How Fantasy Baseball Can Grow Beyond the Diehards

03/30/2015 11:08 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2015

In the Rolling Stone article, "Why Won't Anyone Join Your Fantasy League", James Montgomery laments the difficulties of getting people to commit to the 6-month grind of fantasy baseball.

He's not alone.

When fantasy football players think about making the leap to baseball, there is one common response: "Oh. My. God. I have to do this for 162 games?" They conclude that fantasy baseball is for diehards only and then they go find something else to do.

But diehard or not, us fantasy baseball players have always faced each season with a mixture of excitement and dread. It's a great ride if your team is doing well. If your team is struggling, it's a challenge to stay engaged. No matter how you cut it, playing full-season fantasy baseball requires a significant time commitment.

For many of us who have been playing for several decades, "it's just what we do." But these days, more and more people are not willing to make that commitment.

The internet has fostered shorter attention spans and spiked the need for immediate gratification. So it made perfect sense that the industry would evolve to create a daily fantasy baseball game. Daily fantasy is highly engaging and seems to solve the problem of an excessive time commitment. But that's deceptive.

In football, the individual game holds great meaning since there are fewer of them. But baseball has never been a quick-trigger game; it's all about critical mass.

To wit... Nelson Cruz led all of baseball with 40 home runs last year, but he went homerless in 122 of his 159 games (77 percent). On any individual night, we had less than a 1 in 4 chance of rostering a single HR from baseball's best power hitter.

And so, daily fantasy success requires that you play the game frequently. Very frequently. It's how you build the critical mass. But that takes more time. $1M winner Dave Potts was interviewed on SiriusXM Radio this past weekend and asked how much time he spends when he's full-in on a particular night's games. His response: "About six hours."

There are ways to fix this.

The most obvious is to scale back the level of labor-intensity when it comes to managing a team. Just because the season is 162 games long doesn't mean that you have to make decisions for every single game. The original Rotisserie Baseball incarnation in 1984 made roster moves once per week. That's just 26 decision points, comparable to the 17 you have to make in football.

And now there are monthly games.

The four-week time span is somewhat of a sweet spot between the full-season and daily games. Although it might seem otherwise, one month is enough time to evaluate aggregate skill across a roster of players. Research has shown that 80 percent of full-season fantasy winners are already in a money spot (1st through 4th place) by the end of April each year. Even 78 percent of Major League division winners are within three games of first place by May 1.

The tactical challenges of the daily game come into play on a monthly basis. The MLB schedule -- nearly irrelevant in a full-season league -- drives decisions in a monthly game. Match-ups, home games and opposition feed into the roster-building process.

But unlike the daily game, you can build something over more than one night. The continuity and drama of following the standings every day is perhaps the element most lacking in day-game play.

And unlike full-season leagues, your team doesn't have to take a fatal hit when Jose Fernandez or Prince Fielder go down with injuries through no fault of your own. You can always start over.

But the most important part... it's just one month. Play in April, take a break and then play again in July. Each month has its own unique characteristics and forms its own microcosm of the full Major League season. In April, you have to consider the weather. In July, you have to consider the trading deadline. In September, you have to consider expanded rosters.

Even new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recognizes that providing a game in more digestible chunks is an important way to build the fantasy baseball industry. At the Sloan Analytics Conference held earlier this month, he said: "Our difficulty is that MLB's fantasy products need to evolve in a way that they don't require quite the 162-game, 183-day commitment that the traditional fantasy crowd might (have). I think we need to develop games that require a less constant commitment."

Perhaps he'd like to try a monthly game?

You can participate in Ron's rolling 4-week leagues at New leagues start every Monday.