The Alpha Males vs. League Commissioner – 6 F.J. 32 (March 23, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Commissioner’s Abuse of Power

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

The Alpha Males vs. League Commissioner

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE CALIFORNIA PENAL LEAGUE

Decided March 23, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 32 (March 2014)

Factual Background

A fantasy baseball league called the California Penal League (hereinafter referred to as “CPL”) is comprised of 12 teams and has been in existence since 2012. The CPL is a mixed AL/NL redraft league with a standard 5×5 Rotisserie scoring format.  Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games

The CPL’s snake draft took place on Friday, March 21, 2014 and all teams were present.  According to the league’s settings which were input by the commissioner, the regular season games played between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in Australia were not going to count in the standings.

The CPL commissioner drafted both Clayton Kershaw (SP-LAD) and Mark Trumbo (OF-ARZ) as part of his roster.  On Sunday, March 23, 2014, after the two games between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks had been played, the commissioner changed the internal league settings and included the results and statistics of these games as part of the overall standings.

Procedural History

After the rest of the league received notification of this modification, there was a vociferous challenge to the commissioner’s actions.  Several league members, including The Alpha Males, argued that the commissioner was only serving his own interests by doing this because Kershaw and Trumbo were highly productive in these two games.  The commissioner simply responded that he changed his mind on the matter and had the right to do this.

The Alpha Males, on behalf of the rest of the league, have submitted this appeal to the Court challenging the commissioner’s decision to change the settings and include the games in Australia towards the standings.

Issue Presented

(1)   Did the commissioner abuse his discretion in changing the league settings?

Decision

The CPL is not governed by a constitution or written set of rules outside of what is established in the league settings.  As such, the league settings govern the overall administration of the league.  When issues of first impression arise or situations fall outside the scope of the league settings, the commissioner will typically have the final say on how to handle such scenarios.  Dwayne Bowe Peep vs. The Boston Tea Party, 3 F.J. 188, 190 (October 2011).  These decisions should be based on precedent, common sense, and the best interests of the league.  Didn’t Hit Submit vs. Commissioner, 1 F.J. 23, 26 (January 2010).

Typically the Court supports commissioners when faced with making discretionary decisions because they are in the unenviable position of having to make judgment calls without any guidance.  This support for commissioners only extends to decisions that are made in the best interests of their leagues and without any self-serving motivation.  Fair and Balanced vs. League Commissioner, 5 F.J. 1, 2 (January 2013).

The subject of this appeal is an allegation that the commissioner has made a decision solely based on his own self-serving interests.  This is a critical juncture in the CPL’s existence because the overall integrity of the league could be in jeopardy if the commissioner is abusing his power for his own benefit.

Commissioners are empowered with many administrative tasks including creating the league’s rules, settings, and guidelines.  Bryan LaHair Club For Men vs. League Commissioner, 4 F.J. 26, 28 (April 2012).  One of the unique settings fantasy baseball commissioners had to select this season was to choose whether to include the games played in Australia as part of the regular season standings.  There are reasons both for and against including them, but we are not here to analyze or judge the merits of either.  Rather, we must look at what the commissioner’s decision was, the expectation that decision created, and the net effect of the commissioner’s decision to change it.

It is not known exactly when the league settings were input into the CPL website, but they were entered and distributed at some point before the draft took place on March 21, 2014.  As such, the GM’s knew they would be drafting Dodgers and Diamondbacks whose statistics accumulated in Australia would not count.  It can be inferred that any draft strategies the GM’s employed were independent of the games in Australia.  Had the league been on notice that the games counted, it is at least possible that it could have factored into a GM’s draft strategy.

Irrespective of whether those two games played any part in a GM’s strategy, the point is that the rules of the league should be firmly established and GM’s should have all pertinent information before participating in the draft.  The draft is the most important event in any fantasy league and it should be treated with sanctity, fairness, and equity.  See Mayor Goldie Wilson vs. Balloon Knots, 3 F.J. 164, 166 (September 2011).  While GM’s can modify their rosters during the season through free agent acquisitions and trades, the draft is truly each GM’s best opportunity to lay the foundation for their team through execution of a pre-planned strategy or via impromptu reactions while it is ongoing.  A Puig of His Own vs. League Commissioner, 6 F.J. 18, 19 (March 2014).

It is true that commissioners should have a certain amount of discretion and autonomy to run a fantasy league.  But that autonomy and discretion is not absolute, especially when it comes at the expense of the rest of the league.  See Cincinnati Bungles vs. O&A’s Two Point Conversion, 3 F.J. 88, 90 (July 2011).  This point is amplified when the commissioner is serving his own interests as the basis for his decision-making.  We cannot come to any other conclusion than that is exactly what the CPL commissioner was doing here.

When league settings are changed, there is typically some nexus which precipitates the change.  If it happens to be as simple as the commissioner wanting to spice things up or trying innovative ideas, then there should be notice provided to the rest of the league accompanied by an explanation of the rationale behind such a change.  That did not happen here.  Rather, the commissioner has clearly sought to reap the benefits of having drafted Kershaw and Trumbo who had productive games in Australia.  We cannot see any other rationale behind changing this setting after the draft concluded.

Besides being a selfish abuse of power, this decision demonstrates a complete lack of awareness on behalf of the CPL commissioner.  Commissioners are constantly under scrutiny simply because of the power and authority that they possess in that position.  They should be cognizant of the perception of whatever decisions they make because they will be analyzed under a very thick microscope.  The reaction to the CPL commissioner’s decision was not surprising.  When the other league members voiced their displeasure with this decision, the commissioner should have immediately recognized the flaws in his decision.  When a commissioner such as this ignores valid complaints from the rest of the league, it is likely he is not considering what is best for the league in general.  See America’s Team vs. The 1987 Denver Broncos are Cartman’s Father, 3 F.J. 51, 53 (July 2011) (holding that a league commissioner’s credibility is endangered when he steadfastly refuses to consider logical and meritorious complaints).

It would be pure speculation to determine whether the commissioner would have made this decision had Kershaw and Trumbo not performed so well during the Australia games.  However, we can reasonably conclude that he did make this decision simply because they did.  This decision was self-serving and offered no basis other than to retroactively reward the commissioner for some of his draft decisions.  Actions like this cannot be tolerated.  The commissioner clearly abused his discretion by retroactively counting the games in Australia.  Based on the foregoing, this decision should be reversed.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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