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Commissioner’s Corner: Spring Cleaning

Commissioners CornerFantasy Football is officially over so it’s fantasy baseball time. Owners will begin compiling their rankings, planning draft strategies and gleaning over the winter transactions. Those in keeper leagues will start mulling over their options for 2015 and narrowing down their potential keepers. Dynasty league owners will be working on keepers as well as attempting to pull off some early trades to solidify their rosters.

That’s all well and good for fantasy owners, but as the commissioner you have additional work to do. One of those duties is keeping your league competitive. There are a number of ways to do this, but today I am going to focus on one particular issue and that is your fellow owners.

Everyone believes their league is good and doesn’t have any problems, but if you are an active commissioner and monitor things closely you’ll see that isn’t the case. If left unchecked these issues can trickle down to the good owners and before you know it, you’re left with a league that is only half as active as it could be. A number of leagues collapse because of this as the good and active owners leave for a more competitive environment and all you’re left with is a mess that nobody else wants to be a part of.

Owners need to be active. If they are not active then they become just a step above being a dead team – and many of you know what it is like to deal with one of them. These owners and their lack of attention to their team and respect for your league need to be address along with their shortcomings. If they do not improve, they need to be replaced. So what are some of the warning signs you need to look for as a commissioner? Glad you asked, even if I had to ask for you.

The Draft

This one is simple enough, who shows up for the draft? Do you know? I’m sure some of you may know who didn’t show up to the 2014 draft, but were they the same people who didn’t show up the year before and the year before that? Now showing up for the draft isn’t a necessity, but a good owner will make that extra effort to be there. I know things happen that can prevent this sometimes, and maybe it was scheduled at a time you could not be there. There are good reasons so see if the owners who don’t show up have one. If you take the time and effort to schedule things around their schedule and they don’t show up, they just showed you their interest level in the league.

Now if someone doesn’t show up, did they at least make an attempt to pre-rank their players? Like I said, sometimes things come up or you have a scheduling conflict. We get that, real life events sometimes take precedence. But, if you know you’re not going to be there for the draft and you know this ahead of time, at least pre-rank your players so you’re not stuck with the highest ranking player that the rest of the league has skipped over and avoided for some reason. In one of my leagues a few years back an owner ended up with 6 closers, 3 catchers and only 4 starting pitchers. Not a good start when you have a minimum innings pitched count of 40.

If you have not monitored either one of these things in the past, I highly suggest you start this year.

Setting a Lineup

This is one of the most fundamental things an owner has to do, and if your league has weekly lineup moves as opposed to daily, your life is even easier. In daily leagues, you rotate active pitchers in off your bench and substitute in bench players for players that may be off. When a player goes on the DL, you place them on the DL. You don’t leave them in your active lineup for days and sometimes weeks. By doing this you are potentially giving away points to your opponents, points they may not have received had you been on top of things. If you can’t log in daily, most leagues have a way for you to set your lineups days in advance so there really is no excuse for having active pitchers or worthy bench players on your bench during off days.

The same principles hold true in leagues with weekly lineups. You have a set day you need to have your lineup set. You can log on several days in advance and set things up just in case something happens that prevents you from making changes before the deadline.

Most sites have a way for you to monitor when a person logs in and makes changes. Start monitoring this if you are the commissioner (or even an extremely active owner). See how often owners are logging in and making changes. If you see someone not making changes for days on end, make note of it and see if it is an isolated incident or a growing pattern. Look at their roster daily and see what they missed out on by not making changes. If you can’t do the simplest thing like setting your lineup, then why did you sign up?

Waiver Wire Activity

Are the owners active on the waiver wire? Now some owners can get away with making a minimal amount of moves so this isn’t a deal breaker if they don’t make many moves. A quick look here and there at the rosters of the owners not making moves along with the waiver wire will answer any questions you may have. This is especially true with the bottom teams in your league. Are there better players on waivers than on their team? I know there are a number of times in several leagues I have looked on waivers and wondered why hasn’t anyone picked this guy up yet? Then I glance around at several teams and wonder again, why is this guy still on their roster?

It is a rare thing to have a perfect draft. Making moves throughout the season is one of the ways your teams stays competitive. If you look out on waivers and see a player with talent, you should be looking at your team to see if that player is an improvement over what you have. Maybe you have a star at that position and you’re waiting for him to come around. Well, while you’re waiting you could be getting numbers from so and so on waivers at the price of your worst player.

If a team doesn’t make moves and are winning, good for them. If a team isn’t making moves and is wallowing away at the bottom, you have to wonder if they are paying attention and do they really want to get better.

Late Season Activity

Sometime around July the bottom teams begin to check out and move on to fantasy football. Now I know you have little to no chance of making the playoffs or moving up in the standings, but that doesn’t mean you stop playing. When you signed up, you knew full well that the season was six months. Not three months and you’ll assess how your team is doing and take it from there, SIX MONTHS. Yes, I did the whole in capital letters things, but for good reason.

I don’t think some owners realize what they are doing by checking out early. By not paying full attention, they are not always putting their best lineup in. Sometimes they’ll pay attention one week and not the next which is unfair since you’re possibly giving away points some weeks to a team that may not deserve them. This can affect playoff positions, something you could be part of if you paid attention more.

You’re also leaving valuable players on the waiver wire. I recall a roto league I was a part of and from the all-star break on I was like a kid in a candy store with the talent available to me. It was a streamers delight that should not have been allowed to happen. Unfortunately it does when teams check out early. By not playing out the season you’re affecting positions in roto and points leagues or standings in H2H leagues.

See which owners in your league are doing this and address the situation nicely. Many will step things up and change if they like the league and want to continue.

Player Maximums

In points and roto leagues, you usually have a maximum for games played at a position or an innings cap. Look at the teams that finished on the bottom from last year (if you still can). How many of those teams finished well short of the maximum games played or innings cap. If you have a 1,200 or 1,400 innings cap and there is a team on the bottom that is barely over 1,000 and short 200 innings or more, I’m wondering why. This goes hand in hand with waiver wire activity and setting your lineup. Did they leave pitchers on the bench because they didn’t set their lineups? Were there better players on waivers that could have helped them? Coming up a little short here and there is one thing, but missing your max innings by over 200 or having 40+ games left for your outfield or Utility slot is unacceptable.

I know on Yahoo there is a little box on your team page below your roster that tells you if you are over or under. Every site has something like this so there is no excuse. You came up short because you stopped paying attention or caring (which I covered above under late season activity), that is if you ever really cared at all.

General Responsiveness

Have you contacted an owner about an issue in the past and not received a reply? Has this happened multiple times? Whether it’s about a league issue, rule change, trade proposal, etc.., an owner should respond and sorry to tell you, your silence is not a proper response. If you send out an email about a rule chance and they don’t respond, they have no voice when things don’t go their way. If other owners send trade proposals that just sit there without even the courtesy of a rejection, they have no right to complain about other trades or lack of deals with them. If you try to contact them about an issue with their team and they not only ignore your message but do not make the necessary changes you addressed, well, in this case their silence is an answer.

If an owner is unresponsive, odds are they are lacking in other departments and issues covered above.

Spring Cleaning Time

Now if you have an owner that doesn’t show up to drafts or pre-rank their players and is neglectful of their rosters, it’s time to do something about it. You could address the problem with them and hope they change, but if they don’t it is time to find a replacement.

Nobody likes to fire someone (unless you’re Donald Trump), but guess what, it’s your job. You took on that responsibility when you pasted that C on your jersey. You are responsible for the integrity of your league. It is up to you to make sure your owners are active and the league is competitive and fair.

This may be tough in some leagues because leagues usually start out with a bunch of friends. That means you may have to remove said friend for the good of the league. It’s nothing personal, and if you are really friends there will be no hard feelings.

And when it comes to replacing an owner, there is no better time to do it than at the beginning of the year. With the exception of those in long-term keeper and dynasty leagues, nobody has any commitments. The playing field is wide open for potential suitors to fill that vacant slot. Not sure where to look? Start with your best owners; I’m sure they have at least one friend or co-worker who would be interested. Are you in more than one league? Maybe someone from the other league would be willing to join. If none of them know someone, you can always send something out on twitter. There are always people looking to join a league.

Now, if you haven’t been tracking the movements of your owners, I suggest you start doing so now. You’ll figure out early on who the good players are and who needs to be monitored. Once you’ve identified the problem child, address the issues and see what happens. If things don’t change, well, do what you have to do.

Scott Pianowski over at Yahoo sports said it best:

Being the commissioner is a thankless job, but if your league runs smoothly and is competitive, nobody will complain

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Jim Finch
The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball. You can also find me at FanRagSports.com

3 comments on “Commissioner’s Corner: Spring Cleaning

  1. Nice piece Jim, definitely an issue commissioners have to deal with. I find the early season check out to be frustrating, and have tried to combat it by retaining competition of the lower seeded teams for draft picks/position. If 4 teams make the playoffs in a 12 team league, well those bottom 8 still need to fight it out for draft position, so tanking is not the solution. Either a second (and even third) playoff bracket for non-championship teams or rank draft picks by points, or some other clever iteration (most commissioners are pretty clever and like to come up with cool solutions to these issues) can make most owners stay somewhat interested. If all this fails, you are probably dealing with someone who doesn’t want to be in the league, and hopefully will just walk away when asked.

    • I’ve tried several things over the years to keep owners interested all season long. In the end I’ve learned that you don’t need gimmicks or incentives to keep them playing, you just need people that like to play. We all play to win, but if you are Only playing to win then odds are there is a bad owner inside you somewhere.

  2. Everything that you said has merit Jim. I missed my draft in BigD’s “Best of the Board 3” last year. You won that one. I never recovered and finished in the cellar but I never gave up. My Detroit Stars may have had the worst record in the league, but not for lack of effort. I was 3rd in transactions and may have avoided the cellar except the 11th place guy was fully invested too, and was having none of it! I’d rather finish last in a competitive and engaged league than first in one where the owners are on auto pilot, or dead.

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