Dan has not had to deal with this problem. Nevertheless, he does a good job of covering the various approaches proposed by those who wrote in:

From my perspective, there are 3 ways the situation can be dealt with.

1. Find someone to take over the team for the duration of the season and give them the option of staying on after the season if they wish. [Since league fees are usually] paid up front, there really isn't too much of a cost consideration for the person taking over. This may not always work as most abandoned teams are bad, but this is the option that’s easiest for the commissioner to handle.

2. The commissioner could have to take responsibility for the team essentially making it a league team and making moves and acquiring players to make sure a competitive team shows up each Sunday. The negatives are that it overloads an already busy commissioner and in this case any move the commish makes for this team does not count for the league money transaction fees. This could obviously be a problem if the commissioner has to play against the abandoned team after he has taken it over.

3. This option is the one I would try to use in my league as we run in three divisions. I would assign one team per week to run that team depending on who they are playing. If the league team is in division 1 and they are playing a team in their division then a team in Division 2 or Division 3 can run the team for week. If they play a Division 2 team then a team from Division 3 can manage it for a week. By having many owners run that team, you have a better chance of getting a competitive line-up each week for the team missing an owner.

For someone who hasn’t had to deal with this problem, Dan does a great job of explaining the downsides of his various solutions. Since most teams are abandoned because they aren’t very good, it may be difficult to implement option number 1 in most leagues, but Tony’s league has managed to find replacement owners even for undesirable teams:

This has happened to us in the past. What we’ve done is put in a new owner for the drop out (as we usually have a couple of guys who wanted to play but didn’t get in). He doesn’t have to pay any money but he doesn’t get any either, and he gets a reserved slot in the league the next year.

If there are two or three people who are just waiting to get into your league, then this replacement strategy can actually work as a kind of screening mechanism. The newcomer who takes over the team can be evaluated not in terms of how well his failing squad does—but in terms of how committed he remains to the project of getting the most out of a hopeless situation. A person who makes sound roster-management and line-up choices for a team that has no realistic shot at the post-season is someone that the league will want to keep around in the future.

Dan’s other solutions (putting the commissioner in charge of the team or having multiple owners manage the team) could also work very well under the right circumstances. The only problem is that any solution proposed after the problem arises is likely to ruffle somebody’s feathers. If your league does not already have rules in place for handling abandoned teams, then you might want to consider the rules that Brian’s league ended up adopting:

We ran into this issue four years ago and put the following rules in place:

In case an owner withdraws after a season has started, the commissioners will take over and run that team. All attempts will be made to find a replacement owner. Until a replacement owner is found the commissioners will use the listed projections for the week to set the weekly lineup. In the case of a key player needing to be replaced because of injury or bye, and if no back up exists on the bench, the top available player for that position will be picked up off waivers, late Saturday/early Sunday. In case a player needs to be dropped, the least productive (ytd) player will be dropped. A commissioner-managed team will not be eligible for the playoffs. A commissioner-managed team will not be eligible for trades.

Just to explain we lost two owners that year. We were able to find a replacement owner for the first team. I added a second commissioner to maintain objectivity and consistency even when we personally were going against that team. The decision to wait late in the week for the waiver wire pick up is to give the active owners the best chance to maintain their team. Our desire is to keep the commissioner-managed team competitive—not turn it into a juggernaut.

Perhaps the best thing about the rules adopted by Brian’s league is that they include specific procedural directions for how the commissioner is expected to manage the team. If a player injury forces the commissioner to make a roster change, then the rules make it very clear which player he should cut and which player he should acquire. It is obviously too late for Tim’s league to adopt these rules “in advance,” but they sound as fair to me as any rules that one could reasonably expect to cover this sort of contingency.

My thanks to everyone who took the time to write in. I hope that Tim’s league (and any others dealing with the problem of abandoned teams) benefited from the discussion.

This Week’s Question:

What is the best city/venue to host a fantasy draft?

Brian wrote in at the beginning of the season to ask where the best drafts happen. He seems to be more interested in cities (e.g. Las Vegas, Atlantic City, etc.), but I want to expand the question to make it relevant for local leagues that do not travel.

If you want to make a case for a particular city, then I will be happy to share it. But I am equally interested in people’s takes on particular venues. If there is a chain of sports bars that has an awesome package deal for fantasy leagues, that information could be very helpful to leagues that are tired of being cramped in the commissioner’s rec room every year. If your league has a secret about the advantage of holding a draft in a warehouse district or some other venue that other leagues might not have considered (churches, YMCAs, or other community centers that might offer amenities too easily overlooked in the average FFer’s never-ending quest for beer), I would like to share those secrets.

Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of Mark Den Adel)

Last week I was 2-1. It was disappointing that the Bears couldn’t beat Seattle, but I am still 14-4 so far this year. Since the conventional LMS format does not allow participants to pick a winning team more than once in the course of a season, I restrict myself to selecting a team only once in each of the 3 spots I use each week. For example, I used Baltimore in the first slot in week 5 and in the third slot in week 3, so this is the last week you will see me picking the Ravens.

1) Dallas over NY Giants
The 1-4 Cowboys cannot beat the Giants if they keep playing as sloppily as they have been, but the spotlight of a Monday night game and the fact that the season is about to get away from them should be enough to motivate Dallas vs. a divisional rival that has nowhere near as much at stake in this game as the Boys do. The Cowboys need this win much like they did at Houston earlier this year. The Giants are 2nd in overall defense and 2nd in passing defense, but I expect the secondary to falter against the raw passing and catching talent of Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Dez Bryant.

2) Baltimore over Buffalo
Buffalo will remain winless as Baltimore is a tough matchup even for good teams at home. The Ravens should not have to work very hard against a bad team that has to travel. Buffalo has only sacked the opposing QB six times this season, so expect Flacco to have as much time as he needs to throw the ball to Mason/Boldin/Heap. The Bills are last in rushing defense, so expect Ray Rice to be around 150 total yards. Look for the Ravens to win by more than twoTDs.

3) New Orleans over Cleveland
The Saints are getting their swagger back and will take care of business at home. Colt McCoy played well last week at Pittsburgh (throwing for 281 yards), but New Orleans is 7th against the pass, and McCoy will be rattled by the rowdy fans in the Super Dome. Cleveland is 21st against the pass, so Drew Brees should have a big day.

Upset of the week – Last week I was close on my upset pick as Baltimore took New England into OT but couldn’t get the win. This week I’ll go with St. Louis to win in Tampa Bay. Stephen Jackson will run for over 100 yards and a TD as Tampa Bay is 31st against the run. The Bucs' RBs are awful and St. Louis is 13th against the run. The Rams found a new WR in Danario Alexander and Sam Bradford continues to mature in his rookie season. The upshot is that even if St. Louis’ passing attack does not show up for the game, the Rams should gain enough ground on the ground to defeat the Buccaneers.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me.