It was in the spring of 2004, when I first came up with the idea of a WIS Championship. Back then, theme leagues were thriving. You had the popular leagues such as single season, franchise and twist themes. You had many different variations of draft leagues. You had odd-ball themes such as drafting players associated with a specific movie or television show. I think I joined about 90% of them. I loved the competition. Heck, I think I came up with over 50 unique theme leagues myself. Anyway, besides my love for baseball and my appetite for competition, I also have an innate desire to rate things. I always want to know who is the best. I remember e-mailing admin with my idea. I thought they could easily run some kind of multi-league competition with prizes. They liked the idea but didn't have the time or resources for such an undertaking. They did give me their blessing if I wanted to try to set this up. Little did I know what I was getting myself in for.
First, I had to decide on a format. I knew I wanted to run multiple leagues because there were multiple salary caps and I wanted the WIS Champion to be able to adjust at any cap level. I thought six leagues would do the trick. At first I was only going to open this tournament up to owners with 10+ championships to get the best of the best. Then I figured out a better way. Let's have two rounds. Start with 72 owners, each playing six themes. Then I can narrow it down to 24 owners (the best 24 of round 1), each playing another six themes. Surely, the cream will rise to the top when you are talking about 12 teams (playing almost 2000 games), all with different themes at various cap levels. So that set the groundwork for the format.
The next step would be deciding on what themes to use. I put quite a bit of thought into the theme selection. There are two basic types of theme leagues (see below) and I wanted a good mix of these two types of themes represented. The two basic theme types are (1) Research-oriented and (2) Freestyle. A research-oriented theme is one where you have to research different players, seasons, teams, etc. The "Twist" theme would be an example of this. For example, you pick a specific year and team (i.e., 1982 Yankees). You can use any player that appeared on that roster, but you may use any season of that player. The research-oriented themes are usually tougher to build and require a lot of time to build. The freestyle themes are generally like open leagues. There will be a few specific theme rules regarding season range or salary level or something along those lines, but generally, you have free reign of the player database to build your team. An example of a freestyle theme from this year's WIS championship would be the 140M "Bet the Over" theme where the key rule is that you could not spend more than $40M on pitching. Building your teams in the freestyle themes is much easier. Research isn't as important as your knowledge of the player database.
Another consideration in the determination of the themes is to make sure to represent the various cap levels, but at the same time, make the teams fun to build and play. The cap levels should also be designed so that there is enough variation in the teams. It wouldn't make sense to make the cap for a Single Season theme to be $160M, because not many (if any) seasons would have enough talent to come close to that cap. Almost everybody would pick the two or three seasons that got the closest to reaching the cap. The very first year, I included themes at 40, 60, 80, 100, 120 and 160 million. Since the major salary change pretty much killed the ultra low cap leagues, I now generally include only one theme under 80 million (60 or 70). I also include only one theme over 120M (either 140 or 160). In my opinion, the best themes are at caps between 80 and 100 million. You get the most variability with those cap levels. I often use 90 and 110 as well. I don't want to run a theme where somebody can simply clone a successful team that they've already used. If you ask people who have participated in the WIS Championship, I think most would say that they like the theme choices that are offered.
The last thing I needed to do was to figure out a way to determine the winner. I wanted the regular season to count a lot but did not want to ignore the playoffs. I decided to make the scoring simple. One point per win (regular season and playoffs) plus 5 bonus points for each round of the playoffs your team advances. So if you make the playoffs and get swept in round one, you'd still get the 5 bonus points for making the playoffs. If your team won the World Series, you get an extra 31 points. Usually, the cumulative playoff points can make a difference for three or four teams in terms of advancing to round 2. The top 24 point scorers from round 1 advance to round 2. The points from round 1 aren't ignored either. Round 1 points are divided by two and added to round 2 points to determine the overall WIS Champion. The Champions from the first four tournaments are familiar names to WIS veterans. They are: ballantine (2004), ronthegenius (2005), ArlenWilliam (2006) and JohnGPF (2007). Who's it going to be in 2008? Stay tuned for more.
The WIS Playbook is a collection of sports articles generated by authors from within the WhatIfSports community. Contributors will include Paul Bessire and Nicole Green of WhatIfSports.com, other guest writers and even registered WIS users. In the Playbook, you will find unique content that varies from our typical predictions and hypothetical matchups. If you are interested in submitting articles for the Playbook, please contact us at BtB@WhatIfSports.com.