The Verdict: fantasy baseball league constitutions

Over 200 years ago, the Founding Fathers of the United States of America collaborated on the most important document in this country’s history. No, I am not talking about Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian’s marriage certificate. Of course I am referring to the U.S. Constitution, which is the foundation for the laws that we live by every day. The Constitution places checks and balances on all branches of government so that no one individual has absolute power.

Granted, there is quite a bit of ambiguity and controversy interpreting the intent and meaning behind the words in the Constitution. But it still remains the basis behind our democracy and of maintaining some semblance of stability within society.

The U.S. Constitution contained a Preamble that is famously quoted and recited. Because fantasy baseball is arguably just as important as democracy, I thought I would modify the Preamble to apply to fantasy baseball as we know it:

We the People of the fantasy sports industry, in order to form a more perfect fantasy baseball league, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility within the league, provide for the appropriate evaluation of trades, promote fairness in the best interests of the league, and secure the commitments of returning teams in a dynasty keeper league, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the fantasy baseball league.

Admittedly, running a fantasy baseball league is slightly less arduous than upholding the laws of society. Regardless, the presence of a league constitution will provide similar benefits and stability. This is because the rules and procedures of a league are clearly delineated so that the commissioner and all league members have an understanding of their respective responsibilities and duties. By putting your league’s rules in writing, everyone involved is on notice and has instant access to them in the event of a controversy.

One prominent perception of the U.S. Constitution is that it is a living, breathing document. This way of thinking was best summed up by former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who said the Constitution “must be considered in the light of our whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago.” What this means is that as times change, so should the interpretation and scope of the written rules.

We live in a time of tremendous technological innovations and the ability to do almost everything via smartphones. So rules that were written in 1990 regarding the submission of lineups and transactions probably are not applicable today. That is why a league’s constitution needs to be updated and modified to conform to current times.

Whether you have an existing league constitution or are looking to create one for the first time, there are several generally accepted provisions that should be incorporated in the document irrespective of the format, style, structure, cost or complexity of the league you are in. The following list is not exhaustive, but at the very least forms the skeleton by which you can craft your league’s constitution.

1. Mission statement – the purpose of the league.
2. Description of the league – how many teams, how many years of the league, keeper/non-keeper, AL/NL or mixed league, etc.
3. Important dates and deadlines – when money is due, lineups due (daily or weekly), trade deadline, draft, end of regular season, start of playoffs, etc.
4. Draft – the style of draft (snake vs. auction), the draft order, budget/auction dollars, time limits per pick, penalties for late picks.
5. Roster requirements – list the required starting positions and how many of each must be in a lineup.
6. Points/scoring system – list the point values for each statistic your league keeps track of.
7. Transactions – your rules about making add/drops, waiver wire, free agents, disabled list, injuries, etc.
8. Trades – your rules about making trades, criteria for evaluating them, process for approval (league vote or commissioner approval).
9. Standings – how many divisions your league is broken up into, the list of teams in each division, tie-breakers.
10. Playoffs – how many teams make the playoffs, how many weeks the playoffs are, the seeding for each week of playoffs.
11. Position eligibility – how many games are required for a player to be eligible at a position (from the previous year and current season).
12. Issues of first impression – how you will handle an issue or situation that is not delineated in the constitution (i.e., setting up a committee to resolve the issue, send out for a league vote, use a dispute resolution service like Fantasy Judgment, etc.)
13. League finances – entry fee, transactions fees, penalties (if any), prize money distribution, weekly awards (if any).

The mere presence of a constitution does not mean that your fantasy baseball league will be free from drama or controversy. It is unreasonable to expect a commissioner to foresee every possible scenario that can arise during a season. However, if the proper guidelines are in place to handle unforeseen issues, then the league is at least equipped with the best possible way of amicably resolving a conflict.

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