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On Vetoes

One of the most enjoyable aspects of fantasy baseball is making trades. It's certainly true that this is not the case in some leagues, because anytime you're dealing with people there's overwhelming potential for people to ruin things. But in the platonic ideal of a league, owners are both active and rational in their negotiations.

Here in the real world, as often as not we get offered a rival's three most recent waiver wire pickups for our team's best player. Meanwhile, another owner sells off elite talent for pennies on the dollar to your fiercest competition without even letting the league know they're available.

Do either of those situations merit a veto? If not, which scenarios qualify? And who decides that, anyway?

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Who Says No?

Vetoes are, understandably, a sensitive issue for many fantasy owners. Many trades are the result of  protracted discussion, and external forces wiping out a week's worth of back-and-forth can be incredibly frustrating. Even if negotiations were relatively quick and painless, nobody likes having the rug pulled out from under them. Generally speaking, human beings are not terribly fond of being told what to do.

That's the way a veto reads, whether or not it's justified: If I've decided that making this deal is in my best interest, who the hell is anyone else to tell me otherwise? 

Many, including yours truly, consider vetoes to be a nuclear option, reserved for instances of obvious collusion and other emergencies. My home league is approaching its third decade of existence and I have yet to exercise the commissioner's veto power. The league constitution makes reference to this fact, going on to explicitly state that "[t]he commissioner trusts the members of this league to act as reasonable adults."

The question is what constitutes "obvious collusion." Legitimate proof of malfeasance is a clear deal-breaker, but that's a rare occurrence. There tend not to be many smoking guns; those that do exist might include incriminating text messages or tangible evidence of assets outside the league changing hands, be they trades in other leagues or the exchange of money or material goods. There's also the Potter Stewart "I know it when I see it" standard. If one team is getting Cody Bellinger and Max Scherzer for a pu pu platter of back-of-the-roster jabronis, this clear and present danger can and should be addressed.

Yet there remains a large degree of subjectivity to the proceedings. What on the surface appears to be a lopsided trade may be anything but. If you were to offer Yordan Alvarez for Mike Trout straight up, in most leagues that wouldn't make a lick of sense for the other owner to even consider it. In a keeper league where the difference in their price tags is $50 or 20-plus rounds, or where Trout can't be kept at all? Maybe it's not so ridiculous. That's an extreme example, of course, and a fairly easy one to intuit if you understand the way your league structures its keeper rules.

When the players' talent levels or costs are less diametrically opposed, the picture gets murkier - especially if the former are in a state of flux. What if  you're talking three years of Yordan for, say, two of Jose Ramirez at a steep discount relative to his value if he does rebound in the second half? What in god's name is a "fair return" for Giancarlo Stanton at this point in a redraft league? How much should any of us bet on Corey Kluber's stretch run, or on a return to form for Matt Carpenter, or that Ketel Marte is really a 40 HR guy now?

You get the idea. Player valuation is a tricky and often personal thing. There are some players we all pretty much agree on, but even within that broad consensus there can be substantial differences of opinion. Whether those are supported by hard evidence, intuition, our own biases - or more typically, a hodgepodge of the three - they nevertheless exist, and inform our ultimate view of any trade.

That's why the best system, in my view, is to leave veto power with the commissioner with the understanding that 1) it will rarely, if ever, be used and 2) when it is exercised, it will be with input from other people. It hasn't happened for a few years, but the last time a trade in my home league inspired a few raised eyebrows, I reached out to both of the involved parties, as well as two other league members and two people not in the league at all (in this case, RotoBaller colleagues) to get their feedback. A majority confirmed my initial (and default) stance that the trade should proceed, and I explained the process and my reasoning to the league.

Why not simply leave it to a league vote, then? Two reasons. First, I know when I've made a trade, I want it to take effect as soon as possible, so I extend that courtesy to my league mates. Second, the opportunity for pettiness doesn't exist. I've been in leagues before where vetoes occurred just because owners didn't like the deal for their own selfish reasons, and voted them down based on those rather than merit.

As in most aspects of life, communication is important. Whatever the decision on a deal, everyone with a vested interest should have the chance and/or be obligated to explain their position. If an owner in your league - no matter their level of involvement in the situation - can't accept that, it may be time to find a replacement.

Either way, exercising veto power, whether as sole arbiter or part of a commitee, is best done sparingly.

 

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.

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