05 October 2015

Judging a Fair Trade

What is a “fair” trade? How does my league assure that all trades are fair?

These are common questions that are facing the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in the light of the seemingly uncontrollable 'farming' system that San Miguel Corporation teams are doing to Barako Energy Drink. It's not even certain anymore if Barako is in the PBA to win or to cater to the needs of San Miguel Bermen, Barangay Ginebra and Purefoods Star.

First, let me say this: the league should make sure that they have a detailed constitution in place with strict rules to cover trading. If the PBA has a more general version, they they better hire experts and consultants to draft one for them. This is the only starting point.

I would urge that a minimum in the league is the power of trade veto rule that will assure teams do not collude and stack their rosters. Let’s assume that there is no collusion present, the question remains when is a trade “fair”? And what can the PBA do about an unfair trade.

I would suggest that the PBA Commissioner to make such decisions, and perhaps a 3–person committee to handle disputes or make decisions on trades where the commissioner is involved. Unfortunately in a lot of leagues the commissioner is not only generally the most knowledgeable owner, but also often the main offender of what many would consider “unfair” trades. It is common in several basketball leagues like the PBA, and the only advice that basketball experts is that if the commissioner is even a boarder line cheat, then they should the league and find a more honest person to run things.

Ok, lets assume that the PBA has a fair commissioner in the mold of Chito Narvasa and rules that preclude trades that are deemed “unfair” or not in the best interests of the league. What criteria should be used to pass judgment? My general rule of thumb is this “Can this trade possibly help both teams in some way?” If the answer is NO then the trade gets the old VETO. If it’s a questionable trade then the owner that is getting the better end of the deal may have a real hard time convincing anyone that he is in some way helping the other team.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a number of trades that may look pretty lopsided on their face but are actually beneficial to everyone. Maybe a team is building for next year; in keeper leagues with returning owners I fell this should be allowed. Or maybe a team is playing small ball or pondering on using twin tower combination. Hey if both teams can make a case how this helps them then it should be allowed.

The real problems start when someone tries to trade Joe Devance for Mac Baracael, after the former was acquired by Barako Bull from Purefoods Star, and says “I’m getting a veteran stretch four for a potent three-point shooter who has a lot of potential.” That crap simply does not fly. I would say SHOW ME the statistics; show me under what scenario this could possibly help your team. If they come back with, “well I project Devance to go 18-8 and Baracael to go 6-4 .” Tell them to pass the crack pipe. I want to see PROOF that this type of obviously lopsided trade can actually help both teams involved. I have found that this method generally works.

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