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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A
Week 8

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, who wrote:

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 change.

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 than that.

This Week's Question: Mid-season Keeper League Advice

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 next year.

Last Man Standing - Week 8 (Courtesy 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 suggest.

#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 me.