Wednesday, April 11, 2007

ESPN WIll Blow It All Up and Start Over

I've heard the rumors about what was going to happen with ESPN Fantasy Baseball for the past couple days and had hoped they wouldn't be true. This morning my worst fears were confirmed when "Mr. Apologetic" John Kosner of sent all fantasy baseball players the following letter:
We have explored and tested every possible solution and it is clear that the nature of the issues leave us with a single, necessary action to get the game back on track and ensure the integrity of the season.

Late on Wednesday night the ESPN Fantasy team will:
1) Revert all teams to their opening day rosters (Sunday, April 1).
2) Set the starting lineup of each team's opening day roster as the active roster for all games played to date (April 1 - April 11).
3) Retroactively apply scoring for the entire season to date based on that roster.
4) Void all transactions to date (trades, waiver pickups, roster moves, etc.).

Following these changes, all players not on a roster will be placed on waivers for 24 hours, and the waiver order for each league will be restored to where it was on Opening Day.

Through extensive testing, this solution - while extreme - has repeatedly shown to restore the game to full and normal operation.
So basically instead of being able to truly fix the issues, they're going to wipe out all the stats from the first 10 days of the season, set your roster back to where it was on April 1st, and then retroactively apply the stats. Any adds, drops, or trades you might have done since then are basically lost forever, which utterly sucks.

Did you pick up a hot, undrafted player like Ian Snell on April 2nd and get him in your lineup for 2 solid starts? Well too bad for you, those never happened, and now you probably wont get him back as he'll go into general waivers and if you dont have the waiver priority to get him, you can pretty much kiss him goodbye.

The kicker to the email was this following paragraph:
We are sorry to have to make such an aggressive change, and fully recognize the impact this will have. This action was our only option because of the nature of the issues and their potential to compound if not addressed on a fundamental level. Ensuring the integrity of the season ahead for ALL players is tremendously important to us and this solution ensures that all players will be treated equally.
Isn't it already too late to maintain the "integrity of the season?" Hasn't that basically already gone out the window? I mean if on April 2nd you benched a guy who wasn't playing and inserted a guy who hit a home run or stole a base that day. Those stats are gone now, and you KNOW someone's league is going to come down to 1 HR or 1 SB. Imagine losing your league like that? It's a good thing no one plays Fantasy Baseball for money or anything serious like that, but hey, they're giving us free fantasy football teams in the fall! in prize leagues no less, where you can like, win a t-shirt or a banner! Yay!!!

Monday, April 9, 2007

C'mon ESPN, Less apologizing and more fixing!

Well I figured it was about time I addressed the whole debacle that is the 2007 ESPN Fantasy Baseball game. I'm not sure what exactly went on over there. I've played in their pay leagues for a few years and never had any issues. Sure there were a few bugs here and there, but nothing of this magnitude. It seems odd now that they've made their leagues free after all these years that everything has gone to shit. There are issues with rosters, pickups, scoring, etc. It's just a huge mess. I'm playing in a few leagues over there and it's just bad.
How things can be that screwed up and no one knows about it before hand I dont know? ESPN has seemingly gone to great lengths to get out apologies to everyone, sending out apologies ad mauseum all weekend. I received 3 emails over the weekend from John Kosner, Senior VP and GM of something or other at ESPN assuring me that eveyone was hard at work on the problem. My favorite email had to be the one from Sunday afternoon where we got the littany of excuses as to why they were having so many problems. The letter reads as follows:

To all of our ESPN Fantasy Baseball players,

We wanted to be sure you had the latest update on what is happening with ESPN Fantasy Baseball, and what we're in the midst of doing to get things back on track for you.

We have every resource, including our full technical team as well as additional specialized technical and quality assurance personnel, working to resolve these issues.

Based on extensive ongoing work and testing, we expect to have the problems affecting Fantasy Baseball resolved by Wednesday. It is possible that between now and then testing could reveal complications that would push the resolution to later in the week. However, we are confident in targeting Wednesday and are taking every step during that time to ensure that the solutions we provide for you will be complete and long-lasting.

While it may sound simple, the core problem lies in issues with transaction information being processed incorrectly and at incorrect times - which presents complexities as data progressively compounds.

Here's the latest on what is being done:

  • We have made significant progress finding and working towards a fix for the core problems responsible for roster irregularities and incorrect waiver, free agent and other transactions.
  • Due to the nature of software, thorough testing must be performed to ensure that the solutions we implement will fully resolve the issues and preserve the long-term integrity of the game.
  • To do that, we have created parallels of ESPN Fantasy Baseball leagues in a development and quality assurance environment -- simulating the live game activity.
  • In this environment we have been, and continue to run extensive testing of potential fixes for the core problems. There are approximately 70 different variations of our game currently in use, and we are simulating all of these.
  • In parallel, we have programmers and technicians troubleshooting problems that have created scoring and standings irregularities - isolating and testing potential solutions.
  • Please know -- it is not just rhetoric when we say we continue to work non-stop to resolve this. We owe you the fastest, most effective and stable solution - and that is our sole focus.

    We will continue to communicate with you as there are further developments, and you will hear from us again no later than Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.

    We apologize again for the frustration you've experienced and appreciate your continued patience.

    You are our number one priority.

    John Kosner, senior vice president and general manager, and the entire Fantasy team

    You know what John? Everything you've listed there shouldve been done back in November and December. I have a hard time believing these issues wouldnt have cropped up in simulations. I work with data systems for a living, and any time we do any changes we do extensive testing on test databases so all issues are ironed out before going live.

    I cant in good conscious advise anyone to use their product from here on out. Had I had my free leagues to do all over again I would've undoubtedly gone with Yahoo!. Sure the interface is crude by comparison, but you know what? It works, and in the end that's all that fantasy players care about. The integrity of people's leagues have been irreparably damaged due to the roster and scoring issues, and even when (if) ESPN fixes their software bugs, you'll never be able to recreate most of that.

    From now, If I recommend a free site, it's going to be Yahoo!, and if you want a quality, reliable pay site I'd tell you to go to CBS Sportsline.

    Saturday, April 7, 2007

    Hey Bud, You May Want to Revisit This Early Schedule

    As Old Man Winter continues to hold a majority of the country in his crotchety, frozen grip for a bit longer than usual, we've seen more than a few early season games canceled due to winter weather in places like Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland. In addition to that, almost nightly we've seen images from many cities of players bundled up like ninjas or bank robbers and generally just looking miserable. Baseball is just not a fun game to play when it's 30 degrees outside with a 40 mph wind in your face. Not to mention when you're trying to run in snow, right Victor Martinez?

    Truth be told though, cold weather during the first couple weeks of April is really nothing new so why are we bitching about it? Well because it begs the question: why let this happen in the first place? The are enough teams now in warm weather cities, semi-warm weather cities, or in domes/retractable roofs that MLB doesn't have to play outdoor games in cold weather cities (at NIGHT no less!) the first week to 10 days of the season just in case winter hangs on a little long like it has this year. After about 10 minutes of analyzing the teams, I've compiled a list of 15 teams that should open the first 2 to 3 series of each season at home EVERY YEAR. You know the MLBPA would agree with this. Here's the breakdown:

    1. Tampa Bay - Tropicana Field, Warm weather and a dome. What more could you ask for? Besides a better team on the field, of course.
    2. Toronto - Rogers Centre, Canada is cold as hell in April but wisely they've got a dome with a retractable roof.
    3. Minnesota - HHH Metrodome, For now they're still in the dome. Once the new outdoor stadium comes, they're off the list. How can they not be considering some kind of roof?
    4. Los Angeles of Anaheim - Angels Stadium, Regardless of what city in California they pretend to be in, you usually cant ask for better weather there.
    5. Texas - The Ballpark at Arlington, Usually in the 60's this time of year although unusually cold there this year. Hey would you rather be "Texas cold" or "Boston cold?"
    6. Oakland - McAfee Coliseum, The warmer side of the Bay area.
    7. Seattle - Qwest Field, Not exactly warm this time of year but it's average temperature of 57 degrees is better than the rest of the AL.

    1. Florida - Dolphin Stadium, Really a no brainer. Might want a roof to keep out summer rain if they ever get that new ballpark.
    2. Milwaukee - Miller Park, A retractable roof in a cold climate. Minnesota should be taking notes.
    3. Houston - Minute Maid Park, Mild climate with retractable roof basically to keep it cool in the summer.
    4. Los Angeles - Dodger Stadium, Another picture perfect locale.
    5. San Diego - Petco Park, Probably the best weather in the country.
    6. Arizona - Chase Field, Great weather this time of year and a retractable roof to keep you from spontaneously combusting in the summer.
    7. San Francisco - AT&T Park, Generally good weather this time of year in the low 60's. Sometimes it's actually colder in the summer.
    8. Atlanta - Turner Field, The last one on the list for the NL. Weather is usually in the high 50's or low 60's. It's cold this year but better than the Northeast or Midwest.

    So for everybody else, you'll have your opening days around the middle of April on that 2nd weekend. If they're not happy about playing the first 6-9 games on the road, maybe let them close out the seasons with a 6-9 game homestand against some of those teams. It's better than the alternative of playing games in front of sparse crowds and having your players go through the motions. (Insert Pirates joke here)

    Wednesday, April 4, 2007

    Cable Finally Has Deal with Extra Innings

    According to numerous media outlets, Major League Baseball and DirecTV have reached a deal with inDemand to allow the big 3 cable companies (Comcast, Time Warner, Cox) to carry the MLB Extra Innings package for the next 7 years. As part of the deal cable will carry the new MLB Channel on it's basic tier when it's launched in 2009. inDemand and DireTV will also each have a 16% stake in the new network. As of now there is still no agreement between DishNetwork. Other cable companies can get in on this deal as well provided they agree to carry the MLB channel in 2009.

    As an EI junkie who's only option was cable, I'm ecstatic at this. it's great to see cooler heads prevail and an agreement that benefits the fans for once. Yeah, there were only 200,000 of us, but we're your die-hards. We buy the tickets, the merchandise, play in the fantasy leagues, etc. People didnt want to have their choice of TV/internet/phone provider dictated by MLB. And as cool as seems to be, there's nothing like watching the games on your big HD wide-screen TV. I'm signing up as we speak.
    Special thanks to Maury Brown over on The Biz of Baseball for his great coverage of these negotiations when most of the major media outlets seemed to be ignoring it.

    Monday, April 2, 2007

    2007 Breakout Young Stars

    Well going into each new season, I like to pick a pitcher and batter from each league that I think will be breakout stars both from a fantasy perspective and in real baseball. These are guys that usually don't have a ton of hype and are available towards the tail end of your fantasy drafts. Here are my picks for the 2007 season:

    National League

    Chris B. Young, OF, ARZ - Young will be starting in the OF for the "young" Diamondbacks who could be this year's version of the 2006 Marlins. He has good plate discipline and a nice combination of power and speed and could easily be a 20/20 guy this season.

    Ian Snell, P, PIT - While Snell may only be good for 11-12 wins this season due to playing on a bad team, he's going to have good ERA, WHIP, and strikeout numbers. Snell had quite an impressive strikeout rate (8.18 K's per 9) last season in his first full year in the majors. Take out one bad blow up start and his ERA and WHIP were pretty good as well. I fully expect him to pitch 200 innings this year with over 180 K's and an ERA in the mid 3's.

    American League

    B.J. Upton, 3B, T.B. - While he may not have the hype of fellow Devil Ray phenom Delmon Young, I fully expect Upton to impress this season. Not only does have a great combination of power and speed but he'll also be playing all over the diamond for the Devil Rays at 3rd, 2nd, and occasionally the OF, making him even more valuable in your fantasy league.

    Matt Garza, P, MIN - While the Twins may have just sent him down to the minors, I fully expect Garza to be back up in the Bigs shortly and to be the rookie pitcher that makes the biggest impact in the AL this season. (I'm not counting Matsuzaka as a rookie, but that's a blog post for another time.) How long can the Twins really keep throwing out Sidney Ponson and Carlos Silva? He's got the makeup and the fastball to be a dominating pitcher in the future and a number 2 or 3 on the Twins this year. If possible, keep him stashed on your bench for now in fantasy.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007

    New Blog

    In my anticipation of the baseball season, I'm going to give the blogging thing a try. I'm starting a blog just to talk general baseball, fantasy baseball, and other fun related stuff. I hope to share my opinions and insights with other fans and turn this into some form of a fan community. Plus a few pics of some pretty ladies couldn't hurt.