Update: Baseball players can’t sue over fantasy baseball statistics

by Ted Frank on October 23, 2007

As a Judge Morris Arnold opinion holds (h/t Slim) baseball players can’t prohibit fantasy baseball players from playing games based on their statistics. Earlier: May 2006; April 2005.

Not only does this post allow me to celebrate one of my favorite judges, but I can also use this platform to note that Kenny Lofton was out: not because he didn’t beat Manny Ramirez’s throw into second base (he did), but because he bounced off the bag afterwards while still being tagged.

{ 2 trackbacks }

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{ 7 comments }

1 Orac 10.23.07 at 12:45 pm

Gotta beg to differ re: Kenny. He beat the tag and held on to the bag all the way.

He was robbed.

2 Ted 10.23.07 at 12:50 pm

The replay definitely showed air between Lofton and the bag.

3 Jim Nelson 10.23.07 at 5:10 pm

The court just did baseball a huge favor. Fantasy baseball, made possible by the easy and cheap availability of stats, has been a godsend to MLB.

Lawyers know a lot about the law, but a lot of them really don’t seem to be good for much else. Even when your case is legally sound, suing your most loyal customers for evangelizing your product is a breathtakingly stupid business model.

4 Tom Aswell 10.23.07 at 5:52 pm

I thought I was the only one who saw Loftom come up off the bag; the announcers surely didn’t see it or if they did, they chose to ignore it. At least with the ALCS, we weren’t subjected to those annoying Frank TV promos that TBS shoved down our throats in lethal overdosages. So much for moderation.

5 Deoxy 10.23.07 at 6:10 pm

“Even when your case is legally sound, suing your most loyal customers for evangelizing your product is a breathtakingly stupid business model.”

But the fantasy baseball players aren’t the LAWYERS’ “most loyal customerees” (or indeed, their customers at all).

For a trial lawyer, NOT SUING is a “breathtakingly stupid business model”, as suing is their business. The problem we discuss here is how to change to the system so that is no longer the case.

6 gitarcarver 10.24.07 at 10:53 am

Much as lawyers will stick up for the “rule of law” when the average layperson doesn’t understand, I feel I must defend the Lofton call for my fellow brothers in blue.

In the play in question, the throw was on target. The ball beat Lofton to the bag (not to the tag – the bag.) Lofton’s slide was “ordinary” ie there was no great wrap around slide, pull slide, or anything like that. His slide was plain and common.

With these conditions, at upper levels of baseball (high school, college and professional) the correct call is that the runner is out.

It doesn’t matter whether Lofton came off the bag or that he may have beaten the tag. The professional call is good throw, ball beat runner, normal slide – “out!”

The call that was made is the call that any pro umpire will make any day and twice on Sundays.

7 Jim Nelson 10.24.07 at 8:22 pm

“But the fantasy baseball players aren’t the LAWYERS’ “most loyal customerees” (or indeed, their customers at all).”

“For a trial lawyer, NOT SUING is a “breathtakingly stupid business model”, as suing is their business. The problem we discuss here is how to change to the system so that is no longer the case.”

Well, that’s true, but the lawyers are representing the clients (in this case, MLB), and at least in theory, the client has the final say over whether to sue.

The lawyers are of course doing what trial lawyers do, which was part of my original point (“Lawyers know a lot about the law, but a lot of them really don’t seem to be good for much else.”), although perhaps I was somewhat clumsy in making that point.

The breathtaking stupidity to which I was referring was the stupidity of MLB in allowing the lawyers to dictate policy instead of looking at the big picture. Even if the law had been on MLB’s side, their interests would be better served by tolerating the uncompensated use of player stats in order to keep the “goose” (i.e., the fantasy sports industry) laying “golden eggs” (i.e., generating interest in the sport generally, and in particular, fueling demand for paid access to broadcasts of out of market games).

A lawyer doesn’t consider this. A lawyer says: “We have a case, let’s sue!” The Commissioner of Baseball should respond by saying: “Wait a minute, we may have a case, but what will this lawsuit do to our business?” He apparently didn’t, or at the very least, he looked at the potential revenue he could extract from stats vendors without taking into account the potential downside. That’s breathtakingly stupid.

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