The below is a slightly modified email I sent yesterday to John, who has graciously allowed me to use the conversation for this post. This is an open conversation, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
From: Niv Shah
Subject: Re: One potential customer’s thoughts
To: “John Meyer”
Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 4:45 PM
First, I want to thank you for your well-thought out email. It is great for me to get feedback like this, it helps me understand what my potential customers are thinking and its a great insight for me when thinking about what I should work on next.
I could not agree with you more about your underlying question about ottoneu. This sentence of yours sums it up the best:
It requires people who are able to give a long-term and dedicated commitment, which is generally found only among acquaintances and friends, and it also requires people who are very serious baseball fans, which, for a full league, is generally found only among strangers on the internet.
So, here are my arguments as to why ottoneu is uniquely situated to limit this problem, as well as some for how when we inevitably run into this problem next offseason we plan on handling it.
First, I should start by stating that I have been in an ottoneu league for over 5 years. In that time, 3 people have dropped out. 2 dropped out before the game started – said they would play, and quit before the draft. 1 dropped out after year 3 because he had to focus on other personal obligations. A replacement was found in each case pretty quickly. While everyone in the league is a friend of a friend by some degree, not everyone knows everyone, and there are definitely owners that have been in tough roster situations and could easily have quit, but have chosen not to. Granted, this is a limited anecdote, but I believe it has some value to your concerns.
Second, there are a number of reasons why ottoneu, unlike other fantasy leagues, will work better with strangers from a competitive balance standpoint. Year over year, there are a number of things in place to make sure each team has an opportunity to win at the beginning of the season – deadline trades, arbitration, the very nature that expensive superstars are sent back to auction every season by the way inflation and mid-season trades work all help give teams a chance to win every year. I’m happy to discuss any of these in more detail if you have any questions about them.
Third, the fact that you are in a league with 11 other like-minded individuals who had to pay money to play, which more than anything acts as a barrier of entry to just mindlessly joining a league and ignoring it by June, will help attrition greatly. In a sense, everyone else in the league has the same mindset as you when joining – is this league going to stay together, or are 3 teams going to quit, etc – yet they have chosen to play, making their implicit statement that they are probably not going to be the team that is going to drop out and ruin the league. Beyond that, the game requires a lot of trading and interacting with the other owners, and while it might seem silly, the camaraderie from these interactions are a huge boost in keeping leagues together.
Finally, while we have been hesitant to mention it at this point of the year, we have a plan for an interesting way to redistribute teams in the case that an owner does decide for whatever reason to drop out or not renew their team. We plan on offering abandoned teams at a half-off for the first season starting price, which brings in new owners to inherit disbanded teams at a discount in year one. We believe this will help league health and limit the number of leagues that are faced with a completely abandoned team for an entire year.
I believe all of these points in total will really help attrition year over year, though obviously it will not solve the problem completely. Towards that, the only other thing I can say is that so far I have had nothing but excellent responses from some of our public owners. Many leagues have drafted already, people have repeatedly told me that it is one of the best draft experiences out there, and so far the ‘strangers’ issue just hasn’t been a problem for these leagues.
So, that is my argument. I’d love to hear your thoughts more, and if you’re ok with it I would like to use this conversation as the basis for a post on FanGraphs/RotoGraphs tomorrow.
Thanks again for the great email!
The only point I’d like to add to this already long post is that as long as I still need to administer my league, I’ll be here to help administer your leagues and add features and answer questions and help out in any way that I can. My league has been going strong for six years and I don’t see it ending any time soon.
If you have questions that you want to send me directly, you can reach me at help AT ottoneu DOT com, and if any of this answers your concerns, there is still plenty of time to join a league or start a league today.