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The Genesis of Benchwarmer Baseball

BWB first appeared on the scene in 2000, but is an indirect descendant of other fantasy games.  Obviously, Rotisserie Baseball is a close relative, but Benchwarmer is different, since the game depends on individual game results instead of rankings of accumulated stat totals.


Actually, my start in baseball gaming came from table top games - so I've always had more affinity to games that resemble real baseball.  I started off with Strat-o-matic, the classic, but throughout junior high and high school I was addicted to Sher-Co, a game that brought a play-by-play realism to a dice game.


On Paper Baseball

Starting in 1988, I signed up with OPB.  This was my first exposure to fantasy games - even a year or two before fantasy football and many years before I actually participated in a roto-style game.  OBP featured a game-by-game season, much like BWB does today.  It also featured a minor league competition between reserve players, if I remember correctly, though it was kind of a mystery how that was scored.


The rather odd feature of OPB was player allocation in the first year of a league.  There was no typical draft, no salary cap.  Instead, you picked the players you wanted, and you got them all.  But every team that picked a player ended up with an equal share of that player and you only got to keep him if you had a majority share by the end of the year.  So, when 11 guys picked Kirby Puckett, each team had 1/11th of his future rights.  Through trading, you attempted to build that majority share (my big trade that year was with a guy in Duluth as I gave him enough to keep Puckett while I got enough to keep Frank Viola).


A last-place team in 1989, I had the first 3 picks of the off-season draft (only 3 picks) and my big pickups were Eddie Murray and Tom Browning.  It was a bad sign when the mailings stopped showing up in August 1990, but I got some consolation in the final mailing in December 1990 recapping the final third of the season and the championships and confirmation that I had successfully completed the worst-to-first season.

  Match Is Simple
  Fantasy Baseball Sherpa

Robot Baseball

When OPB went out of business, we were sent a special offer by another company but I declined.  In the spring of 1993, I sent away for a rule packet for a company called Robot Baseball, but was too busy to complete the draft list.  4 years later, I decided to get back in and grabbed an orphan team.  After a few years of not really paying much attention to baseball (when you root for the the post-1992 Pirates and the Twins of the mid-90s, you can kind of understand why...), the big development of that season was picking up a team with some guy named Derek Jeter and getting to know who he was...


Robot, alas, was destined to its demise after the 1997 season.  But I did hang on to the rule book, which included their formulas for game scores and salaries.  Robot Baseball is the most direct ancestor of BWB, though this was pre-Internet fantasy baseball, and required mailing in your transactions and lineups (and waiting for the mail to bring game results).


These items survive from Robot Baseball:

  • The fundamental idea of the automatic sub if there are no players with stats in the MLB game (the "Robot" - now the "Benchwarmer Batter" or "Pinesitter Pitcher" in our game).
  • A modified version of the scoring rules - including guidelines for batting order, pitching rotation, and use of the bullpen.
  • A modified version of the salary formula.
  • Calculation of the salary cap.
  • Guidelines for position eligibility.
  • Roster size.
  • Minor league rosters (though they did not calculate any results).
  • The weekly transaction structure.
  • The mapping of MLB games to fantasy games.
  • The pro-rated salary assumption/rebate calculation.
  • Multi-year contracts (though it was only allowable for a single year).
  • The basic startup draft method.
  • The Redistribution Draft.

So far, several Robot veterans have joined our crew Benchwarmer Baseball owners.


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