One of the worst things about fantasy baseball is when your league has its integrity compromised because managers essentially gave up on their teams and quit playing before the end of the season. It's not fair for teams competing for a title since these non-active teams -- full of empty roster spots and guys on the DL -- will bleed away points that will then be scooped up by managers still competing. Keep in mind, those are points the active managers otherwise wouldn't have if it was a solid start-to-finish league with everyone playing hard to the end. The final standings end up skewed, and it becomes tricky to say if the manager who won would still have been crowned champion if all managers would have played for the full season.
You'd think the bloggers league I'm playing in would be a league without quitters, being that it's populated with guys who care enough about fantasy baseball to write about it. Sadly, though, that hasn't been the case. At least two in my bloggers league have abandoned their teams this season. Want to know who they are? (I'm not above naming names.) The quitters are David Chase of Brock for Broglio and Derek Nelson of MVN*. Neither has adjusted their lineup since early July and both have players on the DL in their starting lineups. Two other managers have severely slacked in this final third of the season. Zach Piso of the MLB Front Office Rotonomics blog hasn't visited his team page since Aug. 10 and has never taken Evan Longoria out of his starting lineup. Rudy Gamble of Razzball hasn't adjusted his team since Aug. 9 and continues to start Juan Pierre in his outfield. If those two don't return soon, that's a full third of our league's 12 managers who bolted early. The league's integrity, as far as I'm concerned, has been crippled as a result.
So the question is: What can be done about quitters? In public leagues, not much. (That's why I don't play them.) In private leagues, obviously it makes sense to not invite back next season those who dropped out early this year. (Unless they have a really, really good excuse, like a family tragedy or a high-pressure new job**.) Still, you might just be replacing old quitters with brand new quitters. Really, the best thing you can do is offer incentives for people to stick around till Sept. 30. Now, I'm not a big fan of $25 for the most home runs in September and things like that, but in a money league, it might be preferable to having people drop out in August. (Your champion loses $25 off his payout, but at least his title is 100 percent legit!)
We do something incredibly unique in my 14-team money league. Although it's not a keeper league, our draft order is based on where managers finished during the previous season. Thus, the manager who wins in 2008 gets first choice of where to draft in 2009. (They can choose to draft 1st and 28th, 14th and 15th or anywhere in the middle.) The runner-up gets second choice of where to draft. And so on and so on. This keeps teams that can't finish in the money competing to the end because they want as much control over their draft pick as possible the next year.
It's a system that seems to work for us, but I won't pretend it's a fool-proof solution for the quitter problem. I don't think there is such a thing. Quitters will always be part of the fantasy game, sad as that may be.
*Actually I'm not so sure Derek still writes for MVN, as the Seamless Baseball blog appears to not exist there anymore. I spent 15 minutes looking and couldn't find any new fantasy baseball content.
**And if that's the case with any of the four guys I called out by name in this article, please feel free to comment and/or e-mail me to call me an uncaring asshole. Although I know three of you are at least still writing about fantasy baseball. And if you're still writing about it, you probably should be still playing it.
UPDATE: As Alfonso pointed out in his comment, David Chase has a infant son with some unfortunate health issues, and that would certainly qualify as a "really good excuse" for why he let his team languish this summer. You're off the hook, David, and I will be hoping for a bright and healthy future for your little guy. David and I exchanged e-mails this morning, and he apologized for not letting the rest of the league know about his inactivity beforehand. I don't think he needed to apologize -- I'm the one who really should have been apologizing -- but it's good advice for others who need to ditch a league early and have a good reason for doing so: Tell your leaguemates what's going on and let them know life got in the way of fantasy baseball this year. They'll be sure to forgive you that much quicker.