I’m trying something different with this week’s rankings post. Don’t worry, my Week 10 rankings are at the bottom of the article, as always, and you can probably already see the link to my Game Flowbotics spreadsheet on your screen. Now that you’ve all calmed down (feel free to wipe the froth from your mouths), back to business…
We received an interesting email in the TwoQBs account earlier this week regarding trade vetoes. This is an oft discussed topic in the fantasy universe, for good reason. The passing or failing of certain trades can have profound effects on league results, making vetoes a sticky subject, especially when there are real stakes on the line. The email was sent in by Doug, a longtime fantasy football player and commissioner. I received his approval to reproduce his message here on the site. You’ll find it below, along with my response to him. Before we get there, let’s briefly pause for this week’s Flowbotics link:
As a game design nerd, I take a strong interest in the setup of leagues and the nuances of running them properly. You may not agree with everything I put forth in my response to Dave, but I hope you’ll keep an open mind and consider reevaluating how your league deals with trade reviews and veto power.
Dave’s Email (edited slightly for length)
I truly apologize for the length in advance. I was hoping to take a few minutes of your time to write and ask you to answer two questions for me. Something took place in my league this past weekend that I feel was a travesty. Please allow me to give you all the details so you can come up with the answers so I can pass them on.
I’m the commissioner of a 12 team, large money, fantasy football league. I started this league over 3 years ago. I go all out; I create the draft board, write out all the players names, host a live draft… Basically, I do everything I can to make it as fun and exciting of a league as possible.
I’m a huge advocate of letting people voice their concerns and have a vote, but thought you might be someone who can either let me know I am completely wrong in what my thoughts are, or if you agree with me. I want to give you all the facts involved so that you can come to the best conclusions possible.
I’m currently 6-2 in my league, and the other owner with whom I made a trade is 1-7. We are in a keeper league, where an owner is allowed to keep any two players from their roster at the end of the season for the following season. The two players they choose to keep, they are able to keep in whatever round that player was drafted in the previous year’s draft. Example, if Doug Martin was drafted this year in the 4th round, his owner at the end of season has the option to keep Martin to the start of following season as a 4th rounder.
Being this is a keeper league, my 1-7 trade partner is basically out of the running this season. Personally, I always like to try and target teams with players I could utilize on my team if I’m in the running. In return, I offer players on my team who have deep keeper value the following season — players who could be late-round keepers.
I’m a believer that when you make a trade offer, there is a second piece that goes with just offering players, the sell. I’m selling the other owner on why the trade being offered would benefit them. It is all a part of the game. If you can get them to feel that what they are getting in return benefits them, you’ve done your part.
I made a trade offer of my Sterling Shepard (10th-round keeper) and Isaiah Crowell (11th-round keeper) for his Melvin Gordon. I made the sales pitch that he could go into the draft next year with two solid late round keepers. Gordon would be a 5th round keeper, but I mentioned that he would still have that early-round draft pick available to pick someone if he already had 10th and 11th rounds locked up. I also pitched that Crowell (while not having as good a season as Gordon) was still doing well, while Gordon is having all this production with Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen out for the season. My trade partner ended up agreeing it was his best move for the future and accepted the offer. No money, no bribes, no nothing was offered to sweeten the deal.
The league is set up to allow other team owners to vote and if 7 owners (one more than half the league) vote to veto, then the trade won’t go through. Well, one of the team owners saw the trade go through, then contacted people in the league to have them veto it. They felt the last place team was dumping to one of the better teams. I had written a post on the league message board as soon as I started seeing people vetoing, letting them know the trade was offered and accepted by both parties with no form of collusion. He had his reasons as to why he accepted. One guy even posted a link showing a site used to compare trade values. My response to say a trade value is only as good as it is to the person receiving the trade. If the owner accepting the trade isn’t the smartest person in the world, how is that my fault? You see a weakness and you go after it. He’s a grown-ass man and is a member of the league. Whatever changes he makes to his team, as long as he’s not making those changes purposely to stack another team, are simply his choice.
Well, the 7 votes were enough and it was vetoed.
The very next day, he and I tried again to reach a deal, as he still liked the value of Crowell going into next year. We agreed on my Crowell, Terrelle Pryor, and Robert Kelly for his Gordon and Doug Martin. I even went to another member of the league (the one who posted the trade value link and texted everyone to veto the first deal) and asked him if the new trade was fair before I offered it. He said it was more fair and that he wouldn’t veto it.
Well, lo and behold, the very next day, Melvin Gordon went off and had 30 fantasy points. Within the first quarter of the game, people starting vetoing the trade left and right, and 7 votes made the trade get vetoed again. My trade partner, who accepted the offer the night before, even ended up texting me after the game and said he didn’t want the trade to go through anymore. I was like, “That’s not how it works. You accepted, you can’t retract it.” Now don’t get me wrong, part of the league rules are the right to vote on trades. However, I feel they took advantage of this rule and abused it. A trade is a trade and there was no good reason as to why it shouldn’t have gone through. Every owner will have their opinions about who got the better end, and whether something appears lopsided or not, two teams came to an agreement and that should be enough, as long as no collusion was involved. If anything, I feel the other members of the league colluded when they rallied together to avoid my team getting better.
Well, it didn’t matter anyway as it got vetoed.
I followed up and posted a message stating that next year, I will be changing the veto rule to commissioner only, as I feel they abused their right to vote. I won’t be changing it this year, because that’s not fair, but next year, yes. I mean, after all, I started this league, invited each person, and feel I have all the right to avoid a vote on a rule change and change it myself. I stated, you all have two choices, either accept the new rule and stay, or no longer be a member of the league.
So, with all of this happening, my two questions are as follows….
1) Should they have and were they in the right to veto the trade?
2) Do I have the right to change the rule next year (not allowing it to be put to a vote) as I’m the creator of the league and commissioner?
Thanks for your time and feedback. I really appreciate it!
My Response to Dave
Vetoes are a very tricky situation. There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’m going to take it piece-by-piece (but not necessarily in order).
Let’s start with the first deal. Gordon for Shepard and Crowell. I’ll start by saying this is a fair enough deal in a keeper league. With only two keepers per team, I much prefer the Gordon side because he’s potentially high-impact, whereas I’m not sure the others are. But the other owner gets two potential keepers, and Gordon certainly has potential for future regression if/when San Diego’s offense gets fully healthy. Overall though, the commodities being traded were close enough in value that variance could prove either side the winner in the end.
Let me sidebar for a minute here and say that I hate league-vote vetoes. They introduce too much potential for personal bias in the trade review process. If someone doesn’t like a deal between two other owners, that other person can not only vote down the deal (regardless of fairness) but also lobby other owners to do the same. This is exactly what happened in your league. Problem is, the two players involved in the trade were of sound mind and realized the potential value on both sides of the deal. They agreed it was a deal they wanted to make with each other. That should be good enough in fantasy, in my opinion (I’ll get back to this idea later).
Now here’s the rub, your league rules allow for league-vote vetoes. You’ve played the whole season (and probably others before) with the rule in place and you can’t change it midstream in 2016. You clearly understand this, as you’ve said you’ll keep the rule in place for now, but change it next year. Let’s admit, however, that your league host, be it ESPN, Yahoo, etc., probably wouldn’t let you change the rule now even if you wanted to). Whether that factored into your proclamation of a future rules change or not, your leaguemates may think it’s the only reason you didn’t go full fantasy dictator and change the rule now in-season. Irrelevant for now, let’s get back to the deal.
Your response to the first trade is where I’ll give you my first piece of advice. Instead of immediately trying to change the deal, you should have tried to get the trade through again. Just like your one opponent lobbied to other owners against the deal, you could have made more of an effort to make your case and have your trade partner make his case. You could have both explained to everyone that you knew the risks and potential rewards on both sides of the deal, and that you both thought the deal was fair after much review. Prove to everyone that you’re both of able mind and still want to do the deal, in spite of the original veto.
If you and your trade partner do that well, then you propose/accept the same original deal, you might get it through. If you don’t, it probably means your league-vote system works, and that the rest of the league really does believe the deal is unfair. And, if you do get it through, you have a much better leg to stand on in your second scenario, where Gordon starts going off and everyone starts vetoing. You have evidence with all your leaguemates that both owners agreed to the deal and knew the risks. The key here is that you get your trade partner to buy in.
That’s not what happened here, though, so let’s dig into the second trade — Gordon & Martin for Crowell, Pryor, & Kelly. I actually think this is an even better deal for you, but as with the first deal, this one is fair enough to me. Potential keeper value to varying degrees on both sides. Could go either way long-term. Anyway, I’d say the deal is fine. If you and your trade partner agree to the deal and deem it fair, that should be good enough in my eyes. Your leaguemates seemed to agree as well, good deal. At least until the Gordon explosion started…
At this point, owners shouldn’t change their mind about the veto based on in-the-moment evidence if they had already made up their mind. That’s the definition of recency bias, which is a plague on good player evaluation and fantasy analysis. It’s unfortunate your leaguemates let one game dictate their analysis of mutliple future seasons-worth of games for the players involved in your trade. But here’s the rub again — the league rules allow it to happen and you can’t argue with your own league’s rules. Like you said, you set up the league, pull out all the stops for the draft, and take an active interest in enjoyment of the league. That’s a blessing and a curse. You have to play by the rules you create. That’s why your leaguemates are in your league — they like what you’ve created. They all must follow the rules you’ve created, it’s only fair you do the same.
In your frustration with your failed trades, you realized that perhaps league-vote vetoes are not the ideal way to handle trade evaluations. You decided unequivocally to change the rule for next season. Here’s my next piece of commissioner advice: Maybe don’t announce your decision to change the rule in immediate reaction to the vetoes. You’re just not doing yourself any favors here. It makes you seem petty and vengeful, not a good look. Instead, wait until after the season. Let other trades pop up and get vetoed (or upheld) for all the wrong reasons with league votes. Then, when you announce the upcoming rule change, you don’t seem reactionary, and you’ll have more potential support from the other owners having negative experience with the league-vote veto system. Again, this isn’t what happened, so let’s move on and wrap this up.
Now you’re really slogging uphill. Your frustration with a poorly chosen rule (league-vetos) has your leaguemates believing you’re a tyrant commissioner. The way I see it, there are three different ways you can go (if you don’t want to piss everyone off):
1. Least appealing: Swallow your pride and back off on your plan to change the rule. You don’t want to alienate everyone in your league and this is the safest way to appease everyone. It’s unappealing to roll over and cede control over the league you give so much attention to, but maybe you start here and try to combine with option #2…
2. More appealing: Put the rule change to a league-wide vote. Explain you think it’s for the health of the league (feel free to reference my email), try to show other owners how the same thing that happened to you could happen to them, and see if you can get a league-vote on a rule change to pass. This is an elegant solution because it involves agreement between you and your league, and it uses the same method as the current veto system, which those opposed will have to concede as fair. With all this said, instead of voting on a rule change to commissioner vetoes, you could also vote for option #3…
3. Most appealing, and my last piece of advice: Change your tune and instead of moving to a league with commissioner-vetoes, change the rule to allow no vetoes whatsoever. Cutthroat, but it eliminates all the problems associated with league voting and it doesn’t allow one potential tyrant to hold all the veto power. It also makes all owners responsible for not letting themselves get ripped off. It’s their money on the line after all, right? One caveat on this option before I go… When you set up your league with the no-vetoes rule, you actually should set it up with a short time period for commissioner vetoes. Occasionally deals will get accidentally proposed or accepted, and you’ll want an easy way to shut those down. Essentially, you’re setting it up so only the players making the deal can veto it — as it should be. Now if a situation arises like yours above with Melvin Gordon, and one owner in the deal decides they want to now back out, you as the commissioner would need to see through that bullshit answer and say, “Too bad, you agreed to the deal before this game started.” Although, if you’re doing your job right in the first place, you’ll have already verified the trading owners are happy making the deal, and put the deal through before the game so new acquisitions could be deployed.
So that’s where I stand on you issue. The league-vote vetoes have to stand at least through the rest of this season because those were the stated rules at the onset. If you want to change the rule, I think you should either put it to a vote (with the same approval criteria as your veto system, 7 votes) or change the rule to get rid of all trade vetoes. Ultimately, you need to be transparent about what you’re doing and be honest about why you’re doing it. If you’re going to take on commissioner-veto power or get rid of vetoes, you need your leaguemates to trust in you and your ability to continue running an enjoyable and fair league.
I hope this helps,