Commentary

Commish's Court: Appealing errors; Ronnie Brown as QB

Updated: September 23, 2008, 12:02 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

I'm going to start this edition of the Court with a baseball story, but bear with me: it will tie in with fantasy football. When I was in high school, I was also an umpire for the local little league. Normally the games at the age level I was working took care of themselves, with very little in the way of controversy. There was one particular incident, though, that stands out in my memory. A kid hit a hard ground ball up the middle that bounced between the pitcher's legs, jumped right over second base, dove under the glove of the onrushing center fielder, and rolled on and on into infinity. You know, your routine 137-hop home run. However, as the batter ran around the bases at light speed, he must have developed an allergy to second base, because he never touched it. He didn't even come close. The shocked pitcher also noticed this, and wheeled around to look at me, expecting me to make a call. I knew he missed second base, but I remained silent.

As the batter's team swarmed their hero at home plate and celebrated wildly, the pitcher was near tears and explained to his manager what he had seen. So, with a whole lot of coaching, the manager talked his young charges through the appropriate protocol for making a proper appeal at second base. The pitcher called time, stepped off the rubber and threw to the shortstop, standing on second base. Only then did I signal that the still-celebrating and beaming star of the day was in fact a fraud and a sham and, in a word, out. Well, you can imagine the outcry that quickly arose from the other dugout. The manager -- and his girlfriend (who was keeping score) -- both ran over to me, screaming bloody murder. I can still hear her shrill voice today, "You only called him out because they asked you to!" And I used up all of my patience trying to explain to them that she had hit the nail right on the head. If the other team hadn't noticed, and hadn't appealed, then the run would have stood. But once they did ask, I was able to rule on what I had actually seen.

Red Challenge Flag
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireIf you see a scoring issue in your league, be sure to alert your commissioner, via red flag or other devices, as soon as possible.
My thoughts returned to this incident after reading a complaint by Rocket on the message boards. "We just found out that there was a mistake in the defensive scoring in our league. It was supposed to be two points for a defense allowing 14-20 points, and no points for a defense that gave up 21-27 points, but when the commissioner entered the league, those values were reversed. No one caught it until this week. It affects the results of three games that have already been played. How should we handle this?"

This seems to be the result of an honest mistake, but at what point do you close the book on the past? Contrary to popular belief, as the commissioner of my league, I do not analyze the box score of every fantasy game in my league to make sure that the scores all add up and that every player got the points he deserved. Not only do I not have the time to, but that's not my job. However, you can rest assured that I check my own team's game to see that I won or lost fair and square, and that no technicality or scoring snafu played havoc with the result. And I fully expect that most, if not all, of the other owners in my league will do the same.

If I get an e-mail Monday morning questioning why Marion Barber didn't have 14 points, instead of the 13 he was given credit for, I'll happily check into it. After a closer look, I can easily discover the owner in question either forgot to include, or failed to notice Barber's lost fumble. However, if there truly has been a mistake made in calculating Barber's score, and nobody points it out to me, I'm probably never going to know there was a mistake in the first place. Certainly if I do happen to notice this kind of mistake, I'm not going to ignore it and wait for an appeal: I'll fix it right then and there. But if I don't catch it, and you don't catch it, then it's not getting fixed.

Sometimes scoring mistakes don't affect the outcome of a game and it's no big deal. But in the cases where they do mean the difference between and win and a loss, those are mistakes that absolutely should be corrected, but not if the wronged owner brings it up for the first time in Week 10. At some point, the statute of limitations on catching mistakes runs out. For Rocket, that would be any score affected by this previously undetected typo from Week 1 or Week 2. Once the following week's contests are under way, I'm not going to go back and change the results of games that subsequently had an impact on the waiver order of the league.

Why not? Because I know as soon as I open that can of worms, then the owner who missed out on claiming J.T. O'Sullivan because he had won his Week 2 game will say that since I've now corrected that game to be a loss for him, he should get the rights to O'Sullivan and since he would have started him instead of Ben Roethlisberger in the Week 3 game that just passed, then he should get credit for the win this week, rather than the loss, as long as I'm going around and righting wrongs. I'm not going down that road. If an owner alerts me to this scoring mistake in Week 3, I'll fix it for Week 3 and all games going forward, but what's in the past will remain as is.

You had your chance to throw the red hanky on the field. You didn't. The next snap took place. The game moves on. Deal with it.

Now it's important to make the distinction here that this was fixing an obvious mistake in the way the rules were entered onto the Web site. It is not the same thing as changing the rules because you don't like them. You can't suddenly declare that defenses will henceforth receive minus-3 points for allowing 21-27 points on a whim in midseason. But sometimes there are shades of gray that do need a little further clarification. Say that your league rules clearly state that quarterbacks will get four points for each touchdown pass they throw. However, they say nothing about what happens when a running back like Ronnie Brown throws a touchdown pass.

Some leagues may take the position that a quarterback and only a quarterback gets passing stats, and Brown's toss, much like a pitcher's hitting stats in fantasy baseball, should be ignored. And if that's how you want to play, that's perfectly fine. However, in that scoring system, expect the owner who lost due to the misfortune of squaring off against Brown to further argue that ALL of the direct snaps Brown took made Ronnie the de facto Dolphins quarterback for those plays. Since Brown was in the starting lineup as a running back, then none of the stats accrued as a quarterback as a result of a direct snap should count.

One way or another, you're going to have to clarify your rules to include this new offensive tactic in Miami, because odds are, we'll see it again down the line. Might I suggest that if you don't want to watch every snap of every Miami game and be prepared to subtract the rushing yards that Ronnie Brown compiles as a result of a direct snap, you simply alter your hard-line stance and let this, and any other touchdown pass thrown by a non-quarterback, count.

AJ Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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