Spring Training Hot Takes: Fantasy Baseball Holding Pattern
Greg Jewett gives the latest updates surrounding the possible start of the MLB season and it's impact on Fantasy Baseball.
While baseball owners and the major league player association continue to dig in their very public battle lines, fantasy baseball players and fans continue to suffer. It feels selfish to hope for a season but seeing how television ratings spike for NASCAR races, golf resuming play, MMA taking advantage of empty spots in programming and ESPN airing KBO contests makes me wonder who baseball did not capitalize on a chance to command the market.
Baseball missed a chance to be front and center on the sports landscape perhaps reeling in younger fans to proliferate the game. Sustainability in uncertain times. Let kids get to know Mike Trout with him wearing a mic on a Saturday afternoon on a live sporting event. Kids starving for sports could go to backyards to imitate the swings of Cody Bellinger or Mookie Betts . Instead, a steady stream of ill will on social media platforms remain in the forefront of the pandemic. Less than optimal.
Growing up, baseball made inroads in my fandom from the first time I attended a Triple-A game in Syracuse when the Chiefs were the Yankees farm team. It allowed me to cheer on players who played my home town in New York making rooting for Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry and others so much fun. Baseball can be a game which bonds generations in families. Even though my son also loves the game, can it endear itself to his generation?
On a personal note, I’ve been fortunate enough to write fantasy baseball articles since 2013 and be paid for it since 2015. Analytics appealed to me and being able to produce articles about fantasy baseball provided happiness. It can be a grind, but a worthwhile one when doing something you’re passionate about. But that passion’s suffering right now as I share this sentiment from Karl Ravech:
I love baseball but I don’t like it very much right now.— Karl Ravech (@karlravechespn) June 12, 2020
Knowing there’s a deadline on any season for the MLB of September 27th to ensure playoff games remain on the air in primetime based on existing agreements, each day which passes without an agreement to return to play means fewer games in a season. It also means games being on television on July fourth will be a pipe dream. Another lost chance to make inroads for fans.
MLB holding firm that it wants the regular season concluded by Sept. 27 and postseasons not to leak too far into Nov or at all. continue to insist that its medical experts say risk of coronavirus stronger wave in cooler weather makes it riskier to keep playing into Nov.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) June 8, 2020
It’s tough to feel for owners who see teams as an investment. Twitter allows players to express their discontent, something Mets fans seem accustomed to with the Wilpon family. Instead of trying to get games going, owners come out with statements centered around this article quote tweeted by Chris Iannetta :
Translation: We as owners are using a global pandemic and social injustice to try and overpower players and institute a salary cap so we can further increase profits and our franchise values. https://t.co/l1qCVCYGG1— Chris Iannetta (@Chris_Iannetta) June 11, 2020
This article does not represent the only one of its ilk with Cardinals owners William DeWitt Jr. speaking out about lost profits prompting more reactions in social media:
Some owners have mentioned that owning a team isn’t very NET profitable.. You know what other company isn’t very NET profitable? Amazon— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) June 11, 2020
It’s also difficult to weed out all the information but the Rockies beat writer joined the fray with this:
Moreover, please don't buy the owners' claims of poverty. https://t.co/uV38uRMPuR— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) June 5, 2020
Reading about players stepping up to help their peers in the minors with Shin-Soo Choo and David Price giving them their own money and Sean Doolittle offering the same for minor leaguers on the Nationals, it’s reassuring:
There’s social unrest in our country amid a global pandemic. Baseball won’t solve these problems, but maybe it could help. We’ve been staying ready & we proposed 114 games - to protect the integrity of the game, to give back to our fans & cities, and because we want to play.— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) June 8, 2020
Until an agreement is reached, it leaves present baseball fans twisting in the wind, myself included. As for the fantasy ramifications of a truncated season, off-season injuries continue to accumulate with Chris Archer of the Pirates being the latest to undergo surgery. He will miss whatever form of 2020 season occurs after thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Many leagues already drafted but the sprint not a marathon approach will be a volatile one for us to navigate. It also clouds how to prepare for the 2021 season unless there’s a lockout, which could happen.
With all of this in mind, I ran a survey on Twitter to gauge the interest of the fantasy community about fantasy baseball games if they take place. Here’s the results, my wording did not include doing any pending league drafts:
Just under two-thirds of the responses plan on playing out their season of fantasy baseball in whatever scenario emerges. Of course, fewer games could translate to more turbulence in a truncated season. Personally, I’ve yet to draft in two different head-to-head leagues. If a 72 game season ensued, not sure there’s enough time to run a regular season and playoffs to appease members of a league. With fewer votes, it seems like most would prefer to play in a traditional rotisserie setup in a shortened season:
Leaving one’s comfort zone can be scary, but it may be time to take a deeper look at points leagues in a shortened season. Wins, ratio statistics, hot streaks, how teams deploy starting pitchers and bullpens along with a plethora of soft tissue injuries could be on tap. These factors cannot be ignored on how they impact fantasy leagues.
At least the major league draft provided some positivity on the Twitter timeline with videos of game action and how a player could impact his team in the future. But, with so many items trending on social media, it only underscores how sports remain a part of our fabric.
As sides continue to negotiate, commissioner Rob Mafred says games will take place. He can enforce a 50-game season with prorated salaries. So, fantasy remains in a holding pattern and I only hope it does not affect the hold the game has had on me through the years. Losing the chance to watch my son’s senior year of high school baseball only makes the hurt of no major league baseball sting even more. Until an agreement emerges, we wait. Both the NBA and NHL remain on track to resume their seasons at the end of July so time is running out for baseball to gain traction in a virtual chasm in the sports landscape. I hope for the best but also fear for the worst.