Last Week's Question
Last week's question came from Bradley, who plays in a league that
makes the vetoing of trades extremely easyperhaps too easy. Since
trading is probably more fun and rewarding than any other aspect
of fantasy football, I can see why FFers in leagues such as Bradley's
would want to see trading made as easy as possible. However, a specter
is haunting fantasy football, the specter of collusion.
In leagues with any kind of cash prize at stake, there is always
the possibility that one owner who is out of contention will deliberately
strip the best players from his team and give them to another owner
who, with the added muscle, will waltz into the playoffs with a
decided advantage and take home the purse. If what I have heard
is true, the two colluders then split the winnings and apparently
live out their days on a private island with fancy mixed drinks
being brought to them by trained seals. So despite the fact that
many owners would like trading to be made as easy as possible, many
others want it to be highly regulated. They argue that if a deal
smells at all fishy, it should not be allowed to go through.
Different leagues institute different policies in order to facilitate
trading as much as possible without allowing for any more of a possibility
of collusion than there absolutely has to be. The most common solution
to this problem is to set a very early trading deadline. In my league,
for instance, all trading must stop at the end of Week 7. To those
outside of the fantasy football community, that deadline sounds
absurdly early, since it occurs less than halfway through the regular
season. However, it is so early that all teams are still in contention,
which takes away the primary motive for collusion.
But there are other ways of handling this problem. A reader named
Robby is in a league that is experiencing the same problem as Bradley's
league. He wrote in with the following proposal for next year:
We are having the same "trading" problems in our league,
so we decided that next year, if an owner wants to trade a first-
or second-rounder, he must receive a first- or second-rounder in
return. Other players may also be involved in the trade. This way,
at least the losing owner will be prevented from "helping"
a winning owner to make that owner's team top heavy. This isn't
set in stone, so I'd like to hear your views on this idea.
I'm all for new ideas, Robby, and if you decide to go through with
this, please let me know how it works out in actual practice. In
theory, however, it looks to me like a recipe for disaster. I don't
know how accurately your draft predicted actual player performance,
but I do know that on the antsports.com
website (which I like to refer to as a fairly reliable composite
indicator of how players were ranked by owners before the season),
we can already see a number of players who were over- or under-valued
in many drafts. Check the average draft position (ADP) rankings
for 12-team leagues on players such as Clinton Portis (1.04), Kevan
Barlow (1.11), and Travis Henry (2.10). Terrell Owens' ADP, according
to their data, was 2.08. If you instituted the rule you are considering,
then it would be "legal" for an owner to trade Terrell
Owens (a second-rounder) for Keven Barlow (a first-rounder). But
it would not be legal to trade T. O. for Tiki Barber or Curtis Martin
(both with an ADP of 4.03).
Are you kidding me?
If a person said to me, "Which smells more of collusionOwens
for Barlow or Owens for Barber?", I wouldn't have to give that
question any thought at all before saying that the more suspicious
trade was the one involving Barlow. But I want to pause here to
add that I am not suggesting that a trade of Owens for Barlow necessarily
qualifies as collusionjust that it seems more lopsided than a trade
of Owen for Barber.
The fact of the matter is that nobody knows how a player's season
will go. I don't know; you don't know; even the know-it-all in my
league (every league has one, but ours is named Greg Petty) doesn't
know. We only know how the season has gone so far. I may have studied
tape of the Eagles and decided that what the Steelers did to contain
T. O. on Sunday is something that every other defense left on the
Eagles' schedule is capable of doing. I might also have seen something
in the 49ers' play to persuade me that Barlow is in for a monster
of a second half of the regular season. I might honestly believe
that swapping Owens for Barlow is in my interest; and that is my
prerogative. In case you haven't noticed, the reason that so many
people watch the NFL so obsessively is that there is absolutely
no predicting what will happen from one week to the next. We take
educated guesses, and we are usually right to rank players like
Randy Moss ahead of players like Keyshawn Johnson. But educated
guesses only go so far. In my league's scoring system, Javon Walker
and Reggie Wayne are both ahead of Torry Holt and Hines Ward in
point production so far this season. I can also assure you that
Walker and Wayne were both available when Holt and Ward got snapped
up. On draft day, would I have thought it was collusion if two teams
had swapped Clinton Portis for Javon Walker? Maybe, but I would
have thought that the team acquiring Portis was the one getting
stacked. If the same trade happened today, the people who are most
apt to cry collusion would contend that the team acquiring Walker
was gaining an unfair advantage.
It's crazy, and perhaps the best assessment of how prone we are
to overreact to the specter of collusion comes from a reader named
Don, who taunts,
All of y'all just need to step back and take a deep breath when
it comes to accusing owners of collusion. Maybe they are making
those deals because they understand the NFL better than you do.
Maybe they only think they understand it better, but the deals are
theirs to make!
I wish more people would begin their notes to me with the phrase,
"All of y'all." It just makes me happy. I, however, digress.
Don is not alone. Jennifer, for instance, wrote in to explain that
her league uses an early deadline policy (like my league), but she
adds sentiments that are similar to Don's:
We do not have a rule against any trades except that they end in
week 8 so that every team is pretty much still in the playoff hunt.
That way, no one is ready to give up on their team to help another.
The way we see it, you pay for your team, so it is your team. If
you make a bad trade it is on you.
I received numerous responses along similar lines, but the most
impassioned and articulate came from John, who writes:
I'm puzzled by the numerous posts on this and other fantasy sites
from commissioners asking if a trade is "fair" or whether
it should be vetoed. The whole idea of fantasy sports is the opportunity
to act as coach/general manager of your own team. If two owners
come to an agreement on an exchange of players, why in the world
should other owners have any say in the matter? It amazes me that
owners who have drafted a fair number of stiffs themselvesand
let's face it, we all have at one time or anotherare suddenly
experts on the comparative value of someone else's players! From
what I've seen, it's not uncommon for owners to vote against a trade
that they consider unfair or lopsided involving players that they
themselves opted not to draft. If the player(s) in question are
so valuable, and you passed them up, doesn't that indicate that
you weren't that great a judge of talent on draft night? What has
transpired since then to make you such an expert? It's awfully difficult
to prove that a trade was made specifically to benefit one team
at the expense of another. If you think that this is happening in
your league, GET OUT FAST! Join a league with friends or others
you respect as solid, fair-minded competitors who play the game
the right way: to win, honorably and fairly, but always to win!
I applaud John for having stepped back from the collusion monster
to take a deep breath, but readers will probably be more interested
in the policy his league has instituted concerning trades:
The 12-team league I'm in is very competitive, but also among friends.
We don't have many trades, but when we do, the proposed trade is
posted and each of the other ten owners has the option to offer
either of the trading parties a better deal. If none come up or
are accepted, the trade goes through [as originally proposed].
I have no personal experience with this method, but I can see how
it would work in a lot of fantasy settings. At least it gives the
people accused of collusion a chance to answer their accusers snidely,
"Oh yeah, and if this trade is so lopsided, why don't you make
me an offer that is more balanced?" However, some leagues might
have problems with policies such as the one proposed by John. Billy
wrote in to address this very point:
Many trades were rejected in our early years because some owners
felt like they could have made a better deal to one of the owners.
For that reason, we instituted a "counter offer window"
- whereby all trades were made public for 24 hours before being
officially approved. This allowed other owners the opportunity to
make counter offers to one or both of the owners involved in the
trade. At the end of the 24-hour window, either the original trade
was approved, or counter offers were approved and the original deal
was dead. This seemed like a good idea on paper, but in practice,
it wasn't at all. Owners that did the legwork to get a deal accepted
by another owner could suddenly get undercut by a "lazy owner"
who could now see what it would take to get a certain player and
swoop in with a better deal. This rule lasted only 1 year.
So John's success story is Billy's failure. Similarly, whereas many
readers who wrote in over the past two weeks advocated taking money
out of the trading equation, Mike supports his league's policy of
charging owners for trades.
I am the co-commissioner of a league that has a few rules regarding
trades. The first rule is that a trade costs each owner $5. We feel
that because of the fee, only serious trades will be proposed and
completed. No one wants to get lumped up with charges. The commissioners
hold veto power to deny any collusion that may have taken place
during the negotiating. We also restrict teams from making trades
if they are eliminated from playoff contention. We do this to prevent
the "I will trade you such and such and you give me $20"
scenario. Owners can make a trade look fair on paper, but it is
really being done solely for the owner heading into the playoffs,
while the team that is out is just trying to cut its financial losses.
Those are pretty much the rules. So far we have never had to use
veto power. These rules seem to be working very well. In our league
there is usually 2-4 trades a year. The only tough part about having
the veto power is that when you can see your main threat to the
title improve his weak spot, you want to veto it for your benefit.
But we would never do that because fair play makes for fun play,
and we are all friends and family in the league.
I'm glad to hear that Mike's rules are working well, but I continue
to be confused by rules that prohibit collusion without providing
any sort of a test by which to know whether collusion has actually
occurred. Consider, for instance, the following response from Paul:
As for trades, the fairest solution to trade protests I've seen
comes from a league I belong to in which other owners may indeed
protest a trade, yet they must do so ONLY on the following 3 grounds:
Well try to imagine me doing my best impersonation of Forest Gump
(which isn't very good, I confess) as I respond, "There's simple
and then there's simple." Those rules are certainly easy enough
to grasp. But they don't seem at all easy to implement. As John
says above, "It's awfully difficult to prove that a trade was
made specifically to benefit one team at the expense of another."
What do you do to find out whether a trade really is collusion?
Do you attempt to build a bridge out of it or try to find out whether
it weighs the same as a duck? This is why so many leagues turn the
duty of vetoing trades over to a commissioner who is supposed to
be informed and impartial. He makes his assessment according to
his best judgment, and the league either accepts his decision or
finds another commissioner. This is where commissioners earn their
keep, but they are usually at their best when they do nothing at
all to prevent trades from occurring..
Pretty simple, huh?
- Was collusion involved in this deal?
- Was the trade obviously in favor of one team? If so, explain.
- Was the trade made with the intent of a "fire sale"
This Week's Question
Pardon the profanity, but I have to introduce this week's question
by informing you that my bullshit detector has officially been
turned to 'high.' I have been inundated by notes from readers
who think that this forum would be the ideal space in which to
assess the various league-hosting services on the Internet (such
as the ones at CBS.Sportsline or Yahoo!, etc.). I like the idea
of informing readers about the relative strengths and weaknesses
of these services. What I don't like, however, is the idea of
this column become a propaganda tool for some Internet entrepreneur
who wants to send me a glowing write-up of his own service because
he is too cheap to buy advertising on a site that Mike Krueger
puts a great deal of effort into in order to provide readers with
extensive FF commentary free of charge.
Also, the last thing I want is to print a bunch of letters from
people who still blame a glitch in the CBS.Sportsline software
for costing them a fantasy championship in 1998. You may have
had a legitimate beef with your league hosting service at some
point in the past, but the rest of us have moved on with our lives.
So should you.
With that said, here are the rules, folks:
First off, I won't consider printing anything that doesn't make
a conscientious effort to be balanced. If you can't find one good
thing to say about the web-hosting service you are commenting
on, but have time to nitpick 25 details, you will come across
to me as someone who is trying to steer me to another web-hosting
service, probably because you have a financial stake in it.
Second, be warned that I have used (and continue to use) a number
of different web-hosting services, so if you have a tendency to
exaggerate things, there is a good chance I will see through your
Third, although I ordinarily print notes from readers using first
names only, I must insist that if you choose to write in concerning
this topic, you include a first and last name with your note.
Fourth, I will definitely privilege notes from readers whose
comments I have included in the past, since these readers have
earned my trust.
Fifth, I will offer an opportunity for rebuttal. If representatives
of the various league-hosting services want to respond to anything
my readers have to say, I will provide space for their responses
in a follow-up column.
Sixth, as mentioned above, the bullshit detector is on high.
If it smells like a sales pitch, it ain't getting printed.
Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of Matt)
Today's LMS Contest
Trap Game: Buffalo at New England:
In looking at Fantasy Football Champs Survival Pool this week, I
can see that 84 people out of the remaining 103 thought that my
upset pick of the Bears over the Giants was crazy. Well, unfortunately
for those people and all those Giants fans out there, myself included,
I was correct with this pick. The Giants, like many NFL teams in
this era of the salary cap, are extremely hard to figure out, and
it could take hours explaining what is going on there. The easiest
way to explain them, as one fan at the stadium said, "They
play up or down to their competition depending who it is."
This week watch out for New England. If you haven't used New England,
this is not the week that is a lock. The Bills are playing some
of their best football all season and Willis McGahee is taking advantage
of the confidence that the offensive line has with him running behind
them. With the Patriots' secondary still banged up a little, Bledsoe
might look to play action pass off the run against this team and
could steal one up in Foxboro.
#3: Seattle over St. Louis (5-3 This
Everyone remembers the last game between the Seahawks and the Rams,
especially the Seahawk players. They don't believe that they will
win the division without beating the Rams, and this is their chance
to prove they are for real. Look for Holmgren to run the ball with
Alexander all day long and take as much time as possible off the
#2: Baltimore over the NY. Jets (6-2
Baltimore has Jamal Lewis back, and the Jets will be without Chad
Pennington. Unfortunately for the Jets, Pennington's injury could
not come at a worse time and his replacement, Quincy Carter, was
so highly rated by Bill Parcells that he let him go in favor of
Vinny Testaverde. With the team one game behind the Patriots and
November "moving month" in the playoff runs, this Jets
teams will be hard-pressed to win two of their next three games
this month. This may be the beginning of a long losing streak.
#1: NY Giants over Arizona (6-2 This
I must be off my rocker. Arizona has beaten New Orleans, Seattle,
and Miami and has a very good defense. Anquan Bolden is back from
a knee injury and provides a complimentary receiving threat to Larry
Fitzgerald, their first round phenom. New York was just embarrassed
by the Chicago Bears, lost their starting defensive ends and is
playing with a rookie at safety. On top of that, the media is on
alert for when Eli Manning will replace Kurt Warner. All of this
has the makings for a runaway victory for the Cardinals, right?
Wrong. Tom Coughlin knows what is at stake this week at 5-3 with
Atlanta and Philly coming into the Meadowlands over the next two
weeks. Those games will be meaningless if they cannot beat the teams
that they are supposed to beat, even injured. Look for the G-Men
to win this in a nail-biter.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football