Congratulations if you’re fortunate enough to be playing in your league finals and best of luck to you. In less than a week the 2013 season will be over and you may be crowned League Champion. Will anyone even notice?
For most owners, the 2013 season started in January with preparations, mock drafts and finding a league. For others it began in 2012 or earlier with keeper selections, minor league rosters and draft pick trading. All of this effort culminates in these final days of the season. If you’ve been here before, you know what to expect. If you haven’t, you’re likely excited that in some vast treasury of fantasy sports legends, your flag will indeed fly forever. Generally I’m a pretty happy, positive guy, but I want you to prepare for the worst in the final week.
The first thing you should have noticed is that your opponent has Tanner Roark, Esmil Rogers and Josh Fields up against you. You’ve countered with Kole Calhoun, Danny Valencia and Charlie Blackmon. Six months of hard work and this is what it has come down to; both owners counting on players you hadn’t heard of when the season began. Hanley Ramirez is on your bench, Stephen Strasburg is on the waiver wire and you can’t decide whether to start Matt Kemp or Moises Sierra. Is this the stuff that legends are made of?
You can accept this. You’ve adapted to your situation and you’ve succeeded. Well done. Maybe some of your league mates will notice your savvy moves down the stretch. In case you’re wondering where they are though, they’ve checked out and gone to
greener more rectangular pastures. I know, your league is different. Everyone is still there, but have they checked out in spirit? Here’s a chart I drew up with transaction activity from 3 of my dynasty and keeper leagues:
Now these are seriously competitive leagues, and in the top two cases, each team is still playing head to head matchups to determine their draft order next year. In keeper and dynasty leagues, draft order (when non-snake) is huge! These owners care! There’s just a natural regression of activity as the season winds down. Most great moves to be made have already happened.
By the end of the week, I truly hope 3 or 4 owners are left to congratulate you. If you’re in a keeper/dynasty league, the joy of winning ends quickly as you inherit the last pick in next year’s draft. Aside froma handful of silly trade offers, your league mates will disappear for the off-season. You’ll be back in 2014 with a poor draft position and nothing to show for your 2013 success. Congratulations indeed!!
Now anyone can point out problems, but what is the solution?
In my leagues, I’ve held firm to the belief that each team needs to participate in the playoffs in one way or another. There is nothing worse than being sent home packing with 4 weeks remaining to be played. The best solution I’ve come up with at this point is playing for draft position. As illustrated in the chart, this isn’t enough, yet it does have an impact when compared to the league that doesn’t use this incentive. (Incidentally, that rule will change in 2014 for the other league as well)
I can only imagine how much worse this problem is in roto leagues. In most cases there isn’t more than 2 or 3 teams left fighting for anything in the final 6 weeks. The last 2 weeks are sometimes meaningless as one team has too large of a lead to be caught. Fighting for 6th place instead of 7th isn’t a fight most owners want to participate in so they’re gone.
So what else is there?
It is time to think outside of the box. I am in 3 finals at the time of this writing. I can honestly say that I’m bored. The thrill of the playoff chase is over. For me the trading deadline in August is when my excitement wanes. The owners of the two remaining teams in my leagues (myself included) are too polite to offer anything more than a cursory “good luck”. The message boards have gone silent, as owners are trying to replace Dujuan Harris. (I had to google “NFL key injuries 2013” to come up with a name, so forgive me if he is not fantasy-relevant)
Here are a few thoughts, even if some are a little crazy:
Forget the trade deadline. Leave it open right until the playoffs end. There are obvious pitfalls to this in seasonal formats, but in serious dynasty leagues it could keep the ball rolling right until the season ends. Allow draft pick trading.
Shorten the length of the playoffs. Let 6 teams get in the playoffs, with the top 2 getting a one week bye. 4 teams fight it out in a one-week wildcard match-up with the top scoring team advancing to the finals. Then you have a 3 team, winner take all final. Whether the scoring system is based on scoring points or categories, this format change could breathe life into your play-offs.
Have draft order determined by reverse finish prior to the playoffs and then have non-playoff teams play for supplemental draft picks. Winner could receive a first round supplementary pick. Second place gets a second round supplementary pick, etc. This would also help competitive balance.
A one week playoff involving every team is another way to keep owners involved. Each team would be handicapped going into the finals. If your average scoring week is 400, the first place team would start with an 80 point head start. The second team could get 60, etc.
These are all out of box, potentially ridiculous ideas. Fantasy baseball is the greatest of all of the sports, but that doesn’t mean change can’t make it better. This week, when you should be celebrating the hardest, is actually the loneliest time of the season.
But like the tree that falls in the forest, with no one there to notice, you’re left to enjoy the championship in silence.