4 Ponies vs. Carson City Cocks – 3 F.J. 13 (May 4, 2011) – fantasy baseball trade (A.Pujols/J.Votto)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

4 Ponies vs. Carson City Cocks

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided May 4, 2011

Cite as 3 F.J. 13 (May 2011)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “The Incontinent League”) utilizing an auction-style draft and transaction platform seeks an evaluation of a trade made between two teams within the Roto league.  This is an NL-only keeper league where each team is permitted to maintain up to ten (10) players during each off-season with each individual player allowed to be kept for a maximum of three (3) years.  Each team is also permitted to keep two minor league players which are in addition to the ten players kept.  This Roto league also has a $36.00 in-season 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.

Procedural History

The 4 Ponies have made a trade with the Carson City Cocks.  The 4 Ponies traded Albert Pujols (1B-STL) and Geovany Soto (C-CHC) to the Carson City Cocks in exchange for Joey Votto (1B-CIN) and John Buck (C-FLA). 

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the 4 Ponies and the Carson City Cocks be upheld and approved?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades.  The standard of review has been that people pay money to purchase a team in a league, draft their team, and manage it accordingly.  Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness.  The Court also acknowledges that the analysis for evaluating trades is much different in a keeper league than a non-keeper league.  A trade that may look uneven or lopsided on its face may receive a different opinion when it is involved in a keeper league.  The reasons for this are obvious, but must be restated.  In a keeper league, teams that are having unsuccessful seasons are more likely to continue to pay attention and make moves that will set themselves up for better success in the following season.  They can do this by acquiring young talent that is not under contract within the league, or by dumping salary (assuming it is an auction league) and allowing greater financial flexibility to sign key players in the next season’s draft.  In non-keeper leagues, there is no rationale for thinking ahead, nor is there any need to stockpile young, inexpensive talent.

Another factor that the Court must always consider is whether there is any collusion or under-the-table dealings going on between teams.  The Court has not been presented with any evidence of such malfeasance, so assumptions will be made that this is not an issue. 

At first glance, the trade of Albert Pujols and Geovany Soto in exchange for Joey Votto and John Buck looks fair and even.  This trade involves arguably the two best first baseman in both real and fantasy baseball.  Pujols and Votto have multiple National League MVP awards amongst them combined and have put up crooked statistics on an annual basis.  While Pujols generally has better numbers and has been producing them over a longer period of time, Votto has reached elite status with his production in a loaded lineup and a hitter’s ballpark in Cincinnati.  Buck and Soto have many similarities between them as well.  Soto has never come close to the production he had several years ago when he won National League Rookie of the Year.  However, he is still a solid second tier option at catcher in an NL-only league.  The same can be said for Buck, who has become known as a relatively prolific homerun-hitting catcher.  Neither will provide much in terms of batting average, runs scored, or stolen bases. 

When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective.  See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin).  Here, both teams have swapped players at the same position with relatively similar offensive production.  There is nothing out of the ordinary to indicate either team has any ulterior motives behind the trade to question its sincerity.

In terms of keeper league status and salary cap value, this trade is almost equivocal.  All four players involved are in their first year under contract with their respective teams.  Pujols is worth $4.70 while Votto is worth $4.60.  Additionally, Soto is worth $1.20 and Buck is worth $0.90.  The 4 Ponies, currently in second place, will gain $0.40 in salary cap space which is not significant enough to factor into the evaluation given the equality of the players involved.  See Smittydogs v. Stud Muffins, 3 F.J. 10, 11 (April 2011) (holding that a $0.10 differential amongst the players salaries was not enough to factor into the Court’s evaluation).

Despite the fact that Pujols has struggled to begin the 2011 season, the Court admits into evidence his entire body of work over the last decade which unanimously delineates him the best player in baseball.  That being said, Pujols’ value must be considered in totality of his typical yearly output, along with the fact he is a free agent at the end of 2011 and will likely produce his usual numbers as motivation to justify the richest contract in all of baseball.  Below is a comparison using the league’s roto categories to further demonstrate the equality amongst these players in terms of their statistics as of May 3, 2011:

Player

AVG

HR

RBI

R

SB

Albert Pujols

.230

7

19

22

2

Joey Votto

.362

5

16

24

4

Player

AVG

HR

RBI

R

SB

Geovany Soto

.239

2

10

12

0

John Buck

.223

3

15

13

0

Despite the disparity between Pujols and Votto’s batting average, everything else is equal in terms of current production.  As was stated earlier, the Court is discounting Pujols’ current batting average on the premise that it will significantly increase over time based on his historical averages and the underlying motivation of impending free agency.

As referenced in Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010), the dichotomy between the 4 Ponies and Carson City Cocks’ motivations is precisely why the Court must look at trades in keeper leagues differently than non-keeper leagues.  However, had this trade been made in a non-keeper league, the Court would still likely approve it. 

Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade is fair, equal, and free of collusion.  The trade should be approved as it comports with the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

 

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