Last Week’s Question: Do you prefer active or passive
6, I explained that a commissioner in one of my leagues has
decided to start waiving transaction fees for teams that appear
to be out of playoff contention. The logic is simple; if you believe
that your $50 entry fee in a redrafter has already been lost because
of your 1-5 record, then every $5 transaction that it takes to
improve your team probably amounts to throwing good money after
bad. Sure, some owners will keep clawing and scratching away out
of pride. But a lot of owners in leagues with transaction fees
completely lose interest in transactions once they’ve given up
on the season. Different leagues have different mechanisms for
discouraging owners from starting a sidelined Amari
Cooper, but if Cooper’s owner is out of playoff contention
and his other receivers are on bye, there’s a good chance he will
be reluctant to spend the time or money necessary to replace Cooper.
That’s the problem the commissioner in one of my leagues
decided to tackle by waiving transaction fees on an ad hoc basis
for struggling teams. It came as a complete surprise to me, and
a shockingly pleasant one (as I reported in Week 6).
A reader named TomJ understood where I was coming from & replied
with a thoughtful take on the subject:
Just wanted to comment about your commish and the fee waiving.
A lot of people, every time there's a ruling by an official, want
to make sure that it is somehow codified going into the future.
"If you do this now, that means we must establish a rule
so we can fall back on it later in similar situations." But
it's problematic to assume that a new rule is needed every time.
For one, what you will inevitably end up with is a bloated bureaucracy.
If every one-off ruling necessitates a 'new rule', you will only
ever increase the number of rules you have, until eventually the
whole operation just grinds to a halt under the weight of a massive
rulebook. "Wait, you can't waive that fee, because back in
2005, when we waived that other fee, we decided that a fee could
only be waived in these cases when X Y and Z..."
The other consideration is that you have an organization that
places trust in individuals, not only in the rules. The more you
say "Waive it for one 2-4 team, you must waive it for every
2-4 team", the more you chip away at the discretion--i.e.
trust--that you have placed in the person. And the less nuance
your system can accommodate. I know for a fact that there are
some owners in my leagues who will keep fighting at 0-5, and some
who will abandon their teams to the winds. They don't need the
same treatment to maintain competition. And no rule could capture
that difference--how do you codify a rule that says "owners
who will stay competitive don't get a waiver, but owners who would
otherwise give up do"?
This is a game--even when it's for money, it's a game. If you
don't trust the people you're playing with, particularly the commish,
find another league. If the commish makes a move later that you
don't like, you have a means of overturning it. But it is *not*
necessary to codify everything in order to maintain what you have
going. Leave the human judgment calls in place.
My thanks to Tom for this meditation on the value of respecting
a commissioner’s “discretion” when that commissioner
has earned a league’s trust. Not all commissioners deserve
that trust, but I don’t think it takes a boatload of fantasy
experience to sense whether a commissioner is acting in the interest
of the league as a whole or “playing favorites.”
Nonetheless, Tom and I are in the minority on this point, as
Zach’s response to Tom’s comment indicates:
[Rule changes should only be implemented] between seasons. I’ve
been commish for 7 years of my home league. In the offseason I
innovate things to make the league better. But it doesn’t
matter if the league trusts me, if I make a mid-season decision
that affects the competitive balance, the group chat is setting
on fire. At the end of the day we’re gambling; everyone’s
going to have some skepticism of each other’s motives...
That being said, a guy no-call no-showed the draft, so I paused
it after two rounds, kicked him out of the league and brought
in a guy from the queue to take over mid draft. Now that’s
an emergency commish decision i made to preserve the quality of
the league. But we’re not going to do some communist BS
just because someone’s team sucks. What if they won the
league because of my charity and the whole leagues salty about
it? What if the guy was my irl homie or cousin, now people are
whispering collusion? Keep sh!t by the book and when in doubt,
league vote, or make those decisions in the offseason before everyone
plunks down their 50 bucks.
I hear Zach’s point loud and clear (having made similar
arguments in the past against any and all mid-season rule changes).
In the case I described, the rules do accord an undefined degree
of “discretion” to the commissioner. Whether he has
exceeded his authority by waiving fees or not is something that
the rest of the league has the right to vote on, but no one is
lobbying to bring things to a vote because this league has experienced
problems in the past caused by what Zach might recognize as the
capitalist self-interest of not wasting money to replace sidelined
players. The commish sensed that what Zach describes as “communist
BS” was the best measure for preventing an owner from submitting
a Week 6 lineup featuring Eli Manning, Saquon Barkley, and Sterling
Shepard because he’s a Giants fan whose alternative players
were on their byes & he didn’t want to throw away $15
to replace them in a fantasy season that already seemed lost.
But this isn’t an argument about economic ideologies; it’s
about whether people prefer commissioners to treat rules as having
wiggle room or being set in stone. Everyone who responded to me
via email came down on the “set in stone” side of
things. Dan even used that exact wording:
Rules are set in stone or they are not truly rules. Bend one
and people like me wonder if they will be paid if they win. If
you are concerned about people quitting, you probably need to
play for more money and/or in a keeper league. Just my thoughts.
Dan makes a reasonable point here and clearly speaks for the
majority of fantasy enthusiasts. So my conclusion is that as much
as I like seeing an activist commissioner using his discretion
to improve the competitive experience for everyone else in this
particular league, I urge commissioners who are thinking about
wielding their powers in this way to assess their leagues very
carefully before taking the “activist” plunge. If
the people in your league don’t already largely trust each
other and you as the commish, you will almost certainly set the
group chat on fire, as Zach suggests.
My thanks to everyone who responded.
This Week’s Question: What were your single best &
single worst calls from the preseason?
I wish I could claim to have foreseen the magic of D.J. Chark
and/or Terry McLaurin in the preseason. I didn’t. Did you?
If so, I want to hear from you about how you saw the Jacksonville
and Washington offenses as being capable of supporting top-10
As for me, my best instinct was probably to avoid the Tampa Bay
tight ends (O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate) because I didn’t
expect Bruce Arians to overhaul his offensive scheme to include
TEs, especially with weapons like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin
available to Jameis Winston. Plenty of analysts argued that Arians
would figure out how to use Howard and Brate just because they’re
so talented, and I thought, “Maybe so. I’ll believe
it when I see it.” I’m glad I took that wait-and-see
I also avoided Devonta Freeman in all my drafts because I didn’t
see him as an undervalued RB2 with RB1 upside; I saw him as an
overvalued RB2 with RB3 downside (and said so in the preseason).
This is a difficult argument to hang my hat on this week (after
his best performance of 2019), but I never expected him to be
a complete dud. I thought he would have occasional good games
against weak defenses (like Arizona), but he doesn’t have
a lot of weak defenses left on his schedule.
However, I didn’t just steer clear of Tampa TEs and Freeman;
I also avoided Russell Wilson like the plague. Sure, I saw the
magic happen between Wilson and Tyler Lockett last year (with
Wilson having a perfect QB rating when throwing to Lockett), but
I dismissed that as unsustainable. Between 1) the regression for
Lockett that seemed inevitable, 2) the absence of Doug Baldwin,
and 3) the fact that Wilson was going to earn a king’s ransom
whether the Seahawks made the playoffs or not, I reasoned that
Wilson lacked both the weapons and the incentive to make the Seahawks
as competitive as they have been.
I could not have been more wrong about Wilson. Props to that
guy. The next time somebody complains that a fat contract for
a QB leaves teams too bereft of talent at other positions to be
competitive, remind them that the ability of certain QBs (like
Wilson) to do more with less is precisely what makes those fat
contracts a good investment for organizations like Seattle.
How about you? Please consider sharing your best and/or worst
predictions for 2019 in the comment section below or by emailing
me. If you have time to explain what specific details enabled
you to see something clearly or distorted your perspective, please
Note: Last week’s #3 pick of the Redskins over the Dolphins
worked out (by 1 point), but it was an emergency pick made on
Schiff’s behalf by Davis because Schiff accidentally picked
a team he had already used in this slot. Even though the pick
worked out, readers should know that Schiff (who follows Washington
more closely than does Davis) didn’t think the Redskins
deserved that level of confidence. Still, we’ll take any
wins we can get. This pick of the Packers is eligible and comes
(genuinely!) from Schiff, who can see as plainly as anyone else
that NFL referees will throw however many flags it takes for Green
Bay to win.
The undefeated 49ers are 10-point favorites in this one …
as the visiting team. Gulp. Washington may have gotten its first
victory of the season last week, but that came against the winless
Dolphins--and just barely at that. The 49ers are currently alone
atop the NFC West, but only half a game ahead of Seattle. To stay
ahead of the Seahawks, they’ll need to win the games they’re
supposed to win. And unless you’re a Dolphin, you’re
supposed to win the games against the coach- and quarterback-carousel
known as Washington in 2019.
The Bills are as surprisingly good in the AFC East as the Dolphins
are predictably bad. Frank Gore has been better than serviceable
in place of Devin Singletary, but after a bye in Week 6, Singletary
seems probable to return. You read that right: Buffalo is coming
off a bye. The Bills are facing a divisional rival in complete
disarray, the junior varsity team of the NFL, and they had an
extra week to prepare. I’m not just confident for Buffalo;
I’m scared for Miami.
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.