Today’s Daily Fantasy Sports Controversy

I first learned about it from industry friends, who pointed to a story in today’s New York Times.  The story originally broke in a discussion forum at Rotogrinders.com.

It seems a Draft Kings employee who writes about ownership percentages (how many Draft Kings players rostered particular NFL players in any given week) at Draft Kings finished second in a Week 3 contest at FanDuel and took home $350,000.

This same DK employee had accidentally published the ownership percentages before the DK games had locked that same week, demonstrating that some individuals have access. This wasn’t known before.

Big fantasy tournaments have thousands of entries, and there is a competitive advantage in avoiding commonly-rostered players. So the first question is whether the employee was using his Draft Kings information at FanDuel?

The second question is who actually has access to his information and, while they’re not allowed to play on the sites they work for, do they use it to play on other sites?

The answers are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, murky. Daily fantasy sports is an unregulated (so far) business. And while that seems likely to change, for now players are reliant on their trust of the game makers themselves.

The website legalsportsreport.com has an excellent What we know now about the situation, which attempts to answer all the questions raised here.

It’s hard for me to believe that these games are intentionally crooked. There seems to be too much money to be made for them to cut corners, but it is also true that if there is a way to get an advantage somehow someone is going to figure it out and take it. Which is why the legal gambling industry works hard to maintain a squeaky clean reputation. Trust is important.

Trust is unraveling in DFS, today, and the operators are going to have to work to earn it back.

LINK: The State of the Fantasy Baseball Nation

Nick Minnix does a fantastic job surveying the fantasy baseball business at Hardball Times, looking for the games’ next big thing. He covers a lot of ground, with insightful reporting and a light touch with the analysis. Highly recommended for fantasy players.

MLBPA Is Threatened By A-Rod Case

Ken Rosenthal has an excellent piece out today at Fox Sports.

He alludes to something I have long thought had gotten lost in the long history of baseball and PEDs: The union’s opposition to drug testing back in the 90s. The story is usually told that the union looked the other way, or resisted baseball’s efforts (especially in the early part of the decade) to get or stay clean. But this  simply isn’t true.

Peter_Ueberroth
Peter Ueberroth

The union’s resistance to drug testing and other enforcement procedures was based on its obligation to protect player rights, as well as a profound lack of trust in the owners. Remember that this period coincides with the massive triple-damages award in the collusion ruling against MLB and Peter Ueberroth (based on their 1985-1987 efforts stifle the free agent market).

This was also the time of the run up to the owner’s massive (and failed) attempt to crack the union by shutting down baseball in midseason in 1994.

Oh, and this was also when George Steinbrenner accepted a “lifetime” ban from the game because he had hired a whole lot of shadiness to try to extract himself from his obligations to Dave Winfield by tarnishing Winfield’s reputation.

The union’s position that ownership could not be trusted was well earned.

In the A-Rod case, as Rosenthal points out, MLB sued Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch in order to pressure him to testify against A-Rod. Whether they could have won that case is doubtful, but there is no doubt that Bosch was in no position to pay for a defense. This is the place where the player’s union could have stepped in to protect not only A-Rod but all players’ rights, but declined. Rosenthal writes:

“Rodriguez’s legal team could have made its case without attacking Weiner, who died of brain cancer on Nov. 21. But one of the team’s central points – that the union should have acted to stop baseball from its “sham” lawsuit against Biogenesis – is a fair criticism, particularly in hindsight.”

But Rosenthal also points out the bind that the union was in. On first blush, a countersuit would certainly have looked like they were defending drug use, just as history says they were defending it back in the 90s when they were trying to protect against just such a situation with MLB running over player rights.

The silver lining for A-Rod (and could the union have had the foresight to defend him by going at it this way?) is that perhaps his only chance of winning his lawsuit against MLB is to show that his union failed to represent him competently.

Alex Rodriguez and the invisible depths of steroid abuse.

By William Saletan – Slate Magazine

I’m a regular reader of Slate, which features smart often contrarian writing about politics, culture and lifestyle. One regular column is called Human Nature, by William Saletan, a writer who specializes in parsing semantics and finding new or clearer meaning. Human Nature is about science, which allows him range broadly over a variety of topics.

I used to be a fan of his, but I stopped reading him after he wrote an explosive series about race and intelligence, quoting eugenics theorists who say there is racial difference without revealing that they often had ties to racialist groups. Saletan was trying to get at the truth about evolution, race, intelligence, and discuss how we should deal with legal, social and moral issues that come with knowing that there are racial differences in intelligence. That’s perhaps a brave and worthy topic, if you’re being speculative, but Saletan wrote it up as if the issue had been settled scientifically. It certainly has not been, and to assert that it is was a horrible blunder that destroyed the trust I had him as a writer.

Today he writes a piece, a horribly naive series of questions about ARod and baseball’s steroids testing, that purportedly points out that PED use is inevitably broader than the number of people caught (doh!), but also uses a broad brush to make all sorts of implications that just a little work would have taught him were false. 

The 2003 secret tests weren’t secret. They were part of a deal between MLB and the union. Everyone knew about them, and I’m pretty sure we can say there were no other agreed upon testing programs before 2003. To suggest that there were is just dumb.

If there were no other tests then the government didn’t seize any other results and the Union didn’t suppress them. If those things didn’t happen, and again, there is a nearly zero chance they did, to assert that they might have is just bogus and exploitative.

Saletan does talk about the allegations that Gene Orza, of the player’s union, warned A-Rod and others of the impending 2004 tests, as the basis for the union perhaps warning other players about other tests. Could have happened, I’ll give him that one. 

But a time line in the NY Times today shows that the 2004 testing didn’t begin until July of 2004, and the 104 players who tested positive in 2003 weren’t tested until they had been informed they’d tested positive–in September! With just a few weeks of testing to go between being told of their 2003 positive tests and the end of the season, those players were in effect told when the tests would happen, without actually being told. It becomes unclear how explosive the charge against Orza could be in this instance, but we’ll have to see what develops.

The reason the 2004 testing started late was because the union and the owners disagreed about technical issues involving the tests and the definition of a positive test, according to the Times. No one knows why it took the union months to inform the players who tested positive in 2003 about that after federal investigators seized the urine samples in April 2004. And no one knows why the union didn’t destroy the samples, as it was legally allowed to do, once the results had been certified in November 2003, which would have ensured the player’s anonymity, which had been a crucial component of the 2003 testing.

(I have a question. I assume that no one knew which players tested positive until the federal investigators seized the samples, at which point it became necessary to find out who they were in order to inform them that the government had their names and their positive tests. But I don’t know that. I’ve never seen the point addressed directly. Or maybe I should go back and reread the Mitchell report. But unless that was the case then the results weren’t really anonymous anyway.)

But I’m getting off track here. The point is that Saletan ignores the facts and just makes stuff up, and while that doesn’t invalidate his overall point (that more players used than tested positive in 2003) and while he points out that what he’s suggesting isn’t necessarily true, it is really bad form that most of his questions almost certainly aren’t true. That’s just shoddy.

Life After Barry Is a Strikeout At the Ballpark

WSJ.comThe economic impact of Barry Bonds turns out to be a survey of the craziness of fandom.  

Tejada acknowledges age discrepancy

The Official Site of Major League Baseball

Will investigators deciding whether Tejada committed perjury about steroids before Congress use this little lie to sharpen their swords?  More interestingly, add the two years and his breakout year comes at age 26 rather than 24, and his career suddenly has a much more conventional arc.  Tejada has some explaining to do.

Further review on Tejada

baltimoresun.com

Yesterday Miguel Tejada’s brother died in a traffic accident in the D.R., which turned a bad day for Tejada into a nightmare. A potential investigation into his alleged perjury before Congress was announced early in the day at the Congressional hearings. Last time, Tejada testified that he’d never taken steroids, while the Mitchell report includes cancelled checks made out to Adam Piatt, who said he sold Tejada drugs in 2003.

An item of interest in all this is that Rafael Palmeiro said he tested positive shortly after also testifying in front of Congress that he’s never used steroids because, perhaps, he’d used a contaminated needle when being injected with Vitamin B12 by Tejada. Since this is the same defense Roger Clemens is using, there is some question how pervasive the practice of players shooting up other players with B12 is?

The more common the practice the more likely Clemens’ big defense will hold up, absent documentary proof.

No Discipline

Baseball Musings:

I may have written about David Pinto’s story earlier, but I know that spent much of tonight arguing the same thing. Discipline in this case is futile, for the most part, and counterproductive. The right thing would have been to embrace the information anyone would have given without threat of punishment, the better to judge what happened.

We still want to know what happened, because so many players who feared punishment didn’t talk to Mitchell.

That was a mistake.

Barry Bonds – A guide to help you cut through the noise

The Hardball Times

I’m a little skeptical about these grand jury cases where the prosecution offers someone immunity from prosecution in return for testimony, then asks questions for which the honest answers would be personally damaging, then prosecutes for perjury.  As you can imagine, I’m thinking Barry Bonds, Scooter Libby, Martha Stewart, Bill Clinton.

It isn’t that perjury isn’t a crime, but that somehow the immunity grant seems to be a special sort of torture for public figures whose reputations will be damaged by truthful testimony. The right answer, obviously, is for them to testify truthfully, but I certainly understand their decisions to try and save their asses by lying.

Keith Scherer’s informative walk through the issues in the Barry Bonds case at Hardball Times doesn’t get into that, but instead walks us through the hard issues of what happens when federal prosecuters decide to indict someone. The answers can’t be comforting to the Bonds defense team, which no doubt knows all this.

If there is real evidence I don’t know why Bonds isn’t copping a plea, and I suppose there is still time for that. But it looks like if he defends himself this thing is going to be going on for a long time. (thanks baseballmusings.com)