DraftHelp.com HOW TO Series

The following articles are meant to aid you in starting and running a fun and fair Fantasy Sports League.

HowTo Start a League

HowTo Create a Constitution

HowTo Build a Scoring System

HowTo Judge a Fair Trade

HowTo Run an On-Line Draft

HowTo Add Value to Your Draft


HOW TO: Create a Constitution
by Pat Luft

I guarantee that if you are the commissioner you will here the response "I thought the rules said ...", when in fact they aren't even close.  So, let's cover as many of the issues as possible.  This may seem tedious but it will become very important when towards the end of the season.

I am going to describe as many of the sections as possible and give you some ideas of what you can put in each section.  Both types of leagues will be used in the examples, the Rotisserie (Roto, based on placement in each scoring category) and Fantasy League (based on a point scoring system). 

Roto Constitution information is loosely taken from John Benson's book The OFFICIAL Rule Book and Draft Day GuideRed highlighted text will define a normal Roto League rule or clarificationGreen will signify a Fantasy League value.

I. OBJECT: This will describe to the prospective owners the league and league rules.  Make sure there is information listing then how many players will make up the teams, number of teams and which players will be available for the Auction/Draft (AL, NL, or Both).

II. TEAMS and ROSTERS: This section will define how may teams the league will be made up of and how many players each team will contain.  Rosters should also define if all players picked are on the active roster.  Will there be a reserve list and how do you get put on it (ie, injuries).  Do you have a Minor League Player Draft as well.

III. FEES:  They come in 2 formats: the Entry Fee and the Transaction Fees.  Everyone wants to know this.  You can use what ever figure you want and this will usually head us into the next section about Prizes, where most of the money ends up.  Head-to-Head: this is usually what ever you think the other owners will pay.  There are many variations and you charge anywhere from $10 to $100 pretty easily.   Roto: Either $260 in AL leagues or $280 in NL leagues, although if that seems too high for your league, it is very normal to scale this down.  Some leagues use $26 and $28, so they will not have to try to calculate player dollar amounts for each player (explained later).

There can be many Transaction Fees and you need to get them all defined.  Here are the most common without explanations which will be covered in later topics:

1. Entry Fee:  Self-explanatory

2. Transaction Fee:  Is can be any amount from $.50 to $1.00 to $10.00.  It will be the amount charged when ever a player is traded, activated, and may include the signing of free agents.

3. Call-Up From Free-Agent Pool: This value can either be the same as the Transaction Fee or can be split out on it's own as in Roto a $25 fee is charged.

4. Reserve/Activation: These can be separate fees or part of the Transaction fee.  Roto = $10 each

5. Farm System:  This is usually the same value as a Call-Up price. Roto = $10

6. Waivers: If not broken out this will generally be the same as the Call-Up price. Roto = $10

7. Roster Expansion: This varies if you implement the rule.  Roto = $50

IV. PRIZES:  How much of the entry fee will be disbursed.  Define when all the money is due (draft day, week 3, etc).  Don't let this drag out too long as some owners may decide they team is so bad it would be easier to not pay you and never show up again as to paying for a bad team.  You may also want to impose some fines for teams not paying on time (not allowing that team to pickup free-agents until paid, etc).  You may want to give all the out as prizes or you may want to retain some of the money for league expenses (such as trophies, payment of stat services, etc.)  Roto breaks their league down like this:  1st place 50%.  2nd place 20%.  3rd place 15%.  4th place 10% and 5ht place 5%.

V. DRAFT PROCESS: Explain which format you will be using for your draft. Head-to-Head: this is usually done by a draft because it is quicker, although I prefer an auction.  Here are some considerations for a draft league:

1.  Who draft first?  It could be done randomly selected from a hat or based on last years standings?

2.  What order will the draft follow? It could be same order for every round (1-20 for the 1st round then 1-20 for the 2nd round) or it could be serpentine (1-20 for the 1st round then 20-1 for 2nd and 1-20 for the third, etc.)

Roto: is primarily done through the auction process and have a lot more restrictions.  Here are some of the considerations:

1.  Who gets to throw out the first player for bidding?  Does last years winner or loser do it or is purely random.  It really doesn't matter.

2.  How will the progression of the rounds go?  Does the player winning the last player have to throw out the next player for bidding or does it just circle around the room?

3.  Usually during the draft the once a player has been picked he must be declared a position, he may be switched during the draft but he should be declared, and this should be included. 

4.  No team may bid on a player he cannot afford. 

5.  Usually players who start the season on the DL are not eligible for selection. 

VI. POSITION ELIGIBILITY:  Players should be assigned a position going into the draft so everyone knows where a player is eligible to play.  Typically this is done by using the total number of games played from the previous year.  Roto uses 20 games at a position the previous year before he can qualify for that position.  Once the season starts they must play at least 1 game at any position to be re-qualified.   I have tried this and the 1 game rule is a little too easy.  For example in 1998, Colorado used Larry Walker at 2B and Vinny Castilla at SS during a late extra inning game.  This made a few owners very happy and a few a little upset.  I would suggest using a 5 game in season rule if you want to allow players to switch.  Also it is not uncommon to not have an in-season position adjustment. 

VII. STANDINGS AND SCORING:  You will need to determine your scoring system and how to determine the winner.  The scoring will be determined by either a weekly performance or accumulated season totals as well as using Fantasy Point Totals or ranking based on performance.

Fantasy Points:  The scoring is based on a combination of different statistics with a point value assigned to that category.  Usually Fantasy Points is used with a Head-to-head weekly game, but can be played by accumulating all the Fantasy Points for the season and the winner is the team with the most points.   In either case you will need to assign a value for each category used, check out our HOW TO: Build a Fantasy Points Scoring System for alternatives.

Teams are ranked from first to last in each of the categories used for scoring and points will be assigned based on those positions.  The team score will consist of the total of all category points.  The team with the most points wins.  For example, in a 12-team league, each team is ranked in batting average with the highest average getting 12 points and the lowest average getting 1.   This will occur in each scoring category.  Listed below are the standard scoring categories for a 4x4 (4 hitting and 4 pitching categories) and a 5x5 (5 hitting and 5 pitching categories) Roto league:

4x4 Hitting Categories

5x5 Hitting Categories

Team Batting Average Team Batting Average
Total Home Runs Total Home Runs
Total Runs Batted In (RBI) Total Runs Batted In (RBI)
Total Stolen Bases Total Stolen Bases
Total Runs Scored

4x4 Pitching Categories

5x5 Pitching Categories

Team Earned Run Average Team Earned Run Average
Total Wins Total Wins
Total Saves Total Saves
Team Ratio (Walks + Hits) divided by IP  Team Ratio (Walks + Hits) divided by IP
Team Strikeouts

Requirement for categories.  Typically when you are using a total for your stats it is a good idea to put requirements on the league such as 4250 at bats to qualify for hitting category or 900 innings pitched to qualify for pitching categories.  This will eliminate an owner from drafting the all the top players in hitting or pitching and abandoning the other categories, which usually doesn't work but it has been tried and hence rules have been formed.

Tie Breakers.  It is also a good idea to put a tie breaker system in to affect in case you have a tie in either type of system.  For weekly scoring you may have a weekly tie-breaker as home team or most hitting points, etc.  For the cumulative scoring most Roto leagues will add up the total at bats plus three times the number of innings pitched and the team with the highest total wins.

VIII. PLAYER SALARIES:  The salary of a player is determined by the time and means of his acquisition and does not change unless the player becomes a free agent or is signed to a contract.

A player's salary is initally set to his auction price.  The salary of players picked up as free agents during a season, claimed off of waivers or activated from a farm system shall all be $10 or a prorated value of that.  Players called up as a Roster Expansion from the free agent pool to supplement the current roster is $25 or a prorated value of that.

IX. STATS:  There are really two methods for scoring your league.  You keep the stats yourself (yeah right) or you have someone else do it for you.

If you do want to keep stats yourself, then the USA Today Baseball weekly publishes weekly stats through the previous Sunday, you can enter the daily games, or you can download the fantasy stats from Yahoo.com who creates a comma delaminated file for downloading pretty much every day.  Any way you will have to enter the data into a spreadsheet and create calculations to arrive at your scores.  This has been done, actually by most of us up until the the past couple of years.

You could also select a stat service.  There are many out there, in fact DraftHelp.com offers On-Line League manager services from the DraftHelp store.  The old days of Free services are pretty much gone but if you you are playing a standard Roto league, Yahoo does still offer a free service.

X. SIGNING FREE AGENTS:  The following players are considered in the Free Agent pool and may be picked up at any time:

* Active major league players not on any other team roster.
* Any minor league player promoted to the major league roster.
* Waived players who have not been claims (see rule XI)
* Players traded into the league, if playing AL or NL only leagues.

This may changed you may want to put a deadline on when Free Agents can be acquired.   This may include the start of the playoffs in a weekly points league or the All-Start break a cumulative league.

Twists.  You may want to limit the number of transactions free agent transactions, this can be be done in a couple of different ways.  First, you can just set a limit to the number.  Second, you can have a Free Agent Acquisition Bugdet (FAAB) for requesting players. 

The FAAB is a supplementary budget of $100 (for Roto purposes) used in the acquiring of free agents.  A bidding process should be used during the acquisition of players when using the FAAB.  This will insure the player being requested goes to the highest bidder.  In the case of a tie the team lowest in the standings from the previous week will be awarded the player.  Minimum bid should be around $5 of the original $100.   If a player is purchased with a value over $10 that player could be awarded a guaranteed contract.

For every player picked up a player must be waived or moved to a reserve list.

XI. WAIVERS:  Most Roto leagues use a waiver process as well as a released status.   The waiver status is given when a player is dropped from the current roster, either active or reserved.  The waiver status is given for a full week and the player who is lowest in the standings and has requested to pick up the player shall be awarded the player.  If he isn't claimed he will be tossed back into the Free Agent Pool.

Waiver claims usually take precedence over a normal transaction, ie. add a new player, reserving an injured player.  There is usually a limit to the number of free agents a team can sign in a given week, but the rule does not usually apply for waiver claims.

XII. TRADES:  Trades can take on may rules and sometimes can be over done.  Roto is pretty cut an dry, with an open trading period between draft day and August 31st.  The only restriction during this period is that the trade must include enough players to reflect the required position distribution (i.e. If you trade an OF for a Pitcher, the other team must throw in an outfielder and you must throw in a Pitcher, to keep the trade in balance.)  There are not trades between Sept 1st and the end of the season.  If you allow off-season trading player distribution is not taken into account and you may trade your OF for a pitcher without throwing in the extra.

For Fantasy you can as Roto does by setting a hard Trade Deadline, say July 31st, since most of Sept is used for playoff games. The trade deadline should be set a 2-4 weeks prior to the end of the regular season to hopefully keep some of the dumping to a minimum.

A different twist is once the trade deadline has hit open trading must stop, but restricted trading may begin.  Restricted Trading is where you can continue to trade up until the start of the playoffs but you are limited to only trading with the teams that are one standing position ahead or behind you from the last official standing sheet.

XII. RESERVE LIST:  The original concept of a reserve list is in Roto.  This list is used to protect players who have been placed on the Disabled List by the MLB team, released from the MLB team, traded to another league (AL or NL only leagues) or sent down to the minors.  There is usually no limit to the number of players placed on this list but transaction fees may be applied just like adding a Free Agent.  The team owning the player who fits one of the criteria for being reserved mentioned above, must act on the player within 2 weeks of the occurrence otherwise that players position is frozen until his return to the team and may not be replaced during that time.

To move the player to the reserve list from the active roster, the team will select any eligible player from the Free Agent Pool of players and a salary based on the transaction fee will be assigned (usually $10).

A player on the reserve list may not be traded unless the player that replaced him is also traded in the deal.  The replacement player can be traded, reserved or released and the player acquired in that action will become the replacement player.

When a player on the reserve list becomes active again, he must be reinstated to the active roster within 2 weeks of the action ore that player is automatically waived.   We reactivating the reserved player the replacement players must be waived or shifted to another open position if he qualifies.

From a Fantasy point of view, I have always treated this a little differently, we draft a reserve bench and if you someone gets hurt you put him on your reserves and use one of your backup players.  This is usually a small list, usually 4-5 players, that are drafted during the original draft.

XIV. ROSTER EXPANSION:  This is another Roto rule where a team can choose to add additional players after Sept 1 from the free agent pool, it's own reserve list or it's Farm System to make a final run for the championship.  A team may add as many players as it would like but the total number of active players may not exceed 40.

The order of selecting expansion players is based on the previous weeks standings with the lowest ranked team getting first selection.  Players are selected in a round by round draft.  The fee for adding an expansion player is $50 per player and that player will have a $25 salary the following year. 

XV. CONTRACTS AND OPTION YEARS:  When a player is acquired in an auction the salary the player has been bought for will remain with that player for next year as well.  On the third year, his option year, that player must either be dropped, resigned for 1 more year at the current price, or signed to a guaranteed long-term contract.  If he is released he will become available for the upcoming draft.  If he is signed to a 1 year contract, the player will be released following that season.  If signed to a guaranteed long-term contract the players new salary will be his current salary plus $5 more for every year on the contract.  In addition to the salary increase, a signing bonus must be paid that is equal to one half the total value of the long-term deal, but not less than $5.

A team may only sign a player to 1 long-term contract during the time he is on the team, and when the contract runs out the player goes back into the free agent pool.

If during a long-term contract the player becomes ineffective, the team must honor the terms of the contract, or outright release the player back to the general free agent pool.   If the player is released, the team owning the player must pay twice the remaining value of the contract or $100, whichever is higher.

XVI. ROSTER PROTECTION:  For the first three seasons of a league, each team must retain no fewer than 7 but no more than 15 of the players roster.  After the 3rd season the minimum requirement can be waived.  The players being retained must be designated prior to the start of the season, since most teams draft after the 1st week in a normal Roto league, this will make sure that for whatever reason the 1st week of the season does not effect the potential keepers.

XVIII. GOVERNANCE:  This should mention who has the rights to veto a trade either the commissioner or a committee voted on by the entire league or the entire league must vote on trades.  It should also grant power to the an individual or to a smaller elected group of the league to govern interpretations of the rules and any League or non-League business.  This should also mention any mandatory meetings the league wants to set up, if any.