ROTISSERIE: The Fantasy of Baseball EVERY Day, pt. 1

The game of fantasy baseball has come a long way since its humble beginnings just a short time ago. The world around us has similarly evolved with the emergence of the information age. During this simultaneous evolution, however, one aspect of fantasy baseball has curiously remained unchanged. Even as communication and the transmission of information has become almost instantaneous, most fantasy leagues continue to limit transactions to once per week. Why has this aspect of the game not evolved to allow increased fantasy participation?

In the earliest days of “Rotisserie” baseball, there were no stat “services.” There were no Twitter news flashes. Heck, there was no such thing as the Internet. Information was hard to come by. Transactions were conducted in most early leagues by calling the commissioner on the telephone (land line). First come, first served, though the transactions were only effective at the end of the week, regardless of when they were called in. The reason? Because the relatively primitive fantasy game was based on manually tabulated statistics taken from those printed in USA Today once a week.

USA Today ran complete American League stats (through Sunday games) in the Tuesday edition followed by a full National League rundown the following day with stats through Monday games. By necessity, any moves during the prior week were effective only on Monday morning for AL-only leagues and Tuesday morning for NL-only leagues. “Mixed” leagues did not exist, simply because the mechanics of calculating the stats were far too onerous to make it practical.

Game Changer

The evolution of the Internet completely changed the fantasy game. The first big realization for fantasy leaguers was that they might actually be able to get somebody else to calculate their league stats for a reasonable fee. No longer would each league’s commissioner need to spend hours painstakingly copying the stats manually and factoring in any transactions.

It was not a seamless transition. The early days of stat services were a bit like the Wild West, with companies coming and going. Eventually a few that were reliable and stable emerged. Even with an outside party now doing the stats, however, the delivery was still by mail, or perhaps by fax for more “advanced” services. In time, of course, the stats became available online, which became even more convenient when broadband eliminated the need for “dial up” internet connectivity.

Taking the Game Online

Eventually, commercial gaming operators took the compiling of stats to the next level and began hosting prize money leagues online. These offerings came in various forms, many of which remain available today, including points leagues, salary cap leagues with pre-set salaries, etc. Most significantly, the ability to tabulate all statistics for fantasy use daily enabled the ability to finally combine the two leagues into mixed-league games.

Early web-based games offered the ability to mail or fax in lineup decisions, which was possible due to the continuation of weekly deadlines, but operators quickly realized that much manpower could be saved with data entry by having users enter data themselves online. By charging additional fees for the privilege of mailing or faxing in lineup decisions, commercial gaming sites soon got most players into the habit of entering their info online directly.

Infobesity

The evolution of the Internet led to an explosion of information availability. In the early days of Rotisserie Baseball, the focus was on major league players, as minor league news and information was almost nonexistent. Most fantasy leagues did not encourage or even permit speculation in prospects. Besides that, rumors of impending newsworthy promotions were rare. The early days of Internet information primarily involved conventional news sources making their hard copy content available electronically. Though this moved up the access to the same information slightly, it really brought nothing substantively new to the table.

Enter the power of WordPress and social media. As numbers of intelligent, die-hard baseball fans increasingly found an economical outlet to discuss their passion and develop communities of like-minded people, the thirst for information grew and was simultaneously quenched. The explosion of social media only added to both, as fantasy players quickly went from mining for information to information overload.

This presented a problem for the many fantasy leagues that permitted only free agent acquisitions of major league players. In the past, when a manager commented after the game that a minor league player was being called up the next day, this information generally was not available until it appeared in the following day’s paper. The Internet-driven instant communication of information combined with the many forces digging and competing to break news increased the number of both accurate and inaccurate rumors. This brought into question what exactly made news “official”? While in the past, we were forced to wait for the team’s PR department to release it to the media, who in turn released it to the public (fantasy players) on their time, now the manager or other club personnel were essentially releasing the news to various sources, who were relaying it to the public almost instantaneously.

No Rule Left Behind?

Without question, the game of fantasy baseball has evolved in many ways—except one. For some reason, especially in the most popular commercial leagues, the concept of making roster and even lineup decisions has remained limited to one arbitrary day per week. This is despite the fact that the original reason for it has long since been eliminated. In our next column, we will examine some of the most common arguments against allowing more frequent fantasy baseball roster manipulation.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.