The Verdict: Fantasy baseball can save the industry.

My column entitled “The Verdict” and every other article you read at THT Fantasy is centered around fantasy baseball. But let’s face the facts—fantasy football is by far the most popular and profitable fantasy game in the entire industry. There are myriad reasons why fantasy football is so popular, such as the fact that there are only 16 regular season games played, once a week (in most instances). With the scarcity of games, it is theoretically easier for people to manage their teams as opposed to the day-to-day necessity with a fantasy baseball team. Irrespective of that, the fact remains that many people within the fantasy sports industry make their money and earn a living primarily because of fantasy football. Should the NFL’s current work stoppage continue into the season and possibly jeopardize the whole year, these people in the fantasy sports industry will be additional collateral damage to the ridiculous labor dispute poisoning the league.

With this potential fiasco comes a golden opportunity for fantasy baseball players, writers and businesses. For the purposes of this article, I am not going to be specific in how to implement some of these suggestions or options, but rather I am simply making the argument that it is possible for fantasy baseball, as a whole, to fill that void and become the prominent fantasy sport in the industry. I must also state the caveat that whenever the NFL does resume playing, it will likely regain its position as the top fantasy sport. But now is the chance for fantasy baseball websites, blogs, and businesses to seize the opportunity to gain more prominence with the possible fantasy football vacancy.

As we all know, the regular season of baseball concludes at the end of September or sometimes early October. Most fantasy baseball leagues conclude their season before the end of the MLB season. The playoffs then began days later and extend to the end of October and sometimes into early November. There are already websites and companies out there that host postseason fantasy baseball games and leagues. The question is what can fantasy baseball do to generate revenue and interest in the months after the World Series ends and before spring training begins. That time of year is typically dominated by fantasy football, so there will be an inherent desire and craving for something to occupy fantasy enthusiasts’ time. This is where fantasy baseball can step in and seize the opportunity. There could be a fantasy game involving free agents and with which teams they will sign. There could be leagues for winter ball or international leagues that play during the offseason. There could be strato-matic type leagues pitting historical teams or players against each other.

These ideas are not sure-fire fixes for the lack of fantasy football. But they are ideas. Some may already exist in some fashion, but they can be improved upon to turn into mainstream-type games. They are possible alternatives to fill the void left by football if there is no season. Of course hockey and basketball are in the middle of their seasons, but those fantasy sports do not come close to baseball or football in terms of participation and popularity. Baseball is now a year-long sports with all of the coverage of offseason moves, analysis, and projections. There is more interest in international players than ever. Information about players all over the world, as well as winter leagues, is readily available. There could be enough data and desire to carry fantasy baseball into the winter months.

Of course, this will be a moot point if in fact the NFL owners and players are able to reach a deal in the relative near future and save the season. But as times goes on and the labor disputes stalls in the courts, the possibility of not having a football season in 2011 is more plausible. In the event that does happen, fantasy baseball players and companies should be prepared to step up and take advantage. The benefits from doing so are far-reaching. Not only does this increase fantasy baseball’s share of the market and generate new, creative ideas, but it could help save the market itself.

The fantasy sports industry as a whole has generated bilions of dollars in recent years, and it was even selected as one industry that is essentially immune from the economic recession we have been experiencing over the last few years. There are so many different games to play, and hundreds upon hundreds of great writers and websites to procure information from. We take it for granted that it is always going to be there, but there are limitations. To help prevent or mitigate any downturn in the industry as a result of the NFL labor dispute, fantasy baseball is in a unique position to help soften the blow. The industry has many innovative pioneers who have helped create the framework for the games we love. It may be time for those pioneers, and new ones as well, to put their thinking caps on take the industry to the next level.

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Comments

  1. Matt Cleveland said...

    Unfortunately, fantasy baseball is not going to be the fantasy sport filling the void. Fantasy college football will be.

  2. Will Hatheway said...

    Perhaps projection systems could develop results sooner, which could lead to earlier mock drafts (which themselves would be better if they included auction formats). I know that players will move to different parks in different lineups and leagues, but I, for one, love the idea of burning time poring over projections and doing mocks earlier than is now the case…

  3. Trey said...

    Totally agree with Brad above.  Ottoneu has big time staying power because it’s a year-round endeavor and teams are constantly trying to make adjustments with long term implications.  The format is relatively simple, too, and cheap.  If more sites adopted this model the revenue stream from fantasy baseball could be stretched quite a bit.

  4. Brad Johnson said...

    The first thing fantasy baseball services can do is open their doors year round. It’s ridiculous that ottoneu is the only service I know of that does this. As commissioner of a full season league, I have to export everything out of Yahoo on my own time and then manually edit everything when there are transactions.

  5. Kevin Wilson said...

    Not so sure about ottoneu’s staying power. I’m a pretty obsessed fantasy baseball player myself, but ottoneu really lacks the fun factor for me, day to day. Maybe it’s just because it’s a league with random people (I rarely enjoy any public leagues), but I’ve already decided that I’m not returning next year to it.

    If anyone wants to take over a team, I’m in 5th place and have a decent roster- just email me.

  6. Aaron said...

    Kevin – I’ve been thinking about joining Ottoneu… it’s the only legit “franchise” league I’ve seen. What’s not “fun” about it? Maybe I shouldn’t join smile

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