Tout Table: In Season Rules Changes

With COVID-19 still affecting MLB, along with other non-pandemic issues, we asked the Touts:

Are there any circumstances to trigger a rules change after the draft? If yes, what is the best process by which to enact the change?

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I think there must be, but they’d have to be circumstances so dire that the potential outcomes of the season would be affected in a way that reasonable people recognize as unfair. I can’t think of an example. Maybe if some kind of disaster wiped out several MLB teams all at once. Even at that, if a workaround could be figured out by the combined effort of the team managers, that would be preferable. As for approving any change, my inclination would be to exclude the team managers, especially if the disaster gave some teams an unearned advantage. In an ideal world, all the owners would vote the best interests of the league. But experience suggests that team managers will vote often team interests first.

Matt Williams (NBC Sports Edge, @MattWi77iams): Only if there was a tangible change in which the game or schedule is played. Covid related IL last season was a good example. This season it seemed like a leagues innings minimum may have been something that could have required a rule change due to the pitching landscape. But overall it’s hard to imagine a rule change taking place. Either way I would say unanimous league vote would be required to change any setting.

Chris Liss (Rotowire, @Chris_Liss): There is one: Unanimous consent of the owners. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change mid-stream.

Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty): The circumstances would have to be extreme, or else (and probably regardless) you would need to have unanimous consent of all owners. Ideally, you would have mechanisms in place in the league constitution for how to handle situations like this so that everybody goes into the league aware of the possibility. But there is so much strategy that goes into drafting and managing a fantasy baseball team that changing the rules mid-way through the year without everyone being on board can unfairly alter the playing field and is not an approach I’d generally advise.

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): The first item to note, as Chris Liss did – is that any change after the league has started (after the draft) … has to be approved by anyone. Not just a simple majority, or super majority – it should be unanimous. But as far as circumstances … this is the COVID era … a rule change can result from literally anything. To give two real life examples that happened to me: 1) Last year, I was involved in a league with weekly transactions and no lineup changes. With COVID cancelling weeks worth of games at a time, the request was to amend the rules to allow midweek IL replacements. All teams agreed. Unfortunately, the stats provider was not able to alter the format for us after the season began – but we would have accepted it. 2) In one league, after the normal trade deadline expired, a few teams asked the commish to allow an extra week of trading. The commish put it to a majority vote, and not a unanimous one. I voted against it, being in first place by a wide margin. Long story short … the commish opened up the trading. The 2nd place team made a large trade with the last place team, meanwhile I attempted a similar trade, which was vetoed. I ended losing the league on the last day of the season. In my opinion, the league acted unfairly. If everyone would have agreed to extend the deadline – then I would have no problem with it.

Perry Van Hook (Mastersball, @): After the draft? In general a hard NO… but if your league does not have unlimited IR slots, this is the year to adjust to current conditions and expand or introduce IR slots. There are many players in all these types of leagues who reserve lists are filled with injured players and it detracts from the operation of the league as well as the enjoyment of individual owners to have to cut a player they drafted to add a replacement.

Grey Albright (RazzBall, @razzball): Agree with Chris Liss — need unanimous consent. Otherwise it’s Mickey Mouse rules, and the Mickey Mouse season was last year.

Michael Florio (NFL Network, @MichaelFFlorio): Typically, I do not believe that there should be any rule changes made in season. But I am okay changing it if somethings unprecedented happens like Covid-19, which is why in both baseball and football home leagues we allowed a one time “replacement option” where you could tell the commissioner a player you would substitute in your lineup if someone missed time due to covid. This was a little easier to implement in football though. However, for any change, there should 100% be a league vote. There should have to be at the least a majority, if not a unanimous vote to change any rules in season.

Greg Ambrosius (NFBC, @GregAmbrosius): As a pay-to-play fantasy games operator, it’s absolutely a NO. Legally you can’t change the rules after the contest has begun. And trust me, with hundreds or thousands of people competing for prize money, you’d never get a consensus on a rules change. Definitely a NO after drafts begin.

Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): I’m a “never say never” type, so yes, I’d leave open the possibilities to an in-season change if something is drastically wrong. Two caveats: 1) to Greg’s point, he’s contractually obligated to maintain the same rules given the stakes/money involved, so that makes sense, and 2) to Chris’ point, it must be a unanimous vote by ALL league members in order to enact the change.

Brian Walton (CreativeSports2, @B_Walton): To echo the others, “almost never” should be the answer. And even then, only if every league participant agrees. This will be very, very difficult to achieve once the season is underway since every owner has a vested position. And if you are in the minority and feel pressured to vote for a change you don’t agree with, it may be time to change leagues.

Toby Guevin (BatFlipCrazy Podcast, @batflipcrazy): Generally, no, since people drafted and have made moves with particular settings or rules in mind. That said, if the entire league agrees and the rule change is approved unanimously then sure.

Jim Bowden (Fantasy Alarm, @JimBowdenGM): No in my opinion once the draft is completed rules should not be subjected to change unless the owners vote unanimously

Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seemingly applies. It’s important to have a high standard when determining if something is broken. A lopsided trade, for example, might highlight an issue that needs to be addressed after the season. Most issues you encounter will fall in this basket. An obvious example of a potential post-draft change from 2020-2021 might be to institute an auxiliary COVID-IL or simply increase IL slots by some number. Even that strikes me as an optional adjustment. I can imagine a few scenarios with leagues using custom rules where unintended consequences wreck the game and require immediate remedy. Going against the grain, I don’t believe unanimous consent should be required. A super majority will do.

Tim McCullough (Baseball Prospectus, @TimsTenz): I agree with the general consensus here that it would be no. However, if by some miracle MLB and the Player’s association were to a agree on a change to the rules of the game that would drastically influence the fairness of the fantasy baseball game, then it might be necessary to make a change. In that extreme circumstance, the entire league would have to agree to such a change, especially if there was money on the line.

Lou Blasi (Fantistics, @LouBlasi): In my eyes, it depends. Leagues involving money and payouts to me are contracts and present a set conditions under which the leagues were conducted during the draft and the early season. No one should involuntarily be subjected to a change that sets them at a disadvantage because they planned for the original rules. Now, if a rule change is necessary that everyone agrees upon, then have at it. If everyone agrees that the change makes the experience better and doesn’t negatively affect them, there’s no reason not to make the changes … In leagues where money isn’t a factor, the standard for an in-season rule change is lower. Unless the considered change completely dismantles a team’s draft strategy (or multiple teams) because it fundamentally changes the game, it should be considered if it makes the league better. In general, dealing with COVID and the increase in injuries means commissioners have to walk a fine line between deep enough rosters to deal with these issues and deep enough waiver pools to deal with these issues. I feel it means expanded injury rosters, but strict reactivation of players once they are no longer injured. The real problem to avoid is the stockpiling of players on rosters while other teams need warm bodies.

Dr. Roto (FullTime Fantasy, @DrRoto): This is a very slippery slope. There are many times when a rule change midseason makes total sense. However, players agreed to play by a certain set of rules and to change them midseason seems incredibly unfair. I would agree with all here who said that unanimous is the only way to change them–and even then I am not sure I feel great about it.

Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru, @BaseballGuys): If a change is to be made after the draft, I agree with others, has to be unanimous. Other than an obvious – we forget to note what time the lineups need to be set each week kinda thing, I’m honestly not up for changing the rules once games start. Everyone could agree that we should add IL spots now with everyone being hurt, but it is too late for that. Even though I would vote “yes” in theory that we should have had more IL spots, wiser heads would need to just say no. Everyone could read the rules before the season started. Most folks don’t, and then they are surprised when things get missed. Too bad. Changes… they gotta wait til next year.

Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): The only time in my opinion should be if MLB changes the game like a longer or shorter schedule. Sometimes innings and at limits are in place based on a certain season length. Now, if MLB changes course, and only then, a 75% vote is needed to put in the changes. I’m not for 100% because there is likely an owner or two who could benefit from the unforeseen change, be an ass, and not vote for the change.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): Only in the rarest of circumstances like a pandemic and even then only minor changes and only if there’s close to unanimity. For example, very early in the season, my “home” league added one IL slot after it became apparent that there would be extra players headed there due to COVID. Even then, the league is going to review the modification around June 1 to see if it’s still needed. Generally rule changes should be for succeeding seasons.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Here is my issue with unanimous. I’ll admit this is a personal thing, your mileage may vary, but I feel league votes should be for the good of the league and not for the benefit of my team. Sure, it can happen, but the chances of 100% in favor, without someone feeling the change hurts their team is remote. Well, maybe not remote, but it lessens the chance. That said, I’m adamant any rule which would have caused something different in the draft or even choice of keepers should not even be considered.

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): I cannot see all scenarios, so I would want to judge each situation on its own merits. I am not one to believe that you need unanimous for a rule change. Obviously there are some formats where a rules change is impossible, like NFBC. But there are other formats.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): As for the question itself, once again I am selfishly calling upon the collective wisdom of the Touts to help steer me in the right direction as there is a real-life impetus for the query, and it isn’t related to a COVID-19 influenced scenario. Rather, something came up in a private league which was an unintended repercussion of a rule changed installed to begin the season. The suggested change would not have influenced the draft or keepers, but it is obviously anti to the rules as written. Those in favor of the change are using rules interpretation as the basis (and the league is largely lawyers, yay) but they’re wrong about that. Still, I have no problem with the change, but I do have an issue opening Pandora’s Box, for if we take a vote on this and it is changed, we’re essentially paving the way for future changes after the season begins which may have influenced the draft, but if you ever tried using logic when debating with lawyers, you know it isn’t a very successful tact. My reply to the league was I have no issue with the proposal, just think about what could ensue if we set precedent.

Frank Stampfl (Fantasy Pros, @Roto_Frank): Normally I’m big on “rules are rules” but unprecedented times call for flexibility, as long as it is UNANIMOUS within the league. I can completely understand why just one Fantasy manager might have issue with changing or setting new rules once the draft is over and if that happens, then I wouldn’t try to change anything.

Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): Generally I’m against rule changes after the season starts because the basis for drafting your team was made using the rules. But a situation has occurred this year with the Covid-19 DL that needs clarification. It seems a team will place a player on the Covid-19 DL if he has come into contact with someone who has come into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid. The team makes him quarantine and get tested. After 72 hours if his tests are negative, he is removed from the DL and back on the yeam roster. In a cae of a pitcher, he might not even miss a start. What some of my leagues have done is adopted a rule that you can pick up a player for the covid -19 player put on the dl,, but if the players stay on the Covid -19 dl is less than 4 games, you do not get the stats from the replacement player, and the replacement player is automatically reinstated in your lineup.

Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): I am against any rule changes once the season starts because everyone’s draft strategy may involve specific league settings. In leagues that I play in where I am the Commish, anyone throughout the season or off season is permitted to submit a rule change. Any rule changes are voted upon each weekend, but must be unanimously accepted. One rule that was recently passed in my league was that we had 2 DL slots and we updated the slots for 2 DL slots and 2 Covid-specific slots. All things being equal, unless there is a pandemic going on, keep the rule changes for the off season.

Greg Jewett (Fantasy Alarm, @gjewett9): With the current landscape of players landing on the COVID-IL due to testing positive or side effects from vaccinations, it’s another headache for fantasy players. However, daily moves may need to become the norm in situations like this. For instance, in our H2H league, lost a close match-up due to a player locking on Friday then his games being cancelled on Saturday and Sunday due to COVID protocols. A replacement pitcher could have replaced him on Sunday changing my contest outcome. While it’s understandable league formats align with past practice, active and willing participants would adjust rosters daily. Just be sure pickups remain once a week to avoid streaming. With limited bench space, being able to replace a player lost to COVID without an injury list designation makes sense. In-season rules changes come with apprehension, but in these challenging environments, it’s applicable. In a home league, it can be put to a vote or enacted by a commissioner but take a pulse of the league participants to ensure equitable circumstances.

Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): Rules changes AFTER the draft? Only in two circumstances: Unanimous agreement of the league without any pressure or a totally unforeseeable major change in the world or the sport (like when the leagues shut down after many fantasy baseball drafts last year)

Dan Strafford (FNTSY Radio, @DanStrafford): There is a very clear scenario where your league should adjust. It’s when Major League Baseball changes something leading into a season. Over the past two years, we’ve been subjected to a revolving down of potential changes to the CBA, season, and more. If MLB changes something after your draft, then by all means you should look to adjust. Beyond that, everyone drafted with the same set of variables in front of the, so nothing should change until next year’s constitution/rules are drawn up.

Shelly Verougstraete (Dynasty Guru, @ShellyV_643): Changing the rules after the draft has a begun is a big NO for me unless there is a unanimous opinion within the league. Sure, you might think that it is not a big deal to change this or that but it could be a big change in how another manager would approach the draft and player analysis.

Michael A. Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): This is a common question I have received at Fantasy Judgment and the answer is really quite simple. The only circumstance where I would endorse changing a league’s rules after the draft is completed is if there is some material change in Major League Baseball (i.e., rules, schedule, statistics, etc.) or the world that has a significant, comprehensive effect on the entire league. If that happened, then a league could amend its rules with 100% participation and 100% agreement in a league-wide vote. A perfect example is last year’s truncated season where many leagues did add IL slots to accommodate players testing positive for COVID-19. Absent some monumental or catastrophic circumstance where the entire landscape of the league is affected, there should not be any changes to a league’s rules once the draft is complete.

Michael Beller (The Athletic, @MBeller): It’s already been said a few times, but I can add another voice to the chorus. If there’s a major change in MLB during the season, and/or if the managers in the league unanimously agree to a rule change. If that’s the case, no problem with a rules change. If it isn’t, you have to save the change for the following season.

Jock Thompson (Baseball HQ, @JOCKatHQ): There can absolutely be in-season rule changes, as long as the changes don’t impact roster structures or fantasy managers’ ability to play in the current season. The most obvious of these occurs when an owner finds a loophole and/or uses certain conditions to game the system. Consent isn’t difficult, usually done with input from all owners at the site or via e-mail; formal vote not necessary.

Ron Shandler (RonShandler.com, @RonShandler): Generally no, but it depends upon the league and the people in it. I have yet to find a league constitution that is an air-tight document and can account for every possible eventuality. So there may be circumstances when an in-season change could be even necessary. Take the unfortunate situation where a player dies in-season and a constitution that stipulates that players can only be replaced if placed on the IL or demoted. You can make an exception in that case, but it might be better to broaden the verbiage in the rule. Obviously, that an extreme case, but I can’t say that there aren’t other loopholes that might need to be addressed in-season. And yes, unanimous vote is a must.

Chris Welsh (Sportsgrid, @IsItTheWelsh): Before 2020, I would have answered this as a big, fat no. 2020 presented so many out-of-our-hand situations that I think it opened up eyes to the possibility of in-season rule changes. Now, I don’t believe just because of 2020, we should present changes left and right, but I think we have to ride the waves of alt-sites or expanded rosters or COVID like additions for IL usage. This CANNOT though be done solely by a manager. This has to be put to league vote. unanimous passing is probably the only way to do it. If you allow wiggle room for a 51/49 passage, it will lead to hurt feelings and people threatening to leave. Fantasy is supposed to be fun, so we should be open to expanding on our enjoyment, even at the cost of a change in-season.

Andy Behrens (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): If a commissioner is considering a change that might reasonably have impacted draft strategies, then of course they shouldn’t do it. Not only does it make for a terrible game experience, it’s also an awful precedent. But if a league unanimously agrees to, say, bump back the trade deadline by a week or add an IL slot in a COVID season, I think that’s perfectly fine. I’ve also heard of private leagues that mistakenly renewed with last season’s games and innings limits; in a situation like that, the commish obviously has to make adjustments.

Adam Ronis (Fantasy Alarm, @AdamRonis): Usually, the answer is an emphatic no. With COVID-19 I can see a change being made due to circumstances we haven’t seen in fantasy before. The change has to be agreed upon by the entire league. I did this before the year by adding IL spots. I haven’t come across anything so far to provide an example, but we need to at least be open to a potential change if we all agree it’s rational and makes sense to keep the game fun.

Scott Wilderman (OnRoto, @): We do see some league tweak rules during the season, but the changes are usually minor — transaction deadlines, or perhaps change the day for free agent pick ups. Beyond that, I think it does depend upon the league. No way in a big money league. I play in a pretty loose and laid back league, and injuries (non-covid) have been so pervasive this year that I’m going to propose we adopt some facility for mid-week replacements. I’ll see if I can get it passed for this year — that will be a data point.

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