Last Week's Question: Under What Circumstances
Do Leagues Permit Mid-Season Rule Changes?
In last week's column,
I shared Brad's concerns about a mid-season rule change in his league.
Brad's league started the season with a $5 fine to any owner who
used a player on a bye in his lineup. Such fines are not uncommon.
Ordinarily, they are the result of commissioner frustration with
owners who become too distracted by work or family to keep up with
their fantasy teams. Such owners may go two or three weeks without
even logging in to check their fantasy website, and they are often
unaware that their lineup features one or more inactive players.
The owners who play against these "auto-pilot" teams have
an unfair advantage over the owners who had to play against them
when they were being actively managed, so some leagues use fines
as a way of encouraging all owners to maintain a minimal level of
engagement with their teams.
That may have been the reason Brad's league instituted the $5 fine,
but it wasn't the problem this season. Brad and two other owners
in his league were willfully starting players on their bye weeks
simply because they didn't want to cut those players to make room
for the active players who would see action for just one week. Brad's
fear was that as soon as he cut a good player (or a desirable handcuff)
on a bye to make room for a sketchy active player, some other owner
would scoop up the good player just to keep him for the rest of
the season. He (and two other owners in his league) preferred paying
a $5 fine and taking zero points from a lineup spot over
risking the loss of a valued player.
The league's response was to increase the fine from $5 to $20. I
have not heard from anyone else in Brad's league, so I cannot comment
on whether it was an attempt to force the three owners at the top
of the standings to cut some of the players that had been crucial
to their success. In Brad's opinion, however, that was the motive.
Although most leagues do not permit mid-season rule changes, clearly
there are some (like Brad's) that do. So I asked readers of this
column to report on any circumstances they had experienced (or could
imagine) that had led (or might lead) to mid-season rule changes
in their leagues.
What I got instead was a lot of feedback (some of it angry) about
how mid-season rule changes should never ever under any circumstances
whatsoever be permitted.
Although the informal setting of a cyber-solicitation for voluntary
responses is hardly scientific, the messages I received indicate
to me that leagues that permit mid-season rule changes are not only
in the minority, but very rare indeed.
The single most even-handed response I received came from Bernie,
This Week's Question: Mid-season Keeper League
Our 25-year old 10-team serpentine draft allows
rule changes by majority vote of the franchises, but only for
the following season. Any proposed change for the current
season must be passed unanimously, which has eliminated frivolous
pipe dreams such as awarding players points in their bye week.
We’ve used it only for non-controversial or administrative
details, such as moving the lineup deadline ahead from Sunday
to Saturday in Christmas week this year because the league scheduled
13 Saturday games.
Like many of those who responded, Allen wrote in to report
that his league has never considered a mid-season rule change,
but he was at least willing to imagine the circumstances under
which his league would entertain the idea:
I have been faithfully serving as the commissioner
of my fantasy football league for 12 years now, and we have never
had a mid-season rules change. That is because I would feel like
it would be "unfair" to make that change. . . [For example,
the rule change in Brad's league] helped/favored the bottom 9
teams and hurt the top 3 teams. Rule changes are fair when all
teams are starting from the same place (beginning of the season)
but they aren't fair once teams/players are not in the same place
(mid-season). I'll give you another example, if Brad's league
had decided to implement the rule on week 8, this would be very
advantageous for those teams with players that had byes in week
5-7 and would be disadvantageous for those teams with players
that had byes in week 8-9. That is not "fair."
The only time I would consider a mid-season rule change is if
the league was going to self-destruct mid-season. If we could
limp to the end of the season with the bad rule and then change
it in the off-season, I would do that ahead of making a mid-season
Paul was the only reader who wrote in to offer anything
close to support for the decision in Brad's league, but it's a
nitpicking kind of support:
I think there is a difference between the
introduction of a new rule (which I would never allow mid-season)
and the modification of an existing rule (such as the bye week
fine in Brad's league). Changing rules in the offseason should
only require a simple majority, but if a league wants to modify
existing rules during the season, there should be a two-thirds
or three-fourths vote in support of the change. Since 9 out of
12 members in Brad's league voted to increase an existing fine
(rather than to introduce a fine out of the blue), I guess I could
be at peace with the decision in Brad's shoes.
The distinction Paul makes between a simple majority,
a two-thirds majority, and a three-fourths majority figured prominently
in many of the notes I received. But most of the commissioners
who wrote in (like Bernie) indicated that unanimity would be required
for any mid-season rule change.
I want to thank Brad once again for his question, but the lesson
I learned from this week's responses is that however rare I imagined
mid-season rule changes to be, they are apparently even rarer
I This week's question comes from Nick, who has apparently abandoned
all hope for a championship in his keeper league this season:
I was wondering if you guys considered putting
out some keeper league advice for this point in the season. For
example, my team is 3 and 4 without much hope for the rest of the
season. Our league rules state you give up a draft pick 3 rounds
higher than where the player you are keeping was picked the prior
year. There is a significant reward for spotting talent early and
holding on to them. I think it is a sound strategy to trade away
some of my core players that I am not interested in/able to keep
for next year for some talent that was drafted late this year or
found on the waiver wires. I picked up Antonio Brown before the
season started, had to drop him to make space, now another team
in my league has him. I want him back because even though I don’t
see much for this year, I think he would definitely be worth giving
up my 13th round draft pick for next year and keeping him. Who are
some other players I can target?
I will be happy to feature responses to any part of Nick's
question in next week's column, but I also apparently need to be
educated about the way most keeper leagues function. I participate
primarily in redrafter leagues, so perhaps I don't understand the
"ordinary" keeper league as well as I should. The keeper
league that I belonged to most recently only allowed owners to keep
players that they had drafted themselves and kept on their roster
all season--precisely because the commissioner wanted to prevent
owners from giving up on their current teams and building for next
season. I assumed this was something of a standard practice, but
Nick's note has me rethinking that assumption.
Much of the strategy involved in personnel management in keeper
leagues is lost on FFers who have only participated in redrafter
leagues, so I look forward
to hearing from seasoned keeper participants about the strategies,
rules, and exploits that come into play for teams that have no real
prospects of winning in the current season and begin building for
of Matthew Schiff)
Trap Game: Indianapolis at Tennessee
It’s hard to imagine that the Colts are 0-7 when they have
been the perennial champions of the AFC Central for the last decade.
Despite injuries on both sides of the ball, Indy has has been
valiantly struggling to be relevant, something they can only achieve
now by acting as a spoiler within the division. Going into Nashville,
the Colts may give the Titans more of a fight than their record
indicates. Chris Johnson has been less than stellar, and Matt
Hasselback doesn’t exactly have elite receivers that burn
a defense. Add in the fact that these teams are division rivals
and you can throw everything you know about each teams’
tendencies out the window. There are a lot better choices this
week. Don’t be surprised if the Colts get their first win.
They’re not as bad as their record or their last game might
#3: Carolina over Minnesota (5-2, PIT,
SD, GB, BUF, HOU, CIN, NO):
If you’re using this game as your LMS pick, you’ve
probably already used New Orleans, New York, Baltimore and San
Francisco this season, and are now looking for that game where
you need to use a team that you don't feel confident about. While
the Vikings are very similar to Carolina on the defensive side
of the ball, ranked 17th and 19th respectively, the real difference
is on offense. Everyone (including the Panther defense) knows
how good Adrian Peterson is, but Charlie Ponder is no Brett Favre
(at least not yet) and will be needed to balance out those eight-man
fronts that the Vikings will face most of the day. Meanwhile,
the Panthers have a very solid rookie quarterback in Cam Newton
(the number one overall pick in April’s draft), and have
moved the ball almost 100 yards more per game through a balanced
running attack of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams (8th
overall) that matches up with Cam’s passing ability (5th
overall). The Vikings should keep this close, but in the end,
the Panthers should pull this one out in front of the home crowd.
#2: New Orleans over St. Louis (5-2, SD,
AZ, DET, GB, NYG, PIT, JAX):
If you haven’t figured this one out yet, the Rams are in
another class this year. By that I mean that the team as a whole
should probably have stayed in college. The Rams are ranked 29th
in yards allowed, 31st in points allowed and dead last in total
points scored on offense. Coach Spagnola understands that with
the high-scoring offense of the Saints marching into St. Louis,
there will be no rest for the weary Rams. Barring a major let
down from the Saints, New Orleans should replicate the Cowboys'
formula from last week and put this one on cruise control by the
second half. Unfortunately for Rams fans, St. Louis remains the
2011 NFL team that you pick against in your LMS pools for the
remainder of the season.
#1: NY Giants over Miami (6-1 SD, PIT, TN, PHL,
CIN, GB, DAL):
The Dolphins are on coach-watch with Bill Cowher being the first
man named as a possible person to take over in 2012. The specter
of more rebuilding doesn’t bode well for a Miami team that
scores a little more than two touchdowns a game and is in the
bottom third of most defensive categories going against a Giants
offense that likes to stretch the field with Nicks, Manningham
and Cruz (currently ranked 6th in passing and 9th in scoring).
But the New York Football Giants do not play well when rested.
They have historically been bad (7-14) in the game following a
bye week. Recent history has bucked that trend, however, as Coach
Coughlin has won three of the last four games following a bye.
My money is on a continuation of that more recent trend since
the Giants are playing a team they should defeat easily, but be
warned that the G-Men have been less than stellar at home against
the opponents that they were supposed to put away (the loss two
weeks ago to the Seahawks is a perfect example). After last week’s
collapse by the Dolphins to the Broncos at home in the 4th quarter,
don’t expect them to put up much of a fight on the road
against the NFC East leading Giants.
For responses to this month's fantasy question please email