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Week 8

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I asked folks who participate in what some of my readers lovingly (or not-so-lovingly) call “dinosaur leagues” to explain why they haven’t brought their fantasy leagues into the computer age. The question came from a reader named Craig, but since I occasionally receive responses from commissioners who mention that they still use calculators and box scores from the sports pages to run their leagues, I shared Craig’s curiosity.

My first response came from Bart. I’m not convinced that he expects to be taken seriously:

Duh, the obvious reason I prefer to keep score myself is so that I can cheat the knuckleheads in my league. If you move your league to one of those websites, it means the days of the commish winning every year are over.

Whether Bart really is cheating the other folks in his league is less important than the implication that leagues run on websites are likely to be handled with more fairness than leagues run by hand. Of course, it’s a mistake to assume that leagues operated on computerized league-hosting services are error-free. The league-hosting services for my leagues have all made at least one error this year, but the errors weren’t designed to favor any one team—and they were made consistently for all teams and corrected for all teams at the same time. But even though computer errors do occasionally crop up, I think it’s fair to assume that humans generally botch their calculations more often than computers do. In terms of both fairness and mathematical accuracy, it’s hard for me to see how leagues whose commissioners do things by hand compete with those that don’t.

I don’t think many readers will find Bart’s response very persuasive, but I suspect that many will sympathize with Eric’s position. Even though he admits to using a league-hosting service, he makes a fair point as to how those services have cheapened the fantasy football experience in some people’s estimation:

From a stat keeping standpoint, yes the websites are wonderful. We use one for our league. What I do not like about [such websites is that they put] information right in front of owners who [otherwise] could not be bothered to get it for themselves. Information is one owner’s edge over another, and those who take the time to figure out where to find the best information typically have a better season. These days, if you use a website, you are spoon-fed news and recommendations, comparisons, etc.

Those of us who took the time before still have a slight edge because there is more information available than the site that the league subscribes to offers. For myself, I would just ask from a website hosting the league to manage the stats, schedule, roster and a message feature.

Eric makes an excellent point, as I can recall the days when I was breaking into fantasy football writing, and I knew which reporters gave good information about player injuries and which reporters were just guessing. Those inside scoops won more than a few games for me, but the popularity of fantasy football has made such information far more accessible than it used to be. I think a website such as the one Eric describes might actually appeal to a few customers. But the simple fact of the matter is that if one of my leagues played on such a website, I would simply use the website for a different league as the place to have my information spoon-fed to me. At this point, I think we have to assume that everyone has access to the kind of information that these websites offer, and those of us who are serious simply have to get better information.

David offers a more pragmatic (and more succinct) response: “Not everyone has a computer. And not everyone who has a computer uses the internet.”

Sure, but I participate in at least one league with a person who never goes online. That doesn’t prevent the rest of us from using a league-hosting service and letting him know how his team did according to the automated scoring feature.

And then there’s Kyle, who speaks for more leagues than his own in all likelihood:

I wrote you couple of years ago about how I still ran our league by hand and how none of us ever intended to use one of those services you mention. The next season, my wife paid for a subscription to one of those services because she said that I always got grumpy on the nights when I came home from work and had to calculate all the scores. I told her what I think I told you: “It’s good for me to do those scores. It keeps me on top of things.” But I guess it did also make me cranky sometimes after a long day at work. Long story short, I paid for that subscription myself this year. The downside is I’m really not as on top of things as I used to be, but I can’t see going back to the old way now.

Junior wrote in to say that it’s hard for him to imagine that people like Kyle and David still exist:

I don't know anyone that adds up with pen and paper stats out of box score from the newspaper. Like your article said there are way too many sites that are completely customizable to any scoring/rule you can think of.

Fair enough, Junior. Since the strongest argument that I received concerning the pen-and-paper method actually came from someone who uses a league-hosting service, I suspect that the number of folks who still haven’t gone the route of automation is something close to negligible.

This Week’s Question

If you check the FFToday forums any time in the first dozen or so weeks of the season, you are bound to encounter questions from commissioners who want to know whether they should allow or prohibit Trade X because Trading Partners Y and Z have been accused by league members A & B of colluding.

If I wanted, I could feature one such question in each column. However, my experience has been that most people who comment on trades do so in relative ignorance. They measure the value of one player against another—often without considering peculiarities in scoring or individual team needs. If I need a receiver and Clinton Portis is my #4 running back and I’ve gotten through my byes and never expect to use him, it doesn’t really matter whether you have a receiver that is as good as Portis. What matters to me is getting the best receiver I can get for a running back that I’m not going to need.

For some reason, trades bring out emotions in people that make productive discussion very difficult, so I’m reluctant to pose a trade question to the FF community. However, since I had 2 questions concerning trade vetoes come in this week, I’ll do my best to give the readers of this column a crack at discussing trades civilly and even-handedly. Whether next week’s responses will be any good or not, I have no idea, but I’ll give you an abstract and a concrete question to focus on.

The abstract question comes from Vince:

I have one owner who wants to trade Chris Chambers + a 4th-round pick in next year’s draft to another owner for Terrell Owens. I don’t have a problem with the trade itself, but I don’t like the idea of allowing owners to trade future draft picks even though it happens in the NFL. The way I see it, if the player who is giving up the 4th-round draft pick doesn’t come back next year, then we’re screwed. Who’s going to pay an entry to fee to join a league knowing that his 4th-round pick has already been given to a rival? I just see too many potential headaches here, but the owners insist that it’s a fair trade and that they are both definitely going to be in the league next year. I believe them, but once they do it, other owners will want to make similar trades. Sooner or later, I’ll end up in a position of either a) screwing an owner out of a draft pick he traded for; or b) trying to con some newcomer into joining our league without all his draft picks. Do you know of any other commissioners who have solved this problem?

The concrete question comes from JB, who eventually gets around to asking what my specific criteria would be for vetoing a trade. I’m interested in the specific criteria that some of you might offer to JB in his situation (as I think he provides adequate detail for us to understand the proposed trade in its proper context):

1) I’m a commissioner of a 10-team league.

2) Our rosters include 1 QB, 3 WRs, 2 RBs, 1 TE, 1 flex player (WR or RB), 1 kicker, and 1 Team Defense

3) We use a performance scoring system and included points per reception

4) This league is a mix of some very experienced managers and some who have never played before. Some trades have been executed, but one was recently rejected. For trades to be rejected, 4 out of 10 teams must agree that they are too lopsided.

5) The two owners proposing the following trade are both experienced in FF and good friends.

Team 1 (trying to trade Steven Jackson for Derrick Mason)
- Driver was going to have a bye and the owner wanted a WR

QB Jon Kitna
WR Wes Welker
WR Marvin Harrison
WR --empty--
RB Willis McGahee
RB Adrian Peterson
TE Vernon Davis
W/R Thomas Jones
K Adam Vinatieri
DEF Washington

Team 2 (trying to trade Mason for Jackson)
-Didn't mind dropping Mason to load up on rb's

QB Drew Brees
WR Larry Fitzgerald
WR Dwayne Bowe
WR Jerricho Cotchery
RB Frank Gore
RB Kevin Faulk
TE Jason Witten
W/R Derrick Mason
K Jeff Reed
DEF Tennessee

Now Jackson obviously has been out since wk 4 and will be out this week 7 ....and Mason is an incredible PPR WR average (like 12 pts a game or something). I originally didn't see a problem with the trade, but upon looking closer I would MUCH rather have Jackson than Mason...I mean the last game S.Jax had was 30 rushes for 115 and 4 rec for 18 yds...when/if he gets back to full speed he would be the entire team...his potential is sky high...where you know what you are getting with Mason...don't think his value could rise like I now look at the trade as lopsided and it should be denied...well I didn't even have a chance to vote as it got vetoed by our league.

Should this trade in your opinion be vetoed?

I mean they are friends...but they do know what they are doing....I mean what are the overall conditions in your opinion that should be used to veto a trade?

1- If both players are experienced managers and it is lopsided let it go through

2- If one manager is new and it is lopsided than veto it (or let it go through cuz that’s part of the game)

3- Only veto if you think there is 2 managers trying to create a incredible team.

Also what if I want lopsided trades to go through if I am making a trade...for instance I am sitting atop this FF league right now...and already looking towards playoffs...if I find a defense that would be GREAT to have during playoff weeks...and am able to trade for him...but since others in league may think that I am giving too good of a player to get that defense...they may look at it as lopsided and veto it...I wouldn't want that!!!

What do you think about changing to let commissioner only be able to veto trades next year in our league? (I didn't think I would have wanted that responsibility originally, but now I don't know.)

I’m interested in answers to either trade question, but I’m not interested in chest-beating and finger-pointing and stories about how you were cheated because of a trade back in 1997.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matthew)

Trap Game: Detroit at Chicago:

Okay, maybe this isn’t much of a trap game but the odds makers have made the Bears the favorites for this home game against Mike Martz and company. Jon Kitna has said that Lions will run the ball when the defense dictates it and while the Eagles were not entirely successful against the Bears last week, Kevin Jones should be able to put up some yards against them because of the threat of the passing game. But the only way that the lions win this one is to stop beating themselves and shut down Brian Griese.

As a side note, the Redskins are a heavy underdog against the Patriots and they have probably the best secondary in the NFC. Look for this to be a close game.

#3: Tennessee over Oakland (6-1):

Tennessee is playing some great football with a combination of youth and mature leadership (if you can call Kerry Collins mature). Meanwhile, the Raiders are back in the cellar of the AFC West, where they have been for the last few years. This game should be interesting since the #4 ranked rushing offense of Lane Kiffin’s (145 yds/game) will go up against the #1 ranked rushing defense of the Titans that give up only 59 yds/game. Josh McCown might be back under center, and if that happens the Raiders might get a spark and keep this close.

#2: Tampa Bay over Jacksonville (3-4):

The Bucs have a quarterback who can control the game, a running back that is getting his chance to play and succeeding, a wide receiver that can stretch the field and another receiver that is known for running great possession routes. That said, it will be the defense that makes the difference in this game where a rookie QB will be facing a team known for causing havoc on opposing offenses. With David Garrard out of the line up the Jags will place the ball in Quinn Grey’s hands and hand the ball off to Maurice Jones-Drew. It will be there hope that he can bounce off tackles enough to keep drives going and not put too much pressure on their rookie quarterback. If this game had been played two weeks ago, everyone would have chosen the Jags as the favorite. It just goes to show what a week of injuries in the NFL can do to a team.

#1: NY Giants over Miami (7-0):

For those that have read my picks over the years, you know that I hate to pick “my team”. The Giants are on a five-game winning streak and the Dolphins, who are now without Ronnie Brown and Trent Green for the season, are extremely motivated to prove to the world that the beating that they received from Tom Brady and the Patriots is not who they are. Nothing would be better than to do this against a team on a hot streak in front of a worldwide audience. But the Giants seem to beating up on teams when they are supposed to and not getting ahead of themselves. Is this a sign of maturity or just luck? Not sure, but either way Brandon Jacobs and Eli Manning could have a very good day across the pond.

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.