By Brian Walton
It is the time of year during which major league baseball rosters expand from the normal 25 to a theoretical limit of 40. Clubs balance adding the number of players that they think could help them during the season or perhaps to get a glimpse of whether those same minor leaguers might be future contributors.
If one goal of fantasy baseball is to recreate the real game as closely as possible, why don't we consider a parallel expanded rosters concept, too?
It turns out that some leagues do.
One such group of players call themselves National League Rotisserie Baseball, with Mastersball subscriber Mike Ladd among them.
Lombardozzi plays in September
Mike shared the league's constitution as well as some of the thinking behind their unique rules, including their alternative to the traditional use of FAAB. Some of the challenges associated with the latter topic have been discussed is this space often this season.
Before we get to expanded rosters, we need to start with how the group handles regular transactions, as that provides an important base. NLRB is not a casual league, allowing daily moves, while at the same time, avoiding the first-come, first-served race-to-the-keyboard waivers process that frustrates so many.
The 10-team NL-only league uses the standard 10 roto scoring categories, with some payment aligned with winning each of those categories. Rosters are the standard 14 position players and nine pitchers, however there are no reserve spots, just a disabled list.
Given the lack of a traditional bench, the desire for daily transactions is entirely understandable. Yet the league charges $5 per transaction to ensure streaming and rapid roster turnover does not become a problem. Further, they use a site that automates the process.
"Owners may make unlimited moves each day to pick up free agents," explained Ladd. "Any player may be released to the free agent pool at any time and replaced with a player off the free agent list or a team's reserve list. Owners must put in a claim for an eligible free agent prior to the daily cut-off time (midnight). All moves are input on the OnRoto website and processed by the automated commissioner."
The key is that these transactions are processed in reserve standings order - for every available player. In other words, the worst team in the league has the first choice of all players - assuming the owner is willing to release (or can disable) another. The first place team can only pick up a player if his nine peers passed on him.
The realism angle appeals to Ladd.
"This is actually like the MLB does it on waivers," he noted. "It can actually pay to be in last the first several days of the league as you can replace players for others that owners overlooked."
Isn't having a competitive league with all owners active for the entire the season everyone's ideal? This approach offers hope.
As young phenoms are called up during the season, a team that might appear to be dead and buried could find new life - if the owner is on top of daily promotions from the minors.
One of the changes to the basic roto game implemented in some leagues, including the high-profile League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) National League, has been the addition of a 10th active pitcher. Again, this is intended to more accurately reflect MLB rosters and player usage.
The NLRB puts an interesting spin on this - during September only. Then, things get really interesting as league rosters expand - slightly - from 23 to 24 players. We're not talking about the bench here; this affects the active roster.
"Teams will be permitted to add one position player (an additional Utility player, in effect) OR pitcher to their rosters as of 9/1," says the league constitution. "For the rest of the season, a team will therefore be allowed to carry either 15 position players and 9 pitchers or 14 position players and 10 pitchers. In addition, pitchers can be dropped for a position player and vice versa as long as the 15/9 or 14/10 ratio is maintained."
This approach can keep more owners engaged longer in the season. Remember that money is riding on the 10 scoring categories as well as winning the league overall.
This way, an owner perhaps out of the overall race can still push for category wins. He can decide if he wants to try to boost his offense or pitching. For example, he can grab a rabbit to try to improve runs scored and stolen bases or pick up a fireballing setup man to lower WHIP/ERA and pick up a few strikeouts.
As is always the case, I share these innovative ideas to stimulate thoughts of potential changes you might consider in your leagues as well.
If you have some interesting rules twists you'd like to share with others, drop me a line and I will consider highlighting them here.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league's 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.