The Commish's Court: It's all in the ...

Updated: April 20, 2007, 1:26 PM ET
By AJ Mass | Special to ESPN.com

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Interrupting cow.

Interrupting cow... MOOOO! ...who?

A stupid joke. Yes, of course, but while the pregnant lady may think that the essence of comedy is all in the delivery, she is wrong. It's all in the, um, wait a second& what was it again? Just ask American Idol's LaKisha if it was important to have her worst performance on the same week when Sanjaya's cup finally ran dry. That's very... Timing! That's it. That's what's important. That's why Kiki, as her friends call her, lives to diva it up another day and Malakar (which I believe derives from the Latin mala, meaning "bad" and kara meaning "no, I'm not kidding, he really can't sing") is going home.

Ask Merv Bontrager about timing. He was driving his big rig on Tuesday and just barely escaped death. Luckily, the sunflower seeds he was carrying spilled onto the road and helped stop the truck's skid, preventing any major injury. Of course, the accident wouldn't have happened in the first place, except that the North Dakota man took his eyes off the road for just a split second, and in that instant, he crashed. Why did he get distracted? He wanted to make sure his donuts were still there on the floor, where he had thrown them earlier that morning.

The same can be said of fantasy baseball. Timing! That's it. That's what's important. Just ask John N. from New York, who writes:

"At the end of our draft, only two owners had open outfield slots left. Dan had two open spots, and Sam had one, along with a corner spot. Dan nominated Darin Erstad for $1. Sam bid $2 and won him. Sam placed Erstad in the outfield. Later, Dan named his sleeper, Nelson Cruz, for $1. Sam expressed sadness that he could not bid. Jack, another owner, said he could, because Erstad is corner eligible. So Sam bid $2 on Cruz and won him. A week later, Dan is furious because he looked up Erstad, and he is not corner eligible this year. He wants the end of the draft re-done or to somehow have Cruz added to his roster. Is there a fair way to resolve this? Thanks!"

Here we see a strategy that was based entirely on timing. Dan held off nominating the player he really wanted, Cruz, until his only competition was unable to make a bid on him. Had he nominated Cruz before Erstad, he would have lost him for sure. By letting his rival get Erstad, he thought he pulled his gambit off to perfection. Unfortunately, Jack stepped in and pointed out that Erstad was corner eligible, when he was not, and the whole house of cards came tumbling down.

But why was there confusion? Had Jack simply "gone over to the dark side" and was now working for The Others? Not our Jack! Actually, the problem was also about timing. On Draft Day, this league's eligibility was supposed to go by last season's stats. So Erstad, who played 27 games in centerfield and only 13 games at first base in 2006, should only qualify as an outfielder. Since Erstad was not listed in Jack's magazine, he looked him up on the league website. Because Erstad had already played one game at first base this season, and the in-season rules in this league are for one-game eligibility, he was listed as an available cornerman. Again, the timing is critical... because the draft was held after the start of this season, but positional eligibility was supposed to have been locked in from the end of last season.

Unfortunately, John N., who is his league's commissioner, didn't notice that there was an issue at the time of the draft. It is a shame that nobody else in the league pointed out this mistake at the time. Why? Because... timing! That's it. That's what's important. Dan noticed he was wronged a week later. Sorry. That's too late. The season has begun, and by now, Erstad is indeed corner eligible.

To answer John's question, the fair way to resolve this issue now is to tell Dan he's out of luck. This sort of thing happens every year. There is some much-ballyhooed positional change that is expected, but has not happened yet, and somebody loses their mind about it. Case in point: Steven Davidson from Milwaukee, WI writes,

"Why do I have to play Bill Hall of the Brewers as a utility man? You are forcing me to do so by listing him as a shortstop. Everyone knows he is an outfielder this year and years to come. But I either bench my shortstop or make Hall my utility man. THAT STINKS!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Rules are rules, Steven. Bill Hall started 126 games at shortstop last year. That makes him a shortstop. His seven outfield appearances in 2006 don't qualify him as an outfielder. When your draft came around, you knew he was only a shortstop. Now, you also probably knew that he was moving to the outfield this season to make room for J.J. Hardy. Since the time Steven wrote us, Hall has passed the "ten games" milestone and should now qualify as an outfielder in ESPN leagues. Your league's rules may vary, but if they do, don't yell at me. Take it up with your commissioner. The reason this rule is in place may not seem obvious, but let's look at last year's most famous example. It's your turn to draft and you say "Alfonso Soriano, OF, $1" and eventually you win at $38. Now imagine this had happened next: Soriano refuses to play left field and gets benched by Frank Robinson. The Nationals get so upset over this that, rather than place him on the disqualified list, they trade him to the Giants who let him play in the infield. Now you have a player in your outfield who has never played that position in his entire career. That's preposterous!

At the same time, if somebody says "Mike Piazza, 2B, $1" at the auction, somebody is sure to pipe up and cry foul. If there is silence, however, and the owners fail to pay attention, then shame on the league. The Erstad case is not nearly as egregious. Nobody caught the mistake, and a very honest one it seems to have been. So be it. Move on. Nothing to see here!

All rise& The Court has now adjourned!

Timing! That's... oh, rats!

AJ Mass has been a Fantasy Baseball Commissioner for nearly 15 years, and was the mascot of the New York Mets for 4 seasons in the early 90's. Want to submit your case to The Commish' Court? Click Here.

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