Fantasy Baseball – Auction or Straight Draft?

Fantasy baseball has been around, in one form or another, for three decades now. In that time the hobby has undergone a number of face lifts which seem to always accommodate the fantasy football / instant gratification crowd. Rotisserie leagues, the traditional format, are now being changed to point scoring head to head formats. This is done so the fantasy football crowd can equivocate a home run to a touchdown and check their win-loss record weekly instead of enjoying the six month marathon that is the rotisserie baseball season. American League Only and National League Only baseball formats are now more commonly converged into Mixed League settings.

Again, this is geared to the fantasy football players who do not want to take the time to get to know the player pool, the second and third stringers, etc. In a mixed league all you have to know is the starters on each team, and not even all of them at that. The biggest and most important trend I have noticed over the years is the transformation from my favorite part of fantasy baseball, the auction draft, to the fantasy football friendly straight (or serpentine) draft. There is no right or wrong answer to this, everyone is allowed their own opinion as to which one is better, but what I see far too often is people who employ the straight draft function and backing it with the reasoning that "that is how we have always done it ". Well, I am here to try and open some minds because, let me tell you, there is nothing in the world that is more fun than a fantasy auction draft.

Before I get into my sales pitch, allow me to briefly explain the differences between the two drafting formats. In a straight draft, every team owner is assigned a number. If there are twelve owners, then everyone gets a number one through twelve. Then, in a snake like fashion they make draft picks in that order, from one to twelve, and then in the following round it snakes back and they draft twelve through one. There is usually two or three minutes of time allotted to each draft pick, so in a twelve team league one round of drafting can take up to thirty-six minutes. If you are picking at the wheel (first or last), you could legitimately wait an hour in between your picks. And so it goes.

In an auction format, each owner has $ 260 of fake money and still gets a number, one through twelve in this case, but all that indicates is the order in which you are to nominate a player. Let me explain. In an ideal auction, the league's team owners will be sitting in a circle with an impartial auctioneer standing in the middle. Whoever has the number one nomination (traditionally the defending champion of the league and even more traditionally, that is me) announces a player's name and a price. For instance, someone might say "Joe Mauer, $ 20". Then, anyone in the room can make their own bid. There is no minimum amount, so you could say "Joe Mauer, $ 21" or "Joe Mauer, $ 27" or anything else you would like (there is strategy involved in this). Normally, a bidding frenzy breaks out among the team owners until the auctioneer says "going once, going twice, sold". Whoever has the highest bid rosters that player. Sounds fun, right?

People. Friends. Strangers. This is me begging you to open your minds and embrace something new and positive. Your draft league needs to convert to an auction format this year. You do not have to marry it. You do not have to sign a multi-year contract. All you have to do is give it a shot. As a social experiment, I have asked all of my friends and anyone else I have spoken to recently who plays fantasy baseball to try and get their league to switch over to an auction format. It is amazing to me, but the look on the subjects' faces when I bring it up is the same look my Mother-in-law, who doesn't know how to use a computer, gives me when I ask her to shoot me an email. Just utter stubbornness and refusal to embrace a better, more innovative and exciting version of something they have been doing the same exact way for years. Here are some reasons why I think everyone who does a straight fantasy baseball draft should try out an auction:

1. Fantasy auctions are infinitely more fun than straight drafts. My baseball auctions typically last 5+ hours and it feels like ten minutes. The intensity is indescribable and you do not have to wait a half hour in between picks. My friends who do straight drafts go through two packs of cigarettes during their draft because there is so much down time. It just gets boring after awhile. You are constantly involved in every single moment of an auction, you must be alert and involved, at least mentally, in every single player nomination.

2. Auctions factor in so much more strategy than drafts. Do you want to roster Alex Rodriguez AND Albert Pujols (two of fantasy baseball's best hitters)? Roy Halladay AND Tim Lincecum (best pitchers)? You can have them all, but it will cost you a pretty penny and you will have to manage your remaining funds exceptionally well to fill out a balanced roster. This is not for people who like to print out rankings the day of the draft and just yell out the name of the next player on the list when it is their turn (which I am guessing is one cause of the resistance). This is where you have to think about what you are doing, where you are going, and what every other team is doing and where they are going. There are so many layers of strategy to this it is ridiculous (in a good way).

3. Luck is minimized, skill is enhanced. No longer is your fate determined by a deck of cards or pulling numbers out of a hat. The days of one team drawing the Ace of Spades or picking a piece of paper with a "# 1" on it, getting the best player and riding him to the championship are over ..

4. Everyone has a friend who spends money like it is water in real life, right? If his employer were to give him his annual salary in one check he'd be broke in a month. Coincidentally, this same guy always spends about ninety percent of his budget within the first ten minutes of the auction. So, from a pure comedy standpoint, wouldn't it be fun to see your friend do this ….. and then go smoke two packs of cigarettes while waiting for the end-gamers? Conversely, it would also be great to see your friend who is, lets say, "careful with money" refuse to spend any of his money with the hope that he gets to keep his unused balance (he can't, it is fake money ).

I hope I have convinced you to at least try out an auction draft. If you do not like it you can go back to your straight draft next year, but my money is against that. Once you go auction, you never go back.