Tuesday, June 2, 2009

SportsJudge.com Index No. 3184-T: Court Finds No Collusion; Refuses to Remove Deputy Commissioner





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Index No. 3184-T

Date: June 2, 2009

League Type: 11-Team, NL Only League

Dispute: Collusion Review

Judge: Marc Edelman





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This case arises out of allegations made by Mike D. (commissioner of the KISBFL) that the league’s deputy commissioner (Joel F) engaged in collusion or other improper dealings with a third team in the league. The parties have agreed to allow SportsJudge.com to serve as their neutral arbitrator and resolve conclusively the following two issues:

  1. Has Joel F., in his capacity as owner of the Jew Daddys, illegally colluded with the owner of another team, the Sweaty Baseballs?

  1. Irrespective of the finding above, may Mike D. require Joel F. to immediately step down from his post as deputy commissioner? (Or, if not, what alternative remedy would be appropriate in terms of changing league officers).


The KISFBL is an NL-only fantasy baseball league based out of Atlanta, GA. The league is currently in its fifteenth season. Since the league’s inception, Mike D. has served as the league commissioner. For the past few years, Joel F. has served as the league’s deputy commissioner. Both Mike D. and Joel F. are also team owners in the league. Joel F.’s team is known as the Jew Daddys.

Prior to the 2009 season, the KISFBL had an opening for a new team to join. Without a clear owner in mind, Joel F. recommended one of his friends. That friend ultimately became the owner of a new team, the Sweaty Baseballs.

For the first two months of the 2009 season, Mike D. had no concerns about the existing friendship between the owners of the Jew Daddys and the Sweaty Baseballs. Indeed, many owners in the league have longstanding friendships.

However, on May 28, 2009, Mike D became suspicious of these club owners based on a series of seemingly related events. First, at 7:42 P.M. on May 28, the Sweaty Baseballs attempted to drop Atlanta Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami from their team and replace him with Florida Marlins pitcher Dan Meyer. Then, moments later, the Sweaty Baseballs realized that this transaction was illegal, so the Sweaty Baseballs reversed their transaction. Thereafter, at 9:00 P.M., the Jew Daddys, who legally had room to make a roster change, added Meyer to their roster. Then, an hour later, the Jew Daddys traded Meyer to the Sweaty Baseballs for Kawakami (the player the Jew Daddys sought to originally drop).

While there was no explicit evidence that the owners of the Jew Daddys and the Sweaty Baseballs were in cahoots, Commissioner Mike D. believed (and continues to believe) this transaction violated of the KISFBL’s league constitution, which includes an anti-collusion rule, which states the following.

“COLLUSION and or UNFAIR TRADE: Will not be tolerated. If 4 teams (Not including the two teams involved with the trade) have a problem with a trade within 24 hours of notification between the 2 teams then the trade is null and void. If 2 teams have a problem with the trade then both sides of the trade will be notified to see if the trade can be rectified so that no one has a problem. If collusion is suspected the league commissioner has the right to call an immediate vote of the remaining managers to call for a solution. Majority rules. Any teams convicted of doing an unfair trade will not be able to do any additional trading for the rest of the season with each other. Should two managers be convicted of an unfair trade, then those two managers will not be allowed to trade with each other the rest of the season.”

Mike D. based his view on circumstantial evidence, including the preexisting relationship between the Jew Daddys and Sweaty Baseballs, as well as his perception of a pattern of Joel F. attempting to exploit loopholes in the league rules—even despite Joel F.’s simultaneous role as deputy commissioner, which requires him to help write and enforce these rules.

Although the formal league process for resolving collusion claims was not followed by Mike D., both Mike D. and Joel F. have agreed to allow this court to make the ultimate judgment on whether there was illegal collusion pursuant to the way that term is defined in their league constitution.

Ultimately, Mike D. wants this court to enter a ruling of collusion against Joel F., as well as to order Joel F. to step down as deputy commissioner. Joel F., meanwhile, consents to allowing this court to pass a judgment on the collusion issue, while at the same time denying any wrongdoing and wishing to avoid stepping down from his post as deputy commissioner.


I. Is there sufficient evidence to conclude that Joel F. engaged in illegal collusion?

The term "collusion" in its purest sense means nothing more than an agreement, usually secret, made amongst two or more parties. According to the language in your league constitution, however, not all agreements amongst team owners are to be defined as “collusion.” Rather, the language in your league constitution seems to outlaw something far more limited: the situation where two teams reach an agreement with the underlying motivation of at least one team owner to not to act in his own best interest.

This view makes sense in light of the goals of fantasy baseball. Indeed, a similar issue was discussed in the earlier case Team Anadrol v. Vegas Baby & Flathead Yankees, Index No. 955-C (Nov. 4, 2007)

Here, while neither party disputes that there was an agreement between the Sweaty Baseballs and the Jew Daddys, there is simply no compelling evidence to support the claim that the trade amongst these two friends was consummated for any reason other than to make both teams better, in each team owner’s reasonable opinion. Indeed, Sweaty Baseballs ultimately acquired a player on the free agent wire that Sweaty Baseballs was not able to otherwise select due to having no picks remaining for that week. Meanwhile, Jew Daddys acquired from Sweaty Baseballs a player that he claimed to prefer on the waiver wire.

Because the current values of both players--Meyer and Kawakami--are so low, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the trade represents anything more than the independent decisions of two owners, each trying to maximize their own positioning. In addition, because the values of these players are so close to even, the effect on the league of permitting this trade to be executed seems de minimis.

Of course, no $15 review of any collusion allegations is ever perfect, and it is possible that a full trial on the merits would reveal intents on the merits that simply cannot be captured by the SportsJudge.com review process, which in essence consists of a truncated version of the discovery process. However, given that Mike D.’s allegations of collusion between the Sweaty Baseballs and Jew Daddys seem limited to an isolated set of events involving players of minimal value to either team, it would be improper to impute the intent to collude based on the provided facts alone. Hence, here the court finds insufficient evidence of collusion against Jew Daddys or Sweaty Baseballs to render a finding against them.

II. May Commissioner Mike D. order Joel F. to immediately step down as deputy commissioner?

The next issue for this court to consider is whether, in light of the above findings, Commissioner Mike D. is within his rights to immediately remove Joel F. from his role as deputy commissioner. Once again, this court thinks not.

Even if this Court were to have found collusion between the Sweaty Baseballs and Jew Daddys, it would be questionable, pursuant to this league’s constitution, whether Mike D. could have ordered Joel F. to immediately step down as deputy commissioner. Indeed, according to the league constitution, the league commissioner may impose a series of enumerated punishments against a team owner that is found to have colluded or made an unfair trade. However, amongst these enumerated punishments, removal of a league officer is not amongst them. Luckily, this court does not have to reach that uncomfortable issue based on a hole in the league constitution, as this court did not find sufficient evidence of collusion against Joel F. to render a ruling against him on the collusion claim.

Nevertheless, this court has a high level of concern about how club owners in this league may remove an officer for an ethical breach, given this issue is strangely omitted from the league constitution. Indeed, for a league that has been in existence for fifteen years, the KISFBL surprisingly has never voted over its league officers—thus creating a possibility that a party that most league owners do not want serving in that capacity is doing so.

Given this issue is not explicitly addressed in the KISFBL constitution, the SportsJudge.com Court of Fantasy Baseball will implement default rules based upon its own view of best practices in fantasy sports. One of these default rules is the requirement that a fantasy baseball leagues vote over their officers every reasonable number of years. While no specific term lengths are mandatory, some form of a democratic process is essential.

While it is not for the court to say whether or not Joel F. is a worthy deputy commissioner of the league, it is certainly one that the league owners should, in a democrat way, consider. Hence, this court orders that, while Mike D. may not remove Joel F. from the role of deputy commissioner at this time, the KISFBL must hold a vote on all its officers (including both the commissioner and deputy commissioner posts) at the end of the 2009 season.

This Court also strongly urges the KISFBL to conduct a vote this off-season on new constitutional language that specifically defines term lengths for officers and the conditions for removing a particular officer mid-term from his post.


For the foregoing reasons, this Court (1) rejects the finding of collusion against Joel F., owner of the Jew Daddys, and (2) rejects the immediate removal of Joel F. from the post of deputy commissioner, but orders a vote on all league officers at the conclusion of the 2009 season.

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