How to handle a league deserter

by on April 2, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT


A guy in our league is punting his team and having a massive fire sale because he won't have computer access for a large part of the summer. (He just got a great job offer.) There's got to be a better way to do this. What is a fair way to handle this situation?

Doug Dennis... A lawyer would put his team in "receivership" with a league appointed trustee to administer the team. The owner is essentially no longer the owner. Options from there:

  1. Freeze all the assets (players) and make no player moves at all.
  2. Disband the team entirely, making all players eligible for FAAB as if coming from the AL.
  3. Disband the team with a special emergency draft, last place team gets the first pick, on down the line to the first place team and back again.
  4. Disband the team and make the whole lot of them into free agents, using the rules for free agents as if they were all called up simultaneously on a defined date.

That's what a lawyer would do. Myself, I would let the fire sale go on and outmaneuver everyone as best I could -- it adds to the mid-term uncertainty/excitement. Don't forget the ripple effect as players are moved around -- categories become a lot more volatile and internal trades are more uncertain in their effect (a good time for someone with an upper hand in valuation to strike it rich). But that's just me.

Mike Marcucci... I see several options here, depending on the type of league and the way things are normally run. First you have to decide whether or not you want to keep the team intact. If you want to break it up and do it equitably, here's how... If it's an auction league, you should take the amount of the salary cap at the beginning of the year, divide by the number of teams in the league and give this amount 1/10, 1/12, whatever to each team to bid on his players. If it is a keeper league, allow him to designate his keepers now and bid for the rest. He can fill in his team with waiver fodder. In a draft league, release all of his players and draft with the current last place team choosing first and so on.

If it is an online league, he could release his players to waivers and let the normal waiver process work itself out. This could be unfair because earlier claims were made without considering the possibility that a bunch of top-notch players would be available later.

The best option, and the one I would choose, would be to find a replacement owner to manage his team for the summer. This would preserve continuity and competitiveness and be the least disruptive. Distributing his players, however equitable the method could prove a huge disruption to the league.

Craig Goheen... A similar situation occurred last season in the league I'm commissioner of. Unfortunately, this guy kept promising to do something with his team while ignoring it. He then pulled a big dump trade (that did affect the final outcome) before I voided any more trades. He's not playing this season. With time to reflect, perhaps it could have been handled more effectively, i.e., without upsetting some of the other GMs so much.

So if this guy is punting his team to the point where he won't be a GM next year, the commissioner should first void all trades -- the fire sale ones anyway, not necessarily any trade earlier in the season when he was still an active player. His entire team should then be placed into the free agent pool, allowing everyone to bid with their FAAB dollars on his players. The commish might also want to give a two week window for these FAAB bids. These actions would eliminate any hints of favoritism between GMs who might be closer friends of the punter or who got there with the news of the fire sale earlier than others. The results of a FAAB frenzy would definitely be more fair than allowing the punter to pick the GMs he's willing to trade with. And both the bidding strategy and the outcome would certainly be interesting. For the GM who bids $99, for example, on Pedro, it would mean Pedro's back in the free agent pool for next year's draft (I'd hope), and that that GM would be left with just one FAAB dollar for the rest of the season.

If your punter intends to play next year -- and I'm not sure how a "massive fire sale" would help him there -- but if he does intend to play again, the commish has at least two options. The commissioner could still use the aforementioned one, or again voiding all trades, he could permit this punter to just let his team stagnate to whatever degree he chooses to ignore his DL and FAAB moves. The first option would mean he enters next year's draft with an empty roster and a full salary cap, perhaps a fair "disciplinary action". The second option would allow him to retain the core of his team while still eliminating some of those dumping problems. A non-participating GM's team could, nevertheless, affect the final standings indirectly. The first option seems more competitive for everyone.

I'm not against dumping to improve one's team for the following season, but in this situation, these trades should be voided with whatever other decision your league or commissioner ultimately makes.

Rod Truesdell... When someone joins a league, they have represented themselves as being available to actively compete in the league. This doesn't have to mean trying to win this year, as rebuilding is always an option. But it does mean making themselves available to be a player in the league. Obviously, the owner in question has not upheld his end of the bargain.

If the offending owner is otherwise a valued league member, the best solution is to have the league commissioner try to work out something directly with the owner. If not, then there are at least three remedies. Hopefully, there is a mechanism in place for the league to pass new rules. If so, then a "trading freeze" rule can be passed for any owner that has obviously abandoned his team, or plans to. If a trade veto policy exists, his lopsided trades can be vetoed. It's safe to say that both of these solutions can quickly alienate the offending owner. Therefore, the third option, expulsion of the owner from the league, might be the cleanest solution.

Frank Noto... The "punter" is apparently telling everybody he's having a fire sale, so you all have equal notice. And your league has no existing rules against it. So it wouldn't be fair to this guy and his trading partners to change the rules in mid-stream. Next year your league can vote on changes to restrict dumping, anywhere from prohibiting trades altogether to requiring that traded players be retained for the following year. But for now, deal with it. Make your own trade proposal to him. Or tell everybody you are going to play for next year yourself, thereby introducing competition into the market for next year's bargains and making it more difficult for him.

Joseph Sherman... This could be one of two situations: First is the guy is unable to manage his team for this year, but expects to be back next year. In such a case, he should be allowed to do as he wishes (subject to whatever trade rules you have in place). In this case he would basically trade for young talent with the idea of competing next year. This happens all the time. It's a little early for this, but it is not unreasonable.

On the other hand, if he is not coming back next year, or this is a one-year league, then what he is doing is unacceptable. He is not trying to improve his team, but rather just getting out. If either of the latter, you should "freeze" his team and find someone to take it over (or have the owner in question do so himself). Any fees/winnings would be paid/split by the new and old owner.

It comes down to this: Is he playing for next year, or just to dump (either because it's a one year league or he just doesn't want to return)? The former is fine. Playing for next year is often good strategy. Dumping just to dump, is not, and should not be allowed. His team should be put into the hands of ownership that will do what is best for the team - be it trade for the future or not.

Ed Spaulding... One of my rules of thumb when judging dumping -- or any other trade, for that matter -- is the impact it has on the rest of the league for the season in progress. Also, for those who still play by one, the rule book specifically forbids dumping. That's the general answer.

In this unique case, I think setting a deadline and allowing any and all other owners to make offers on any players they want seems a fair way to go. Competitive bidding like this should assure that any trade(s) that is made at least includes fair return. You might want to get an outside source to serve as the person receiving the trade offers and, in concert with the desires of the owner who is punting, deciding on which deal(s) to accept.

Matt Carter... What kind of great job offer doesn't include computer access? Your owner must be a) taking a job as a shepherd, or b) leaving to hunt polar bears. Either way, he should have prepared for this contingency in advance. Preventative solutions include taking on a partner at the beginning of the season, notifying owners before the draft so a new owner search could take place, or arranging for hard copy league reports to be sent to his new address. Any one of these three would have been easy to implement, and even shepherds have cell phones nowadays. The new job seems to be a scapegoat for the more likely possibility that this owner has simply lost interest and wants out.

Exercise your commissioner powers and immediately freeze his roster for the remaining for the season. It is unfair to owners whose deficiencies are best met by the players on his roster. Unfortunately it's all you can really do. A fire sale undertaken without an eye to future success will irreparably split your league. It would be ironic if he ended up in the money and couldn't be notified of it at the end of the season!

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