by Brian Walton
It is that time of year when outside temperatures are hottest and as a result, attention spans and tempers can be shortest.
It is also the time of year when fantasy football drafts are ramping up - the beginning of a two month period when the overlap between baseball and football can become taxing for those who compete in both.
If one's baseball teams are not in the hunt, perhaps a bit of time can be freed up. However, that can be more than absorbed by those leagues in which you remain in the chase. In those cases, this is not the time to take your eye off the prize. Further, many leagues are in their final month of trading, a time-intensive activity if there ever was one.
Eventually, your mind will wander
Yet, football is also demanding focus. To be ready, it is time to get serious about researching players and scheduling draft dates. That pesky Labor Day holiday is somewhere around there, not to mention back to school and many other "distractions" that cause stress in households across America.
In my view, the first decision to be made is how many leagues in which to play.
As a result, this time of year, before making football commitments, I step back and assess my fantasy baseball plan/schedule from the in-process season in the context of time allocation.
Making decisions on the specific leagues to keep/cut for next year can come later. Now, it is more a general assessment.
- Have I run into time conflicts with my league schedules, either personally or professionally?
- Could I allocate enough of my time to give each league a fair shot?
- Knowing what I know now, would I have played in the same number of leagues?
I am pretty sure if we had asked our spouses to help answer the latter question, many of us would have received a reply that we would rather not hear. Hence, my initial observation above about tempers and the heat.
Closer to home, I am still waiting for the least bad time to tell the wife that I will have to cut short Labor Day weekend festivities because her sister's husband scheduled our local football league draft early that evening. That is going to go down as badly as when this same brother-in-law scheduled his eight-hour auction baseball draft on my son's birthday.
Though considering these conflicts may enable us to adjust our immediate football plans, this column is about baseball. To help provide some context, I asked two dozen industry players from high-profile leagues like Tout Wars and LABR how they deal with these questions.
I simply asked them to cite the number of baseball leagues in which they compete and whether that total was about right, too high or too low. Many added supporting remarks, some of which I will share below with their approval.
First, the raw data. The surveyed industry players participate in an average of seven leagues. They range from a low of two to a high of 20.
Just over half, about 54 percent, are satisfied with their number of leagues, while 38 percent feel they are stretched too thin. The final eight percent will be looking for more fantasy baseball action in 2013.
Consistent in the replies from the six who play in double-digit numbers of leagues is the desire - or perhaps requirement - to have direct involvement in as many different playing formats as possible. One of those is USATODAY's Steve Gardner, defending NL Tout Wars champion. You can decide if this is an explanation, a rationalization, or both.
"I realize I play in a lot of fantasy leagues, but there's at least some method to the madness - at least that's what I try to tell my family," Gardner noted. "I want to make sure I'm as well-versed as I can be in the different formats that exist so when a USATODAY.com reader or a Twitter follower asks me for advice, I'm able to understand the intricacies of their particular league."
Rotowire's Derek VanRiper plays in eight leagues and agrees that variety is the spice of life.
"Not having redundant leagues keeps it interesting," he said.
Ryan Carey from right here at Mastersball is a long-time player recruited to join our writing staff this year. He has the second-highest total at 14 leagues. Carey is among several who try to steer clear - or at least minimize the number - of leagues with daily transactions.
"The key for me being able to increase my league load was, and will be, to minimize the number of daily leagues I am in," Carey said. "It's fine to have a few of these leagues sprinkled in, but for me not too many. Most leagues I am in am employ weekly lineups with FAAB run once a week. It's actually pretty easy to manage multiple teams once you get a system in place."
Mastersball's Greg Morgan loves the chase inherent in auction drafting and despite being in a dozen leagues, craves even more action.
"I've discovered that 12 leagues did not do enough to satiate my baseball draft appetite," Morgan admitted. "I wish I had more $ auction league opportunities."
Our own Lord Zola is the champion, participating in 20 leagues simultaneously. Like a number of others, he plays in variations of the NFBC where there is no trading, but admits he does not have the time in trading leagues to fully engage.
"Trading entails some patience and is time-consuming," Zola said. "I'm either going to drop some or take in a helper to handle the day to day management of several leagues next season - primarily to handle trades."
Full Moon's Rick Wolf, a member of the Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2011, does not understand how one can do so many leagues justice.
"Anyone who plays in more than 10 leagues and says that he can pay enough attention to them all is lying," Wolf asserts. "I spend 5-10 hours a week on the five leagues and I have a partner. It would have to be a full-time job to run 10 leagues with the passion they deserve."
Rotoworld's Glenn Colton, long-time playing partner of Wolf, is thinking about the baseball-football comparison.
"Baseball is far more time intensive and complicated a fantasy sport than football (opposite of real life)," Colton said. "Six football leagues would be pretty easy to manage. I much rather play in only 3-4 baseball leagues (NL, AL, mixed, home) but I am privileged to have the opportunity to play against the best in the world in LABR, Tout Wars and FSTA and that is too good to pass up!"
Colton touches on an important consideration for industry players. Many sites sponsor their own leagues and it is only natural to reciprocate when asked to play in others' leagues. While getting one's name and their site in front of more readers is good, the extra leagues also eat up more precious bandwidth.
RotoExperts' Doug Anderson feels a familiar tug, while noting the ease of use capabilities of the sites which run his leagues end up being a key factor in where he spends his limited time.
"Every year I say I'm going to get in fewer leagues, and every year I end up in the same pickle," Anderson admits. "If I had nothing else to do in my life, nine leagues would be doable. With a couple jobs and a family, it's impossible to do justice to every league. Inevitably I end up doing the best job on the leagues that are on a certain league management system, because they are very conducive to quick and easy management."
Rotoman, aka Peter Kreutzer, wants to take it to the ultimate - a 24-hour job. He longs for the day when the line between fantasy and reality is obscured.
"…I dream of playing in just one league in which I was focused on decisions and responsible for them the way real baseball GMs are," Kreutzer admitted.
I close with what I first thought to be a side point, but later decided is just the opposite.
As I collected the industry player responses in a spreadsheet as they were received on Friday morning, I noticed an odd phenomenon. The majority of the "just the right number of leagues" responses came in the fastest, with the "too many leagues" group trickling in sporadically throughout the remainder of the day.
I guess in thinking about it, it makes sense in a way, though I want to be careful not to make too sweeping of a generalization.
Stepping back, successful versus failed commitments often get down to the time required to honor them. In this small example, more of the industry players who feel they are in the right number of leagues responded relatively quickly while quite a few of the folks who feel more extended didn't get to my request right away.
Fantasy Sports Hall of Famer Ron Shandler from BaseballHQ dropped from seven leagues to four in recent years and distills to its essence why many of us have either done the same or are considering it now.
"…I discovered (and wrote about) that perhaps the most valuable asset you can have in playing this game is TIME, and that was getting stretched too thin in seven leagues," Shandler noted.
When considering the number of leagues in which to play, whether baseball or football, remember what Mick Jagger has sung for nearly four decades - keep time on your side.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league's 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.