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The Commissioning Conundrum

Being a fantasy baseball commissioner can often be a thankless job. The responsibility given to that one friend in a home league who tends to be the most organized – or at least the most fantasy obsessed. The person that has to set up the league, deal with disputes, and run everything. And, traditionally, someone managing one of the rosters in the league.

Today, as more and more people join leagues with people who they don’t know in person and aren’t historic home leagues, the commissioner role can look a little different than “the buddy who gets put in charge.” Now it’s the guy who organizes the league, finds the managers, keeps the league running, and – unless it’s a free league – manages the finances. Whether the money is collected through Fantrax treasurer (strongly recommend), or the league is sending money through whatever app/system to the commissioner, that is also a responsibility of the commissioner.

Because, as we’ve explored in the past, Fantrax is highly customizable and allows a variety of settings and setup – especially once you dive into dynasty and keeper leagues, it’s helpful if your commissioner feels comfortable working their way around the settings and knows how to get it set up.

But on top of these more technical skills and knowledge of setting up a league and the organizational chops to keep it set up – as well as to put together a clear constitution that explains rules and dynamics that a fantasy platform won’t necessarily store or clarify in the same depth (which is inevitable for any dynasty or keeper format) -you also need a commissioner you trust – specifically BECAUSE they are in control of the league.

Once you pay into a league and agree to the rules, a commissioner could start messing with rules (and not as clarity for the league or to improve the league after clarification and/or league conversation), they could use their power to subtly (though Fantrax does track it) flip out players in their lineups after the fact, etc. These are all powers that the commissioner needs to have to run the league well, but as every Spiderman fan knows, with great power comes great responsibility.

What Your League Needs in a Commissioner

So – given the amount of power – financially, rules, setting, etc that a commissioner necessarily has – what are some necessary things you need in your commissioner:

  1. Honesty and character – if your commissioner doesn’t care if they cheat, or if they take advantage of their position, or if a change in something benefits them – then they shouldn’t be your commissioner
  2. Availability – your commissioner doesn’t have to be instantly available every second of course, but if you need to reach out to them – for rule clarity, to figure something out, or whatever that may be, they should be able to respond – and SHOULD respond. While life obviously happens and I can say from experience sometimes league chats can blow up while the commissioner isn’t there (in which case just wait for the commissioner please), they should be around to help when needed.
    1. Subpoint here – there will be disagreements, needs to clarify the rules, etc – and this needs to be addressed well and with listening to peoples’ opinions well. You will have things that weren’t clear and making it clearer will possibly benefit some and harm others – but nevertheless, clarity has to be had. It’s not a great situation for anyone involved, but if the commissioner doesn’t listen to people, then it’s not going to end well for anyone. This is also an advantage of the non-managing commissioner as they won’t be biased to make a decision that benefits them, but rather the best decision for the league.
  3. Knowledge of the system – your commissioner should know their way around Fantrax. If they need help figuring out some things then they can ask support and get help with that, but they should know their way around a system and know what is needed to fix things for managers when that happens (and know what to not do to avoid accidently breaking a league). Fantrax has ? info buttons all through rule settings for commissioners to make sure they understand stuff as well as a FAQ and their great support staff.
  4. Track record – in today’s fantasy world you will not always know your commissioner, at least not personally (before you join a league), and that’s fine. But you should have some knowledge of basis of knowing they are trustworthy and good at running a league or you do risk running into someone who doesn’t meet 1-3. Does this mean some professional resume? No – but hopefully something to help you know before joining and committing energy, money, or other elements of your life.

So this raises the question – is it best for the commissioner to be a member of the league or not, since, if the commissioner isn’t playing, then there is less incentive for them to adjust rules, they likely just want the league to continue, and their rulings on things that need a ruling (which even with well-built rules can have that).

To which you might respond – if they aren’t why the heck would they run the league? Which is a fair question. I commission leagues on the side, as my twitter feed probably makes painfully obvious (though primarily as something I enjoy doing most of the time). However, I’ve heard horror story after horror story of commissioners manipulating rules, paying out winnings to themselves that they shouldn’t win and didn’t earn, and the list goes on and on. If the manager is not in the league – unless they are somehow using it as some messed up money laundering/manipulating scheme – then they should not be incentivized to manipulate anything, but just to keep the league running and fun!

Shady activity is certainly not what you want from your commissioner. And sadly, if you get into a situation like this your options are largely limited to get help from the situation, which brings me back to the list. Obviously commissioning and being in the league isn’t bad. I’m in leagues that I run, I’ve played and still play in leagues that other people run and play in. But the only league I’m in that I don’t also commission that is paid, I have a relationship with the commissioner. No, we’re not regularly hanging out or even living in the same state, but I know him well enough to trust he’s not going to do something shady or evil.

So – does that mean you need a commissioner who does this professionally as I do – no. Not at all. But hopefully, this does make you think twice about joining a random league when you don’t have confidence in things being run cleanly and with ethics and end up in a frustrating situation, since, as discussed here, this is supposed to be fun!

Anyway – I’ve been hearing horror stories of commissioners abusing their power so just wanted to offer some thoughts of how to think about making sure you’re in a league that will be run well and honorable because, at its core, a commissioner’s job is to make the entire leagues fantasy experience as enjoyable as possible where they can just focus on managing, chatting with the league, making trades, and having fun. Whether that means asking industry guys if they have suggestions of people to work with, or other relationships, just be sure to exercise some caution with this to enjoy your Fantrax and fantasy experience!

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