The Verdict: on the clock at the draft

With the calendar officially turned to 2012, it is time to start focusing on the upcoming fantasy baseball season. One of the most fun and exciting aspects of any fantasy baseball league is the draft. It doesn’t matter whether it is a snake or auction draft, or whether it is a keeper or non-keeper league. There is always built-up tension, anxiety and anticipation. Anyone who aspires to succeed in a fantasy baseball league knows how important it is to prepare and set strategy for the draft. You hope to be in a league filled with many others who are as passionate and dedicated as you.

To smoothly and efficiently administer the draft, the league commissioner should set a time limit on each draft pick. In this day and age of fantasy sports on the internet, chances are you are in a league that drafts through the host Web site’s own software with an automated time clock set to a specific preference. But some leagues still draft the old-fashioned way and require a manual time clock. Either way, it is imperative that the commissioner mandate a finite amount of time per pick.

As fun as the draft can be, it can also be extremely tedious and exhausting. A fantasy baseball draft could take several hours to complete given large rosters and multiple positions to fill. To prevent the process from dragging on, the commissioner should set a reasonable time limit for each pick. There is a presumption that everyone has prepared for the draft and should have some semblance of an idea what they are doing. While that is not always the case, 60 seconds per draft selection is more than enough time for people to consult their own lists or online rankings to find a player to draft.

Of course, in an auction league, the time limits are different. If you aren’t using an online auction, you should set a time limit for each team to nominate a player and then for each bid. If you leave it open-ended with no countdown clock, the process could last forever (or at least feel like it).

As commissioner, one of the most important things you can do is enforce the rules and guidelines that are set. If there is a time limit for a draft pick, there should be some penalty for a team that violates the rule. In league that I run, my rule is that if a team goes beyond the set time it forfeits that pick and must wait until the end of that particular round to make its selection. Over the past 13 years, I have enforced this rule three times. That is because my league members know the rule exists and know I will enforce it if necessary. Using online draft software, I simply go back and recreate the draft picks as they happened and then let the offending team manager make his pick, which gets entered afterwards.

It is true that many league Web sites have a draft robot or settings to automatically draft the next highest rated player if the time clock expires. However, in a sense, that unfairly prejudices the teams that follow in the draft order because there is no guarantee that the offending team would have taken that player. Granted, that next highest ranked player may be someone at a position that isn’t needed, but it can reward a team for not making a timely pick by giving it player of such high value. That is why I have opted to allow teams to make their selections at the end of the round, because it forces them to miss out on players selected before them that they could have had in the first place.

It comes down to proper draft preparation, etiquette, and efficiency. The draft is where people build their teams and a lot of time and energy is spent preparing for the big day. It should be treated with the proper respect, and that includes being ready to make your picks on a timely basis. Of course there are extenuating circumstances such as loss of internet connection or other technical issues that may arise. Those situations can be dealt with on a case by case basis and can be corrected retroactively. What I am referring to is the simple act of making a selection and being mindful of the time it takes to complete a draft.

The purpose of having a time limit is not to penalize people. In fact, most people do not need an entire 60 seconds to make their selections. But simply having the clock running with consequences if it expires will keep people focused while also making the draft more efficient. Of course, if your league members do not mind spending six hours participating in a fantasy draft, then by all means do not set a time limit. The Court leaves that to your discretion.

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Fred Chapman
Fred Chapman

I hate to be such a downer and criticize an article on a free web site, but this was pretty useless.

It’s 800 words that can be summed up in one sentence. I think this column has the chance to be something good. That is, when it actually presents real situations that occurred and made the author re-think his league’s constitution. But I find that all too often, it strays from that real-world experience format that can be useful to forward-thinking commissioners and offers generic ideas, or once even, just regular fantasy player analysis.

Eddie Gaedel
Eddie Gaedel

I actually found the article quite helpful.  I really like the idea that if someone doesn’t take their pick on time that they instead make a pick at the end of the round.  With online software, this might be hard to mandate, but It would make a situation such as an internet lapse more manageable for your strategy, while also giving a slap on the wrist for the infraction.