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for: ‘April, 2012’

Ringer Rule Rehash + What About The Balls.

As the 2012 season stands poised to get underway, time to look back to last year and correct a couple of things that just aren’t working in their current form. We’ll start with the “Ringer Rule”, which over the years has evolved into Rule A13, Tournament Eligibility.

First a little history… the Ringer Rule was born in ’02 or ’03 after one of our teams that shall remain nameless showed up on Tournament Day with a pitcher straight off the Comcast Sportsnet Super 16 All-Stars. A pot-bellied dude around 50 that was throwing a 20′ arc and dropping it in the well most every pitch… and when he came up to bat he’d shoot a gap every single time not even having to exert himself when rounding the bases. Obviously this cat had never played a regular season game in the Design League or he would have been remembered… but there he was on Tournament Day providing the worlds largest unfair advantage… thus the rule was born…

I can’t even remember the original wording, but the problem from the beginning was how to enforce it. Over the years we’ve tried different wordings, but where its gotten to now is;

To play with your team on Tournament Day, a player must have been in attendance for at least 50% of your teams games that season.

How can anybody ever prove that though? The method tried over the last several years has been with pictures and the team pages… and to a certain extent there’s still a lot of good in that I intend to salvage here. In the effort to document a teams roster to support this rule we’ve actually evolved into a great routine for taking, annotating and posting team pictures/rosters. So good has come from this experiment, but at the end of the day, the Ringer Rule as currently worded is unenforceable for me. It just hasn’t worked out.

So before I get accused of changing the rule for personal reasons… I’m just gonna admit that I’m changing the rule for personal reasons. First the disclosure… going into the Tournament last year I had exactly a 10-person team… that was before our right fielder pulled a hamstring on that last Thursday of the regular season. He let me know on the eve of the Tournament that he wasn’t able to go… I considered going with 9… but then decided instead to call one of our alumni, a fantastic softball player no doubt, but also a guy who has played just about 100 Design League games with the Dogz going back to ’98… but none in 2011… so I broke the rule as written, but the way I felt about it and have for years considering what I’ve OK’d for other teams in the past… is that I didn’t break what the spirit and the intent of the rule was in the first place… which was don’t show up on Tournament Day with some Hall of Famer that nobody has ever seen before in a Design League game.

Within our Tournament Bracket last year, 2 of the 3 other teams in our bracket were vocally jeering the presence of our substitute right-fielder… and here’s the rub… how would any of them even know that he hadn’t played in any games for us last year? Would they know that sort of information about any player on any Design League team out there? The answer is that the Dogz have a website with our entire Design League history meticulously documented, accessible from any smartphone along the sidelines. Unfortunately, we’re the only team in the Design League with such a website and that leaves us over-exposed which turns out to be a competitive disadvantage… After multiple trips walking all the diamonds last Tournament Day I had suspicions about more than a few of the players I saw out there… but there’s no way to prove anything and where would the sportsmanship be in that sort of inquiry anyway?

But keeping that superstar player who’s visiting Grant Park for the first time off the diamonds on Tournament Day is still a priority, so here’s what I propose… Same rules for every team… straight up and above board, very easy to enforce…

  • Pictures will this year become a priority. If you check this seasons Schedule you’ll see that starting in Week 2 we begin to take team pictures, you can check Weeks 2-8 right now to see when your team picture will be taken, pictures are now being scheduled in the pre-season. The goal is to have all team pictures finished by the latter half of June, definitely before the Lollapalooza break. The absence of your new shirts, a low attendance day, etc. will no longer be accepted as a reason to postpone your picture. Pictures happen on your scheduled day come hell or high water.
  • The day after your teams picture is taken you will be sent the annotation request email… in response to that email you will send (a) an annotation of those in the picture, (b) a listing of all those on the roster but not present for the picture… and (c) the new category, Eligible Alumni… to be on this list a player must not be on your active roster but does need to be present (or listed) in at least one of your teams past team pictures/rosters.
  • Once all the team pictures have been taken and team pages updated with the rosters, I will create a 16-page .PDF of all the team pages and post it to the website for anyone to print out as an on-field reference for the second half of the season on into the Tournament.
  • If there’s any dispute on Tournament Day as to a players eligibility, drivers licenses get smacked down on the table and compared to the book… no muss, no fuss… easy to enforce.

And for those wondering why I even feel the addition of an Eligible Alumni list is necessary… the answer would be that I feel the intent and spirit of the rule should allow a team to draw on past members in circumstances of need while at the same time protecting an opponent from having to face a (never played a Design League game before) true ringer, like that one from a decade ago that started all this bullshit in the first place.

So that’s that… Rule A13 has updated on the Rules page as well as on the printable version… but that said, if any of you have thoughts on how this new approach could be made better or further tweaked, feel free to post to the comments on this post… I’m open to the back and forth… but speaking to my executive decision here to change things… all I can say is it’s time to try another approach.

So now after all that, we’re changing one more rule… and I promise that this one is a quickie… Rule A12 which now reads;

The HOME team picks/approves the game ball.

Will now be changed to;

Game Ball Rule; During Regular Season play and the Bracket Rounds on Tournament Day, both teams will agree on the game ball before the game begins. The desire should be to choose the hardest of the available balls. For both Final Four games as well as the Championship Game, all three of these games will begin with new, out-of-the-box softballs that will be provided by the league.

These are our two changes to the Rule book here at the start of the 2012 Season. Opinions, counterpoints and even good-natured ranting are all welcome here in the comment section. If you have an opinion on any of this, go on record… everything’s always open for debate.