The Verdict: Being commissioner isn’t personal, it’s just business

I have said it several times before: being the commissioner of a fantasy baseball league is a thankless job. There is little to nothing in compensation for the hours you spend running your league and dealing with the headaches that come along with it. But, since you are a responsible person you continue to do it because otherwise nothing would get done.

I was recently asked how to reconcile being the commissioner of a league that is composed of close friends and family members and having to make a harsh ruling or decision against someone. This is a great question and something I am extremely familiar with.

I have been the commissioner of an 18-team, head-to-head, non-keeper, points league since 1999. The league includes some family members and friends going back as far as kindergarten or as recent as dads of my daughter’s friends. It is competitive, but not to the same extent as some of the industry leagues I participate in. That being said, there have been plenty of occasions over the years where I have been in awkward situations ,having to take action against someone close to me.

When you are in your capacity as commissioner, you must take a step back and make sure everything is running smoothly for the entire league despite any personal relationships you have with your fellow league members. I was specifically asked about a scenario where one of the commissioner’s close friends had failed to change his starting lineup for weeks, leaving several injured players in and essentially becoming a de facto bye week for opponents. As a friend, it is natural to want to be understanding and offer as much leniency as you can. But as commissioner, you must act decisively and objectively. If one team is creating a problem for the entire league, you must put aside your personal relationship and seek the best answer for the entire league.

Whether it is a personal relationship or not, you as commissioner should have a firm understanding of the issue at hand before rushing to judgment. Of course there are times that life gets in the way of fantasy baseball. Certainly emergencies arise or technological issues prevent people from accessing their lineups. I understand all that, as should any commissioner. But when someone is just plain lazy or apathetic about participation in the league, then the gloves come off irrespective of your relationship. It isn’t fair to the other members of the league who are appropriately competing.

Depending on the type of relationship you have with your recalcitrant league member, you may want to give him/her a heads up about whatever course of action you are going to take. But that is entirely up to you and what works best in your relationship. At the end of the day, you as the commissioner are responsible for maintaining the league’s integrity, even if it is at the expense of someone close to you who is not holding up his end of the bargain. The rest of the league needs to know you have control over the situation and will not let anything personal get in the way of you making the best decisions possible for the entire league.

I recognize that this is a lot easier said that done at times. But it is imperative for you to separate the personal from business when it comes to some league matters. You don’t ever want to give the appearance of impropriety or favoritism. Even if the rest of the league is understanding of your compassion or leniency, all that will do is create a slippery slope where everyone will take advantage of your generosity and the precedent you established.

To best establish yourself as an authority figure, you must be organized, disciplined, meticulous, consistent and fair when it comes to your actions and decisions as commissioner. You must treat everyone in the league equally, irrespective of their relationship to you. Once you allow your personal relationship to dictate your decision-making process, then you have lost your ability to effectively run the league.

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