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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Is your league full of oldtimers or newcomers?
Q & A: Week 11

Last Week's Question: Is it more difficult for commissioners to veto trades in the wake of the Trent Richardson move?

In my column for Week 10, I shared a note from Cliff, a commissioner who thought the Trent Richardson deal was lopsided (in Indy's favor) when it was first announced. Given Richardson's lackluster performance with the Colts since the trade, Cliff no longer thinks it was so lopsided, but the owners in his league won't let him forget his initial reaction to the Richardson deal whenever he considers vetoing one of their trade proposals.

Most of the responses I received concerning Cliff's plight shared my sense that commissioners should only veto trades in cases of suspected collusion--and not simply on the grounds of perceived "lopsidedness."

As Mike put it:

No vetoes of any trades unless there is can't veto stupidity. As commissioner in a league, I am no more an expert on player value than any other league member. Plus, a team loaded at a particular position may make a lopsided trade to improve at a weak position. To that owner, he might be giving up "nothing" (a bench player) for "something" (a starter). Looking at a trade just player-for-player is shortsighted. The Richardson trade is a perfect example.

Mark shares Mike's opinion, but takes the time to explain how he gathers the information he needs to decide whether a trade qualifies as collusive:

I believe it is up to the commissioner to veto trades. There are a few conditions that need to exist. First, I rarely veto trades. The only exception is if I feel there was some type of collusion involved between the two owners and league integrity is at stake. This rarely happens, but some have tried. Second, if I have any questions, I talk to both owners to get the whole story. If I have depth at RB/WR and I trade Lacy, D. Jax and Kyle Rudolph for Jimmy Graham, it may seem lopsided, but what if Lacy and D. Jax are both #4 RB/WR on my team who rarely start and I just improved my starting TE from Rudolph to Graham? Just an example, but Lacy and D. Jax may be the #2 RB/WRs on the new team, and Rudolph is serviceable.

Final point, when you put matters to a vote, owners will generally vote based on how it affects their team and not on the legitimacy of the trade. Therefore, the commissioner should always look at the integrity of the league first and maintain control of the trade veto.

Craig goes even further. For him, it isn't enough to consider swapping a solid performer on the bench for an iffy starter. It may be that an owner's motives are completely inscrutable to the commissioner, and that owner shouldn't have to explain himself:

I am commissioner of our fantasy football keeper league and have been for the past 8-9 years. Although I have the authority to void trades, I RARELY DO. I don’t believe it is my place to decide whether or not the proposed trade is “fair” (i.e. each side is getting equivalent value). Team A may be making a trade to win now, for example, while team B may be making a trade with an eye toward the playoffs, or the future. While the owner of Team B may know what he is up to, no other might know why he is making the trade, nor in fact would the owner of team B want other owners to know. I look only to see whether or not there appears to be any collusion which will advance one team owner's agenda with the assistance of his “buddy” to the detriment of the rest of the league. Throughout most of the year we freely allow – even encourage – trades to try and keep the competition level and interest high. It’s worked so far. Our league has been in existence, continuously, since 1989.

Although we are entering week 10, the competition has been even enough that all 10 teams still have a shot at the playoffs. We do, however, prevent trades after Thanksgiving so that no team owner, now convinced he will not make the playoffs, can aid another team through a trade with the goal of helping the other team advance to the playoffs.

Readers should be cautioned that collusion isn't always easy to spot--and that commissioners have to be careful about incentives that may be plain as day to the trading partners, but almost invisible to outsiders. As Jack explains:

I'm the commissioner of my 12-team 1-QB league and we just yesterday went through this debate as to what power the commissioner should have with regard to vetoing trades that appear to be lopsided and possibly could jeopardize the integrity of the league.

A key detail to understand is that this is a 2-player keeper league -- if a player is drafted (and never placed on waivers) he can then be kept at cost the following year.

So, Team A (6-3) traded Eddie Lacy ($30) and Alshon Jeffery ($4) to Team B (2-7) for Drew Brees and Marshawn Lynch. Drew Brees was drafted so he could be kept at cost (or just drafted again at the same price), but Marshawn would be a second year keeper making him cost roughly $80 to keep (i.e. not keepable).

Initial outcry to this trade was that it's crazy. And upon initial review they're not wrong! Team B also has Matt Stafford sitting on the bench, a more than serviceable replacement for Brees, so essential it's a Stafford for Brees and Lacy for Lynch swap with a side of Alshon Jeffery. Not so bad! Team A has acquired 2 elite players to make a push for this year, sacrificing his only two "sexy" keepers while Team B has acquired great keeper options and arguably made his team better....?

My only point is that more often than not it is rather difficult to truly assess the lopsidedness of a trade without looking at it from every possible angle. And even then it still may not be possible to fully asses. My viewpoint as the commissioner is that if a trade does indeed look lopsided after digging into the details, I'm still hesitant to veto it! If someone has the ability to bring a fellow owner to agree to a trade that appears to be highway robbery -- then bravo! The only thing that upsets me is that I wasn't able to take advantage of this golden opportunity. It boils down to the fact that we are a self-proclaimed league of "gentlemen" who possess a certain level of knowledge and experience regarding football that no one would be boneheaded enough to offer (let alone accept!) a trade that is so lopsided that it requires commissioner interjection. It's with that mindset that I believe the only trades that really require veto are ones where there is strong evidence of collusion.

Of course, even if we all agree that commissioners should butt out of trades unless there is "strong evidence of collusion," anything short of a confession is going to have to be vetoed on the basis of a judgment call.

Perhaps the best way to test for collusion is to use a trade window (such as the method Ryan suggests):

I thought I would offer up how we do trades now ("The Window") because we do not really like the league votes or the commish votes.

One of most often-heard complaints after a trade goes through is, "I would have offered so much more for that guy." So why not force these Monday morning quarterbacks to put up or shut up? When a trade is agreed upon and reported to the league as a whole, instead of having a veto/vote, allow a window of time where other teams may make public counter-offers to either side. After the window closes, if no other offers have been made, the trade goes through. If offers have been made, either owner (or perhaps even both) may pull out of the original deal in order to accept one of the counteroffers, which will then go through "The Window".

Overall this works fairly well if you have active owners and it eliminates people hating the commish or the rest of the league. Only downside to the window is trades have to be done over 24 hours in advance of rosters locking.

If the first guy to be eliminated from the playoff picture in your league trades his best player (say, Peyton Manning) for a player of questionable value (say, Willis McGahee), then the great thing about the trade window method that Ryan advocates is that someone else in the league can offer a much better RB for Manning (the likes of Zac Stacy or even Danny Woodhead) to test whether the Manning owner is really as desperate for RB help as the Manning-for-McGahee trade suggests.

Special thanks to Ryan for sharing his thoughts on "The Window," and thanks to everyone else who wrote in about vetoes (whether I had a chance to include your comments or not).

This Week's Question: Would you describe your primary league as consisting of oldtimers, newcomers, or a mixture of the two?

When I first read this question from James, I didn't think it would make its way into my column:

Maybe you have already done something on this, but sometimes I’ve wondered how long other leagues have been together and their backgrounds If interested, I will go into more depth later but in a nutshell ours is same ten (+/- couple) high school friends in our 22nd year……and how times have changed since 1991.

Instead of reprinting James' question here, I thought I would just send him a link to the very old Q&A column in which the answers to a similar question appeared. But then I went back through my archived articles (all the way back to 2004) without finding that specific column. Apparently that discussion came up in the long-long ago, at least two computers ago and too far back even for FFToday's extensive archives. It might be on a floppy disk in my garage somewhere, but I'm a little bit too laid up with a pilon fracture in my right leg to go hunt for it. (Incidentally, pilon fractures suck.)

I remember being pretty much amazed by the responses I received when I first asked that question. I heard from participants in leagues that are almost as old as I am. (I was born in 1968, and I received responses from people who could trace the lineage of their leagues all the way back to the early '70s.)
I was fortunate to get this column going in the days when fantasy football was just beginning to take the internet by storm, and I've consequently had the pleasure of corresponding with plenty of extremely experienced commissioners (some of whom I end up quoting two or three times in the course of a single season).

In any case, it's been so long since I posed that question that I guess the answers will have changed by now. I have a sneaking suspicion that this column tends to appeal more to an older crowd than to FF newcomers because I so often encounter questions that remind me of my own league's transition from being managed by hand (with weekly email updates) to existing entirely online. But maybe I'm wrong, and maybe the responses to these questions will prove me wrong:

1) What is the name of your league?

2) When was your league founded?

3) How many members do you have?

4) What kind of owner turnover have you experienced?

5) Did the league start in a specific geographic location or in cyberspace? If it started in a specific place, where was that?

6) Are you the commissioner of your league now? If so, how long have you been commissioner? If not, have you ever served as commissioner in the past?

7) Other than (which, as we all know, has been a leader in the fantasy sports community since 1998), what's the oldest online fantasy information provider that you still use?

8) If there are other questions you might like to see answered, submit them here. If I get enough interesting questions, I may post them in a future column.

Survivor Picks - Week 10 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: Kansas City at Denver
You probably used the Denver Broncos earlier in the season, but if you haven't, this is not the week to be bold in spite of the almost double-digit betting line. Andy Reid has his Chiefs playing solid football, and they have been focused on going into Mile High since before the season started. This week the Chiefs get lucky with Peyton Manning having limited mobility because of his ankle injury, so the KC defense should be able to increase their league-leading sack count (36). Look for this game to be closer than most think, and when these teams meet in Kansas City in two weeks, there's a very real possibility that the Chiefs come out on top. No matter what, this will be the game of the week that everyone will be watching. So sit back, open that beer and enjoy your snacks. Just don't take the Broncos and assume that they will run away with it. Indianapolis has shown the rest of the league the formula for beating Peyton and company.

#3: NY Giants over Green Bay (7-3: KC, NEP, MN, NO, SF, DEN, MIA, GB, SEA, IND)
The New York Football Giants find themselves all of a sudden in the middle of a divisional race where 8-8 might just win the NFC East (a far cry from a few years ago where playing an NFC East team was feared by almost anyone). The Giants have played well enough to win the last three weeks and will be tested by a Packer team that will be without Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb and possibly two offensive linemen who left last week's game with injuries. Look for Scott Tolzien (the undrafted rookie from Wisconsin) to be under center with Matt Flynn (the quarterback who was traded from Seattle to Oakland, then released and went to Buffalo, only to be released three weeks ago) as his backup. While both teams will try and run the ball as much as possible, it most likely will be the experience of Eli Manning that will make the difference (as long as he doesn't throw another pick-6). Give the edge to the Giants at home and bite your nails if you decide to take this game between two teams that both won Super Bowls in the last three years, but are uncertain about their chances of making the playoffs this year.

#2: San Diego at Miami (8-2: DEN, PHL, SF, IND, STL, HOU, GB, SEA, DAL, NYG)
The Miami Dolphins are a mess. This team has hardly been able to focus on football for the last week and a half because of the Martin/Incognito hazing incident that highlights how out of control the Dolphin locker room has become. Ryan Tannehill had such promise coming into the 2013 season after a stellar rookie campaign. Miami acquired Mike Wallace in the off-season, got off to a 3-0 start, and looked like the surprise contender of the AFC East. But since then, the Dolphins have sorely lacked the explosive production of Reggie Bush, have gone 1-5 in their last six games, and find themselves in danger of becoming irrelevant. The Chargers come east this week trying to get back to .500 after two consecutive losses. If Mike Glennon and a combination of backup running backs can beat the Dolphins, then Philip Rivers and Ryan Matthews should shred a team that most NFL insiders expect to have a new GM and coach by New Year's Day (or perhaps even sooner). On paper these teams are supposed to be evenly matched, but the distractions for Miami will prove to be the difference maker in this game.

#1: Houston over Oakland (8-2: IND, OAK, SEA, DEN, ATL, CHI, SD, SF, CAR, TEN)
If you had asked most experts at the beginning of the season who would have a better record when these two were scheduled to meet this week, not a single prognosticator would have selected the Raiders. Nevertheless, Houston heads into Week 11 with a shockingly disappointing 2-7 record. Unfortunately for a team that was expected to make a deep run into this year's playoffs, the Texans have lost seven games straight, a head coach to a mini-stroke, their starting running back to a back injury, and a starting quarterback thanks to a rash of interceptions. But there is hope! Casey Keenum (the kid who went undrafted after setting records at the University of Houston) has stepped in over the last three weeks and completed 55% of his passes, passed for over 800 yards and thrown eight touchdowns during his tenure as the starter. In spite of that, Gary Kubiak has publicly said that he won't anoint him as his starter going into 2014 unless he can keep it up. Well, that shouldn't be hard this week against an Oakland team that has lost four straight games and may start Matt McGloin in place of Terrelle Pryor (who is suffering from a sprained knee ligament). No matter who starts for the Raiders, their 29th-ranked scoring offense will have a hard time moving the ball against the number one defense in yards allowed (280.0 per game). Look for Houston to start winning again, but it will most likely be too little too late this season.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999. As a landlocked Oklahoman who longs for the sound of ocean waves, he also writes about ocean colonization under the pen name Studio Dongo. The latest installment in his science fiction series can be found here.