MLB Needs To Embrace Fantasy Leagues Like the NFL Does

Donne ViauContributor IIOctober 17, 2011

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 16:  Rickie Weeks #23 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Six of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 16, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There is no question how fantasy football has impacted the NFL.  The viewership is up and the NFL Ticket is as popular as ever. 

Yahoo, ESPN, CBS and Fox have all benefited by adding free fantasy leagues with live updates. even has fantasy football.   Every sport site has a fantasy football section for news and updates. 

NFL players talk about their fantasy stats and how they are in fantasy leagues.  They tell stories how someone sent them an expensive bottle of wine or paid for their dinner because they helped that person win their league.  

Maurice Jones-Drew hosts a fantasy football show on NFL Radio.   Even MLB players play fantasy football and openly talk about who they drafted and why.  Major League Baseball would benefit by taking a cue from the NFL and embracing fantasy baseball.

Let's get this out of the way, fantasy baseball is a lot of work.  With football you simply choose your team for that week and maybe review it before the games start on Sunday.  The talent pool is pretty thin after you draft so free agents are not as attractive and there is little research other than who is the best available.

Baseball has a ton of stats and players that you need to check on a daily basis.  If you join a fantasy baseball league, you had better be prepared to be dedicated to the season.  That is the down side.  The plus side is that you know more players and stats than the average fan.  Hurray, right?

Fantasy baseball is growing.  More and more leagues pop up every season.  Even though one must review their team daily, more and more people are signing up for the six month haul that is the regular season in baseball.  While it is a lot of work, winning your fantasy baseball league can feel more rewarding than winning your fantasy football league. 

Because of all the stats, trades are more scrutinized.  It is not simply a top QB for a top RB like in football.  It is the value of a starting pitcher versus a power hitting first baseman or a reliever for a base stealing outfielder. 

The trading in baseball is more about getting the better deal than filling a need.  One may need a stud starting pitcher, but if other owners know you need one, you need to measure the worth of what you may have to give up to get one. 


Free agents are more scrutinized.  Granted, there may be more starting pitchers available than elite running backs, but pick up the wrong pitcher and it could cost you the championship.  It is not simply picking up the best player available, it is more about picking up the the hottest player at the moment and hope it doesn't stop after you acquire him. Fantasy baseball is nerve racking and fun and Major League Baseball needs to embrace it more.

MLB Players seem to react differently from NFL players when asked about fantasy baseball.  They almost seem offended.  I remember telling a pitcher about his great season and thanking him for my fantasy win, and he reacted like I had told him his kids were ugly. 

I have heard other stories how players didn't seem to like it when fans thanked them for a good fantasy season.  That needs to change.

The MLB network never really deals with fantasy baseball.  There is no show for it.  I have listened to MLB Radio as well as watched the network and you would not know there was such a thing as fantasy baseball.    It is never talked about unless you go to Yahoo or a fantasy site. 

Baseball could do well by themselves and embrace it the way the NFL embraces fantasy football.

All it can do is increase the popularity of the sport.  Viewership is up for football in large part to fantasy leagues.  The NFL Ticket benefits from it.   Think what could happen if the MLB and participating stations actually promoted fantasy baseball. 

If the MLB worked hand in hand with fantasy leagues like the NFL did, then you could see it grow back into the league it once was. especially if the NBA cancels its season.

Why does MLB shy away from fantasy baseball?  It is most likely because of their stance on gambling.  They hate it.  It has caused many black eyes for their league.  The Black Sox.  Pete Rose.  These are two instances the hurt the reputation of baseball. 

What baseball execs need to realize is that the only thing fantasy leagues have in common with "real" gambling is that money may exchange hands.   The only bet being made is that your first round pick stays healthy or your pitcher doesn't have a down year. 

The players rule the outcome of your fantasy league.  You cannot put a fix in.   There is no bookie.  It isn't "real" gambling since you are not really betting on anything other than your ability to evaluate talent.

So, MLB needs to start looking at fantasy baseball as an ally.  An asset to help their viewership grow.   If you have seen the ratings lately, people are not tuning in, even when it is a Game 7.   All fantasy baseball could do is increase interest in baseball.   Yet, they seemed concerned that it would taint it.  Hurt the integrity of the game.

The NFL should take them out to lunch, and tell them about how good fantasy leagues could be for them.