Although 6x6 rotisserie baseball was the original fantasy league, it has been several years now that football has been considered king of fantasy sports. Many factors have contributed to this shift: football has become a much more widely-watched sport than baseball, especially among certain demographic bases, especially women, who just can’t seem to get enough of guys knocking each other around. Football is also a once-a-week sport, necessitating only a minimal commitment from fantasy owners as far as setting line-ups and picking up players, allowing most fantasy players to participate in multiple leagues. Since each week of football is covered so intensely by the media, the players are more well-known than most baseball players, allowing even casual football fans to draft and manage a competitive team.
But enough about all that, I’m here to tell you why fantasy baseball is still the Elvis Presley (the king, of course) of fantasy sports. The first reason is the easiest. One of the so-called “benefits” of fantasy football that has led to its rise to the top, is actually a negative for true fantasy players. The time commitment. Baseball is an every day sport, which requires checking pitching matchups and trends versus different opponents. You have to know about home/away splits and about how a pitcher’s WHIP can adversely affect the outcome of your weekly score. When one team has an off day, you have to be ready to fill in the lineup card with solid help from the bench. And you really never want to start a pitcher at Texas or Colorado or any other hitter’s haven, unless it is truly a cream of the crop starter.
None of this applies in football. Just make sure to log in on Saturday and make sure none of your starters has a bye. Sometimes you won’t even be able to replace them if it’s a kicker or defensive unit. You don’t play matchups in football and you don’t look at the splits. From Tuesday to Friday you may even forget you have a team before you get your weekly deadline reminder e-mail. In football, the casual player can survive, but in baseball, you don’t win a league without commitment.
Another reason baseball rules the fantasy world: all players’ stats count the same. Hitters have hitter stats and pitchers have pitcher stats. All hitters count the same, just as all pitchers do. You have to know how to get the right balance, of course, between power hitters and guys who can steal bases, for example, but everyone is judged equally. Besides the fact that there are no fielding stats, that makeup of a fantasy baseball team closely resembles that of a real one.
Everyone knows the single most important rule of football: running backs are #1. Running back stats are so inflated in fantasy football its ridiculous. You can have the best QB in the league, but if you’re weak at running back (with the exception maybe of having Tom Brady last season), you will never win. Wide receivers become only a tertiary target, even though we all know a QB is only as good as his weapons. Tight ends? Who needs ‘em? Defense? Never take that before the last few rounds. So perhaps the single most important aspect of a real team, the defense, becomes one of the 2 least important aspects of a fantasy team (depending on your view of kickers). This does not ring true to form.
The last and possibly most important reason why baseball is better in the fantasy world: the fate of your season doesn’t live and die with the draft. Yes, you do need to get some cornerstone pieces. If you come out of the draft with nothing, it’s unlikely you can win, but you don’t need a top pick to do it. With how many great hitters there are, and an almost equal number of top-flight pitchers, you can always get some good pieces, as long as you’re a savvy player. If you get a late pick and the best hitters are gone, you can build your team through pitching and have the same success. If you end up dissatisfied with your team after the draft, it is much easier to consummate a trade in baseball than in football and there’s always waiver-wire pickups. New players are always called up midseason and can have an immediate impact on a roster. Ask anyone who nabbed Ryan Howard in ’05 or Ryan Braun last year how it helped.
In football, you are basically doomed by a bad draft. In fact, a low pick can doom you before the draft is even done. Since running backs rule the fantasy football world, you need one of the best to compete. Since there’s only about 4 elite runners per year, the odds of getting one aren’t great. You can’t really build your team through other positions, unless you get lucky with an unreal season from a QB, and even then, it may not be enough. Nobody likes to make trades in football and basically what you see is what you get, so you’ll be stuck. Oh well, at least your buddy that knows nothing about the intricacies of the 3-4 can come away a winner, right?
If these reasons aren’t compelling enough to convince you fantasy baseball should be king, I don’t know what is. Maybe you should stick to football and enjoy the season. Actually, is fantasy golf starting up soon?