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Week 10

Last Week’s Question

In my column for Week 8, I posed two questions about fantasy trading. The first concerned the viability of trading future draft picks, and the responses to that question were included in my column for Week 9.

The second question concerned a specific trade and came from a reader named JB who had concerns about a Derrick Mason-for-Steven Jackson trade that was vetoed in his league. I touched on some responses to that question last week, but I want to delve into that discussion in greater detail. As I do so, I’ll ask readers to bear in mind that we know things now (particularly about Jackson) that we didn’t know back in Week 7, when the trade was vetoed. I’ll therefore request that readers do their best not to filter these responses through the lens of 20/20 hindsight.

As I noted at the end of last week’s column, some readers were less interested in the specifics of the Jackson-Mason trade than they were in the more general questions that JB raised. He was inclined to reconsider the question of whether vetoes in his league should be handled by a vote or by the decision of the commissioner, a question which prompted some fiery commentary from various readers.

Steve weighed in on the trade itself and the veto question:

In both of the leagues I run, we have a 24 hour veto window. We have never had a trade shot down, mainly because my owners are knowledgeable, but they also have vast mounts of integrity.

I wouldn't personally veto [the Jackson-Mason] trade, even though it seems it is a lopsided trade. It's not a given that Jackson will return to his pre-injury for—and even if he does, defenses will be able to key on him. Mason, on the other hand, is getting his QB back soon, and Baltimore is rounding into form quickly. One of the fun "side" games we play in our league is watching trades to see who actually got the better deal at the end of the season. (Some even go as far as to place wagers)
Steve seems to mention the idea of wagering on who gets the better end of a trade as a humorous insight into how intensely his league studies trades, but I suspect that simply having owners discuss such things could be quite helpful for reminding owners who are sure that a trade is lopsided in one direction that other owners might see it as lopsided in another direction. In one of my leagues, I recently executed a trade for Laurence Maroney. I don’t want Maroney based on how he has performed this season, but I do want him based on how I think he will perform during the playoffs in that league. Not everyone in that league agrees with my assessment of Maroney’s value, but the ones who disagree most vehemently can have their ruffled feathers smoothed just by being reminded that two or three other people do value Maroney as highly as I do.

One problem that JB’s veto situation brought to light was the fact that many players veto trades not because they think they are unfair, but because they just don’t like the idea of competitors improving their teams. Kent explains:

In my league, trades all go to a vote where majority wins. We have 12 teams, but the commish doesn't vote. We had a trade where Ahman Green and Ben Watson went for Rudi Johnson and Chris Chambers. There were owners against because the two fellas involved were best friends and they felt that the deal was lopsided. I didn't think so, but my point is let your owners decide the fairness of it. In my league you have to vote before you get to put in your starting lineup for that week. This forces owners to at least look at the deal if not study it. I have some owners that will just about vote anything down as unfair and a few who will always vote for anything no matter what so it leaves probably half the league to make the right choice. And in the end isn't that part of a fantasy football league is letting the owners make league decisions by vote? It is to me. The question of how an owner’s experience relates to a trade shouldn't be a factor. If a rookie owner gets fleeced and the league doesn't vote it null, then let the rookie learn from the experience. Finally you can't let the commissioner be the sole decider of anything in the league unless he is a non participatory commissioner (which I doubt there are many of those). How could he be the sole arbiter of his own trade? or of a trade between teams he is competing against? Trust your owners, commish!

I think Kent speaks powerfully for a number of leagues, but I wouldn’t push his logic as far as he does. I’ve been in leagues that left veto decisions to the commissioner. Some of these leagues worked beautifully; some of them left a foul taste in my mouth. I’ve been in leagues that required owners to vote on vetoes. Again, some of these leagues worked beautifully; some of them left a foul taste in my mouth. The personalities of owners are part of the picture, but there’s also the matter of how well they know each other and how well they know the commissioner and how respected the commissioner is. The right solution in one league might not work so well in another, but I have to say I’m extremely impressed by the way Kent’s league forces owners to cast their votes on trades before they can submit their lineups. In leagues that do require votes, this strikes me as an excellent practice.

I heard from lots of folks like Kent who think it’s important to have the members of the league vote on trades, but I also heard from readers like Tom who think that commissioner vetoes are the way to go:

I'm in multiple leagues as usual, but in my "money" league, the Commish has the ultimate veto power on all trades. Our commish is in the other conference (we have 2 12-team conferences) and his only requirement is that the trade is balanced and not a give-away. If he vetoes a trade, then he offers suggestions on who needs to be added to make it passable instead of just saying it can't be done period.

I like that better than the auto leagues I am in where owners can vote down a trade they don't like (or didn't think of for themselves). It always seems that those vetoes are always self-serving (voted down so they can make a play for a player they now know could be available). Like your article indicated... a lot of the time those owners wouldn't have done the research on their own to see which owners were willing to move an injured or non-producing stud but will try to cash in when the info is presented to them on a silver platter.
If your league tends to bog down in arguments about trades, the buzzword that you might want to focus on is “transparency.” A commissioner who just says “NO!” without offering explanations is likely to generate distrust. An owner who quietly deals Steve Smith for Jason Campbell is likely to raise a few eyebrows. Make trades and objections to trades as public as possible in order to avoid anger, distrust, and accusations of foul play. Tom makes an excellent point about the value of his commissioner’s vetoes—since they come with directions about what the participants might need to do in order to equalize lopsided trades. If you are willing to trade Steve Smith, let the whole league know. You can probably do better than Jason Campbell. But if no one is willing to give you a better QB than Campbell and you desperately need a quarterback and already have Randy Moss and Chad Johnson, then it will be clear to everyone why you traded as you did. It’s easy for people to say, “You could have done better” in response to trades that are executed behind closed doors. Open the doors; put the player on the market; and let everyone see just how much other teams really were willing to give you.

In a sense, I’ve oversimplified things to this point by talking about whether trades should be vetoed by commissioners or by a vote. Even those who agree that trades should be put to a vote disagree among themselves about what kinds of votes should count. A reader whose name was unfortunately scrambled in my electronic document wrote:

First to the question of whether or not JB should change to the format where the commissioner (only) vetoes a trade. My suggestion would be to continue to allow the other owners to vote to approve/reject a trade. However, I would increase the owners needing to approve the trade from four to six. He has a ten-team league, so he should be requiring the majority of owners to approve/reject a trade. I'm assuming he has two divisions with 5 teams in each. If he only requires four owners to reject a trade, then he is more likely to see trades rejected because the other 4 owners in the division will block the trade to prevent their opponent from getting stronger. That will eventually stymie the league as no trades will get through.

As for the question of whether or not Steven Jackson for Derrick Mason is a fair trade - six weeks ago I would have had these owners tortured for even suggesting such a trade. Today, it doesn't seem like such a bad deal depending upon the circumstances. Let's say I have Jackson on my team, and partly due to his injuries, my team has gotten off to a slow start. Let's say I'm 2-5 after 7 weeks. I need to make a move NOW as I'm dangerously close to being eliminated from the playoffs. Jackson will do me absolutely no good sitting on the bench. So I try to trade for Mason, whose value is higher in the PPR league, in an attempt to salvage my season. I can understand an owner attempting to do that, and wouldn't necessarily suspect collusion on the part of the owners. Although, if I was dealing Jackson, I might have tried to get more out of the other owner based upon the potential once Jackson returns.

I don't believe a trade should be rejected simply because one owner will have "sky high" potential. It should be based upon the merit of the players involved - and that should be the only criterion.

I hope JB’s league will pay careful attention to that last response, and I wish that all FFers were required to memorize the first paragraph of this response from John before being allowed to vote for or against any trade:

My criterion for determining a lopsided trade is largely related to comparative value; if one team is receiving a player whose addition improves that team significantly more than the addition of the other player involved improves his team, I would call it lopsided. That doesn't mean the value of the players involved needs to be equal. For example, with S. Jax injured, I have been forced to rely on my 3rd and 4th RBs as starters. I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to trade a starting WR (Wayne or L. Coles) for a solid 2nd-tier RB with less overall value. The improvement from my 3rd/4th RB to a good 2nd-tier back would be worth surrendering a top-15 WR, given my decent depth at that position, even though the player I receive would have less overall value.

I wouldn't want the commissioner to have final say over trade vetoes. The assessment of "lopsidedness" is too subjective to leave to a single person's discretion. If a trade is clearly one-sided, enough managers should recognize that to muster sufficient votes to disallow it; those cases that don't enough eyebrows to draw a veto probably are reasonably balanced.

I think John does a beautiful job of stating a point that sails right over the heads of many FFers. I’ve been in conversations in which trading partners want to obsess about which round a player was drafted in or how many points the two players generate each week, etc. It does no good to bog down in these kinds of specifics when the whole purpose of trading is to address a much bigger picture. The value of the players can easily be lopsided in your favor, and yet my positional needs can make things work out such that my team benefits more from the trade than yours does.

Although I quite like the first paragraph of John’s response, I’m not sold on the second. In some leagues, it’s easier for trading partners to persuade a single well-informed commissioner of how a seemingly lopsided trade is mutually beneficial than it would be for them to persuade a dozen knuckleheaded, paranoid competitors of the same thing.

Yet another thoughtful response on JB’s trade came from Phil:

This most recent question specifically hits home because one of my leagues has just gone through a big ordeal with trade vetoes, after multiple deals in the past few weeks that have owners crying "that's bs!" Similarly, the biggest trade in question also involved Steven Jackson, who, as JB pointed out, is a bit tough to gauge right now. I won't get into the teams' rosters and scoring format, but the deal was Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis and Bernard Berrian for Drew Brees and Steven Jackson. On a side note with Jackson, I had this thought ... isn't it at least possible that if the Rams continue to lose, and if he even has a minor tweak to his groin injury, or another minor injury pops up, he could be put on IR for the season just to make sure he's ready to start over in 2008?)

After much discussion between owners during recent weeks about trade vetoes, I've finally made up my mind and formed a solid opinion when it comes to vetos: Basically, it's JB's option 3. I'm only going to veto a trade if I really believe two owners are trying to cheat. Other than that, it's too difficult to say that a trade is "fair" or "unfair" because as players of fantasy football, we all have our own strategies and opinions.

If Owner A and Owner B make a trade, and everyone in the league thinks it's an "unfair" trade because Owner A got the best of the deal by far, and everyone else thinks Owner B actually made his team worse, as long as Owner B believes he made his team better (and can give his reasoning if necessary), who are we to say that he's wrong? Who are we to say he can't play the game that way? We're not fortune tellers, and we've all seen that the players who are supposed to be the best, don't always live up to that billing. Heck, this pre-season, who were the top RBs after LT? Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, or Shaun Alexander are the answers you'd get from a very large percentage of pundits ... how did that turn out? Even if Steven Jackson was healthy all year, it's tough to say he'd have been that "great" once the Rams line started to fall apart.

If someone traded Ronnie Brown for Larry Johnson before the season started, most people would've thought it very unfair, and up until a week ago that opinion would have been absolutely wrong. But what if somebody traded Ronnie Brown for Larry Johnson last week? Again, many might think it was now unfair the OTHER way, and again, in hindsight they would have been absolutely wrong. We never know when somebody's going to get hurt, we never know when somebody's teammate is going to get hurt and if it will effect their performance, and we never know when somebody might must start to just plain perform better/worse. It's the NFL folks, and if you haven't noticed, it ain't easy to predict.

So, as long as I don't think an owner is intentionally trying to improve another owner's team, I've decided I'll just have to let every trade go. You play the game your way, and I'll play the game my way, and if at the end of the season I don't like playing with you, I'll go elsewhere next year. If everyone in our league doesn't like playing with you, maybe you won't be back next year (but be an adult about it and pay your fees for transactions before you go!).
Phil’s primary point is echoed by Donovan, who also believe that collusion—not perceived lopsidedness or the perceived fleecing of a rookie by a veteran—is the only reason to veto a trade:
Trades should only be vetoed if collusion is suspected, period.

Comparing the players is not nearly enough. Here are some reasons why one team might give up a “better” player on paper:

- The owner’s specific needs (extra players at one position, desperate needs at another). This is an obvious one that becomes magnified by the fact that, in many leagues, trades are difficult to pull off. For these owners, they might end up taking nearly any trade they pull off.

- The owner might be aligning the upcoming NFL matchups and his own head-to-head matchups, and using that information, decided it will benefit his team to make the deal to have one or two fantastic matchups against his key rivals.

- Bye weeks. Trading a player that has already had a bye for one that hasn’t is often an overlooked aspect.

- Injury potential. The example with Mason and Jackson is a PERFECT one. Sure, Jackson is better while playing, but the opinions about when he’ll play and how long he’ll play vary. Different owners have different risk tolerances, which makes injured players (or guys likely to get injured) prime trading candidates.

This list could go on and on. The bottom line is that most trades are usually done because each owner thinks it will help his/her team. LET THEM!!!

Will one owner get better because of the trade? Probably, but it is just as likely that it will be the owner that you don’t suspect. Good for them for coming up with a deal that made them both happy.

Envy for not being in on the deal is not a good enough reason to veto a trade, and that is what most trade vetoes typically boil down to. What’s really funny is that these vetoers are often the same owners that act insulted when they get a trade offer they don’t like.
I heartily endorse the spirit of Phil’s and Donovan’s remarks, but I’m not entirely satisfied by Phil’s point that a player need only be able to justify, in his own words, how a trade will benefit his team in order to prove that there is no collusion. When lopsided trades occur between relatives, close friends, or husbands and wives who participate in the same league, we can justifiably expect collusion even if the husband can look us in the eye and tell us that he’s sure that Vinny Testaverde is headed for the Pro Bowl—and that is why his 1-8 team traded Peyton Manning to his wife’s 7-2 team for Testaverde.

Even if I accept the contention that collusion is the only reason to block a trade, that doesn’t exactly provide me with a fool-proof way of detecting collusion, which leads me to this week’s question.

This Week’s Question

In order to prevent collusion, many leagues ban trading fairly early in the season (as early as Week 8, according to some readers). This obviously prevents teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention from “lending” their best players to friendly owners for the remainder of the season. But it’s common for leagues to go even further—and to prohibit owners from acquiring new players in the playoffs even from the waiver wire. As Jeff explains:
In my league, our rosters are locked as we head into the Week 12 games. If I make it to the championship game and both of my QBs are injured, I have to play without a QB. I can sort of see the reason for this, since the teams that are playing for the toilet bowl championship still have access to their rosters. One of my friends could cut his star QB just so I could pick him up off waivers. I see how that would be collusion. But do you really have to go so far as to prevent me from picking up ANY QB if both of mine are injured in the playoffs? Are there leagues out there that manage to be a little more flexible and still prevent the possibility of post-season collusion through the waiver wire?

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Paul Moore)

It appears that computer gremlins are sabotaging all efforts at communication between Matthew and me, so I’m pleased to present Paul Moore’s LMS picks once again this week.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. I took alot of flack from co-workers for my ATL pick lastweek. Fortunately they held on. As did TBB. And WAS barely squeaks by NYJ with a field goal in overtime. It’s odd that the game I felt the most confident in
was SDC, but I had already used them. Home favorites in non-division games went 7-2 last week (47-15 overall).

This week has 10 divisional matchups. Usually you want to try and avoid those games, but you might not have a choice this week. That leaves NOS as the only home favorite in a non-division game (see trap) and my top pick this week.

Trap game: Arizona over Detroit
I don’t think ARI should be favored in this game. Detroit is not the greatest road team, but they should be able to take care of the Cardinals. They beat Chicago on the road a couple weeks ago. Vegas is attempting to get an even amount of money on each side of the game and by making Detroit an underdog they must be looking for Lions fans to even out the betting equation.

#1. New Orleans over St. Louis (9-0, Used SEA, CHI, BAL, IND, DAL, SDC, WAS, NEP, TBB)
NOS has turned the corner and gotten back to their 2006 form as they easily dispatched JAX. They shouldn’t have any trouble taking care of STL. I don’t think that even the bye week will help STL (unless they get a 3-week bye).

#2. Pittsburgh over Cleveland (7-2 Used IND, DEN, NEP, sdc, TEN, sea, DAL, NYG, ATL)
PIT swept CLE last year and beat them earlier this year by 27. Also, PIT is 4-0 at home and none of those games have been close. I don’t see any of these trends changing.

#3. Seattle over San Francisco (9-0 Used SDC, JAX, PIT, NEP, HOU, GBP, NYG, IND, WAS)
Last year SFO swept SEA, but this SFO team is not the same as last year (Frank Gore is hurt). SEA beat SFO earlier this year by 20 in week 4 when Gore was healthy. Round 2 should be more of the same.

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 season.

Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live, on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived programs are also available.