Forget Fantasy Baseball, Use The Internet To Actually Manage A Team

from the and-piss-off-the-players-yourself dept

In the summer of 1951 baseball team owner Bill Veeck knew he had to do something to get more fans to come to games for his St. Louis Browns. His most famous stunt was sending a midget up to bat (he walked), but just a few nights later he had "Fans Manager Night." He got fans of the Browns to pick the team's starting lineup using ballots in a local newspaper. Then, he gave all the fans in one section voting placards. At various junctures, Browns coaches would hold questions to that section of the crowd ("should we warm up a pitcher?") and the fans would vote. The manager would then follow the crowd's wishes. Of course, as is typical of the baseball establishment, he was widely criticized for hurting "the integrity" of the game. Veeck had come up with a bunch of his stunts years earlier as a minor league team owner -- and it's still the minor leagues where some of the more interesting publicity stunts are pulled. Last summer we wrote about a minor league team that was going to let two local fans play a video game version of that night's game for the first two innings, and then let the actual players complete the game. After a variety of complaints, this promotion was canceled. This year, an independent minor league team seems to have updated Veeck's "Fan Manager Night" with an internet twist. Digg points us to an article about the Schaumburg Flyers who are letting fans choose the lineup every night online. The fans don't always agree with the manager (or the players), and some team members are grumbling about "integrity of the game," but as Veeck noted, how much integrity is there to worry about when no one wants to come out to see your games? Given the popularity of things like "fantasy sports," it seems only natural to play around with a model like this.


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  1.  
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    JackR, Sep 8th, 2006 @ 9:48pm

    integrity

    These guys are playing in the northern independent league. That's pretty far down the totem pole. They should be thrilled anyone at all cares.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2006 @ 12:34am

    "some team members are grumbling about 'integrity of the game,' but as Veeck noted, how much integrity is there to worry about when no one wants to come out to see your games?"

    That's...an awfully stupid thing to say. They should probably find a not-idiotic way to get people to the games. Please do not let sports go the way of reality television and choose-your-own-adventure novels.

    This idea is reminiscent of those kids had when I was in 3rd grade. "Let's put spikes everywhere on the field to make it cooler!"

    ..come on.

     

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  3.  
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    Chief Elf, Sep 9th, 2006 @ 2:56am

    Great Idea!!

    Baseball is not national security or a health care profession... no lives hang in the balance of a decision. It's entertainment! And it sounds far more entertaining to allow fan participation in relatively minor management decisions. I'd enjoy watching that more, even if I wasn't one of the fans participating.

    Besides, the fans aren't involved in more important decisions like hiring, firing, or salary negotiations.

    And since many decisions made by baseball managers are completely arbitrary, such as exactly when to relieve a pitcher, I dare say that many decisions made by fan consensus will be just as good as a professional manager's, on average. But even if they aren't, so what? The purpose is to have fun.

    Actually, the purpose is for the fans to have fun. If you don't think so, see how many professional baseball players you can get to play full time for free -- just for the fun of it. Not enough for a team, I'll bet. So since the fans are paying for the ball players, give them their money's worth!

     

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  4.  
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    Michael, Sep 9th, 2006 @ 9:57am

    Unfortunately, I'm going to have to agree with Chief Elf.

    At an Olympic event, it's all about being the absolute best at what you do, and earning the respect of the world for being able to do it better than anyone.

    In professional sports, it's all about the fans. The game exists not for some romantic ideal, but to make money. It's a business, and the consumers are the spectators. You could argue that historically it was a game of passion, but I'm arguing that today, it isn't, and there's no point in holding it to the ideals of something it no longer represents.

    I completely agree that it will cheapen the sport from a purist's perspective, but purists are becoming a thin lot, and aren't paying the bills.

    Perhaps the purists should start their own league. I'd actually what that, but most typical fans won't.

     

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  5.  
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    Tashi, Sep 9th, 2006 @ 12:01pm

    What if the same happened to football and see saw Peyton Manning at center or Tony Gonzales at linebacker? That's the kind of oddball decisions people make. These guys train for a certain position and there probably are some hoping to make it up the ladder to the majors so there is a certain level of integrity lost, even at this level.

    At the very least have limitations so you don't have center fileders playing first base, etc. But that's just for the integrity of sport in general. Personally I don't even like baseball. :P

     

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    Mike (profile), Sep 9th, 2006 @ 12:17pm

    Re:

    At the very least have limitations so you don't have center fileders playing first base, etc.

    There are such limitations. The players can only play the positions they're listed at. The article notes some players playing out of position, but that was only because the manager made the mistake of listing all the positions each player *could* play at, rather than making it clear what positions they normally play at.

     

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    obilesk, Sep 9th, 2006 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Great Idea!!

    AMEN yes yes yes. It's overstated but that's because it is so obvious: these players are WAY overpayed for playing a CHILD"s game. I love baseball, and these atheletes should be paid a living wage for all the work they put in. But in the end pro sports is about the thrill of competition, and the fun the FANS get out of it. We pay for it, we ought to have a say occasionally. It'd be fun, and worth it to baseball if every franchise did it. Why not have one game at sometime during the season that involves all the teams that we vote on line-ups or whatever? Wishful thinking...

     

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  8.  
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    Paul, Sep 9th, 2006 @ 1:01pm

    It's not ALL about the fans enjoyment.
    You're forgetting that the players are people too.
    They arn't just out there to earn a paycheck (ok maybe some of them are) Most of them WANT TO WIN and if they let fans make stupid management decisions then that hurts their chance to win, hurts the teams moral and will essentially kill the team if it goes on long enough.

    It reminds me of my childhood soccer team.. The majority of us had been playing together for 3-4 years, then we get a new coach, some new kids dad who had previously coached some *really* young soccer team(6-8 year olds) and he tried to coach us the same way, thinking we knew nothing of the game and moving us all around the field into positions that we wern't used to playing. Positions we didn't want to play, positions we knew we wern't good at, because he wanted us to "try them out". The result? A horrible first half of the season until we basically rebelled against the coach and told him we wern't going to play if he kept being an idiot.

     

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  9.  
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    Seamhead and a Techdirt fan, Sep 10th, 2006 @ 12:54am

    Re: Re: Great Idea!!

    Why not give the players electric collars and shock them when they strike out or boot a ground ball?

    You couldn't be more wrong, obelisk. Just a few gaps in your logic:

    1) You claim these guys are "WAY overpaid," but this isn't the bigs, or even an MLB-affiliated farm team. Players make $700 to $3K a month for a season that lasts a little more than 3 months, according to the USA Today story.

    2) You're right that sports is about the thrill of competition, but it's the athletes who should be competing, not any schmuck in a mesh trucker cap who can afford a $3 bleacher ticket. If you want to prove your baseball acumen, either stick to your PlayStation or actually become a manager of a real baseball team.

    3) "We pay for it, we ought to have a say occasionally" is pure idiocy. Do you get to read a couple of lines on camera when you pay $10 to see the latest Tom Cruise piece of crap? Does your monthly cable bill allow you to file a quick story for CNN from your hometown? That $80 Coldplay ticket enable you to dictate which songs they play during the set? Or does a $100 dinner allow you to step into the kitchen and tell the chef how to make your meal?

    The ticket price IS your vote. Don't like the team? Hate baseball? Think they're overpaid? Don't pay to go to a game or watch on TV.

    These guys -- athletes and managers -- are paid what the market calls for, and at every level. It's called capitalism, and it's called competition. If you're looking for something different, check out the WWF. I'm sure they'll be deploying the vote-for-a-winner strategy in no time.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2006 @ 10:45am

    Forget managing a profressional ball team, I'd rather manage THE A-TEAM.

    'I pity the fool who comes between the A-Team and our manager!'

     

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    YankeesSuck, Sep 10th, 2006 @ 6:06pm

    Seriously...

    I'm sorry, the people who are arguing that this is a bad idea are doing so merely for the sake of arguing. I didn't read the original article, i'm not registering for 1 article, but we're talking about a lineup here. Not what position they're going to play but what order they're going to bat. Frankly, this doesn't change the "integrity" of the game what so ever. It seems like it will serve its purpose as well, it will allow a level of interaction with the game that will draw more people to it.

     

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  12.  
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    ed, Sep 11th, 2006 @ 7:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Great Idea!!

    yea in some places you can prepare your own meal.. like most places in most countries will allow you to go into the kitchen and prepare meal your own way. Many restaurants will allow you to bring your own food and drink too and request to have it prepared a certain way. And CNN is now recruiting people to send in news worthy pics if your there on the spot and one day in the next ten years you will be able to sit in a concert and digitally request songs like they do every day at every little gig you see in every little bar.. entertainment is all about the interaction between people who entertain and the people who participate despite the hecklers in any good comedy club. without it. Well it just woulndt be entertaining

     

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  13.  
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    Dave Cohen, Sep 11th, 2006 @ 11:47am

    Bill Veeck

    Bill Veeck was a genius, some of his ideas worked to a tee, some failed miserably. Mr. Veeck operated a baseball team on a shoestring budget, he just couldn't compete finanically with the Yankees or any of the other financially sound teams, he needed gimmicks. The Midget gimmick was a great one, as was the exploding scoreboard which every team now has some kind of version. The showers at the old White Sox park was great, especially during hot summer days. Harry Carey, then with the White Sox used to broadcast in the centerfield bleachers and use the shower as well. Veeck brought Harry Carey to Chicago. Disco Demolition was probably not the best idea, but it was fun for me to watch. Baseball is big business, but it is also still a game played by adults who are mostly just big kids playing a game they love. I'm not crazy about letting fans choose who should start in a big league game, but I live near Schaumburg, the Flyers I beleive are a class A team and need to have promotions to get the fans to their parks. Dave http://www.davescomputerserv.com

     

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