ROTISSERIE: The Fantasy of Baseball EVERY Day, pt. 2

Since its creation almost 40 years ago, the game of fantasy baseball has evolved in many ways—except one. Especially in the most popular commercial leagues, the concept of making roster and even lineup decisions has remained limited to one arbitrary day (Sunday in most cases) per week. This is in spite of the fact that the original reason for such a restriction has long since been eliminated. In part 1 of this investigation, we explored the evolution of the fantasy game. While the original “rotisserie” version required painstakingly copying statistics by hand from those printed in the newspaper (published once a week), the arrival of the Internet ushered in today’s era in which we not only have access to updated stats every day, but often even in real-time within a matter of seconds following the player’s performance on the field.

To put it in perspective, just imagine if the game of fantasy baseball was conceived today. If someone suggested that transactions be arbitrarily restricted to once a week, it is difficult to believe that person would not be laughed out of the room. Baseball is a daily game—a marathon impacted by daily events in the form of performance, injury, and player movement. So why have we, as an industry, clung to this archaic limitation of the game’s origin mandated by circumstances of a different time?

Forecasting vs. Luck

Some will argue that limiting transactions to once a week requires "more skill" than allowing it to be done on a daily basis. If that is the case, should we limit transactions to once a month in order to require even more skill? There is unquestionably forecasting effort involved, but there is also an arbitrary element of luck introduced. The randomness of injury and other impactful playing time developments early in the week as opposed to late in the week arbitrarily hurts or helps some teams more than others in any given season. Forecasting is already a major part of the season-long game, which is why draft day is the most important day of the year. It's also one of the major downsides to fantasy sports, as the whims of management often arbitrarily impact playing time allocation. Just consider the forecasting headaches from dealing with the playing time manipulation of top young players. It would seem difficult to argue that requiring an additional weekly dose of forecasting effort at the expense of introducing an unnecessary element of luck makes for a better competition.

Get Real

Another argument over the years has been that daily transactions would open the door for constant streaming of pitchers, which should not be allowed because “that’s not realistic.” But isn’t that precisely what MLB is becoming? Especially with MLB teams exploiting the 10-day DL as a virtual taxi squad, the associated luck factor is undoubtedly on the rise in weekly-transaction fantasy leagues. Heck, MLB teams are even "streaming pitchers" during each game via the growing fad of employing "openers." Besides, if fantasy participants agree that the practice of streaming marginal pitchers should be discouraged, this should easily be attainable by designing rules that limit the benefits of doing so.

Punching the Clock

Probably the most common contention is that “it takes too much time” to manage a fantasy team every day. As pointed out above, however, the fact is that baseball is a daily game. Find a fantasy baseball participant who only checks in on their team once a week and odds are you've found a team that is regularly hanging out down around the bottom of the standings, no matter the format. Even a fantasy competitor who is "too busy" for baseball during the time between transaction periods will end up spending an inordinate amount of time catching up on the developments of the prior week in an effort to enter all of the related waiver claims prior to the weekly deadline.

The fact is successful fantasy competitors follow their team and keep abreast of MLB developments every day, regardless of league parameters. Whether by mobile device or sitting at a desk, whether during morning breakfast or before turning in for the night, top season-long fantasy players virtually never lose track of what's going on with their team and what might make it better. Even worse, if the arbitrary transaction deadline falls at an inconvenient time, certain participants may be at a distinct disadvantage. Missing a transaction period in a weekly format when you have an injured/demoted player to replace can be devastating.

It is interesting to note that even season-long fantasy football, which has zoomed past its forefather in popularity in part because “it’s only once a week,” not only allows daily transactions, but permits lineup adjustments prior to the start of every NFL game. While the first transaction period following each weekend’s games is certainly the most important, those who don’t pay attention to developments the rest of the week are at a significant disadvantage. Likewise, fantasy football demands that successful participants be on alert for late-breaking news in the minutes leading up to every game, be it Thursday, Monday or throughout the day on Sunday, as questions about a player’s availability are often not answered until pre-game warmups are complete. An announcement to your fantasy football league that weekly lineups will be locked at kickoff of the Thursday night game would surely be met with disbelieving outrage, while we just nod our heads in acceptance as a far more onerous restriction is placed on our participation in fantasy baseball.

Despite assumptions and assertions to the contrary, it's not even clear that the time factor is a legitimate concern. It is not inconceivable that those who monitor their fantasy team and MLB developments on a daily basis, tweaking their roster accordingly, may actually spend less time (and encounter less stress) than what it takes to organize, enter, and prioritize the litany of waiver claims and related FAAB bids often required at the end of a particularly eventful week.

Life is Job One

The best argument to be made against allowing daily transactions seems to be that fantasy competitors who have the luxury of “sitting in front of their computer all day” should not have an advantage over those who don’t. That certainly makes sense, which means the original concept of permitting transactions on a first-come, first-served basis is not ideal by any means. However, no reasonable rule structure is going to prevent the inherent advantage gained by those who invest more time and energy watching baseball, monitoring news, and conducting associated research.

Ironically, the issue of neutralizing any advantage of time-related access to player acquisition has already been largely addressed with the use of a waiver system for acquiring players. The evolution of FAAB bidding has added an element of strategy, as well, though monitoring the pulse of the baseball landscape remains key with either system, regardless of format. In fact, it would seem that being able to foresee when to pick up a player any day of the week would take more skill than having the good fortune of placing the high FAAB bid on the flavor of the week.

Forging a Better Way

If the goal is to create the best fantasy experience for baseball fans, it would seem to make sense that we would utilize advances in technology and emulate the fantasy sport that is surging in popularity. Stubbornly sticking to a format that restricts engagement while throwing more luck into the equation does not seem to be the best recipe for an optimal game of skill. Baseball is a daily game (did I mention that already?) and fantasy baseball competitors should enjoy the freedom to engage with their teams on the same daily basis, tweaking their roster and/or lineup, accordingly, as circumstances or personal whims dictate.

Miss today’s lineup or waiver deadline because life events got in the way? Find out about a player injury too late? No big deal, because you can address it tomorrow. Have a little more time to do in-depth research and roster moves on a weeknight after the kids are in bed, as opposed to a weekend filled with family activities and travel? Not a problem, as you are free to tend to your fantasy team when it is most convenient for you, rather than some arbitrary day of the week mandated by an archaic rule.

The challenge is how to create such a league that is both fair and fun for all competitors? What better place to investigate this question than with the intelligent and thoughtful community that is BHQ subscribers? Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have on this topic and the upcoming Part 3 of this investigation will explore potential parameters for constructing a daily-transaction subscriber league that we can use to test this hypothesis.

Let's see if we can work together to create an optimal season-long fantasy experience that provides the opportunity for daily fun for everyone!

Click here to subscribe

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