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March 23, 2012

Commissioner’s Corner: Competitive Balance

Filed under: Commish’s Corner — Tags: , , , , — Willis @ 10:10 am

In a recent decision, the NFL levied fines (by lowering their salary cap and distributing the difference to all other teams)  against the Redskins and Cowboys because they set up contracts to take advantage of the no-cap season. Here is what the NFL said:

The Management Council Executive Committee determined that the contract practices of a small number of clubs during the 2010 league year created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance, particularly in light of the relatively modest salary cap growth projected for the new agreement’s early years. To remedy these effects and preserve competitive balance throughout the league, the parties to the CBA agreed to adjustments to team salary for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. These agreed-upon adjustments were structured in a manner that will not affect the salary cap or player spending on a league-wide basis.

Basically, what happened was that teams (most of them, just these 2 more than others) front loaded player contracts — Payed a lot of money in the uncapped year in exchange for paying less in the capped years. There are a couple of issues here that I’d like to point out:

1) This happened in 2010 and was obvious to anyone who even glanced at the numbers. So much so that, supposedly, the NFL even warned these teams (verbally) that they shouldn’t be doing this. This penalty is only happening now.

2) Does this really create a big enough competitive imbalance in the league that it needs to be corrected.

Roger Goodell on a pile of money

Look at the communist Roger Goodell redistributing the wealth

For the first point, there was a whole CBA negotiation that happened last year (remember the lockout?) and the cap was set up, but there was no talk about the redistribution against the Cowboys/Redskins. Didn’t want to bring it up that some teams were willing and able to spend money and the others were probably colluding to keep salaries down. And now in 2012 when the calculation for the cap is being done based on last years revenue, it looked like it was going to go down. Well how do you explain that to players… you can’t. So with a quick “fix,” the “problem” is “solved.”

As to the second point, let’s look at the teams numbers for 2009, 2010, and 2011. That’s what’s good about the delay/inaction by the NFL on this issue. In our baseline year of 2009, the Cowboys were pretty good, making the playoffs but losing in the NFC championship game. On the other hand the Redskins went 4-12. In 2010 even while spending millions more than other teams, both teams went 6-10 and were at the bottom of the division. Last year the Cowboys were slightly improved at 8-8, but the Redskins were slightly worse at 5-11.

So compared to our baseline, the Cowboys had, on average, 4 less wins, and the Redskins had 1.5 more wins. Or, when combined, 2 and a 1/2 less wins. Or just looking 2009 and 2011 since front loading contracts should give more advantage in a capped year, the are a combined 2 less wins. So much imbalance!

But the tough question is to whether this would actually create a real imbalance in future years, and that would be tough to compare. This future imbalance is what dynasty/keeper fantasy commissioners (and the real NFL commissioner) have to deal with all the time with trades that involve future draft picks and young players. If you really were going for a perfect balance, a baseball trade involving a minor league player or any deadline trade involving future draft picks would never be allowed. Of course, trades like this actually happen and are justified by saying that the opportunity was there for all teams. Which brings me back to the uncapped year — an opportunity that was available to all teams. This ruling stinks of collusion and half-assed player pacification.

I think Deadspin sums it up best:

[T]he NFL claims that “the parties to the CBA” agreed on this punishment. Not the CBA itself, mind you, because there’s nothing in there. But the NFLPA signed off on the penalties, not because they agreed with them, but because they had no other choice. The only other option the NFL presented the Players Association was for the salary cap to drop across the league, meaning less money for the players. This was a devil’s bargain: sign off on this capricious and probably illegal sanction of two teams, or we’ll punish all of you. The NFLPA was straight blackmailed, and they did the only conscionable thing they could: they caved, and threw two of the biggest-spending owners under the bus.

In the Book of Genesis, God inexplicably created the tree of knowledge, then told humans not to touch it. “Because I said so,” I believe was the rationale. He made the fruit tempting, and gave humans the faculties to obtain and enjoy it, and got pissed when they did. It took a couple thousand years for people say, whoa, that was pretty cruel and fucked up, God. Similarly, the NFL created an uncapped year, and fostered an atmosphere that gave Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones the motive, the means, and the opportunity to partake of its blessings. The NFL doesn’t have religion’s PR, so thankfully we don’t need iconoclasts, just normal, rational people to point out just how wrong this is. But football is a sort of religion, with a similar antitrust exemption, so fair doesn’t even come into play.

September 14, 2009

[Business Day One] 808s and Heartbreak

Oh Kanye.  You’ve gotten so good at embarrassing white folks on stage.  And I’m so glad you did it again this week, to ceremonially kick off the football season – a season where embarrassment is sure to be one of the most important topics.  And boy did the season start off strong for that.

1.  Bad News – Long snappers are like third base coaches.  You don’t ever want them in the news.  Bears LSer Patrick Mannelly decided to overstep his responsibilities in humiliating fashion by calling a direct snap to the fullback on 4th-and-long in Bears territory.  Perhaps he saw a hole in the Packers front (there wasn’t one) or that a twelfth man was on the field (there was almost one… but there wasn’t one).  Either way, everyone knows your name now, Patrick.  And from what I hear, Chicago isn’t a friendly town.

2.  See You In My Nightmares – The Richard Seymour trade fiasco was profoundly embarrassing, to be sure.  But not in the way one would initially think.  Richard Seymour has nothing to be embarrassed about; he was smart and avoided the media completely until everything came to rest.  The Patriots have nothing to be embarrassed about, since they weren’t going to sign him next year anyway, and they were able to get a first rounder in 2011 for him.  No, the shame here falls like an unforgiving spotlight on the Oakland Raiders.  In the wake of reports that Oakland Coach Tom Cable put a great form tackle on an assistant, we now had a story about someone refusing to show up to work in the Black Hole even though he had to.  There was rampant speculation that Seymour didn’t want to head to the Raiders because the place was a toxic environment.  Media pundits took their obligatory shots at owner (and ageless horror) Al Davis for paying out the nose for a past-his-prime defensive end for a team with no playoff hopes.  I’ve listened to at least three different radio sports duos talk about how wretched it must be to be a fan of the Raiders.  That right there is embarrassment.

3.  Coldest Winter– My boss is beating me by a solid 100 points in Fantasy Football this week, thanks to Drew Brees (his QB) throwing for six touchdowns, the Philly Defense (his D) destroying Carolina, and Donovan McNabb (my QB) cracking a rib.  I’ve never seen a pounding like this in fantasy.  This is savage.  My co-workers offered me condolences, and they were serious.  There’s nothing worse in fantasy sports than to be pitied.  And this week, I am pitied.

4.  Welcome to Heartbreak– Who Dey?  The Denver Broncos.  The Cincinnati Bengals were humbled this week by the last minute and totally unexpected heroics of Brandon “He’s Still On A Roster” Stokley.  The Denver wideout caught a tip and then had the brains to run out the clock a bit before stepping into the end zone.  Hateful, Brandon.  Hateful.  Since America got such a hearty (and heartfelt) dose of the Bengals during Hard Knocks, I think the last minute loss was felt a bit more personally.  The viewing public knows (as much as you can know someone on reality TV) these guys, and they’re got to feel that thick, chunky kind of embarrassment you feel for a friend.

5.  Paranoid – Despite winning a SuperBowl, no one in New York trusts Eli Manning.  Not to helm a football team, not to mow a lawn, not to drive to Newark Airport from the Meadowlands.  Every diehard Giants fan I know tends to think he could Delhomme with very little warning.  That’s got to be a scary and unfortunate way to live.  And even though he had a decent stat line in Week 1, I do not believe Eli is ever capable of fully securing the trust of the ancient and noble Giants Season Ticket Holders.  How embarrassing for him.

January 17, 2009

Commissioner’s Corner: Keeper Leagues and Parity

Which one do you keep?

Which one do you keep?

There are 2 basic kinds of fantasy leagues when it comes to how players are chosen from year to year: keeper and re-draft.  (An auction where all players are put back in the pool is just a re-draft where the draft style is auction.) And when it comes to keeper leagues there are very many ways to set them up.

It could be as simple as keeping just one player from the previous season – A franchise player. Or it could be as complex as keeping the same roster year to year – a dynasty league. Or anything in between. Whatever way your league chooses to run things, there should always be an eye towards parity. 

Why is parity so important in fantasy leagues? Because the goal of any fantasy team should be to win the league this year. Not next year. Did you join your fantasy league mainly because you enjoy doing maths and managing and spending money on nothing? I doubt it. You probably joined for the same reasons everyone else is playing: your friends and the love of the sport. You don’t see me playing a fantasy fishing season (even though I get the damn emails). I’m not playing because I don’t enjoy playing fantasy sports (I clearly do, I’m writing a blog about it), but because I don’t particularly enjoy fishing — especially from a watching others do the fishing perspective.

I’m also not saying that a team that makes good decisions over the season shouldn’t get rewarded with good keepers. It should never get to the point where some teams don’t have a real chance of winning the league solely because of the keeper rules.

With that in mind, lets look at some of the methods of setting up and retaining parity in a keeper league. (more…)

January 8, 2009

Commissioner’s Corner: Surviving The Off-Season

Don't let your league feel like this

Don't let your league feel like this

This time of year is tough for the two biggest fantasy sports: Football and Baseball. It’s the off-season. There are no more lineup deadlines to meet and no opposing team to trash talk. Fantasy players are left wondering what to do with themselves. Well, The Commissioner is here to help with a few thought and experiences on what to do with the time.

Research – It’s never too early to start your research. Everyone does better with more knowledge under their belts. Learn about all the upcoming rookies, and who has the position that’s blocking them from being full time. Study the other people in your league. Look at the history and see what players they like – even the slightest upper hand in a trade is valuable. Pay attention to trades and free agency moves. Are they moving to a pitcher’s park or did they go from have a good offensive line to the Detroit Lions?

Keep The League Together – Maybe you all play fantasy football or basketball in the baseball off-season (or vice versa) to keep the rivalries strong. Perhaps it’s just a couple pools to keep people chatting about the league. I have one friend who runs a fantasy football playoffs league. Rules are you get one player or the coach or defense from each of the 8 playoff teams to fill the roster. Points are only given to players who play each week, so having a RB for the Super Bowl winner is nice. No limit to the number of people playing because there is no draft. Now even after the season is done, there are still players to root for. Maybe it’s only an extra month, but it’s something.

Winter Meetings – This is something my fantasy baseball league is doing for the second year now. We all get together at a restaurant/bar have some food and drink and discuss the future of our teams and the league. This is very nice for us since it is a keeper league and it allows people to possibly make some trades. I’ve heard of leagues getting together to go to games and then most people barely paying attention to the game because they’re too busy wheelin’ and dealin’ for trades.

Those are just some of the things I’ve experienced, please leave me some comments if you have seen or done other things or have ideas for what the league can do. All in all, I think the best leagues are the ones where everyone is continually interested. Especially if that means the interest carries throughout the off-season

December 20, 2008

Commissioner’s Corner: The Constitution

We The People ConstitutionHello fellow fantasy commissioners. Welcome to our corner. Here we shall discuss the trials, tribulations, tribbles, and elations of the job of fantasy commissioner.

Today’s topic is the league constitution.

Every league should have one. I mean it! There needs to be a place for everyone to go and review the rules and stop any disputes before they happen or blow up into friendship destorying disasters. As a commissioner, it will mean less work for you and resolving the disputes are never fun. (People start thinking you take sides and are unfair, turning a fun activity into something much less enjoyable.) Don’t assume that because everyone in your league is friends that you can work it all out, this may be true, but if it’s not then you are up shit’s creek and have no paddle.

Are you still thinking that you don’t need one or that you don’t think you can write one? It doesn’t have to be a spectacular document that gets displayed for ages in the National Archives. It doesn’t have to cover everything. It never will anyway – even if you’ve had a league for 20 years, there’s still something that may come up. This is where you, as commissioner, make the tough decisions, and then add the rule to the constitution. In this way, your constitution is always changing and getting better.

The first step to building a constitution is to brainstorm and write down what you can think of. Go through the day to day and add that to what happens. (more…)

December 15, 2008

[Business Day One] But A Fantasy

Filed under: Business Day One,Football — Tags: , — Serpico @ 10:37 am

Barring Brian Westbrook and the Eagles defense combining for “keep this on the highlight reel for the rest of history” nights, my fantasy football season will come to an end this week. I regret nothing, really. My draft choices were good, my record was good, and I had fun this season. Well, as much fun as you can have playing fantasy football.

If you’re still alive in your playoffs, good luck. If you’re about to lose, don’t worry. ESPN’s Bowl Week is coming up, so at least you’ll be reminded that your life is better than anyone’s who is playing in the Papajohn.com Bowl.

December 10, 2008

[Business Day One] Midweek and Exhausted

It took an exhausting long weekend in Las Vegas to prevent me from writing on Monday, and for that I apologize. I could’ve theoretically gotten my column together on Tuesday, but I was so jetlagged that I slept until 2 in the afternoon and didn’t know my name when I woke up. I’ll try to make the wait worth it, America.

Here are the thoughts I cobbled together during the past week and a half.

# As I mentioned last Monday, I’m at a point where I no longer believe that any off-season move, no matter how impressive on paper, could help the Yankees. A Mecha-Ty Cobb could be constructed and signed to a ten year, fifteen cent contract and I’d be certain that no good would come of it. I call it The Pavano Mindset. Anyway, CC Sabathia is about to sign on the dotted line and I couldn’t be more terrified for him. He’s going to show up to training camp 200 pounds overweight, or he’ll suddenly decide to play in Japan this year, or he’ll be crushed by falling space debris. I just know it, and I’m sorry in advance for the Sabathia family. This is my life as a Yankees fan.

# Watching sports in Las Vegas is odd. I watched Boston College get pasted by Virginia Tech at the Caesar’s Palace Sports Book. People who had no affiliation with either school were cheering wildly in one direction or the other. It was unsettling in a way and cheapened the experience. I watch my sports at my house (where I cheer loudly), at friendly sports bars (where a hundred people cheer loudly), or at the stadium (where 50,000 people cheer loudly). And most of those people are hooting and hollering because they love one school or hate the other. Not so in Vegas. People are cheering for their money. They might as well be cheering for Australian rules football or curling. It’s all the same to them, I think.

# Three teams at 8-5 in the AFC East is an interesting proposition. I don’t believe the Jets are going to make it into the playoffs. I really don’t. Just a gut instinct.

# Speaking of playoffs, I’m 10-4 and a #2 seed in my fantasy football playoffs. This is Year 4 in my league, and I’ve finished in second, first and third in my first 3 years. Here’s hoping for continued success.

# I wish John Daly would stop playing golf and get himself some help.

January 8, 2008

2007: That Was The Year That Was

Now that the regular football season is over, it’s time to gaze into the crystal ball of, er, the past and see how my many predictions panned out.

Named after the Michael Jackson song, of courseRavens Draft Day Roundup (May 1 ’07): I predicted good things of Yamon Figurs (lots of punt returns for TDs) and Troy Smith (Heisman winning QB; potential replacement for McNair). Figurs posted 1138 yards on kickoff returns with an average of 24.7 yards per carry. This put him in the top 10 for the year.

Troy Smith didn’t start a lot of games, but he finally showed us something against the Steelers. 16 for 27, 171 yards passing, no interceptions and only 1 fumble. Not that impressive, until you remember that he’s wearing a Ravens uniform, and suddenly he becomes the best quarterback in franchise history. Maybe. We’ll see.

I call this one close enough, only by virtue of the vagueness of my original promises.

The Game in Game Theory: (Aug 28 ’07): I predicted that Michael Strahan would stay retired and that Brady Quinn would have cause to regret holding out. I was, of course, as wrong as wrong can be about Stray: he helped carry his team to the postseason with 57 tackles, including 4 solo hits against the Patriots in Week 17 and a herculean 8 solo hits at Tampa Bay.

This is MUCH better than football!Brady Quinn, on the other hand, started his only game of the season in the ultimately meaningless 20-7 shellacking of the 49ers. And then, only to sub in for Derek Anderson. And then, only to go 3 for 8 and all of 45 yards. Holy hell. Notre Dame’s current quarterback put up better numbers this season.

I call this one a wash, tending toward “ehh …”. I was wrong on Strahan, but I submit history will bear me out on Quinn. Keep watching Cleveland, I, er, guess.

Fantasy Football Woes (Sep 25 ’07): I predicted that my fantasy football team would do terribly. The Baltimore Colts finished 3-10, 14th out of 14. Of course, I stopped updating my roster after about week 9. That may have something to do with it. But I prefer to blame the Champagne of Running Backs and his unapologetic just-above-averageness. I call this one worse than I expected.

Old Man Easterbrook: I predicted that Gregg Easterbrook would keep saying the most bafflingly dumb things. Viz:

In other football news, 9-7 City of Tampa hosts a playoff game, but 11-5 Jacksonville opens on the road, 10-6 Cleveland is eliminated and the 10-6 Giants travel to the 9-7 Bucs. Has there ever been a better case for making the NFL postseason a seeded tournament? No one cares about the AFC versus NFC Super Bowl setup any more: My guess is you don’t even know how that series stands. (Basically, tied; yawn.) The postseason brackets should reward the teams that perform best, and the best Super Bowl pairing — Indianapolis versus New England — should at least be possible when the countdown begins. The NFL could retain conference and division structure for the purpose of organizing regular-season play, then make the playoffs a 12-team seeded tourney. Performance would be rewarded, and pairings would be better. What’s not to like?

Read the New Republic!  Braaaagh!“Oh man! The Steelers totally robbed the Ravens in November!”

“You said it, Chip! But with the wild card slot, we’ll meet them again in the postseason, right?”

“You couldn’t be more wrong, Frank! Thanks to the Easterbrook Rule of 2008, we have to face the correspondingly highest seed in our bracket! Looks like we’re going to Dallas!”

“Dallas? I can’t afford a plane ticket to Dallas!”

“Then that’s a hearty Go Screw Yourself from Gregg Easterbrook to you, Frank!”

“Ah ha ha! Good one, Easterbrook!”

I call this one dead on.

Never Tell Me The Odds (Oct 23 ’07): I called the Colts, Ravens, Giants and Steelers games to be the biggest challenges between the Pats and 16-0. As it turns out, the closest scoring games between Week 8 and Week 17 were the Colts, Eagles (?!?!), Ravens and Giants. I call this one close enough.

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