Wednesday, February 11, 2015
THIS IS GOING TO BE AN OPINION BLOG. READ THE FACTS FROM THE ORIGINAL NEWS BREAKERS, DNAINFO
Well... this finally came to a head. I generally ignored this the whole off season because it's like beating a dead horse. It was obvious they were cheating from the beginning, but nobody wants to hear about cheating in Little League because almost everyone that is successful is doing it in some form. It's always considered "sour grapes" though. Well, in my experience, where there's smoke, there's fire, and it was billowing in Chicago.
Here's my problem though. What Jackie Robinson West did was blatant, flat-out cheating. They deserve to lose all their wins. But, they haven't lost any of the glory. They still went to the White House, went to the World Series, had parades, etc... Little League was too concerned with the great publicity this specific team gave them. This needed to be handled way earlier. Little League needs to get out in front of these major issues. LL is trying to bring charters back from Cal Ripken, so they're allowing larger populations. It's no coincidence that huge urban areas were represented in many of the regions this year.
Here's another problem, while Little League isn't littered with blatant cheaters at every turn, there's A LOT of cheating going on. Teams in California and Georgia were disqualified after winning sectional and state titles. There's always something fishy going on with perennial state championship teams. It's everywhere.
Taney Youth Baseball Association (Mo'ne Davis' team) is not in the same boat as JRW because they didn't actively cheat, but Little League knows they had kids from all over Philadelphia, it was part of their chartering deal. They "grandfathered" in all the kids who played in the league previously for life, no matter where they lived. They had authorization from Little League to do it though, but it was still unfair to all the leagues in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region.
Jackie Robinson, on the other hand, secretly added kids from outside their boundaries with the help of their corrupt district administrator. Completely unauthorized. Both leagues had "super teams" but only one was allowed to do it.
So how does Little League fix their problem of "super teams" (because there is a definitely a problem)?
For starters, the paperwork checking for tournament teams needs to start earlier. Everyone knows that Little League is all about the tournament. Drop the stupid June 15th or two weeks before rule. Everyone is playing together all year long. Just make sure everyone is of age and of residency. Otherwise, let teams play and practice together as much and as early as they want. International teams are doing it because their seasons run on different schedules.
District Administrators are the only line of defense against cheating until the teams reach regionals. There's not enough time to check the validity of teams until they're already eliminating teams and once a team is a media darling (like Danny Almonte's team in 2001, Harlem LL the next year, Jackie Robinson West, or Taney), they're going to let it play out because they don't want negative publicity during the tournament.
Little League needs to figure out this gerrymandering problem real fast though because they're biggest test in years and years if not history is coming up and it's this age change that everyone hates.
The real 12 and 12 1/2 year old kids are going to be playing in an anonymous 50/70 World Series in northern California and 11 year old kids will be on national TV in Williamsport with home runs and 70mph pitching being way down (i.e. not good for television). This is a massive change to how Little League is run and perceived. Meanwhile, Cal Ripken's WS will still be 12 and 12 1/2 year old kids playing 50/70 in a beautiful ballpark. I'm not if sure Little League is making itself more attractive or less attractive with these wholesale changes.
Let's end today with some positives of Little League though... Dave Belisle's speech to his team after being eliminated in Williamsport.
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