Being the commissioner of a fantasy baseball league is not an easy task. The hours are long. You often manage a bunch of crybabies. And, the pay: it sucks.
Hopefully, you’ll have the rules laid out so that there aren’t any disputes during the season that you have to rule on, but there’s always one guy looking for a loophole in the rules to take advantage of. Of course, it is a game of points so why shouldn’t managers look for ways to maximize their points. It’s up to you to create a set of rules that attempts to cover every possible situation that arises. Not easy.
Here are some of the decisions a commissioner needs to make when starting a league.
PLAY FOR MONEY OR NOT?
I always believe its a good idea to have a cash prize. Sure, winning the league trophy and the bragging rights is important, but there’s nothing that motivates fantasy baseball managers through a long season than a cash prize.
The cash prize should not just be for first place. Give cash prizes to the entire first half of the league. If a manger falls behind early, then they have an incentive to stay involved and attempt to move up to fifth place in a ten team league.
How much money is the question. The amount of money invested per player is going to depend on how wealthy your friends in the league are. It should be enough to keep them interested, but no such much that they start hating you if you make a decision as commissioner that costs them more than just a night out with their wife or girlfriend. Consider about $100 – $300 per manager.
LEAGUE SIZE AND DEPTH
It isn’t often that you can get a group of larger than 10 together for a league. It’s great if you have 20 or more in a league, but that’s really a lot of work and tough to pull together.
Get the cash up front or you will see teams disappear in the week before the draft. That plays havoc with commissioners and many leagues are abandoned at the last minute for just this reason.
It’s always been my opinion that a league that is deep is more fun than one where the teams are made up of all all stars. Everybody knows about Derek Jeter and A-Rod. A true test is to find out who knows about Dustin Moseley and Francisco Cervelli. (A deep league is one that has almost as many fantasy teams as real life teams so that teams need to be stocked with both starters and reserves from the MLB.)
To truly get a deep league together, you will often have to decide on making it National League-only or American League-only.
In the early years of fantasy baseball, the original 4 x 4 league was invented as the norm. Keeping track of 8 statistical categories was about all that a league commissioner could handle if he didn’t have a job at IBM.
Today, however, with the proliferation of internet stat services, you can do a nearly unlimited amount of statistical categories. Some services will even keep track of balks for you!
Adding a category like HOLDS will make your league more lifelike to the real game of baseball. As set up men are usually neglected in fantasy baseball, such a statistical category seems to make sense. As for balks or sacrifice bunts, I’ll leave that to you to decide.
While having oddball statistical categories can be fun, less is usually more.
HEAD TO HEAD LEAGUES OR POINT LEAGUES
There is certainly something to be said for both head to head and point leagues so this is a personal decision. One of the advantages to head to head leagues is that it seems to keep players motivated in that they want to beat their buddies, even if it means playing spoiler late in the season. It also better mirrors true baseball, but it does go against the grain of traditional fantasy baseball leagues.
With head to head leagues, upsets can occur each week, just like in the real game. The better managers and better teams don’t always win each week as weaker teams can get hot. Over the course of the long season, however, the better teams and managers will prevail in a points league.
DAILY or WEEKLY LINEUP CHANGES
Some leagues allow for daily lineup changes. This is almost too much work for busy guys. It means you are shuffling players in and out every day and taking advantage of off days, potential rainouts, and particular matchups for that night.
No matter how much of a fantasy baseball geek you are, this is almost too much over a 6 month season. You don’t want to be responsible for a divorce.
Weekly change leagues make more sense, but bring up the potential issue of starting pitcher streaming (where a manager uses 2 start pitchers for that week on his starting lineup). Quite frankly, I believe 2 start pitcher streaming is an interesting addition to a fantasy baseball leagues so I’d recommend allowing for weekly lineup changes.
KEEPER LEAGUES OR NOT
If you have a group of friends who are reliable and at least half of them will return for next season, a keeper league might make sense for you. Most leagues allow for up to 15 keepers from year to year; some allow as few as 3 per year.
You are always going to have churn in managers each year. Allowing fewer keepers from one year to the next will encourage new blood into your league so keeping keepers to a minimum from year to year seems to make the most sense.
THE DRAFT — Auction or Snake Draft
This is another decision based on the dedication and experience level of your players. An auction draft is more complicated and will require more preparation for your managers, but ultimately its more fun and adds a new element to the draft process. To do an auction draft, however, you almost have to be in the same room with all of the other managers as doing it online or by phone would be a long and arduous process.
An auction draft is not for every league, but if you can pull it off, it’s clearly more fun.
WHEN CONTROVERSY ARRIVES
It is inevitable that you will have some controversy over the rules. You can’t think of everything. While it’s ideal to have a commissioner that does not own a team in the league, this is unrealistic and rarely is there a knowledgeable person willing to be involved without having a team in the league.
Putting things up to a vote is only going to make things worse. When controversy arrives, seek everybody’s opinion, then rely on a group of 3 of the most experienced and fair managers to be your advisory board, then make your decision. Not everybody is going to like it, but ultimately the commissioner needs to decide.