fantasy baseball league in Bologna, Italy?
You must be joking! What can Italians possibly know about baseball?
Well, just surfing these pages should be enough to convince you that we're regular baseball nuts, like most of you probably. We spent a thousand weekends at the ballpark (to have an idea of the play level in Italy, just think minor league baseball, A-level), or at the official meeting venue Pizzeria Napoleone, just talking baseball. We've been playing simulation games, like Strat-O-Matic or Pursue The Pennant, for years. Then, technology changed our approach, as we became computer-simulated baseball-games players. Back in 1993, we decided to establish a fantasy league within friends, adapting the Pursue The Pennant computer game to customized rules, designed to allow an entire season to develop before playing the actual championship. So, we adopted some of the Rotisserie Baseball rules (the draft, players eligibility, trades, players' freezing, etc.) and customized other rules to our needs. The main difference between our league and the Rotos is that we don't get rewarded for what our players accomplish on the field during the season. If Frank Thomas is in your team for the whole year, but you trade him shortly before the deadline, he will just play in another team when the Championship is played on the computer.
More informations on the League's rules here.
The Owners' League is a simulation baseball league based in Bologna, Italy, in existence since 1994. It is run by 12 players/owners, using the Diamon Mind Baseball computer simulator. Owners of franchises in this league draft players, create a team, then pit that team against other teams in the league.
Two points are worth emphasizing:
- This is not a rotisserie league. The results of actual games are not used to determine who wins what. Rather, the statistics of a player from the previous season are used to randomly generate the results of at-bats. A simulated Ken Griffey actually steps up against a simulated Andy Pettitte and attempts to hit a little simulated baseball past a simulated Derek Jeter on the grass of a simulated Yankee Stadium. Diamond Mind is even sophisticated enough to simulate the weather, and one sees simulated bench clearing brawls every now and then.
The season starts with the Draft, which is held on the last weekend before Opening Day. Each owner has freezed up to thirteen players from the previous season, and he starts building up his 40-man roster (plus 5 rookies) from there. Only American League players are in the pool. The annual budget (salary cap) for every team is worth L. 100,000 (about $60). You must acquire all your players with that money, the complete roster averaging 18 pitchers and 22 batters. Pedro J. Martinez of the 1998 Boston Red Sox has been awarded by the Sniffers with the highest bid in the history of the Draft, L. 44,500.
- Franchise owners do not play the games themselves (as many other simulation leagues do). You are closer to being a General Manager than anything else. You sign players, trade them for other players, but the closest you come to actual in-game decisions is by "hiring the manager". Each owner gets a lineup form, about a page long, that lets you set the tendencies for your team: what batting lineups should be used, making platoons, whether the manager sticks with his starters or goes to the bullpen quickly and that sort of things. The computer is the one that ultimately decides whether or not Kenny Lofton is going to steal on that 2-0 pitch in the seventh inning of the game, though it will be strongly influenced by your suggestions on the lineup sheet.
After the Draft, our regular owner starts to follow the regular season with a relaxed, sportsman's approach. As you can see in the picture below, a bad outing from the ace of his pitching staff gets usually nothing but classy and composed reactions.
He seldom loses hope, though: the Secret Of Success, as defined in the Sabermetric Encyclopedia, is strictly followed here: If you can't win, contend, or even quit the league, your only hope is to scheme to alter the rules...
Players can be traded for other players and/or for salary cap money. The trading season stretches from April well over the year, and it ends shortly after New Year's Day with a glorious showdown in front of a computer screen, in the beautiful Bologna Argodome. The entire championship is played before our eyes in a matter of a few hours, and even if some spare cash is awarded to the winner, the real prize is sudden glory and longtime fame. Some teams seem to be always very competitive, some others are already used to struggling painfully, but winning a championship puts you, at the very least, in the range of respectability for a lapse of reasonable time.
Championship Day, last February 4, was the usual array of emotions, frustrations and elations. You can see the results and the statistics by clicking here.
You can also see the statistics of the previous seasons.
The 12-team, three-division format is well suited for a league which only employs American League players. In the future, the ultimate goal would be to have a two-league format. Hence, dramatic expansions are in the works.