MASTER NOTES: The dog days are over

“Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can be aroused by two things: first, an idea which takes the imagination by storm; and second, a definite, intelligible plan for carrying that idea into action. ”

― Arnold Toynbee

Around this time last year, it was painfully clear that a key relationship in my life was coming to an end. No, my marriage wasn’t falling apart. My wife continues to put up with me for reasons I can’t quite grasp.

Instead, my oldest fantasy baseball league was slowly being poisoned by apathy. The effects were crippling and this league, which had begun when most of its owners were friends playing college ball together some ten plus years ago, was on life support and fading fast.

For many owners at this time of year, the general situation I’m describing is an all-too-familiar scenario. Apathy is an ugly thing in fantasy leagues, because the indifference of a few individuals can end up sabotaging the experience for all owners.

But to paraphrase British historian Arnold Toynbee, apathy can be conquered by the enthusiasm created by a mixture of imagination and planning. So if you’re in a league that appears to be rotting from the inside out, don’t despair. Get creative and inject some life into your stagnating collective.

For my league, some major changes were in order and once implemented, ended up turning things around completely. I’ll break down our approach as a way of suggesting some ideas that can help reinvigorate wilting leagues:

One of the defining elements of any league was also the most crucial tweak we made, going from Rotisserie to a Head to Head format. For someone like me that is both a devotee of Roto and a critic of H2H, this was a travesty.

But a majority of our owners voted for the change, believing it would transform what had most recently been a season of quiet desperation into a more competitive and engaging atmosphere. As much as it pains me to admit, the owners that voted for this change were right.

Say what you will about the inadequacies of H2H as a format (and I could say plenty), the simple twist of owners facing a primary adversary each week rather than the entire league for 6 months made a huge positive impact. It promotes banter, side bets and most importantly, focused competition.

Regardless of the reason, owners that lost focus in Roto have been locked in by H2H. And we didn’t abandon Roto entirely. The team finishing the regular season with the best Roto stats takes home a nice monetary reward.

Expanding or altering your league’s scoring is a great way to shake things up. H2H afforded us the chance to add new categories, which we used to introduce more rate statistics to counterbalance the counting stats.

Something as simple as trading batting average for on base percentage can shake up player values and introduces a new element for all owners to process. Even if your league isn’t on board for something as drastic as replacing wins with quality starts, adding different statistics to complement your existing categories can open up the player universe and makes for a more challenging experience.

This one is simple: Drop the dead weight. All the tweaks in the world won’t turn some players into competent, positive owners. Chances are good that if the same owners continually lose interest and check out by mid-season, you’ll be doing them a favor by giving them the ‘ol heave-ho.

And the sooner you ditch a bad owner, the better. It’s funny how the same owners that aren’t updating their rosters by mid-May suddenly show renewed interest every year once pitchers and catchers report. Don’t be fooled.

A league without banter and camaraderie amongst owners just isn’t as fun as one with lots of chatter. One way we got everyone involved was by having all owners take turns writing a league update email every couple of weeks. Not only did the threat of being called out promote activity and competitiveness, but it produced a lot of laughs and running jokes.

Adding an element to promote trading is another move that can pay dividends. We added a small prize for the owner that completes the most regular season trades. One might expect that to engender some haphazard and/or shady dealings, but all it really did was create a lot of interaction, haggling and ultimately a lot more trades.


The time to improve your leagues is now. Don't wait to discuss the tweaks and improvements that could rejuvenate your experience. Get the dialog going amongst your members and build positive momentum heading into next season. Shaking things up can cure what ails a league in a rut while changing the game in new and exciting ways for its members. Some compromise is required, but if it results in a better, more engaging experience for everyone then personal preferences must be put aside to benefit the greater good. Trust me: It’s worth it.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.