Justin Verlander’s School for People Who Can’t Pitch Good vs. Angel Pagan Worshippers – 3 F.J. 105 (August 1, 2011) – fantasy baseball NL-only issue (Edwin Jackson)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Justin Verlander’s School for People Who Can’t Pitch Good vs. Angel Pagan Worshippers

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE ALL AMERICAN FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE OF AMERICA 

Decided August 1, 2011

Cite as 3 F.J. 105 (August 2011) 

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “The All American Fantasy Baseball League of America” or the “AAFBLA”) utilizing an auction-style draft and transaction platform seeks a ruling on the legality of acquiring an American League pitcher who was traded to a National League team in the middle of the season.  This is an NL-only keeper league hosted on the CBS Sports fantasy baseball platform where each team is permitted to maintain up to five (5) players during each off-season with each individual player allowed to be kept for a maximum of four (4) years.  Each team is also permitted to keep three minor league players which are in addition to the four players kept.  This Roto league also has a $260.00 salary cap that is applicable for all teams.   

As with many rotisserie leagues, the subject Roto league uses the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money.  For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases.  For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; and (5) saves.  Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games contained within the Roto league.

The AAFBLA is governed by a written Constitution which delineates the rules and guidelines of the league.  Contained within the Constitution is a section entitled “Transactions” which is marked as Article IV.  Under Article IV is provision IV.C. entitled “Adding American League Players” which includes the following pertinent sub-provisions:

  1. Any American League player that signs with or is traded to a National League team shall become eligible to be added through the free agent auction bidding process once that player is added to CBS’s listing of available free agents.
  2. The team that bids the highest amount for a newly designated National League player will be awarded that player just like any other free agent auction.

On July 27, 2011, Edwin Jackson (SP) was traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Toronto Blue Jays.  Both teams are in the American League.  Later that day, the Blue Jays then traded Jackson to the St. Louis Cardinals, a National League team.  Upon hearing the news, the team owner of Justin Verlander’s School for People Who Can’t Pitch Good (“Verlander”), currently in 8th place, immediately went online in an attempt to place a bid for Jackson.  However, Jackson was not yet listed as an available free agent on CBS.  Later that day, the team owner of the Angel Pagan Worshippers, currently in 6th place, went on CBS and successfully placed a bid on Jackson after he was added to the free agent list.  Jackson was acquired for a bid of $32.00.

Procedural History

Upon learning that Jackson was successfully obtained, Verlander issued a complaint to the AAFBLA Commissioner that he was screwed out of acquiring Jackson and that he was the first team to attempt to bid on him.  The Commissioner responded that there was nothing he could do and that the Angel Pagan Worshippers acquired Jackson fairly and within the rules.

Verlander now seeks assistance from the Court in determining that he unfairly was precluded from placing a bid on Jackson.

Issue Presented

(1)   Does Verlander have any recourse due to his failed attempt in placing a bid on Edwin Jackson?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is a strong advocate for having written Constitutions that govern fantasy sports leagues.  See John Doe v. Fantasy Football League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 21, 22 (October 2010).  There are a myriad of reasons why the Court believes having a Constitution in place is the best way to run and maintain a fantasy league.  One of the primary reasons behind this rationale is that all league members are aware of the rules and guidelines in place that govern the administration and function of the fantasy league.  When a league Commissioner writes out the rules and distributes them to the league, it shifts the burden onto the league members to read, understand, and adhere to the rules that are delineated.  See Shawn Kemp is My Daddy v. Fantasy Basketball League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 24, 25 (October 2010).   If a league member has an issue, question or challenge to one of the rules in the Constitution, they are welcome to raise this with the Commissioner before signing it or agreeing to its codification.  See Machine v. Fantasy Football League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 1, 2 (September 2010).

A Constitution was in place to govern the AAFBLA.  Specifically, the Constitution provided language and guidance for the process of acquiring American League players who come to the National League.  When the rules of a league are delineated in a written document, they should be adhered to unconditionally unless there are extenuating circumstances that would justify a deviation from the document.  As important as it is to follow the language of the league’s Constitution and the rules set forth therein, it is equally as important to understand the theory and rationale that exist behind each rule.  See A New Hope v. On the Juice, 1 F.J. 4, 7 (September 2009).  In this instance, the rule was worded as such to rely on CBS adding the free agent to the National League roster of players because that is a function the league commissioner cannot do himself.  Not only does the commissioner have no control over the free agent auction bidding process, but he has no control over when or how CBS internally updates its database of players in conformity with Major League Baseball transactions.  The spirit of the AAFBLA rule is clearly demonstrated as being a realistic manner of handling the uncontrollable functions of the internal host site.

Verlander, to his credit, attempted to acquire Jackson when the trade was announced on July 27, 2011.  However, there was an indeterminate delay between the trade being announced and CBS adding Jackson to the National League free agent list.  This could be for a myriad of reasons, including having to await final approval from MLB that the transaction was complete.  Or perhaps it takes a certain amount of time for CBS web programmers to update its database to reflect recent transactions.  Regardless, there was a delay.  But there is also a delay on CBS when players are added to the disabled list.  Again, this could be as a result of the reasons just suggested.  In terms of how it affects the AAFBLA, all teams are subject to the same limitations, which are generally accepted because it applies evenly throughout the league.  The fact that Verlander did not have the opportunity to place a bid on Jackson at that time did not preclude him from doing such later on when Jackson was eventually added.  Much to Verlander’s chagrin, the Angel Pagan Worshippers did in fact place a bid on Jackson after he was eventually added to the free agent list.  They would go on to win the auction for Jackson utilizing the appropriate process in compliance with the league’s rules.  See Green Eggs & Hamels v. Megan Fox is Hot, 3 F.J. 4, 6 (April 2011) (holding that the Commissioner properly rejected the league owner’s request for an appeal and reconsideration due to the clear explanation and implementation of FAAB settings).

Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the Angel Pagan Worshippers legally and appropriately acquired Edwin Jackson through the free agent auction bidding process after he was added to the National League free agent list.  As a result, Verlander’s request for remedies is hereby denied.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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