Yahoo! Manager Ratings Won’t Kill Fantasy

Had I learned of Yahoo!’s new manager-rating function in its fantasy games either via the site’s “What’s New” page or sometime after my keeper league started back up, I’d have probably shrugged it off.

Hearing about it via an article titled, “The Verdict: Yahoo! is endangering fantasy sports,” however, left me reviewing the definitions for “ridiculous” and “preposterous” to see which was more appropriate. (I’ll go with the former.)

First of all, the new feature. Here’s Yahoo!’s description: “The manager rating system is a new feature that we’ve added to our fantasy games as of January 2011. It will enable you to rate other managers in your league (Positive, Neutral, or Negative) and provide a short comment about your experience playing with them.”

Here, now, is the reaction of Fantasy Judgment’s Michael A. Stein via the aforementioned article for

“Here is an analogy: Yahoo is Skynet. Skynet is the network of computers in the “Terminator” movie series that gains control over all machines and electronics to destroy the human race. Once Skynet gained control of the government’s military and defense programs, it launched nuclear bombs at all targets, prompting retaliatory strikes and causing the deaths of billions of people. Essentially, Skynet was the puppet master as it sat back and watched humans destroy themselves.

“Here, Yahoo is pulling the strings of fantasy sports players by giving them the means of attacking each other with the ratings system. Granted, there will not be an exchange of nuclear weapons or mass genocide, but the point is that the wheels have been set in motion for people to take the competition to whole new level.”

Give me a turducken break.

Let’s start by assuming the worst case for this new feature: Yahoo! players left and right abuse it every time a leaguemate rejects their trade offer or makes a lopsided deal with someone else. Rogue public-league players spend days negatively grading opponents they’ve never met. Some team signs Gary Sheffield. (Sorry, I got carried away.)

Who would really be harmed in that scenario? Yahoo! would be either awash in customer-service complaints or suddenly lose fantasy players who would toddle over to or whatever other free fantasy provider they happened upon first. Or maybe such players would decide to stick with leagues populated by people they know and pay for a different commissioner service. Whatever the case, fantasy sports would probably survive.

In reality, Yahoo! itself says, “The manager ratings will be collected and tabulated internally at first. We won’t display them publicly until we have enough data to provide accurate and useful ratings.”

If anything even approximating the worst case comes to fruition, I would have to think Yahoo!’s internal reviewers will scrap the system and say, “Oh well. That didn’t work.”

I, on the other hand, think the manager-rating system could be a good tool for Yahoo!. The site has long sported the largest traffic numbers for fantasy games, but the primary concern has been the number of public leagues that get populated by managers who never manage or basically prove to be annoying. The rating system allows you to warn potential future leaguemates about such a manager while apparently not relying on each individual assessment.

At the same time, the ratings don’t look like they’ll have any real impact. If you’re running a league and someone with a negative rating overall tries to join, the current message doesn’t indicate that said player will have to pass any likability tests before being allowed in. It’ll still be up to you to judge. For the average fantasy player who competes mainly in leagues with people he knows, I doubt the rating system will even garner much use.

In his article, Stein seems to imply that this new rating system will introduce animosity into what is an otherwise peaceful pastime in which participants lob the occasional feather bomb but generally do so while smiling. The stance — for someone building a business on third-party conflict resolution for fantasy leagues — seems confusing at best.

I’ve met and talked with Stein and recently profiled his company on this very site, so I’m not suspecting nefarious motivation to his shot at Yahoo!. I do, however, believe that any fantasy league in need of outside resolution for trade disputes is in much worse shape than it would be for the presence of manager ratings.


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