We're now a few weeks into the season and I'm already a bit aggravated with a few of my leagues. Not because of who I drafted or who did/didn't get off of waivers... no. I'm aggravated because of something I have much less control over: the settings, rules and construct of my leagues. A few weeks ago on a number of forums, I posed a question searching for a site where my 'ideal leagues settings' might be available.
Now, I very much understand that 'ideal leagues settings' is my own opinion, however understanding my audience and the various types of fantasy baseball players in existence, I'm talking about ideal league settings for the diehard fantasy baseball player. What do I mean by diehard?
If you don't fit into this mold, the remainder of this article may not necessarily apply to you. Though, if you'd like to become this type of diehard (totally worth it), I suggest you give this article a chance.
Circling back to my take on 'ideal league settings', I feel there are some settings that are mandatory for a diehard fantasy baseball league.
Now, it doesn't seem that unfathomable that this specific set of settings would be tough to find in a league, but it simply doesn't exist. I've searched far and wide and I've only come across a few platforms that feature some of these settings, but not all. I've had to settle and play on sites where the best available settings are, however it's a compromise for sure. Here are the best sites I play on that feature some of the settings that I believe are ideal:
Yahoo Pro Leagues:
Yahoo offers fantasy baseball "Pro Leagues" which are pay to play leagues that return cash prizes. They have been around for a while but took a brief hiatus last year while yahoo was seemingly performing maintenance on its platform. They don't offer everything, but they are fairly close to a complete list.
Overall: Yahoo Pro Leagues are good but not great. I've played in them for a number of years now and won a few times, however it's tougher than it should be. If the rosters were deeper and people were forced to know a larger segment of the player pool, the more knowledgeable fantasy owner would have a greater advantage, as they should.
NFBC Online Championships:
The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) is arguably the most competitive season long fantasy baseball league in existence. They offer a number of league formats, but I would consider all of them high-stakes with their lowest entry fee starting at $125, while its highest starts at an amazing $15,000. They also offer a number of various formats and just about any fantasy baseball diehard that is willing to make a reasonable investment can find a league here.
Overall: NFBC leagues right now are the best high stakes leagues out there. The best players play there and you really can't find better competition anywhere. All of "the bad" points above however are pretty big drawbacks for me. I can't even tell you how many times I've seen a pitcher on my bench put up a good outing, but I just couldn't have him in my lineup because of the weekly move lock. I’d say overall NFBC leagues are very good, but I’m still in search of something great.
Alternatives - Custom leagues:
While Yahoo and NFBC leagues are both good options, they don't meet all of my "must haves" to be a perfect platform. One other option is to create your own league. I'm the commissioner of a league that's been around for about 10 years and it meet's just about all of the requirements I mention at the beginning of this article. We have very little turnover and even less complaints. It's essentially a well-oiled machine.
Even with everything configured exactly how the league feels it should be, there are still a few drawbacks. Because it's a friendly "home" league, the entry fee is modest and winning the league doesn't pay a ton, nor are there real industry accolades. While it is fun, winning just doesn't feel the same as if someone was to win on a larger more competitive platform. I love my home league, but I’d love a similar large scale industry hosted league more.
Is there still hope?
I do believe there is hope. There is one platform out there that I believe can come to the plate, put something together and have overwhelming success. ESPN does a very good job with its fantasy leagues. They are easily customized and the user interface and mobile app are close to, if not best in class. They don't have a huge market in the pay-to-play world however. Previously they offerd not so good prize eligible leagues, but these were discontinued. If they were to put a solid effort into mirroring something similar to Yahoo Pro leagues with expanded rosters, a FAAB system and a few other tweaks, I believe they could lead the industry in prize eligible season long fantasy baseball. They already have a tremendous following and with a little bit of smart marketing, this could be huge. If a project like this could be proposed now and worked on for the start of next season, it could really succeed.
Maybe I'm wrong in assuming this is a type of league that most diehard fantasy baseball players would want; however this is an overwhelming consensus of feedback I've received through my site and social media outlets. Now I ask you: what set of rules would make your perfect league?