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Benchwarmer Baseball Rules

1.0 Basics

Benchwarmer Baseball (abbreviated often as BWB) is a fantasy simulation of Major League Baseball.  Owners create and run a team through a 150-game regular season and playoff rounds.  Teams are organized into two conferences, and each conference is divided into two 4-team divisions. Division winners advance to Conference Championships, and those two winners move to the League Championship. In addition, the other teams in the league will play in other post-season tournaments.


Each roster has a minimum of 26 players (14 hitters and 12 pitchers). The maximum roster size is 40 players – the 26 mandatory spots plus 4 optional taxi squad players and up to 10 optional minor league players. Teams are built via a startup draft in their initial season. During the spring and summer, teams may trade players to and from other teams, plus cut players and sign free agents. At the end of the year, each team may elect to keep up to 28 players to roll into the next season. The league then holds a Redistribution Draft as the first method for dispersal of available players. Franchises, then, are perpetual. If an owner quits Benchwarmer Baseball, a new owner will inherit the same team.


The roots and many of the rules and scoring formulas go back to Robot Baseball and On-Paper Baseball, two commercial, play-by-mail fantasy baseball games that went out of business in approximately 1997 and 1991, respectively.  Benchwarmer Baseball began operation with a 12-team league in 2000 (The Founders League, later renamed as the Hall of Fame League). Four teams were added through expansion in 2001 to get the league to the proper size. In 2004, a second league was added. Entering 2022, BWB continues to grow with a total of 67 returning leagues and several new leagues.

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1.1 Leagues and Teams

New Section of the Rules - Added 12/8/15

Benchwarmer Baseball Leagues are perpetual.  Once they are formed, the franchises in the league continue from season to season with the same rosters/owners.  Leagues are made up of 16 teams.  Leagues are divided into 2 conferences of 8 teams each.  Each conference is separated into 2 divisions.  The 4 division winners each advance to the playoffs, first meeting for a conference title, then the 2 conference winners play for the league championship.


As mentioned above, during the fall after each season, teams may pick up to 28 players from their rosters to carry over into the next season.  All remaining players on the roster are put back into the league's free agent pool.  There is an off season Redistribution Draft each January-February that provides teams the first chance to restock their rosters from the unsigned players, with preference given to teams that finished with the worst records the previous season.

1.1.1 Orphan Teams

Each fall, team owners are asked whether or not they wish to retain their team(s) for the next season.  Any teams not retained become "orphan teams" and are open for adoption for the next season.  In most cases, these "orphans" are teams that have fared poorly in the current season and perhaps for many seasons, for a wide variety of reasons.  So, as an enticement for someone to "adopt" the team, the team fee is reduced and that team is provided additional amount of team cash in order to help rebuild the team.


Unclaimed orphans will be operated by the Benchwarmer League Office in order to remain as competitive as possible, though perhaps at a reduced capacity.  BWB will attempt to place orphans throughout the season and may eventually attempt to recruit "foster owners" to operate the team for the remainder of a season with no financial commitment.

1.1.2 Clarification of Orphan Status

Reunited and it feels so good - A team that is initially let go and at some point during the off season is reclaimed by the original owner may or may not be considered an orphan.  Reclaiming the team at any point before Opening Day will remove the team from orphan status, even though the BWB League Office may have made carry over roster selections, Redistribution Draft choices, and free agent signings.


The primary implications of this status are:

  • The team will revert to normal pricing and not a reduced orphan team price.
  • The team will NOT receive any extra cash normally awarded to adopted orphans.

Transferred teams - To become an orphan team, an owner must give up ownership and the team must be made available to all potential BWB owners.  A request to directly "transfer" ownership from one owner to another will not place the team in orphan status.  BWB may reduce the team fees to orphan pricing, but no extra team cash will be awarded as with normal orphan teams. No collusion is typically assumed, but this removes all doubt (eliminating some side agreement to transfer a team to a friend with the added benefit that the team will get extra cash to pay player salaries).

1.1.3 Orphan Teams at League Creation

Added 4/25/17


Occasionally, in order to get a league to a full 16 teams and into the draft process, BWB will set up orphan franchises to fill up the league.  This is typically around 1 to 3 orphan teams depending on the situation.  Usually this happens in mid-to-late March for a partially-filled league, but sometimes it may occur earlier in the process if BWB feels that getting the league moving is beneficial.


In a 2017 change, rather than BWB developing the draft list, it will pick a random draft list from another league that has drafted in that same season - making sure that any randomly-selected list is not from one of the new league's current owners.  BWB does reserve the right to adjust the list after selection to remove injured players, pick additional players if the random list was light or left a lot of cash unspent, and to add/adjust draft bidding and draft ranks.


Teams set up as orphans for league creation will not be awarded the extra $4 million in cash when a real person takes over that team in the league's first season.  Orphan cash is provided to allow new owners to fix problems with existing franchises and to help remake the team roster in the new owner's vision - but in the initial season, adding that extra cash will be a competitive disadvantage in a league where everyone started from scratch.  If the team remains an orphan, it will be awarded extra cash when the team is adopted in the next season.

1.1.4 Realignment of Teams

Once leagues are set, the franchises and rosters are set in a given division/conference forever.


Private leagues may make independent decisions to realign owners/teams into different divisions and in that situation the rosters will move along with the owners.  However, all franchise history is maintained by the original position 1-16 of the teams in the league and will not move along with the owner to a new division.  This includes records of division/league championships.  Private leagues are discouraged from rearranging divisions, but it can be done.

1.2 Timelines

This is the basic breakdown of deadlines for each season, subject to change:




Off-season redistribution draft for returning leagues

January - March

Startup draftor new leagues as they fill

January - March

Off-season transactions


Signup for new leagues ends


Payment due


Regular season begins


Deadline for owners to indicate they are returning for the next season.



October - March

Find new owners for Orphan Teamsin existing leagues.


Signup for new leagues begins


Salaries posted for next season


Two-week off season trading period.


Early-payment discount for next season ends


Returning teams submit carryover rosters


New players added for next season based on 40-man rosters.

1.3 Entry Fees and Prizes

Modified 5/7/14

The cost for a season of Benchwarmer Baseball is $65 (was $60 in 2014). Entry fees go toward costs for the web site, stat services, and potentially post-season rewards. It also helps to cover the great amount of labor behind the game.  New players of Benchwarmer Baseball should sign up for a user ID and password to obtain a team.  Beginning in 2014, there was a special first-time rate for a new owner in BWB for their first team.  This allows them to join with less risk.  The Rookie Rate is $35 for the first team (all other teams that season at regular prices)


The charter league of Benchwarmer Baseball, the Hall of Fame League, has, since it's inception, had a lower entry fee.  Ownership has turned over several times on many teams.  Any owner in the Hall of Fame League as of 2013 will keep that lower fee, but as new owners take over league teams, the team fee will revert to the BWB standard fee.


Multi-team discounts are available.  Each team beyond the first gets a $20 discount.  Owners who joined BWB before the 2007 season get $20 off each team.  Benchwarmer owners can pick up additional teams.


In future seasons, a non-refundable deposit may be collected toward the end of summer from owners who intend to return for the following season.


There is also a program called the Cooperstown Club that allows an owner to pay one up-front fee, but never have to pay again.  There are extra benefits for family members and for transferring free seasons to other BWB owners.  Also, owners who want a play-as-much-as-you-want option for a single season can save with a Season Ticket.  See the program details for further information.


Owners can check their current payment status

1.4 Group Pricing

Benchwarmer Baseball also offers special pricing discounts for owners who want to join as a 4-team division, 8-team conference, or a full 16-team league. See the web site or contact BWB for more details on price and availability. A single owner will be responsible for paying the package price. The teams in the package must remain grouped together and in the same position within the league as they originally joined. No additional discounts will be provided for the group – including the free team for the league champion (although free extra teams in additional leagues will be available for post-season tournament winners).


Group/Package Rates:

  • 4-team Division Package -  4 teams for the price of 3 - all in the same division.  Total price: $195
  • 8-Team Conference Package - 8 Teams for the price of 6. The 8 teams form two divisions in the same conference.  Total price: $390
  • 16-Team League Package - 16 Teams for the price of 10.  Total price: $650

There is no franchise movement in BWB, so once a group forms a division or conference via the packages, those teams are set.  (It might be possible in future seasons for owners to move within the league to take over a different team, but the players stay put with the original franchise).  A private league could, if it decided, switch up the division/conference lineup - but BWB generally discourages it.


As a point of clarification, League packages do not get an extra free team for the league champion (the package price includes 6 free teams). However, Conference or Division packages will get a small discount for league championship teams:

  • A conference package will receive a $10 discount if the league champion comes from that conference and a division package will receive a $20 discount for any league champs.
  • If any prize winners from the Benchwarmer Bash come from a package, whether it is league, conference, or division, that league will receive a $30 discount for the seasons covered by Bash prizes.
  • Also - the winner of the Benchwarmer Bash gets his/her team free for 2 seasons and the runner up gets 1 free year.  If a package team wins the Bash or finishes 2nd, BWB will transfer the free season prize to another team that person owns, if applicable.

While an exception or two was provided in 2008, bonus Orphan teams that may be given away to new owners cannot be used for Orphans that are part of a package.


Owners who join as a package may have some input on the league naming. Groups who join as a full league will also have the option of running their own drafts outside of the BWB process.

1.4.1 Price Reductions for Long-time Leagues

Added 4/25/17 - Effective for the 2018 Season


To reward private leagues for longevity, prices will be reduced for league packages based on how long they have existed.  Many of the owners in these private leagues are in multiple leagues and often have purchased Season Tickets or Cooperstown Club memberships.

Seasons in BWB Price*
1-5 $650
6-10 $500
11-15 $400
16+ $250


*Based on 2017 pricing.  If league package prices change, these discounted prices will be modified as well with similar discounts.


For reference, in the 2022 season, these private leagues will be entering season....Beer League - #16; Murderers' Row - #13; Moneyball - #10

1.5 Prizes

There are no cash prizes for this game.  Currently, the reward for division and playoff titles is a hearty "Well done!" and a virtual slap-on-the-back.  Cash prizes would mean a higher entry fee, plus a higher level of scrutiny on transactions and other moves that doesn’t exist today in a game played “for fun.”


However, the league champion will get his/her team for free for the next season, plus the opportunity to play for free for one season with an Orphan team in another existing league or a team in a brand new league.  In 2007-09, all division winners received as an extra bonus a free team to be used as an orphan or in a new league, but that was intended for a limited time.  Beginning in 2010, the remaining division winners will get a discount from their team fee for the following season (set at $10 off the entry fee initially).  The conference champion who loses out in the league championship series will get an extra free team for the next season.


Teams that win the other postseason tournaments – the Gore Cup and the Bottom Feeder Open – will be allowed to pick up an Orphan/new team for the next season for free.


There is a final tournament in the post season that includes all the league champions – the Benchwarmer Bash. The winner of the tournament will get their team for free for two additional seasons and the runner up will get one free year.

Prize Recap
  • Winner of the Benchwarmer Bash - Two free seasons for the team that won the title.
  • Runner up of the Benchwarmer Bash - One free season for the team that finished 2nd.
  • League Champions - In addition to getting the winning team free for the next season (for the division championship), one additional free season is awarded for that team along with the conference title bonus of an additional $10 discount for all teams that owner has in other leagues; Plus, an additional bonus team that can be used for a new or orphan team the next season.
  • Conference Champions (not winning the league title) - in addition getting the team for free in the next season for winning the division, the owner will receive an additional $10 discount for all other teams that owner controls. Plus, an additional bonus team that can be used for a new or orphan team the next season.
  • Division Champions - that same team is free for the next season.
  • Winners of the Gore Cup and Bottom Feeder Open - An additional bonus team that can be used for a new or orphan team the next season.

All discounted and free seasons are non-transferable* and only apply to the winning team (it cannot be used for another team that the same owner plays in a different league).  The Benchwarmer Bash prizes are cumulative; so a League Champion that wins the Bash will get four free seasons for his/her team or a Division Champion that wins the Bash after qualifying as a wild card will win three free seasons.  Winning additional championships will extend the free/reduced prices.


*Cooperstown Club members, who paid one large up-front fee and never pay again, can transfer free seasons to any BWB team/owner.

1.6 Referral Bonus

Owners - new and returning - who refer additional new owners to Benchwarmer Baseball will receive a bonus for each paid new team (amount subject to change).  To avoid the hassles of refunds, if an owner has already paid, the bonus will generally be applied for the next season.  If the team making the referral is already playing for free and has no other paid teams that season, the bonus will automatically be carried over to the next season and applied only if the new owner renews for a second season.

The referral bonus is only provided for one season and is not applicable if the "new owner" is a previous member of Benchwarmer Baseball.  The referral is applied only once per owner (or co-owners), regardless of how many teams they purchase.


2018 Season Referral Details

2018 Special carried over from 2017: Instead of a $10 credit, for any new owner you refer for the 2018 season you will receive a free team - either good on an existing team or to grab an additional new/orphan team in 2018.

Notes and conditions:  Referral credit only provided for paid teams.  If you give a person a free team for this season, you'll get your referral credit if they stay and pay for team(s) in 2019 or buy a membership or pay for an additional team in 2018.  Unfortunately there is no referral credit provided to Cooperstown Club members - people with 2018 Season Tickets will get referral credit for 2019.  If you've already paid your 2018 bill, you can either take a free team this year or have your free team credited to the bill for an existing team in 2019.


1.7 Late Payment of Entry Fees

Currently, BWB requires new owners of new teams to pay before drafting. On the other hand, returning teams may conduct off-season business before payment and existing owners who pick up new teams can start up before paying their fees. We must, however, try to encourage payment by means other than the early payment discount.  Thus, if you do not pay by certain times, there will be roster penalties:


If entry fee is not received by:

You may not...

Week One deadline (2018 Date: April 5)

Make roster changes (signings, drops, trades, contract extensions).

Week Five deadline (2018 Date: May 3)

Make roster changes or lineup changes (batting order, pitching rotation, etc.)

Week Ten deadline (2018 Date: June 6)

Continue to own your team.  Benchwarmer Baseball will take control of the team and find a replacement owner.


Once payment is received, full rights are restored.  If you need more time, please contact BWB and we can work something out.  The idea is to not string out the process all summer.


At any time, if the league office considers the owner has abandoned the team, it reserves the right to take over the team before the Week 10 deadline and find a new owner.  This will occur if repeated attempts to contact the team fail and/or it is evident that no actions are being taken on the team's behalf or the owner is not logging in to the web site.

1.8 Terminology

Throughout this rules manual the following terms will be used – hopefully on a consistent basis:

  • Players: refers to Major League players, not participants in the BWB Game.
  • Owners: refers to participants in Benchwarmer Baseball.
  • Teams: may also be used interchangeably to refer to participants in the game.
  • Week: 6 games in the Benchwarmer Baseball Season
  • Series: All series during the regular season are 3 games.
  • Opening Day: Unless otherwise noted, this refers to the Week 1 transaction deadline for Benchwarmer Baseball, not the first major league game of the season.
< Previous : BWB Rules Contents

Top : BWB Rules Contents

Next: 2.0 Season Schedule >

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