Commissioner’s Corner: The Rebuild

Commissioners CornerLeague issues. We all have them. Whether it be an unbalanced trade, a manager’s aggressive abuse of the waiver wire, or the tinkering of an overzealous commissioner; no league is without its hiccups. 

This feature will explore some of the problems we all run into. Sometimes the piece will offer specific and detailed solutions for defusing these problems. Other times it will engage the central topic from a broader perspective to create a dialogue.

The first issue we’ll put under the microscope, is one that I’m sure every dynasty leaguer is familiar with; what to do about the rebuilding owner. More specifically, what can (or should) be done to encourage or require a team who has fallen out of contention, to field a complete line up of active players. For the sake of illustration, we will explore an actual example.

This week’s specific example involves a team who had Rusney Castillo as a starting outfielder for his team. When Castillo was sent to the minors, there were no eligible major league outfielders on the roster to replace him.

In this particular league, there were no rules that say an owner has to fill out a roster of major league caliber players. Given that flexibility, rather than grabbing a random outfielder from the waiver wire and be forced to drop someone the owner felt was important to his effort to rebuild, he elected to keep Castillo in his lineup. In keeper and dynasty leagues, there are always going to be teams who would be better served “tanking” for lack of a better term, and loading up on future prospects at the expense of the current major league roster.

The issue we face as fantasy league owners is that we can’t just call up players from the minors to fill that empty roster spot. We must cut someone loose in order to fill the spot with someone who in reality, is only there to fill out an active roster. On the flip side, the problem is that allowing teams to fill active slots with non contributing players can throw off the competitive balance of the entire league.

So, as a commissioner with no set rules in place that address this issue, what can be done? Perhaps of greater importance, should anything be done?

While I am not a fan of tanking, this one is clear-cut; no changing the rules once the season starts.  This does not mean that this rule cannot be addressed for future seasons, but for 2016, this owner is fine. 

This ruling might upset some owners, but the problem with going the other direction and retroactively creating a rule to address this issue is that it creates a dangerously, slippery slope. Once a commissioner grants himself the power to make changes after the fact, what is there to prevent him from doing it again? When a league’s owners can no longer have faith and confidence in the rules laid out to start the season, a league has lost its integrity.

Some dynasty roto leagues embrace rebuilds via minor league prognostication. Others, especially weekly and head to head leagues, simply can’t tolerate that sort of strategy. If this particular league falls in with the latter, or if its members are simply opposed to such a strategy, it would be prudent for this commissioner to discuss a competitive clause with all of the owners in the offseason. This clause can be as simple as the following:

All teams must make every effort to win each week’s contest. Failure to do so hurts the integrity of the league
All teams must field a legal lineup each week, and then define what constitutes a legal lineup so there are no questions.

Examples of intentional tanking include but are not limited to the following:

  • DL players in active roster spot.
  • Minor league player in active roster spot.
  • Hitters or pitchers deliberately benched to help lower total points for the week.

If the proposed rule meets with league approval, it could then be installed in their league constitution for future years. Not all cases of tanking will be clear-cut, and there should be little room for subjectivity, but if the intent of the clause is agreeable (and it should be) to all owners, it will be much easier to enforce.

Ultimately, a competitive clause that supports the type of league in which you are participating and is embraced by its owners is key, but it’s more important to stick with the rules your league has agreed to during the season.

If you have a specific commissioner or fantasy league issue that you would like an opinion on, feel free to leave your questions/comments below.

Andy Germani

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I am a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan and a graduate from Penn State. Baseball was my first love and I still play to this day in an adult baseball league. I always love helping people with their questions on Twitter so feel free to follow me and ask questions.