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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Do You Have Too Many Lineups to Juggle on Sundays?

Last Week's Question: Does the "appearance" of collusion matter in trades?

In my column for last week, I described a trade of Amari Cooper and Markus Wheaton for Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin.

Whatever readers might think of the relative value of the players involved, the key points were contextual. The Cooper owner is out of post-season contention and is giving up his best player (Cooper) to his nephew, who is poised for a playoff run—in exchange for a running back (Michael) who is unlikely to break into his own lineup more than a couple of times before the end of the season.

The commissioner who referred this question to me said that in his opinion, the relative value of the players was less important than the fact that the trade presented the appearance of collusion.

Some readers, such as Michael, agreed with the commissioner:

To put it simply, yes it presents the appearance of collusion. We have a small family league. We’re all related (by marriage, at least), and we love each other; but, we also want to destroy our opponent each week. We play for a pretty small cash prize at the end of the year, but we play more for pride than anything else. As the commissioner, I have had a couple of situations come up (in 10 years mind you) that I truly felt would disrupt the competitive balance. They are rare, thankfully, but they happen. I always take a proactive approach. I tell everyone that once the season starts, I want to just be another one of the managers. But, if you make me become the commissioner, I will. I have broad, unilateral powers as our commissioner, and I’ve used them only twice.
The fact that Michael has used his veto power only twice suggests that he is reluctant to interfere in trades—as I suspect most commissioners are when saddled with this responsibility.

RJ also thought the trade appeared collusive, but the commissioner in his league wouldn't be responsible for blocking it all by himself:
That trade is definitely full of collusion. . . . In our league the commish decides if there is collusion. Then if he does and the two teams want to contest the decision, we have two other league members who have a meeting with commish and the two teams. In the end the commish and 2 league members vote on whether it in the best interest of the league. If the commish or the two senior league members are involved in said trade then they are removed from the decision and alternates sit in for the decision. It has worked perfectly and we only had to veto maybe 3 trades in 22 years. The league members like it cuz it is very fair and unbiased and not everyone is involved in deciding if the trade should go through.
However, the "appearance" of collusion wasn't plain to all readers, as Rick explained:
The fact that the trade partners are related is irrelevant. The trade should be addressed on its own merits. With all the RB injuries, I don't see an issue with having a CMike on the bench for insurance. The "appearance of collusion" is in the eye of the beholder. Let guys manage their teams as they see fit. There is absolutely nothing in this deal that warrants a reversal by the commissioner.
We're just three comments in, and we've already encountered two diametrically opposed reactions. RJ says, "That trade is definitely full of collusion," and Rick says, "There is absolutely nothing in this deal that warrants a reversal by the commissioner."

But even where there seems to be agreement on other points, the agreement is tenuous. Like Rick, David thought it best to set aside the uncle/nephew relationship, but added that "uncle or not, any team out of the playoff picture trading in a non-dynasty/keeper format is a red flag for me."

Rick didn't comment on that component, but since he said that the trade "should be addressed on its own merits," my guess is that he would consider the uncle's record as irrelevant to the discussion as any blood ties involved.

David was cognizant of the ways in which these characteristics of the trade might contribute to the appearance of collusion, but worried about a "slippery slope":

It's certainly a slippery slope with regards to diagnosing collusion in that it tends to set a precedent for any and all future rulings. Does one decision mean that relatives are no longer allowed to make trades? Vetoing a transaction strictly based on relationship can understandably be problematic in long-standing leagues where the owners tend to know one another fairly well. All in all, I think it's reasonable, and even expected, that commissioners should make every effort to identify and eliminate collusion. In fact, I think it's the only reason a trade should ever get vetoed in a pay league. Every owner paid their entry fee to manage their team in any way they'd like.

David's last point (that owners should be allowed to manage their teams as they see fit) was the most common thread in the responses I received. Dan wrote: "Even trades that look foolish, I've let go through because it's not the league's job to police owner stupidity. Doesn't matter that they're making a big mistake in most people's minds." Bruce echoed this sentiment: "Absent clear evidence of collusion, I would assume stupidity and let the deal stand."

So it seems safe to say that A) leagues don't want collusion, but B) they also don't want commissioners interfering with trades just because the commissioner's opinion of the players involved makes the trade seem collusive to her/him.

The commissioner who referred this matter to me probably instituted his appearance-based policy on collusion because he thought it would take some of the tension out of the veto process. ("I'm not calling you guys cheaters," he could say when issuing the decision, "but I'm saying that to some people this might look like cheating.") However, that qualifier may only have made his job harder.

The solution that almost everyone endorsed involved an arbitration panel of multiple owners. Some readers (such as CJ, whose comment is posted below last week's column) advocate a league-wide vote on all trades. But most of the comments I've received on league-wide votes over the years have been negative. They may work well in some leagues, but they can easily lead to a vindictive scenario in which owners veto each other's trades because of grudges about past vetoes.

So avoiding league-wide votes makes sense, but avoiding commissioner-only decisions makes sense as well. As Dan put it, "I love the arbitration panel of 2-3 other owners in case commish decides to veto." In Tom's league, "There are 3 guys assigned to our 'trade committee' that have the final say whether a trade is fair or not." And anyone looking to inject anonymity into the arbitration process should check out this comment from Mr. Squeeze:

Some years ago I developed a three-member "trade commission" board to be able to eliminate favoritism or accusations of it. I am not part of the board unless one of the trade commissioners is actually involved in the trade. I only execute the transactions. Also, most importantly, I have made sure that they don't know who the other two members are. All trades are evaluated by the board and a simple 2 votes either for or against. Every owner in the league knows how it works, and they don't know who the trade commissioners are either. The trade partners both let me know why they're making the trade and I can answer questions that the trade commissioners have. This has completely eliminated any trades that are even close to shady, and no trades have been vetoed in the last 9 years or so.
So the moral of the story seems to be that having a commissioner rule on the "appearance" of collusion is less productive than putting the decision into the hands of a committee. I hope that's helpful to commissioners struggling to combat collusion without becoming meddlesome, and I'm grateful to everyone who posted comments to the original column or took the time to email me.

This Week's Question: Do you have too many lineups to juggle on Sundays?

Since the questionable tag has been expanded to include the old "probable" category in the NFL, it's more important than ever to pay attention to the list of inactive players released roughly an hour before kickoff on Sundays.

An hour is plenty of time to adjust rosters in a few fantasy leagues, but DFS enthusiasts (many of whom play oodles of tickets each week) may not be able to review all of their lineups thoroughly in light of late-breaking information.

Worse yet, some West Coast folks have to get up before dawn to make lineup adjustments for players involved in London games.

So I can't help wondering if anyone out there has become so overwhelmed by roster management on Sunday mornings they they've abandoned traditional fantasy to make time for DFS . . . or vice versa.

More generally, I wonder whether the growing popularity of fantasy/DFS contests is making Sunday mornings a blur of frenzied data analysis for people in general—or is it just the crazy folks I hang out with? If time management on Sunday mornings has become a problem for you because of your fantasy habit, please comment below or email me.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 9 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Multiple Trap Games:

My top picks this week all feature surging teams vs. sputtering inter-conference opponents. That's great news if these selections are available to you in your pool; if not, you'll probably have to resort to intra-conference (or even intra-divisional) games. However, before you commit to such a choice, please bear the following caveats in mind: 1) Minnesota seems like a powerhouse vs. Detroit, but the unexpected resignation of offensive coordinator Norv Turner will probably translate to a big step backwards for Brad Johnson and company in Week 9; 2) Kansas City looks like a lock vs. dismal Jacksonville, but the Chiefs will be missing Alex Smith and possibly Spencer Ware (as well as Jamaal Charles–IR); and 3) the division-leading Atlanta Falcons have already lost to the struggling Buccaneers once this season.

#3: Green Bay over Indianapolis: (6-2, JAX, OAK, DAL, MIN, PIT, NE, CIN, TN)

Aaron Rodgers made an emphatic statement against the high-flying Falcons last week, finishing second only to Derek Carr in fantasy terms. Cheeseheads have rightly been worried about the Packers' glitch-ridden offense this season, but it's now clear that Green Bay can score even without Eddie Lacy or James Starks (or Ty Montgomery, for that matter). As for the Colts, Andrew Luck is having a solid year with 2284 yards and 16 touchdowns at the halfway point, but QB stats don't translate to wins all by themselves. Consequently, Indy is 2-4 and looking up at both Tennessee and Houston in the AFC South. While the Packers are finding ways to win without running backs, the Colts are finding ways to lose to teams like the Jaguars, so it's hard to see them stealing a win in Lambeau. Put this one on autopilot while you prepare a cheese plate to celebrate a Packers victory.

#2: Seattle over Buffalo: (6-2, HOU, AZ, CAR, WAS. GB, TN, NE, MN)

The Buffalo Bills are 4-4 with quality wins over the Cardinals and Patriots in Weeks 3 and 4 but are currently riding a two-game losing streak. That said, their schedule gets easier after the long trip to the Seattle to take on a Seahawks team that is still working through the identity crisis sparked by the retirement of Marshawn Lynch. Last year’s rookie phenom, Thomas Rawls, has been out since Week 3, so the inconsistent Christine Michael will be called upon once again to carry the load this week. On top of that, Russell Wilson's leg injuries still seem to be compromising his mobility. As Wilson struggles to achieve scramble-mode in the absence of Beastmode, Pete Carroll is probably wishing that Lynch would come out of retirement. The bad news for Carroll is that the only retired Seahawk returning to the league this week is Percy Harvin, who will shore up a battered Bills receiving corps. The good news for Carroll is that he gets to play a team so desperate for offensive talent that it just signed the retired Harvin. So even though the Seahawk offense is a little anemic, I'll take Seattle at home against a Bills team whose LeSean McCoy has missed practice this week and whose newest receiver has missed practice all season.

#1: Dallas over Cleveland: (7-1, SEA, CAR, MIA, CIN, NE, PIT, GB)

Dak Prescott is making a strong case to remain the starting quarterback in Dallas, and Tony Romo may want to consider taking the retirement package that the Cowboys will very happily offer him at the end of the season. With three major back injuries in the last few years, it would be in Tony’s best interest to walk away, but he wants to compete. Unfortunately for him, he may not have a choice in this. The Browns hope to get their first win of the season, but the combination of Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott (ranked 4th in the rushing), and a surprisingly stout Dallas defense makes it very hard to foresee a Cleveland upset. The duel between rising QB stars Prescott and Cleveland’s Cody Kessler will make this fun to watch, but the Dawg Pound will be howling at the moon for at least one more week before winning a game in 2016.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.