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Ask The Commish: Last-Minute Changes to Playoff is a Bad Idea
I’m a new commissioner, and I guess I created a controversy on my own, when I thought I was actually doing a good thing. Last week, I saw that a team who actually had the most points scored wasn’t going to make our playoff, so I added them, and another team just to even things out. Of course, the guys who were added were happy, but the others weren’t. We have 10 teams, and the two I added made six. Did I really make a mistake, if all I was doing was trying to keep it fun for everyone? I was told it was too late to change or remake the playoff schedule. Someone else said six was too many for our league and it was unfair to the top teams. I admit, I’m new to all of this, and I’ve never been into fantasy anything before this year. Most of us are new, but it’s the people who’ve played before who have been giving me the most grief.
By the way, I just discovered you. I wish I had known about you when I started this. I’m not even sure what my question is, except I’d just like to know what was so wrong with what I did? I had fun this year, and I’d like to keep doing this, but I guess I have a lot to learn? Do you think 6 teams is too many, and if so, why?
I’ll say this first, just to get it out of the way. First-year commissioner: you don’t have to have a playoff in your fantasy league. I am speaking as someone who hates playing in playoff leagues myself, and am openly admitting my personal bias. I know, I know, it seems like that’s what everybody is doing, but everyone isn’t doing it, and there’s something to be said about a league where the top three teams place (depending if you have some sort of payout) and the manager of the team with the best win-loss record is the champion. You’re rewarded for your full body of work for the whole season. I know that’s considered sacrilege in some fantasy football realms, but I don’t care. It’s something you might want to think about.
The main issue for me, is that you changed the rules once the season started, and this was a big change. The current season for your league, a league with a playoff, is almost over, so changing the rules, more specifically, changing the expectations this late into the season is a problem. I’m not going to say you should never make major changes in your league rules or setup after the season starts, but there has to be a really, really good reason for doing so. Although it sounds like your fantasy heart was in the right place, the reason you gave isn’t a good enough reason. You should’ve jotted down your thoughts or idea, and waited until next season to create the scenario you desired.
I agree with whoever told you that six players are too many for a ten-team league. That’s more than half the teams making it in. I know records shake out in funny ways, and I took statistics and probability in school a long time ago, and I might be wrong, but I’m going to guess that the sixth team you added, just to “even things out,” likely has a losing record. Is that true? Regardless, in my opinion, six teams is too many. If you’re going to have playoff rounds, then four teams for a league your size is enough. Some leagues will save the last slot for the top-points team who might not otherwise make it into the playoff. You could have that team be the fifth team, and give the top seed a bye the first round. Next year, maybe?
Additionally, I don’t know what the person meant when they said it was unfair. As I already mentioned, I believe in players showing off their managing skills for the whole season, with the best record winning. I hate playing in playoff leagues because you can have a team that barely makes it in, and they can beat a team with the best record, just because of how the games shake out that one weekend. I personally don’t think that’s fair. It makes all the work you put in managing around injuries, suspensions, hot streaks, cold streaks, and bye weeks a total waste of time. To me, a full body of work trumps one bad weekend. The cool thing about fantasy sports in general, is that there are so many different types of leagues with various setups for scoring and league play, so everyone can find - or create - a league that works for them.
When you switched gears the way that you did in your league, you disrupted the expectations that were already set. There are strategic choices that some players will make in a playoff league that they won’t make in non-playoff leagues. For example, I don’t know if your league is still allowing trades, but some people will make trades and rebuild their teams, so to speak, just for the playoff. Leading up to the first round in your playoff, the top teams in your league have known more or less, who they were likely to face, or at least the teams that were likely to make it in. They may have made waiver or trade decisions based on that known criteria. You knocked over the apple cart when you made the change, and I would say, made it worse because it was so sudden. You undercut, obliterated frankly, the expectations that you had established when the season started.
Spend the off season researching different scoring scenarios and league setups. There are so many sources out there for you to consider. Yes, you might want to take a peek at my past columns. for some commissioner inspiration as well. You’re sure to find all kinds of ideas, some crazy, some smart, on how to build and setup your league. I’m glad you had fun this season, and aside from this misstep, you’re going to be okay, because it looks like you’re already looking out for your league. That’s a good place to start.
Send your questions to The Commish: firstname.lastname@example.org