Monday, August 30, 2010

A full year fantasy

Today is one of only a handful of days in the year where fantasy football is open but the season has not quite started, fantasy basketball is open, and so is fantasy hockey. In addition, fantasy baseball is winding down. In essence, the month of September is host to every fantasy sport, with baseball and football in full swing, and basketball and hockey in drafting/preparation stages. I have, as have many others, noticed this and since that point, my life has lost all purpose other than figuring out a way to create a year round fantasy league that includes each of the four major sports. This dream is still in the beginning phases and is not much more than theory at this point, yet it must be shared to at least create the avenues of discussion on such a topic. Full year fantasy will be a reality.

To use a sports reference, the play call is easy; it is the execution that will create trouble. Knowing what we need for a full year fantasy league is easy; implementing and ironing out details is the tricky part. I know what ingredients are needed to make fajitas but that doesn't mean I can cook a good one. Just because I know when a word is misspelled does not mean I necessarily know the correct spelling. Should I keep going with this analogy? I'm kind of in a groove.

The parameters are the easy part. We need a roster of players from each sport and some sort of bench/disabled list. We need to draft these players (preferably once and never again I.E. a dynasty league). We need to have the 'season' begin and end at a certain time of the year that coincides the best with the four sports' seasons. This needs a scoring system that will fairly balance the importance of each position. That's all simple stuff. Getting into specifics is where I lose my way Hansel and Gretel style.

(That's right. I am not above a classic children's fairy tale reference to complete an apt analogy.)

I would try to take these one by one but as you will see, the problems run into each other rather quickly. Rather than attempt it, I am going to go at this like gangbusters moving from point to point, weaving and darting, never coming to a solid conclusion yet always sounding like I should be.

The key to making a league like this work is freedom. There must be very little freedom allowed.

The rules cannot be established fairly with very much wiggle room. Otherwise, owners would be able to choose their own course of action to try to win, whether that be balancing each sport equally, focusing on one sport, punting one sport, or another possibility in between. Those techniques, on the surface, are fine. In fact, they should be encouraged. However, combining sports would allow for the taking advantage of loopholes and creating teams that win because they thwart the system, rather than because they are the most talented. Because of this, the scoring system is vital and must be points-based. Head to head scoring wouldn't work because players could unevenly stack their teams based on how and when the league championships are awarded. Rotisserie scoring wouldn't work either because the athletes would be unfairly balanced. An NHL goalie would end up being much more valuable than, say, Kevin Durant just based on using that scoring system alone. Sure Durant would produce well in all the basketball categories, but an NHL goalie, or an NFL kicker would sway the standings because being first in extra points would be as valuable as leading the league in rebounds. Roto is out. That leaves points scoring. This system awards each stat a point value. The team with the highest amount of points accumulated wins. Of course this is where I lose my way for the first time. How would this work either? I would need to create some sort of super formula taking into account the amount of players and production from each position in each sport and mathematically award values to the stat based on how prevalent it would be. Otherwise, a similar problem to using roto would surface. An RBI could be valued at 1 point but so would a block in basketball. However, RBI's are way more abundant than blocks. Thus, drafting a shot blocker would be a waste when there is some average baseballer who could simply accumulate 80-90 RBI's for the year. How many NBA guys are getting 90 blocks a season? Since I don't have the time or the know-how to create that super formula, the only way around it is to have set rosters.

Each owner must be forced to draft a minimum amount of every position from every sport. All four sports need to be represented, but not equally. As for the roster makeup, as a baseline we'd need five NBA players (C, PF, SF, SG, PG), six NHL players (G, two D, C, two W), eight NFL players (QB, two RB, two WR, TE, K, DE/St), and something like 11 MLB players (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, three OF, three pitchers). These would be standards each team has to meet. The rest of the roster, again without allowing too much wiggle, could be filled as the owner desires. Thus, one person may try to scoop up a bunch of NFL QB's while another goes after a handful of MLB Outfielders. Whatever the final roster tally ends up being, at least those 30 slots will be mandatory.

As you can see, what might make the most sense is to have very few rotatable roster slots. Perhaps the full rosters should only be 35 slots. The more 'utility' spots available, the thinner the ice gets. No one will ever draft a second NBA center or MLB catcher. In fact, there are only four or five positions that will get drafted to fill those extra spots. MLB pitchers will collect hundreds of strikeouts; NBA forwards collect hundreds of points and rebounds; MLB power hitters collect hundreds of RBI's and runs scored. Those are about it. It makes for a very awkward roster building stage. I told you there were lots of kinks still to work out.

I feel like "the season" aspect of this is the easy part. The full year fantasy season must include the most time of all four sports. The easiest way would be to have it begin during the MLB all-star break and end at next year's all-star break. Thus, one fantasy season would include the second half of a baseball season, an entire NFL season, an entire NBA season, an entire NHL season, and the first half of the next baseball season. This makes the most sense chronologically. Now, you ready for the downside? The fantasy championship would then be decided only by baseball players. All three other seasons would be completed by then. This could make for interesting wheelings and dealings or it could just be terrible.

So that's all the bad stuff, the confusing, holes-riddled league plans. But how great will the good stuff be? Just imagine being in a league where you can trade Dwyane Wade for Roy Halladay. And there will be no off-season. Sure, certain players will get time off, but your team will be in constant battle for that title. The only break needed will be those four days during the MLB all-star break where the league winner gets his prizes, rosters are updated, and everyone gets ready to go at it again.

Now obviously there are a zillion problems that need addressing before this fantasy can become...real fantasy. I know people currently participate in the best alternative to full year fantasy that could work right now: they have four leagues in the four sports with all the same owners. And yet, there is no cross-sport scoring or trading. It is the best we have, but nothing close to good enough. All the input in the world is needed on this. If you are friends or associates with any type of math professor or quantum mechanic, tell them to take a look at my blueprints and offer feedback. Contact your local Nate Silvers and Christopher Harrises and get their input as well.

Of course this topic will have to be addressed again in The Sports Pinata. It is too incomplete to leave where it is. I just felt the need to get the idea out there to my legions of fans....okay maybe 'legions' is a bit my score of fans. A score is 20 right? That might still be a high estimate. Nevertheless, the process of obtaining a full year fantasy league that works has begun.

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