Whether you're a first time commissioner or an old-hand one, there are several ways to ensure relative peace and tranquility in your league. The guidelines below have served commissioners well over the fantasy years.
1. A league is not a democracy. It is a benevolent dictatorship. Your job is to act in the best interests of the league. It is NOT your job to please every owner in the league. Of course, that doesn't mean you need to be a jerk. Rather you need to be an involved commissioner who is on top of things at all times.
2. The league should have significant input from the owners. They should provide input regarding roster size and make-up, scoring categories, innings and games limits, trade reviews, draft style, you name it. This actually makes things easier for you as a commissioner. Once all owners have had the opportunity to provide input, you determine the answers which are in the best of the league and move on.
3. The best time to seek input is early - February is best. Get your league back up and going early. Allow the owners time to get reacquainted and excited. Allow a full month of interaction before your draft.
4. After your draft, never change anything. That's right. You change absolutely nothing. Your owners have strategized and drafted based upon the rules of the game as stated before the draft. This is not the US Congress. You do not make any laws effective with an 'as of date'. Never change a single rule after the draft or you will lose your league.
5. A fantasy baseball league is not a sympathy league. So an owner missed the draft? That's on him. You do nothing to make up for his absence. An owner accidently dropped the wrong guy, that's on him. Now that said, if the owner notifies you immediately, often it makes sense to undo the wrong if it was obvious mistake. But not feel beholden. The owner would have clicked to confirm his move before it took effect.
6. If you have a troublesome owner, kick him out of the league. Do not let him poison the league with his whining and complaining. Heck, I was even in a league where one owner constantly put others down. The commissioner was a little insecure and did nothing. The league finished the year with only four or five active managers and was not renewed. Do not make the same mistake. One bad apple really does spoil the whole bunch, baby. Ban the jerk. Replace him.
7. Should you set up your league for a commissioner review / veto of trades? My preference is a league vote. However, that's up to you. I would suggest you get input from the owners early and go with whatever the league recommends. You don't need to be in the middle of a potential veto decision which could appear to be a conflict of interest. If a trade is obviously against the best interests of the league, post your opinion on the message board asking the other owners to veto the deal.
8. Speaking of trades, note I said earlier to veto a transaction if it is not in the best interests of the league. That said, an owner has every right to overpay in order to fulfill a need on his team. A trade may in fact not be fair. But if it helps both owners and does not violate the best interests of the league, it should go through. After all, you are not the hall monitor......
9. A key aspect of good league management is that of replacing inactive owners. You need to stay on top of this issue or the competition level will decrease. If the competition level drops, your better owners will not come back the next year. To avoid this situation, check your owner activity once a week or so. If an owner has not made a transaction or roster change in the last couple weeks, send him a note asking if he plans to get active again. Usually he will respond that he has been busy, out of town, etc. However, if this continues to be problem, ask him if he would prefer being replaced. Typically he'll be fine with it. Either way, if the problem persists, replace. Remember it is your job to act in the best interests of the league. Limping along with inactive owners is not in the league's interest.
10. Which brings us to the natural follow-up question: How do you find a replacement owner? Actually, it's easier than you may think. The easiest way is to send a note to your more active owners. Typically they will know active owners in other leagues and will invite them to join. Another way is to post the opening on the website message boards. You may need to bump it a few times because there will be similar postings for other leagues. Don't despair. Bump it a few times and eventually you'll get an active owner. After all, only active owners will be on the message boards as the season progresses.
Bottom Line: Be active and proactive in your league management. Seek lots of input from the league but understand that you must make the final decision. Your owners will be fine with your management as long as it is clear that you have the best interests of the league. And, if necessary, ban a troublesome owner if he begins to create problems in the league. Your fellow owners will be glad you did.