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Interesting Sports Ethics Question,

posed on the Ethics Scoreboard:

Last month's tournament leading up to the Little League World Series included one game with an unusual series of events that set the stage for a fascinating ethical debate.

The Situation: On August 11 in Bristol, Conn., a Little League team from Colchester, Vt., only had to retire its Portsmouth, N.H. opposition in the top of the sixth inning (Little League games are six innings rather than nine) to win the game 9-8 and move on to the New England regional championship game.

But there was a problem. The Vermont team had made its third out in its half of the fifth inning before player Adam Bentley got to the plate. The Little League has a strict rule that requires every player to bat at least once a game, and the penalty for violating it is forfeit. Vermont's coach Denis Place realized, to his horror, that even though his team had the lead entering the last inning the only way it could avoid losing by forfeit was for Bentley to get an at bat. For that to happen, the New Hampshire team would have to tie the score or take the lead, requiring the teams to play the last half of the sixth inning.

Place held a meeting of his players at the pitcher's mound and instructed them to let New Hampshire score a run. The plan: walk the first batter, and ensure that he made it home with the assistance of wild pitches and intentional errors so the game would be deadlocked at 9-9. Then, hopefully, win the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, with Adam Bentley getting his mandated turn at the plate.

Not so fast. The New Hampshire team's coach, Mark McCauley figured out what was happening and ordered his players not to score. So after a walk and two wild pitches allowed a New Hampshire runner to reach third base, the player refused to advance to the plate despite another wild pitch and a fielding error. McCauley also told his players to strike out intentionally, preserving Vermont's lead but guaranteeing a successful New Hampshire protest that, under the rules, would require that New Hampshire win by forfeit.

This obviously led to a ridiculous spectacle: one team trying to give up a run while the other team was trying to make outs and avoid scoring. The perplexed umpires understandably chose to end the debacle by ejecting Place and his pitcher from the game. Vermont won 9-8 ... and then New Hampshire was awarded the victory by forfeit, because Adam Bentley never got his turn at bat. The New Hampshire team advanced to the next round.

The Question: Whose conduct was unethical?

Possible Answers:

1. Place, the Vermont coach
2. McCauley, the New Hampshire coach
3. Both coaches
4. Neither coach.

The Scoreboard notes the answers given by two sports ethicists, and then gives and defends its own. I've thought very little about sports ethics, but I agree with the Scoreboard that the Vermont coach didn't behave unethically (though obviously he did behave negligently by not playing Bentley earlier). I also tend to agree with the Scoreboard that the New Hampshire coach did behave unethically, but I'm considerably less confident about that judgment.

JB:
Both teams were unethical, and the rules are stupid.
9.6.2006 2:54am
zooba:
The rules were unethical and therefore there is no way to evaluate the ethicalness of the coaches. The Vermont coach should have made the pitcher bean the batters.
9.6.2006 3:01am
Freddy Hill (mail):
Both coaches played ethically, and the outcome was exactly what was called for by the rules which are also ethical.

The Vt coach should have been a bit more savvy about it, giving up the run without looking like they were trying to do so. But I guess this is difficult in any case, let alone with little kids.

Once NH's coach figured out his opponent's game, he should have walked up to him and the umpires to suggest that the game be stopped in order to avoid an embarasing spectacle. This is a matter of good manners, not ethics.
9.6.2006 3:17am
Bob Woolley:
I am assuming that the team does not have more than 15 players. If a team does have more than 15 players, then the rule requiring every player to have a turn at bat is *begging* for this situation to occur. If that assumption is correct, then it wasn't just a chain of bad luck that caused one player not to have had a chance to bat: it was either oversight or a deliberate strategic gamble by the coach. Perhaps the kid in question is known to be a poor hitter, so the coach moved him down in the order hoping that the game would be in the bag by the time he took his turn late in the game, and he postponed the kid's turn to bat a little bit too far. Or maybe it was simple oversight. Either way, though, I don't see it as unethical for the opposing coach to exploit the mistake or decision in such a way as to maximize his team's chance to advance. In chess, even if I can't beat my opponent, I may be able to compel him to offer a draw by achieving a situation in which he realizes that we have a series of endlessly repeating moves. That's not unethical--it's making the most of a bad situation.

It is no more unethical to exploit the coach's mistake than it is to turn a single into a double when the first baseman misses what should have been an easy catch and put-out. Exploiting an opponent's errors--strategic, tactical, or technical--is part of nearly every sporting competition.

Consider a situation in which a major league team notices that an opposing player is using bat that is out of spec in some way (presumably unintentional, not a situation with a deliberately altered bat). Rather than call it to the attention of the umpire immediately, they wait until that player makes a strong hit or home run, *then* challenge the equipment. Perfectly within their right, and there is nothing unethical about it--just maximizing their exploitation of an opponent's mistake.
9.6.2006 3:40am
Anon Y. Mous:
Let's suppose that McCauley realized going into the fifth that if his team was able to retire Vermont quickly, that Bentley wouldn't get his at-bat. And realizing the implications, he made a special effort to make it happen, for example, using up his bullpen instead of saving it for the sixth.

That is a legitimate strategy to counter Place's strategy of not putting his weaker player in until what he anticipated would be his last possible moment.

Then Place, realizing he had been outmaneuvered, adopts a strategy of giving up a run. I don't agree that it is unethical for McCauley to refuse to play along.

Here's another Little League ethics story.
9.6.2006 3:45am
Ken Hirsch (mail):
The only South Park episode I've seen this year was The Losing Edge, where the Little League teams tried to lose so they could escape the boring activity of baseball.
9.6.2006 3:56am
Roger Schlafly (www):
Under the stupid rules, Vermont had to bean batters to win. The fault is with the umpire for not finding some reasonable resolution before the game got out of hand.
9.6.2006 4:00am
Malvolio:
The New Hampshire coach was angling to create a situation that the rules specifically forbid -- one player not playing -- solely so the punishment for breaking the rule would fall on the opposing team. It's at least very, very questionable.
9.6.2006 4:18am
ras (mail):
The NH team was more unethical. Vt was trying to win the game on runs, even to the pt of conceding the tying run but with the hope of getting it back the old-fashioned way: by scoring another of their own.

But NH was not trying to win the game by scoring runs. They were trying to force a default thru a technicality in the rules, one that was not intended for the purposes to which they were putting it.

Vt had made an error (sounds like an honest one) in not batting their player sooner, but was willing to make amends by giving up the run, then getting on with the real game as it's known &loved and settling it on the field of play. But NH was looking to win w/out winning.
9.6.2006 5:22am
C. Owen Johnson (mail):
Boy, is that a dumb rule. It seems to say that playing is more important than winning, but winning is so important that the punishment must be losing. Sounds like mixed messages to me. Under these idiotic circumstances I agree the New Hampshire coach was unethical by trying to advance by exploiting a dumb rule rather than by merit; he could have accepted the challenge to tie and then win the game properly, but he took the "win at any cost" approach thereby undermining the spirit of the rule he exploited to "win" and devaluing his "victory" by achieving it by forfeit.

The part that really gets me though is: why don't they just change the rule to say that the game ends when 6 innings are up or every kid has been up to bat? If they extend the games for ties, why not for this? It would seem to be a perfectly straightforeward solution, unless I'm missing something special about Little League play.
9.6.2006 5:35am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
The answer to the riddle about how the ``slowest horse'' race was ended was that one rider whispered to the other, ``Let's switch horses.''
9.6.2006 5:36am
Harry:
Having been a Little League coach, it is very tough to balance the rule and still win the game. The rule isn't dumb, as the entire article talks about the reason. There is also a rule that a team ahead by 10 or more runs after 3 innings wins. That combination caused us to prevent a runner from scoring once. There are also mandatory days and games of rest for pitchers. Among other reasons, that caused us to make an out because a game was about to be called for darkness, which would have been continued the next day. In tournament time, the game includes a serious balancing of competing rules. The rule book is full of guidance on these. The rules also got more difficult recently. It use to be every player had to bat once or place 3 outs in the field. Now it is both. The Vermont coach was well within the spirit of the rules of the game, just sounds like it was a little too obvious what was going on. No coach wants to lose because of the mandatory play rule.
9.6.2006 6:44am
Walk It:
Freddy Hill has it.
9.6.2006 8:28am
Positive Dennis:
Isn't there a batting order that is fixed? Was there a substitution and then that order would result in the outcome mentioned?

Positive Dennis
9.6.2006 8:55am
DK:
These rules are great, and they should be very effective at teaching kids that life and sports are more about navigating arbitrary, baffling, and contradictory rules than about physical effort. It is good training either for a career in law, in professional sports, or in any regulated industry. One wonders if little league produces more future lawyers than say soccer or tennis does.
9.6.2006 9:02am
wm13:
BTW, throwing at the batter won't work, because if he doesn't make an effort to avoid the pitch, he isn't awarded first base. The Vermont coach should have instructed his pitcher to balk the runner home. (I'm assuming little league rules are the same, on the foregoing issues, as major league rules).
9.6.2006 9:45am
DeezRightWingNutz:
I'm not sure about the rules in Little League, but in MLB, if a batter swings at a pitch and it hits him, it's a strike and he's not awarded first base, so you can swing and miss to counter the intentional bean ball strategy. Also, the pitcher could have intentially balked causing the runner on third to be awarded home. The opposing team still could have countered this strategy (not going home, intentionally not stepping on home plate, etc.), but I imagine a 12 year old might not have thought of this once the umpire called "balk" and pointed towards home. Basically, there's no way a fielding team can force a team that doens't want to score to score.

Neither coach acted unethically. Both were trying their hardest to win the game within the rules.
9.6.2006 9:47am
Joel B. (mail):
It seems like the easiest "result" would if the umpire would have just forced play in the bottom of the sixth. One major problem here is that the home team is actually at a disadvantage being put in the possible situation of not having 3 more at bats. Really the rule should allow for a bottom of the 6th to be played even if the team is ahead if someone has not had their mandatory at-bat.
9.6.2006 10:05am
JB:
Harry: How does the mercy rule interact with the "everyone must play" rule? Seems like including the one shows up the other as pointless.
9.6.2006 10:27am
Joshua (www):
This reminds me again of an international soccer incident I've mentioned in comments here before. In the last group-stage match of the 1994 tournament, Barbados was leading Grenada by one goal, but needed a two-goal margin of victory in order to advance from group play because of tiebreakers. Knowing that under tournament rules, a sudden-death overtime goal was considered a two-goal victory, Barbados intentionally scored against itself with five minutes left, then spent the rest of the second half defending both goals while Grenada tried to score on either one. In this case the ploy worked; Barbados did successfully force the OT and eventually scored in it.
9.6.2006 10:36am
Rich B. (mail):
What a bizarre question. "Who acted unethically?" Come on! Isn't the answer "Only if the Code of Ethics prohibits it?"

I mean, many items in the Lawyer's Code of Professional Ethics don't make a lot of sense, or rather, make sense but no more than another, inconsistent set of ethical rules would be. How lawyers can advertise, what must be disclosed, what must not be disclosed . . . It is not infrequently that a lawyer must choose between acting immorally or acting unethically.

Assumedly, the Code of Little League Ethics could say, "Coaches must make every effort to score runs when on offense, or prevent runs when on defense." Another, equally sensible, but different, Code of Little League ethics, could say, "Coaches must make every effort to win the game within the bounds of the rules."

Depending on how you drafted your Code of Ethics, the answer could very easily be (3) or (4). I can't offhand, think of the a priori Ethical Guideline that could lead to (1) or (2), but I'm not saying its impossible.

As it is, the question is like asking, "John borrowed Mary's book without asking, with the intent to return it when he finished, although he often didn't finish the books he started. Has John committed a crime?" Well, it depends on the Criminal Statutes, which haven't been supplied. Here, it depends on the pre-existing Ethical Code. And if there isn't one, how can anyone be accused of acting unethically?
9.6.2006 10:38am
Allen (mail):
According to my reading of a policy statement on the Little League web page, the umpire was supposed to stop the game as soon as he realized that the teams were behaving in that manner.

Reference:
http://www.littleleague.org/tournaments/delaypolicy.htm

The umpire was supposed to stop the game and submit the matter to the Tournament Director. Unfortunately, I don't see any guidance for how the Tournament Director is supposed to rule in a situation like this.
9.6.2006 10:39am
sbw (mail) (www):
Please, don't bring in ethics here. The coaches requirement is to play within the rules. They did. Is it illegal to pitch around a good batter? Nope. Is it unethical? Nope. But it sure ticks off that batter's mom &dad.

The problem is that one rule conflicts with another rule. Which takes precedence? The failure was that Little League governors did not set up rules to preclude actions antithetical to the spirit of the game. They needed to have rules to accommodate a legally shortened game. They didn't. Their fault.

For instance, they could allow that if a batter who had not batted played a position that would bring him to bat as one of the first three batters in the bottom of the sixth inning, had it been played - and therefore be guaranteed to play in full game -- that would meet league requirements.

Even so, it does not deal with the circumstance of a Mercy Rule shortened game after the 3rd inning, if that is the rule.

Ethics is not mechanically deterministic and should be invoked only where necessary.
9.6.2006 10:45am
Ken Arromdee:
The New Hampshire coach was angling to create a situation that the rules specifically forbid -- one player not playing -- solely so the punishment for breaking the rule would fall on the opposing team. It's at least very, very questionable.

To be a bit of a devil's advocate, I'd suggest this:

The rules don't forbid having a player not playing; rather, the rules penalize it. A rule saying "if every player doesn't play, you lose the competition" is no different from a rule saying "if you get three outs, you lose the game".

Trying to ensure that the other side can't play every player is similar to trying to ensure that the other side gets three outs. Deciding that it's okay to make your opponent lose by one rule but not by the other rule is purely arbitrary.
9.6.2006 10:48am
Zach (mail):
Every player has to bat once and play three outs of defense in a five inning game. Nine players who can make up at least a passable defensive arrangement have to be in the field on defense. If you bear in mind that most teams will want to have the possibility of using a relief pitcher until late in the game, that's an awfully tricky set of constraints.
9.6.2006 10:50am
Aultimer:
Vermont is less ethical here. Mr. Bentley should have gone in to bat in the 3rd. Vermont should have taken the forfeit like little men since keeping the better players in is exactly what the rule is intended to prevent.
9.6.2006 11:01am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
It's already been written in this blawg (I can't find the reference, but it was in regard to Paul Hamm and the South Koreans in the 2004 Olympics, a situation discussed for example here) that all of sports is arbitrary rules. Personally I do go to the game to watch the manager think. (Actually if I go to the game it's to participate in a summer ritual and to drink a beer in the sun, but if I watch the game I'm concerned about the strategy.)

There was a similar question a week before this game: With first base empty and one out left, is it wrong to intentionally walk the strongest hitter so that you can pitch to the next, much weaker batter, who happens to be a cancer survivor?

Of all the rules involved the stupidest is that the bottom of the last inning is skipped. It makes a good deal of sense if the home team is already ahead and assured of the win (still discounting that individual players compete for records) but it makes no sense when, as here, the team that is nominally ahead needs to do something to assure its win.

Baseball in particular is a team sport. The sacrifice fly is the most obvious example: the coach is asking the batter to do something that will not get him on base, in order to let another player score a run for the team.

The stupidest rule, in my opinion, is in effect in some forms of co-ed volleyball, requiring that if a side hits the ball three times on a single play, one of those contacts must be by a woman. Players ought to be treated the same regardless of sex.
9.6.2006 11:28am
Ethics Scoreboard (mail) (www):
Great analysis all around. The only troubling note is the occasional confusion between complaince and ethics, a common occupational hazard of being a lawyer. It can be excused to a point because this problem involves both compliance and ethical issues. But whether something is ethical or not isn't dependent on whether a formal rule has been broken...it is emphatically not like determining whether or not an act is a crime. This, you'll recall, was one of the themes of Holmes' 1897 famous essay "The Path of the Law"...it is possible to be completely compliant with the law or rules and still do wrong. Widespread belief that obeying the law and regulations guarantees ethical conduct is among the rationalizations that nourished Ken Lay and Tom DeLay, among others. The Preamble to the ABA's Model Rules admit as much: rules can't cover everything, and when they don't (and often even when they do) you have to apply ethical principles.
9.6.2006 11:44am
jallgor (mail):
I say the New Hampshire coach is ethically wrong from a sports perspective. It's what athletes refer to as a cheap win. Athletes want to win by beating the other team on the field not by forfeit or some other artificial means. In wrestling, if you slam an opponent to the mat in an uncontrolled manner you lose a point. If he is unable to continue, you forfeit. However, if you would like to maintaint the respect of your fellow wrestlers you better have a broken neck before you claim you are unable to continue. I am exaggerating of course but my point is that I would be ashamed if I was on the NH team. I didn't really beat Vermont, I just won because of some stupid rule that had nothing to do with my playing ability. Now some people will say "but if the worst batter on the team had gone to the plate earlier maybe it wouldn't be 9-8." Ok, maybe, but if I am New Hampshire I let them tie the game up, put their worst batter at the plate in the 7th and try and beat them straight up. Or even better, I let them try and tie the game up but take 2 runs from them in the process (do I lack such confidence in my team that I assume the other side can toy with us to such an extent that they can perfectly control only giving up one run?)
I am guessing that a vast majority of people who have played sports at serious level would be with me on this one.
9.6.2006 11:50am
Walk It:
Just time to read three comments?

MVP:
Freddy Hill (straight communication)
Harry (subject expertise)
Allen (definitive link)
9.6.2006 11:56am
Rich B. (mail):

it is possible to be completely compliant with the law or rules and still do wrong. Widespread belief that obeying the law and regulations guarantees ethical conduct is among the rationalizations that nourished Ken Lay and Tom DeLay


I agree with both of these sentences, but they are not saying the same thing, and do not necessarily apply to the Little League situation.

If the Vermont coach had NOT tried to give up a run, would he have acted unethically by intentionally throwing the game? Maybe.

Absent a law or a rule, it is of course still acceptable to consider the ethics. But having done that, once a reasonable ethical argument has been made on each side (and here, I think there is for both teams), the next step is not to argue over which reasonable ethical argument is better or stronger. That misses the point, and relies on unprovable hunches and intuitions.

The correct analysis, rather, is to recognize on both sides that:

(a) there was no explicit law or rule addressing the issue;

(b) there was a reasonable "moral" case to be made on either side, irrespective of which side we personally believe is stronger;

(c) Given (a) and (b), an individual choosing either one of the two options cannot be found to be acting "unethically". The strongest defensible statement can only be, "I would have made a different choice, which also would have been ethical."
9.6.2006 12:02pm
CB:
Instead of intentional wild pitches or balks, which the ump wouldn't stand for, why not intentionally walk the batters until a runner advances to home? Of course, the bases would be loaded at that point, but it seems legal and there is a pretty good chance of getting the third out before they get another run. Then they could play in the next inning tied 9-9, as intended. Am I missing something here?
9.6.2006 12:45pm
GMS (mail):
I agree that the New Hampshire coach behaved completely unethically. His message to the kids is essentially, I'd rather win in a forfeit than be guaranteed at minimum a tie, with a good shot at a lead, going into the bottom of the sixth inning. "Hey kids, even though the other team is walking you left and right, and making errors, and giving you one run, I don't think you're good enough to score two, or to stop them in the bottom of the inning. Let's leave it to the lawyers."

That said, the Vermont coach's negligence was enormous. A 9-8 game is not exactly a pitcher's duel -- most likely, the lineup went around at least three times. So there were plenty of opportunities to get the kid his at-bat without flirting with disaster. I don't think I'd have him back as the all-star coach next year.

And finally, the rule is unfair, as it affects one team differently from the other. The visiting team is guaranteed six innings of batting in which to get everyone in, while the home team is only guaranteed five innings. One would think that the minimum requirement for a valid rule is that it be evenhanded.
9.6.2006 12:49pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
Ethics Scoreboard observes:


Great analysis all around. The only troubling note is the occasional confusion between complaince and ethics, a common occupational hazard of being a lawyer.


Ethics Scoreboard is failing to distinguish between ethics and sportsmanship. All of the New Hampshire coach's actions were within the rules and directed towards a proper objective (i.e., to win the game for his team). Therefore they were ethical.

However, athletics imposes certain uncodified standards of conduct in addition to its written rules. We refer to these standards as "sportsmanship" not "ethics".

The New Hampshire coach violated the standards of sportsmanship when he instructed his team to exert less than its best efforts on the field in order to obtain a win by forfeit rather than merit.

I hope this clears up Ethic's Scoreboard's imprecise thinking (a common occuptional hazard among non-lawyers).
9.6.2006 1:01pm
Kim Scarborough (mail) (www):
Little League is stupid anyway. The whole thing is pointless because the leagues are set up by age, rather than size--so every year, the Little League championships are dominated by teams that had the good luck of getting an 11-year-old with an overactive pituitary gland.
9.6.2006 1:26pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Instead of intentional wild pitches or balks, which the ump wouldn't stand for, why not intentionally walk the batters until a runner advances to home?

If you swing at a pitched ball thrown outside the strike zone, it's a strike, three of which make an out.
9.6.2006 1:27pm
SG:
I thought the rules of baseball where that the home team has up to three outs in the bottom of the last inning as needed to win. That's why there's walk-off hits. Why can't there be a walk-off at-bat? The kid takes his at bat and regardless of the outcome the game ends as now the home team has met the requirements of a win which in this league is more runs than the other team AND all players have batted.

This strikes me (pun intended) not as an ethical violation but a misinterpretation of the rules by the home team's coach.
9.6.2006 1:27pm
DJR:
This is similar to a problem I have always had with professional basketball: The players score like crazy until the last couple of minutes, at which point the leading team can simply hold the ball in order to run out the clock. The other team then intentionally fouls, giving up a free throw or two in order to put the ball back in play. When games are decided at scores of 98-97 there doesn't seem to be any other effective strategy, but it seems wrong to do something forbidden by the rules because the negative consequence will also have a positive consequence that gives a shot of winning that abiding by the rules (i.e. refraining from doing that which is forbidden by the rules) does not provide.
9.6.2006 1:38pm
Ethics Scoreboard (mail) (www):
Ethics is the study of what is right and what is wrong. The fact that two people disagree about what is ethical does not make both of them "right." Trying to determine which is right is where ethics comes in. Rich B. is mistaken to assume that the ethical process stops just because an ethical agument is "reasonable," any more than a legal argument is over when two opposing, reasonable positions have been taken.
Re: Ming's snide
I hope this clears up Ethic's Scoreboard's imprecise thinking (a common occuptional hazard among non-lawyers)....SURPRISE! I'm not only a lawyer (DC and Mass.), I'm a legal ethicist, and your supposed distinction between "ethics" and " sportsmanship" is not merely imprecise, it's wrong. Ethics are determined by reference to values like fairness, honesty and civility, as well as ethical standrads such as The Golden Rule, which is the foundation of sportsmanship. In sports, sportsmanship is absolutely included as a sub-set of ethics. And the reason I know that lawyers get compliance and ethics confused is that I teach them ethics in about 20 bar associations.
9.6.2006 1:40pm
Realist Liberal (mail):
The reality is as long as we have competitive little league stuff like this is going to happen. Little League as an organization needs to decide what is more important, competition or letting everyone play. Once they make that decision they need to eliminate the stuff that is antithetical to it. E.g. if they choose competition is a more important, then eliminate the everyone must play rule. If, on the other hand, they decide that competition is not as important as fun then they need to eliminate the LLWS.
9.6.2006 1:49pm
uh clem (mail):
Sportsmanship is about settling the result on the field of play rather than in the protest room. The Vermont coach realized he had made a mistake and attempted to correct it as best he could. By actively trying to lose and obtain a win by forfeit, the NH coach engaged in as bad a display of sportsmanship as I've heard about. It's counter to everything "sportsmanship" stands for.

If this was sailing, I'd be advocating a Rule 2 violation. His behavior is simply appalling.
9.6.2006 1:58pm
Joshua (www):
GMS: I agree that the New Hampshire coach behaved completely unethically. His message to the kids is essentially, I'd rather win in a forfeit than be guaranteed at minimum a tie, with a good shot at a lead, going into the bottom of the sixth inning. "Hey kids, even though the other team is walking you left and right, and making errors, and giving you one run, I don't think you're good enough to score two, or to stop them in the bottom of the inning. Let's leave it to the lawyers."

It occurs to me that a critical fact is being overlooked here (not just by you, GMS, but pretty much across the board).

So far, this incident has been discussed as though it were an isolated incident in an ordinary game. It was not an ordinary game, however. It was part of a Little League World Series regional tournament, where winning on a technicality still means advancing in the tournament, and losing on a technicality still means your season is over.

As the coach or manager of a sports team, no matter what level of which sport we're talking about, part of your job description is to advance your team as far as you can toward the championship of your league by any means necessary, within the rules of the sport of course. You fight for your team just as much as you expect your players to, especially when your whole season is on the line. Anything less would be a dereliction of your duty as coach, and therefore unethical conduct in itself.

Place (the VT coach) may be to blame for starting this incident with his managing blunder, but once he discovered his mistake he was not only well within his right to compensate for it however he could within the rules, I would argue that he was ethically obligated to do so. Likewise for McCauley (the NH coach) when he spotted Place's blunder and did everything in his power to exploit it.

If the end result is an incident that makes a mockery of the sport, the problem is not with these coaches - again, they're just doing their job to keep their team's season alive however they can - but rather with the rules that made the incident possible. This may be one of those rules that's perfectly appropriate in the regular season but not when someone's whole season, or the championship, is at stake. Sort of like deciding the World Cup final on penalty kicks.
9.6.2006 2:17pm
Joshua (www):
Clarification: By "this" I mean the "everyone-must-play" rule, or at least forfeiture as the penalty for violating it.
9.6.2006 2:20pm
JRL:
As always, there is a King of the Hill episode on point:

Bobby is up to bat and Hank tells him not to the let pitcher walk him because that's "playing lawyer ball."

Ergo, Vermont is correct. Play it out; don't win on a technicality.
9.6.2006 2:20pm
Harry:
The mercy rule can shorten the game to 3 1/2 innings. The rule book clearly states that you need to make sure you have everyone bat by the 3rd inning for the home team and by the 4th for visitors if there is a chance of the mercy rule coming into play. The home team definitely is at a disadvantge in mercy rule shortened games.
9.6.2006 2:24pm
AK (mail):
Attention everyone who uses "ethics" and "morality" interchangably: stop it. You're incorrect. Here's an excellent primer from Reason in 1999 on the difference. It appears that "Ethics Scoreboard" does not understand the difference between ethics and morality (or, as it has been expressed here, sportsmanship. He is simply wrong when he defines "ethics" as "the study of what is right and what is wrong." That's morality, not ethics. Ethical rules are tools to achieve just outcomes, derived from moral systems. Although we get derive our ethical rules from our moral rules, the two sets of rules do not overlap completely.

I'll use legal ethics as an example, because everyone here seems to be familiar with those. The reason that we have legal ethics is to ensure a just outcome in most cases. The rules themselves aren't a moral code; they're practical tools to achieve a moral result. As we all know, attorneys must maintain the confidences of their clients. If a client admits to his attorney that he murdered twenty people, the attorney is bound by the ethical rules not to reveal that to anyone. It might be morally correct for the attorney to reveal the admission. If revealing the admission was the only way that the client could be convicted, it would certainly serve the interests of justice to reveal the admission. Nevertheless, the ethical rules say otherwise, and lawyers are bound by them.

Conflicts between ethics and morality abound. Your client in a slip-and-fall case may obviously be in the right, and may absolutely deserve to win from a moral standpoint. You still have to follow the ethical rules governing your conduct. You can't violate the rules of professional conduct to win, even if your position is the morally correct one.

Happily, most of the time ethics and morality line up pretty well. That's because ethics were created to serve morality. On those occasions in which following the ethical rules would lead to immoral or unjust outcomes, we still must follow the ethical rules. Those are the rules we agreed to at the beginning of the game, and they're very important. But that doesn't make them moral principles. They're just rules. Ethics allow us to remove situations from the larger moral universe and apply a set of rules that apply only to that situation. It's a strong barrier: no outside morality comes in. All that matters are the rules.

In the Little League context, both coaches acted immorally (or with a lack of sportsmanship), and the coach who started the whole thing is probably more morally blameworthy. But as long as they violated no rule, they acted ethically within the context of a Little League Baseball game. That's all that matters here. It doesn't matter that one team was morally wrong and will probably rot in hell for this. The question was about ethics, and unless you can point to an ethical rule that says something like "both teams must play in a manner calculated to allow the opposing team to score the fewest possible runs," there has been no ethical violation.
9.6.2006 2:26pm
Mike Keenan:
I am not sure I agree with the reasoning here that it is unethical to play bad offense but ethical to play bad defense.

Both coaches showed bad sportsmanship but I wouldn't throw around the unethical label. It is too harsh. Let's hope both teams can share a good laugh at this point.
9.6.2006 2:28pm
Harry:
SG: You may think that should be the interpretation, but it just isn't. The rule book is very clear, with examples. If someone hasn't batted, and the home team is ahead after 5 1/2 innings, and the visiting team protests, the home team forfeits.

The Tournament Director would probably have to call it into the Area Director, who would in turn call Williamsport for a ruling. I've been a TD, and there is no interpretation allowed.

Also, the managers aren't allowed side agreements prior to the game. The year prior the year I was TD, it happened in our town. The losing coach afterwards protested, and it went up to Williamsport. No private changing of the rules is allowed, even with the concurrance of coachs and umps.
9.6.2006 2:34pm
Joshua (www):
Here's a question that just occurred to me: What happens if both teams violate the "everyone-must-play" rule? And if it happens in a tournament, who advances to the next round, or are they both eliminated and their next would-be opponent given a walkover?
9.6.2006 2:41pm
Ethics Scoreboard (mail) (www):
No, no, no, AK...that's exactly backwards; or rather, it's a minority definition. Use it if you like..but it's neither useful nor accepted by most ethicists. The definition used by the Ethics Resource Center, one of the nation's major ethics instituties, is that MORALITY is a formal system of behavioral rules put forth by some authority, like a church or a Bar association. Morality is COMPLIANCE-based. You can be completely moral and ethically impaired: all you have to do is follow the rules. Ethics IS the study of what is right, and is an ongoing study. See also the works of Michael Shermer, like "The Science of Right and Wrong."
Admittedly, it doesn't speak well for my profession that there is lingering disagreement on such basic terms. But a CODE of ethics by this definition is a moral code.
9.6.2006 3:00pm
James Ellis (mail):
As a longtime coach and umpire, I've been on all sides of situations like this before, mostly with batting order and substitution issues. Basically, the adults are there to (among other things) teach basic skills, good sportsmanship and respect for the game. Ideally, they lead by example. Both coaches failed to live up to that standard. They put winning ahead of all else. They both faced the same extremely simple situation--a kid who showed up for the big game and--through his own coach's negligence--didn't get to bat. It was fixable, yet both coaches made it worse. Ethics? They both acted horribly! Neither was better than the other. The umpire seemed to have handled this poorly as well.

Sure, hindsight (like Volokh these days) is close to 20-20, but the VT coach should have calmly disclosed this straightaway to the NH coach and asked him how he wanted his run. VT just has to say that the player is a good kid who has played all season to get here, and I screwed up, but it's not too late to fix it, and we both have a responsibility to do that. VT should remind NH that the whole country is watching them, and expects them to be good sports. They are out there representing their communities and their states. VT should offer up the one run with nobody out, then play the inning even up. Let the best team win. NH either goes along with it, or doesn't. Odds are that NH does. Maybe NH demands a runner on first to boot. Maybe VT says, OK, but I'm only giving it to you if you haven't gotten one on before the second out, etc. If NH refuses to cooperate at all, the VT coach should calmly hand the ball to Adam Bentley and tell him "sorry about the batting fiasco, which is all my fault and which may well cost us the game, but look at the bright side, kid: you're pitching! Go out there and have fun, do your best, try to throw strikes and smile for the ESPN cameras. You've got nothing to lose."

And you see how it plays out. Maybe he gives up a run.
9.6.2006 3:22pm
John Armstrong (mail):
I just have one question: How many players are on each team? Let's say every N.H. run was a homer and everyone else whiffed in the first five innings. That gives 8 batters scoring homers and 15 Ks, for 23 at-bats minimum going into the top of the 6th. Now, if a run had to be scored for this player to get an at-bat, he had to be at least five down in the order. (Any less and the guys ahead of him could have been put on-base without a run scoring). That means at least 28 at-bats. How in the world wasn't he up already?
9.6.2006 3:27pm
jwilcox1024:

That said, the Vermont coach's negligence was enormous. A 9-8 game is not exactly a pitcher's duel -- most likely, the lineup went around at least three times. So there were plenty of opportunities to get the kid his at-bat without flirting with disaster. I don't think I'd have him back as the all-star coach next year.


It is difficult to call the coach's negligence enormous without a box score. Playing devils advocate, what if the score was 4-8 going into the bottom of the 5th? What if the runs scored in the fifth weren't put on the board until there were already two outs in the inning?

It makes sense from a coaching perspective to keep the worst player out as long as possible in a game you are trailing in, particularly if you are trailing by more than a run. You will most likely get at-bats in the bottom of the 6th, and you do not squander fielding opportunities or at-bats unnecessarily.
9.6.2006 3:31pm
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
The discussion turns on a common issue in kidsports. The fundamental issue is one of gamesmanship -- unsportingly using the rules rather than playing the game, thus avoiding taking the game's risks.

I liked the comment that said that the umpire should have stopped the game when he realized what was going on, and should have then referred the matter to the commissioner. Both teams should have been disqualified for their coaches' actions. The Vermont coach was the first one to abandon sporting behavior, but his counterpart from Bristol was almost as unsporting.

Adults, other than the refs/umps and a league representative, should be kept at least a mile away from any kids' game unless they can remember that it's (1) a game, not real life, and (2) it's for the kids' enjoyment, not for world fame. Of course, Little League World Series play is a total distortion of the normal ethics of sport, more akin to professional entertainment sports or collegiate bragging sports.
9.6.2006 4:03pm
J Hoffa (mail):
Sorry if I missed another poster providing this info above, but the VT coach stated after theg ame that if he had the rule book a litle bit closer instead of throwing wild pitches when the NH runner was on 3rd base he would have told his pitcher to air mail a pickoff throw into the stands as the runner MUST advance home in that situation...

Little League with its coaches and parents being more concerned about winning and getting on ESPN just needs to go the way of the Dodo.
9.6.2006 4:24pm
AK (mail):
Ethics Scoreboard, I'm not going to waste too much energy arguing whether the zebra is white with black stripes or black with white stripes. If you want to call the big metaphysical right vs. wrong debate "ethics" and specific rules that flow from it "morals," fine. I'm going the other way, and yours is the minority position. I don't care how many CLE courses you've taught, ethics deals with compliance. No one talks about legal morality when they're talking about compliance with rules. They talk about ethics. When a lawyer violates a rule, they don't call him "immoral." They call him "unethical." What I'm really saying is that morality involves big questions of right and wrong, questions of absolutes, which apply universally and eternally. Ethics involves limited sets of rules designed for certain situations. It's immoral to be a cannibal, but it's ethical for two cannibals to share cooking duties.

I don't care much about semantics, so define your terms however you want. But if you're going to ask people "who acted unethically?", you'll have to define your terms precisely. Are you asking whether the coaches were in compliance with the letter or spirit of the rules? Or are you asking whether their actions were right or wrong on a universal scale?

Let me put this another way. Let's say there's no mercy rule. It would then be in compliance with the rules (which I would call "ethical") to run up the score, even if you were already winning by 20 in the second inning. But it certainly would be wrong (which I would call "immoral") to run up the score and hurt the kids' feelings in the process.

I don't see a rule violation in what either coach did, even with an elastic construction. But what they did violated our sense of fair play, which transcends the rule of any game.
9.6.2006 4:28pm
BobDoyle (mail):
Here's Rule 4.10 regarding the ending of a LL game [emphasis added]

4.10
(a) A regulation game consists of six innings, unless extended because of a tie score, or shortened (1) because the home team needs none of its half of the ninth inning or only a fraction of it, or (2) because the umpire calls the game.
(b) If the score is tied after six completed innings play shall continue until (1) the visiting team has scored more total runs than the home team at the end of a completed inning, or (2) the home team scores the winning run in an uncompleted inning.

It appears that the umpire misruled in this case and that the NH coach was unaware of the rules. The rule says that the game is 6 innings, but may be shortened to less than a full 6 innings if the home team needs less than its full final three outs to win the game. NH should have played normally and tried to keep V from scoring, so that they could go into the bottom half of the sixth inning leading 9-8. The game would not yet be over because NH, despite leading, needed to play at least one of its outs in the bottom of the sixth to win the game because they needed one more player to bat. At that point, they win the game. The rule does not say that the home team cannot play the last half inning if they lead in the score, it says that the game will be shortened if the home team does not need to play the last half to win. Clearly, NH needed to play at least one more out to meet the "everyone bats" rule, and once the player batted, they would then win the game.

As I see it, the whole problem arose from a misreading and miapplication of the rules by both coaches and the umpires.
9.6.2006 5:57pm
Davidson Man (mail):
Both coaches acted unethically (using the term interchangeably with "morally"), although neither violated the rules. Having coached Little League baseball for fourteen years (and several all-star teams), I recognize the Vermont coach made a pretty gross error by not inserting Bentley when he had the chance. Every experienced coach knows about the "everybody bats" rule and plans for its application. I never failed to abide by the rule, and I never experienced a violation by any team in the roughly 300 games I coached. Every coach knows not to wait until it's too late. The Vermont coach bears moral responsibility for the failure to get Bentley to the plate - it's an easy rule to follow unless the coach is massively inattentive or actively attempts to flout or finesse it. So he tried to cover his fault by giving his kids an unsportsmanlike assignment to avoid the consequences he brought on himself and his team.

The NH coach should have told his kids to play as hard as they could and try to win the game. He had the chance to set an example and demonstrate an important lesson. Teaching them not to score in order to lose intentionally and ultimately win cheaply by forfeit is a horrible lesson for the boys.

The story illustrates an observation that I heard one of the experienced coaches in our league utter - Little League baseball is an opportunity for adults to spoil a perfectly good kids' game.
9.6.2006 5:58pm
BobDoyle (mail):
Excuse the error, the LL rule parallels the Official Rules of Baseball for Rule 4.10, except that "six innings" replaces "nine innings." I did not change the second "nine innings" to "six innings" in (a) above. My bad.
9.6.2006 6:04pm
BobDoyle (mail):
Davidson Man -- I also believe both coaches acted unethically, especially since first and foremost they have an obligation to know and then "play by the rules," which, had they done so, as I note above, they would have avoided the whole problem entirely.

Just because it is the convention we are all used to in regular baseball that the home team does not bat in the last inning if they are leading, that is only because regular baseball does not have this "everyone bats" rule. As the end of game rule is written, a team that needs to bat in the bottom half of the last inning in order to get every player an at bat under the rules in order to win is not proscribed from doing so simply because they lead in the score going into the last half of the last inning.
9.6.2006 6:16pm
BobDoyle (mail):
Sorry, I'm really out of sync here, reverse NH and V in my above comments.
9.6.2006 6:18pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
AK:

Of course you are right.

The thought that ES is off somewhere teaching lawyers that ethics are "determined by reference to values like fairness, honesty and civility, as well as ethical standrads such as The Golden Rule" -- which effectively means that what is ethical depends upon who is looking at it -- is scary. The fact is that legal ethics may well require that a lawyer, on occasion be unfair, uncivil, unforthcoming and/or ignore The Golden Rule. Indeed, there are occassions when following The Golden Rule would get one disbarred.

But then, "ethicist" ranks right up there with feng shui master and aroma therapist on my list of make believe bull-shit occuptions.
9.6.2006 7:44pm
Tony2 (mail):
I'm impressed that all the commenters have discussed nothing but abstract principles, and have completely ignored the consequences of the coaches' choices. Even the simplest, most immediate utilitarian considerations have been stunningly absent from this discussion. Was the audience bored? Did it hurt ticket sales? Were children so turned off by this style of playing that the sport suffered?

I am also flummoxed by the shadowy, ill-defined concepts of "sportsmanship" and the distinction between "the rules" and "the game". Since when are the rules and the game different things? How is it that people are forming some alternate set of rules in their head that they not only disagree on, but which somehow supercede the actual rules?

Disclaimer: I hate sports. With a passion. My memory of childhood athletics is a long nightmare of contemptuous phys-ed instructors, cruel peers and arbitrary judgments. The very notion of "sports ethics" strikes me as an oxymoron.
9.6.2006 9:11pm
paa:
I fail to see how either coach was unethical. Both were trying to, within the rules, advance their teams in the tournament. It would have been unethical NOT to do so. Their obligation is to win the game within the rules.

This is no different from a football or basketball team who is ahead running down the clock to prevent a comeback by the other side.
9.6.2006 9:29pm
MadMan (mail):
All interesting comments but just to add another point: in series or tournament play, it is well within sportsmanship for a manager to concede a game if he feels it would help his team advance farther or give his team a better chance to win an upcoming game. With the score a blow-out in say the 3rd game of the world series there is no sprtsmanship or ethical imperitive to put in a strong relief pitcher or to not rest a star player if by resting them you would have them in better shape for the next game.
(The distinction here is that the eventual win comes not from the effort of winning subsequent games but a technicality)

Bob Doyle-
I don't know if you have read the rule correctly. I am using your quote:
4.10
(a) A regulation game consists of six innings, unless extended because of a tie score, or shortened (1) because the home team needs none of its half of the ninth inning or only a fraction of it, or (2) because the umpire calls the game.

As I read the rule they would need only a fraction of the inning for the last player to have his at-bat, therefore the game is shortened.
9.6.2006 9:37pm
jwilcox1024:
MadMan:

The rule is phrased poorly, but I think it is there to address the situation of walk-off runs, not to perclude situations where only a fraction of the inning is needed. Reading the rule with your interpretation would force all games to be shortened. All home teams only need a fraction of the last inning to win the game -- assuming they need any of the last inning -- because once they score more runs than the visiting team they win and they must have outs remaining (meaning fractions of an inning remaining) if they were able to score the winning run.

A more sensible phrasing of the rule would be "because the home team needs none of its half of hte ninth inning nor any fraction thereof..."
9.6.2006 10:16pm
jwilcox1024:
My rephrasing is incorrect. It percludes the walk-off run situation from shortening the game.

Let my try one more time:

"[...]because the home team needs none of its half of the sixth inning or any remaining fraction of it[...]"
9.6.2006 10:25pm
spinecurvedball (mail):
Someone said don't confuse ethics and morality. I'll add that you shouldn't inject ethics into baseball. It would be clutter. The rules are there to be gamed. Think about the concept of "selling the play." For example, a shortstop or second baseman makes a sweeping tag of a sliding runner, knowing full well that he "missed the tag by a mile," but he still sweeps the gloved hand, ball enclosed, high above his head to convince the umpire that he made the out. This is expected. On a lesser scale and not bound by rules, though still sleight of hand, is the decoy play. For example an outfielder pretends he's going to catch a fly ball he actually has no chance of reaching in order to keep a runner from advancing on the play. You play within the rules as enforced and if the rules get bent for whatever reason, i.e. an umpire's incompetence, you live with it. That's why we can say "We was robbed."
9.6.2006 10:49pm
Harry:
BobDoyle: you're only reading part of the rules.

rule 4.11a says The games ends when the visiting team completes the half of the sixth inning if the home team is ahead.

Secondly, in LL there is a section of the rules specifically for tournament play. I didn't coach this year, so I don't have this year's rule book. The handiest I could find is from 2003. On page T-12, rule 9 for tournament says:

Every Player on a team roster shall participate in each game for a mimimum of three (3) consecutive defensive outs OR [change to AND in 2005] bat at least one (1) time.
a. Managers are responsible for fulfilling the mandatory play requirements
b. There is no exception if the game is shortened for nay reason, after becoming a regulation game. [3 1/2 innings in this case]

From this year's tournament rules on the web

link

says:

"MANDATORY PLAY: 9-10 Year Old Division, 10-11 Year
Old Division, Little League and
Junior League
• Every player on a team roster shall participate in each game
for a minimum of three (3) consecutive defensive outs and
bat at least one (1) time.
a. Managers are responsible for fulfilling the mandatory
play requirements.
b. There is no exception to this rule unless the game is
shortened for any reason. NOTE: A game is not
considered shortened if the home team does not
complete the offensive half of the sixth or seventh inning
(or any extra inning) due to winning the game.
c. Failure to meet the mandatory play requirements in this
rule is a basis for protest. If one or more players on a
roster do not meet this requirement, it shall result in
forfeiture of the game (by action of the Tournament
Committee), if protested before the umpire (s) leave the
playing field."

The NOTE specifically covers this situation.

Mandatory play in non-tournament games is even more severe requiring 6 defensive outs and can get a manager suspended.
9.6.2006 11:38pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
The NOTE covers a situation where Vermont wins. But because Vermont did not win, the NOTE is not in effect, in which case the exception in (b) comes into effect. Since the exception comes into play, Vermont wins (by the usual rule of being the home team and being ahead going into the bottom of the last inning). Since Vermont wins, the NOTE is in effect (it was not considered shortened, because the reduction in length of game was due to not completing the bottom half of the last inning.) Since the game was thus not considered shortened, the situation was not an exception to the rule that everyone on the roster participates. Thus New Hampshire was allowed to protest, and having done so in a timely manner, Vermont forfeits. Therefore Vermont does not win. Therefore the NOTE is not in effect...
9.7.2006 12:38am
BobDoyle (mail):
Thanks Harry, I missed that section of the rules.

However, I agree with David that the exception to the shortened game rule is logically inconsistent or poorly worded, leading to the circularity. Besides, I also agree with one of the earlier posters that it is inherently unfair to make the home team subject to compliance with the "everyone bats" rule for a shorter period (potentially three less outs) than the visiting team. They either should permit the home team to bat in the final inning even if they are ahead if they still have one, two, or three players that have not yet batted OR they should change the rule to insist that both teams must make sure that all players have at least one at bat BEFORE the beginning of the sixth inning so that both the visiting and the home team have to meet the same, rather than different requirements.
9.7.2006 2:25am
Harry:
It's a question of timing. NH can't protest until the game is complete. The game is over and complete after 5 1/2 innings. VT wins the game. Only then, and only if NH protests does VT forfeit. It isn't automatic. The umpire can't point it out, the scorekeeper can't, the TD can't. The NH coach must notice and protest. It's like the runner missing a base. The game is a game of details and strategy as much as a game of hitting and catching a ball.

On the other point, this is a basically a law blog. When did fairness ever enter the equation? Of course the visitors have the advantage. And since home/visitor is decided by a coin flip, given the choice I alway chose visitor. (And since loser of the coin flip chooses dugout, I chose the one I figured would annoy their coach the most)
9.7.2006 5:09am
Matty GG:
As a longtime little league umpire, the bottom line here is quite simple: the "everyone must bat" rule (or the old "everyone must either bat or play an inning in the field" rule ) cannot be justified in All-Star tournaments.

The entire point of the rule is that kids who are not the most talented still get a chance to play in every game. But the kids in these regional tournaments are All-stars, the best dozen or so players from the leauge that year. They've been the ones playing the whole game all year. Not a one of them will be upset, or discourgaed, if they don't get to play in the regional championship game.

In fact, there's an insidious effect to keeping the rule for All-star tournaments: the individual leagues tend to minimize the number of kids on the all-star team, because they want the best players to be out there as much as possible. It might be true that 14 or 15 kids could help an all-star team, but no one in their right mind has more than 12 or so, because it would be impossible to get everyone into the game with more than that.

Little leauge should admit that the LLWS is an all-star tournament based more on winning than on "everyone plays," and they should dump the regular season rule from the LLWS.

To those that say that would be inconsistent, one only need check the pitcher-rest rules: during the regular season, pitchers can only pitch a certain amount per week. During the post-season, that all goes out the window, and is substituted by a completely different set of rest rules, to accomadate the many games played in any given week.
9.7.2006 9:46am
MatthewD (mail) (www):
I'm not sure I see how purposefully giving the other team points can be regarded as unethical.

What about a football team, leading late in the game but pinned deep in its own end, taking a safety to avoid the risk of punting and giving the opponent a short field? They just "gave" the other team points to, hopefully, avoid a loss.
9.7.2006 2:20pm
AnotherDavid:
The problem with the New Hampshire coach's conduct is that the "every kid must bat" forfeit is not a winning condition. It's a punishment. He was playing not to win the game in any sense - remember, it was recorded as a Vermont win that was then nullified by forfeit - but to force the other team into a violation of the rules that the league considers so egregious that they must sacrifice an earned victory. I call that bad ethics.
9.7.2006 3:34pm
Dan Palmer (mail):
Interestingly there are box scores available via the Little League web site for all LLWS regional games EXCEPT the one under discussion here. However, it does show NH winning 6-0 (not via forfeit, or even 8-0 with VT forfeiting all its runs) and eventually making it to the LLWS.

I think that too many people bring up the idea that "it is the coaches job to win" as if they are a professional coach being paid to produce wins and championships. I understand that this is not a sandlot game between friends where winning or losing is not that important, but the LL philosophy is clearly that the competition is intended to instill certain values in the participants including honor and fair play. What the NH coach did was contrary to both those ideals.

The NH coach had an opportunity to teach his players the value of fair play and earning your victory. Instead he taught them that winning is more important than anything else. Thus the next generation of showboating, ball hogging, trash talking poor sportsman college and professional athletes begins its education.

The VT coach surely made a huge error for which he should be penalized by losing his position for the next season, but at least he tried to ensure that his victory was earned on the field within the rules instead of via a technicality.
9.7.2006 5:57pm
John Noble (mail):
J.Hoffa: ... but the VT coach stated ... he would have told his pitcher to air mail a pickoff throw into the stands as the runner MUST advance home in that situation.

Deez: The opposing team still could have countered this strategy (not going home, intentionally not stepping on home plate, etc.)... Basically, there's no way a fielding team can force a team that doens't want to score to score.

Harry: The NH coach must notice and protest. It's like the runner missing a base.

Who's right? And when the batters are swinging for strikes on the intentional walk, can you force a runner to take first and move him around by dropping the third strike and refusing to pick it up and tag the batter?
9.7.2006 6:09pm
anonymiss:
John Noble: The answer to your last question is easy: there is no "dropped 3rd strike rule" in Little League. You are just automatically struck out if a strike is called when you already have 2 agaisnt you.

Still, there are nagging questiosn about the ability to force teams to score runs: For instance, what if the catcher interfered with the batters bat each time he attempted to swing? Catcher's interference is an automatic award of first base to the batter.

I simply don't buy the line that you can't force a team to score.
9.7.2006 6:34pm
SeanF:
Interesting discussion! Here, though, is what the NH coach should have done:

Rather than telling his batters to intentionally strike out, he should've told them to take the walks (and/or fielding errors) while holding his lead runner at 3rd base until such time as he had the bases loaded with nobody out. At that point it becomes virtually impossible for the VT team to intentionally restrict them to a single run.

In other words, take advantage of the VT coach's error in not getting all his players at-bats, but do it within the context of trying to win the game by actually scoring more runs.
9.8.2006 11:07am
Jeff M:
Catcher's interference is not an automatic award of first. The offense may elect to take the play, such as if the batter had hit a home run. This same rule would also allow the offense to take the strike called on the batter's intentional swing.
9.9.2006 3:25am