Monday, July 19, 2010
Let’s talk about what happens when a team doesn’t have enough players available.
In professional sports, and also in the higher levels of organized amateur competition, the inability to field a complete team will result in a forfeit. The rules do not allow for anything else. Not enough players show up and you lose, period.
The leagues I play in, however, put a premium upon playing the games, as opposed to the results. Wins and losses are important, but if the choice is between a win via forfeit or accommodating a shorthanded team in order to play the game we all love, the choice is to play the game. And if the team that would have lost, by forfeit, somehow manages to win the game in question? So be it.
The usual factor in avoiding a forfeited game is the loan of a player to the disadvantaged team. The player may come from another team in the league, or may be someone from the team they’re playing, or might even be someone taken from the stands.
(I once managed a team, in the M Street league, that had enough players of its own only about 75% of the time during one hideous season. It wasn’t unusual for me to shout at the twenty or thirty people in the stands, "Anybody want to play? We need two players!"
More often than not, we’d get the warm bodies we needed. That’s what they were, though – just warm bodies. If somebody in the stands could really play well, then they most likely wouldn’t be in the stands. I ended up with lots of hideously obese wannabes, young kids, half-drunk louts, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam playing right field that year. God bless them all, though. We got to play because of them.
The one I’ll never forget – mostly because MY WIFE will never let me forget him – was Teddy. Teddy was perhaps thirteen-years-old. He was also stone deaf. Very nice kid, and not too bad a ballplayer, but he couldn’t hear. He was in the stands with his father, or perhaps his uncle, when I called up into the stands for a player to come down. His male relative nudged Teddy, pointed at me, and made it understood that I needed players. Teddy then bounded down to the field, a big smile on his face, raring to go.
He could read lips, so as long as I faced him directly we were OK. I put him in right field and batted him ninth. He didn’t hurt us in the field, but he was overmatched at the plate. The pitcher on the other team was one of the better ones in the league that year, so Teddy had no chance. The pitcher – whose name I wish I could remember, since he should get props for this – eased up when Teddy took his stance in the batter’s box, throwing at about three-quarters speed. Teddy still struck out swinging.
By the time the third inning rolled around, another one of my players had made it to the park. To my everlasting regret, I indicated to Teddy that I now had enough players. I thanked him for his services and sent him back up into the stands. We were losers in our first four games of the season to that point, and only trailing 5 – 0 in the game, so I did what I thought would give my team its best shot. Had I known then what I know now, that we would only win one game that entire year, I not only would have kept Teddy in that game, I would have made his year by inviting him to be a regular. God knows he showed more desire to play than most of the other bums on that team. And, as MY WIFE pointed out to me after the game, he was the only one with his head in the game enough to know the line-up. For the next three innings after I had announced the line-up, my players with hearing kept on asking me where they were batting. Teddy didn’t. He knew.)
In all situations involving a borrowed player, good sportsmanship is the key. When a team is granted a favor, in order to be able to compete, they should not take advantage of the other team’s generosity. If the player in question is an obviously good one, it is expected that he will not play his regular position, especially if that position is one that affects the game more than others; pitcher, for instance. If he’s an excellent hitter, he should be placed at the end of the line-up. And if another regular shows up, the substitute should be removed from the game.
I was a substitute this past week, and I also played in a game where a substitute was used by the opposition. My presence didn’t make a big difference for the team I played for, but the other game was impacted greatly by the man who filled in. We’ll briefly look at both games before getting to the Bombers action from Sunday.
Warriors – 27 FLAMES – 6
Some of you may remember the Flames as my weekday team from a few years back. Good bunch of guys. I enjoyed my time as a regular with them. Although I now play in the M Street League on weekdays, I’ve allowed Pete Mittell, the manager, to keep me on the Flames roster over in the Fenway League. Pete will ask me to fill in when he desperately needs a body to avoid a forfeit situation. If I’m free that evening, I’m happy to do him the favor. This makes the third year in a row, since my retirement from the Flames, that I’ve been called upon to play one game during their season.
Pete usually carries a roster of some 17 or 18 players, so when he’s desperate enough to call in players from the past, it means he’s missing most of his regulars. As a result, games like this one happen. Pete had a couple of guys playing out of position, as well as an outfielder pitching. The Warriors had four outfielders, the norm for that league, but we only had three. The result was what one might expect. I played first base, and fielded it decently, but I also went 0-for-3 at the plate. I’m not as despondent about that as I might have been in a closer game. I could have hit three grand slams and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
(I had a shot at one in my last at-bat. I came up with the bases loaded and two out. The score at that time was the same as the final listed above, so that will tell you how I did.)
Fun seeing many of my former teammates, I saved them from forfeiting, and I didn’t totally disgrace myself. As horrible games go, it was one of the best.
Now, the more interesting game, from M Street.
Stadium – 13 SWINGERS – 8
We lost, but we didn’t lose.
Stadium used a player from another team to avoid a forfeit (or to at least avoid having to play shorthanded, as they had the 8 players which would have allowed them to begin the game legally.) They batted him third in the line-up, and had him playing third base. He hit two vicious home runs, accounted for at least five runs batted in – the difference in the score – and played his position well.
After the game, Dan Chan, our manager, talked to Mark Senna, the Commissioner of the league. He did NOT protest the game, but he did make Mark aware that Stadium had used an excellent player from another team as a fill in, had batted him high in the line-up, and had let him play his usual position, a position that had some major impact upon the outcome. Even though, as I say, Dan did NOT protest the game, Mark nevertheless decided that Stadium should not have benefited so greatly from their use of that player, so he ordered the game nullified and replayed at a later date (this coming Thursday.)
So, we lost, but we didn’t lose. We remain at 7 – 7 – 1, in third place (the final playoff position in our division), and we still completely control our destiny. Now it’s up to us to prove we deserve the playoffs.
While I think it was a good move on Dan’s part to tell Mark about the situation, and I’m certainly glad to have another chance to play the game, I’m still not entirely comfortable with it. It’s the right decision, no doubt, but... I don’t know. The other player DOES play in the league, and if we’re going to prove ourselves a team worthy of the playoffs, we should probably have just sucked it up and beaten them regardless. My major concern is if any of their guys harbors resentment (which I certainly might, if I had a win taken away by an off-field decision.) I hope good sportsmanship prevails during the rematch, and that no little incident – an unintentional brushback, a hard slide – turns into a major dust-up because of hard feelings.
M Street website
Now, let’s tie this all together with the Bombers.
BOMBERS – 11 Renegades – 10 (Extra Innings)
BOMBERS – 11 Renegades - 8
The Renegades knocked us out of the playoffs last year, beating us two games to one in the opening round. Game three went extra innings, nobody able to put a run across for four innings running, before they beat us by one. This year, they have fallen upon hard times, with half their roster having had to relocate to California because of their employer moving there. As a result, they had forfeited a couple of games earlier in the year.
Dwayne Dahlbeck, their manager and catcher, is a really nice guy and an asset to our league. It would have been a shame to see him have to fold completely, so Jack Atton and I stepped in to help. I got Dan Chan from the Swingers to play for him, and Jack was able to recruit a couple of his teammates from the Fenway League to come down. Thus, the Renegades now have enough to compete - and they almost knocked us off as a result.
Since we play doubleheaders each Sunday, and another league has the fields after we finish, there is an interesting rule in force for a first game that ends tied after the regulation seven innings. In order to save time and make a complete second game possible, the first inning of game two also functions as an extra inning for the first game. Thus, if a team wins the first inning of game two, they win the first game. Should the game still remain tied, the next inning serves the same function, and so on.
We had a 10 – 2 lead going into the top of the seventh inning of game one. We were cruising. And then the Renegades got a single, a walk, another walk, a double, another double, and another single. Suddenly it was 10 – 7, no outs, a runner on second (he had gone there on a throwing error), and the Renegades bench was alive and feeling it. Jack Atton induced a pop up to shortstop for the first out, but that was followed by two more hits (10 – 8), a second out on a fly ball to center, then a game-tying triple. One more hit and the Renegades would have taken the lead and stomped on our hearts. Jack got the third out, however, and, since we were the home team, we had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the inning.
No go. We had two on with two out, but couldn’t put a run across. Therefore, we went into game two, with the first inning being the decider for game one.
Now we were batting first, since we were the away team for game two. We scored one, on a home run by Charlie Conners. Charlie was also the pitcher for game two, so he had helped himself with that hit. And he helped himself in the bottom of the inning, also, shutting out the Renegades and giving us the victory for game one.
The Renegades had to be slightly demoralized after that nice comeback resulting in only a loss, and we took advantage. We led the whole way, by varying degrees, and although the final score was close, I felt as though we were solidly in control the whole way.
Charlie threw a nice game in his first start of the season, and he had a monster day at the plate, as well. In game two, he had three home runs in three at-bats. It would have been nice for him to have gotten a shot at four in one game, but we came up against the time limit in game two and did not play a seventh inning. For his day, total, he went 5-for-6, three home runs, two doubles, and an amazing 12 RBI. In addition, he got the win in game two.
(It was originally thought that Charlie got the win in both games, but Jack Atton gets the win in game one due to our having reversed batting order entering game two. Our winning run scored before Charlie had thrown a pitch. So, via that fluky rule concerning extra innings, Charlie ended up getting the save for game one to go along with his game two victory. Whatever he’s credited with, a day like he had deserves applause.)
Other superb days were had by Pat Atton (5-for-6, plus a base on balls, batting leadoff) and Cam Zirpolo (3 hits, including a double and a triple, along with 2 RBI.) Manny Dominguez had three solid hits in game one, and played nice defense at third base in both games. It was good to have Pat "Mike" Pickup back in the line-up after a few games absence. He had 3 hits, a double, a home run, a walk, and 2 RBI.
(Plus, he’s a really nice guy and a good softball man. We’ve got a team full of guys like that this year. The banter on the bench and on the field is both intelligent and funny, and everybody keeps their teammate’s heads in the game at all times. The ribbing occasionally gets semi-vicious, but there’s always an understanding that your teammates will back you up when it counts. A couple of examples…
Pickup asked Charlie if he had any sports rub, something like Tiger Balm or Ben-Gay. Charlie gave him a tube of the stuff, and Pickup stripped off his shirt to rub the cream into his shoulder. Pickup is a hairy guy, so while he’s rubbing in the ointment, Robbie Rogers looks over and says, "You know, if you want that stuff to work, you should take off your sweater before rubbing it in."
Another from Robbie. After one of our guys hit a weak pop up for an out, he said, "Does your husband play?"
Of course, when you’re a wiseass, you have to take it, too. After Robbie had a couple of unsuccessful at-bats, somebody (maybe Charlie) said, "Has anybody seen Robbie Rogers today? I think he was supposed to be here, but he hasn’t shown up yet."
The thing is, if there were ever a scuffle, these guys would be the first to have a teammate’s back. I know that for a fact, and so do the other guys, and that’s why the ribbing is taken with good grace. And all this stuff keeps a team loose, which is always a good thing. Tight teams lose. Loose teams win.)
We are now 11 – 1, at least tied for first place. I don’t have the league-wide scores yet, so we may be alone in first. Two more weeks before the playoffs begin. I’m one happy 53-year-old softball bum.
Oh, yeah - my day. Between hits and walks, I reached base five times, scoring three runs. I played both full games at first base and made no errors. Not bad for the oldest guy on the field.
Soon, with more better stuff.
LATE UPDATE: Titans won both of their games, so we're still tied for first.