Category Archive
for: ‘Rules Committee’

Rule A14 Added : The Sunset Rule

We had a situation this past week where two teams were in dispute as to when and how their game came to an end. It has always been Design League tradition that a team, particularly a team with a lead, wouldn’t simply say they were done playing when they felt it was too dark… instead, they would give their opponent at least 1-inning notice if their intention was to stop playing before the game reached the regulation 7 innings.

As this has never come up before as a contended issue in a specific game, the ‘tradition’ had never become formalized within the League’s rules. With the addition of Rule A14 this has now been corrected;

A14 • The Sunset Rule; Describing the scenario where a Captain, on behalf of his team, feels not enough daylight remains for his team to safely play to the regulation 7-innings. This Captain must formally inform his/her opposing Captain 1-inning prior to ceasing play. In other words, a team can’t simply decide they’re done. Instead, their opponent must be given at least 3 offensive outs notice of a teams desire to end the game early.

The key portion of the language of this rule is the word ‘formally’… Captain to Captain, there must be a formal statement from one team to another that a teams next at-bats will be their last… to be safe, this conversation should be witnessed by a couple representatives from each team… Devoid of this, all games will be played to their full 7 innings.

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.

Mid-2011 Design League Rule Changes.

Over the course of the first half of this season, as in seasons past, I’ve received some feedback here and there regarding different league rules. This feedback is always listened to attentively… I make notes for when I find the time to sit down and do the actual work of changing things as I’ve done here over the last few days. Before we get started with the rule changes though, please consider the following three points;

1 > The league rules are the business of every team, captain and player in the league. The more people there are that know the rules, the fewer the amount of dust-ups that will occur on the diamonds. Captains, please forward the link to this Forum post on to your players, EVERYONE should be aware that these changes are taking place. Also let them know that they are able to subscribe to this Forum by inputing their email address at the bottom of the right-hand column… that way they will receive the same automatic notification of new posts as all of the Captains do.

2 > Its never been said to my face, but through the grapevine I’ve heard that it has been said… “Nic makes up the rules as he goes along to best favor his own team…” If these words have ever rolled off your tongue, come and find me sometime soon and let’s have a discussion… nothing could be further from the truth. More times than not what I actually find to be the case  when having a discussion/argument regarding rules on the diamonds… is that I KNOW the rules and whoever I’m talking to doesn’t… not the case with everyone, but a good 75%. Do you yourself know the rules? Answer the question honestly.

Since the Design League formalized in Grant Park 11 years ago… I’ve been the compiler and the editor of the rules… those of you who have been around for a good portion of that time know that I always solicit opinions and suggestions and that I’m always open for a discussion. Many of the rules currently in place were voted in democratically as was the initial draft of the rules done back in 2001. It’s a document perpetually in flux where the main objective in our umpireless scenario is to leave as little to interpretation as is possible… so that’s what we always strive for… but please don’t argue the rules if you don’t know them, that’s simply not fair… I’m not suggesting you read them 300 times as I have, but a few times a year wouldn’t hurt, maybe twice that if you’re a new Captain… and please have a print out with you on the diamonds… I’ve taken the time to make it available, the least you can do is print it out and throw it in the bat bag…

3 > The rules discussed below have already been changed on the site as well as in the printable version… but that doesn’t mean they still can’t be edited if anyone were to illuminate an aspect that has been overlooked. If you have anything to add to this discussion, PLEASE DON’T send me an email… instead, enter it in the “comment” box you’ll find at the bottom of this post. If you don’t see a comment box, then click the word “comment” directly under the Title for this post (up near the top)… As I said above, the goal is always to find language for a rule that leaves as little room for interpretation as possible while maintaining a conducive environment for great softball to be played… with that in mind, consider the following;

Rules A7 & A8

These are a pair of rules that were re-written just last June… but after a year in practice it’s become apparent that the ‘spirit’ of these rules hasn’t been properly communicated. In our defensive league, the intention is to give the defense every opportunity to make a legitimate defensive play, while at the same time preventing an overthrow at 1st that rolls out onto Columbus from allowing that batter to circle the bases while the ball is being retrieved. The main problem with the old wording was defining a distance (currently 15′) beyond which a ‘legitimate’ defensive play could no longer be made… It has also proven problematic to determine if that distance had been breached during actual game play… that said;

The old wording…

A7 • All overthrows on the bases warrant (1) extra base. The ball is ruled dead and no play will follow. Overthrows are defined as a throw that’s “airmailed” to a base heading off into foul territory at least 15 feet beyond fair territory. Thus, overthrows that merely reach the grass beyond 1st and 3rd base do not automatically award the baserunner an extra base.

Has become this new wording as we look to try something new…

A7 • When a ball is out-of-play; No thrown balls are automatically out-of-play. The onus falls to the defensive team to call a ball out-of-play. This is accomplished when a defensive player raises his/her hands over their head and clearly yells “out-of-play”. A line extending from the ends of the backstops parallel to the base lines defines the boundary a thrown ball needs to pass before making it eligible to be deemed out-of-play. When a defensive team calls a ball out-of-play, that moment defines baserunner position(s) and ALL baserunners are awarded the base they are approaching plus (1) extra base. If a defensive team DOES NOT call a ball out-of-play, baserunners may continue to advance at their own risk. Bags, bikes, beer and other team paraphernalia along the sidelines remains in-play unless called otherwise by the defense.

And as A8 then no longer made sense in the new context… it has changed from this old wording…

A8 • Balls that are kicked or otherwise knocked away during a play at a base are NOT considered overthrows, the ball remains live and runners may advance at their own risk.

To this new wording…

A8 • When a baserunner intentionally kicks, strips, smacks or otherwise knocks away a ball thrown by a defensive player in an attempt to make a play, that baserunner is automatically called OUT and all other base runners must return to the base they occupied before the play in which the interference occurred.

Rule B8

The problem with this one was brought to my attention by a Captain asking a question regarding the making of his lineup… How this one escaped my notice for so long is hard to say but the current wording doesn’t reflect how things are done on the diamonds so the wording has been changed… Here’s the old…

B8 • When playing a traditional 10-slot lineup, substitutions in the batting order must be reflected on defense and vice versa.

And here’s the new…

B8 • When playing a traditional 10-slot lineup, any individual player can only occupy a single slot in that lineup throughout the course of a game. i.e. if Player X starts the game batting 2nd, he/she can only bat 2nd during that game. If Player Y is inserted into the lineup in the 6-hole once the game has begun, he/she can only bat 6th for the duration of that game. Any player that steps to the plate ‘out-of-order’ will generate an automatic OUT and shall return to the sideline until his/her actual spot in the lineup comes up.

Defensive substitutions are handled exclusive of the offensive batting order, although a player must take at least half of the at-bats in any given slot in the offensive batting order to be eligible to play defense. (Keep in mind this only applies to a traditional 10-slot lineup, if you’re playing a ‘deep-lineup’, please refer to Rule B5 as the rules for that are different).

Rule C1

Has just had a couple of lines added to it… here’s the new wording…

C1 • Team Captains are responsible for keeping the score of their game. Captains should also verify runs scored with their opposing scorekeeper every half inning. It’s also suggested that teams review their opponants batting order before the start of every game.

Rule C8

Another one that is worded incorrectly and has now been fixed… the old wording…

C8 • The ‘infield fly-rule’ is in effect; With less than (2) outs and runners on 1st and 2nd or on 1st, 2nd and 3rd, a pop-fly on the infield is an automatic out on the batter. Runners advance at their own risk but must ‘tag-up’ to advance if the ball is caught.

Has become the following…

C8 • The ‘infield fly-rule’ is in effect whenever there’s a ‘force’ situation on the infield and less than (2) outs. In this situation, the batter is automatically called out upon hitting a pop-fly on the infield, runners advance at their own risk but must ‘tag-up’ to advance if the ball is caught. An infield-fly is defined as any pop fly hit on the infield in fair territory.

Still a gray area here is the short-center fielder… defined as an outfielder, this position still functions as a 5th infielder a lot of the time… open to suggestions on how that can be further defined…

All for now… again, if there’s anything anyone would like to comment on, please do so by entering your comment in the comment box below… if you don’t see that comment box… click the word ‘comment’ under the title of this post up near the top and that will take you to a page where the ‘comment’ box will appear.

Two New Important Rule Changes.

At issue today are two rules, A7 & C5. I’ve already seen misinterpretations of both of these rules in two games of my own, another where I was filling in as well as receiving (3) emails from games I didn’t see over the last week regarding these same two rules… So it’s time to clarify them some more.

First we’ll deal with the easier of the two which is Rule A7, this rule previously read;

All overthrows on the bases warrant (1) extra base. The ball is ruled dead and no play will follow.

Lines have been added and the rule now reads;

All overthrows on the bases warrant (1) extra base. The ball is ruled dead and no play will follow. Overthrows are defined as a throw that’s “airmailed” to a base heading off into foul territory at least 15 feet beyond fair territory. Thus, overthrows that merely reach the grass beyond 1st and 3rd base do not automatically award the baserunner an extra base.

To get to the 15 foot number I laid a tape measure out and determined a distance I feel that within… the defensive player still has a reasonable chance at making a play on an advancing runner. Beyond that, advancement is automatic. This now more clearly defines the spirit of the rule.

Second on the agenda is Rule C5, which previously read;

Rule Concerning Plays at Bases; The defensive teams fielders must concede any base to the runner if there is no play imminent, he/she must also avoid any unnecessary contact. If a play at any given base IS a possibility then the defensive player has the right to position themselves at the base to make a play and any incoming runners should avoid all unnecessary (or intentional) contact. Sliding, assuming the slide doesn’t cause an unnecessary collision in itself, is often the best possible way to remove all doubt as to whether interference occured, slide… and you didn’t interfere. The EXCEPTION to this rule is at 1st Base where the runner’s intent is to run ‘through’ the base and sometimes in an attempt to receive a cross-infield throw, a 1st Baseman is drawn into the basepath of the oncoming runner. As this dual-instinct is impossible to author a rule against, both fielder and runner should exercise self-preservation to the best of their ability. No interference should be called at 1st base.

This one is a bit trickier… the spirit or essence of the rule is that collisions, intentional or otherwise, are NOT allowed. That said, these other factors must be taken into consideration; (a) there will be plays at bases, the defensive player has the right to attempt a play and the offensive player has the right to attempt to reach safely. (b) Players cannot be mandated to slide, we removed that from the rules 2 or 3 years ago as an unfair requirement. And (c), as are the rules of baseball at most levels, the defensive player must retain possession of the ball to record an out… So here’s how the rule has been changed to read;

Rule Concerning Plays at Bases; The defensive teams fielders must concede any base to the runner if there is no play imminent. If a play at any given base IS a possibility then the defensive player has the right to position themselves at the base to make a play and any incoming runner has the right to attempt to reach the base safely, however; head-on collisions or any attempt by the baserunner to knock the ball free from the defensive players hands are NOT allowed and will result in the baserunner being called out. Contact that is glancing or sideswiping however, IS permitted under the rules and in this second circumstance, the defensive player must retain possession of the ball to record an out. Sliding is often the best possible way to remove all doubt as to whether interference occurred… Slide, and you didn’t interfere.

An EXCEPTION to this rule is at 1st Base where the runner’s intent is to run ‘through’ the base and sometimes in an attempt to receive a cross-infield throw, a 1st Baseman is drawn into the basepath of the oncoming runner. As this dual-instinct is impossible to author a rule against, both fielder and runner should exercise self-preservation to the best of their ability. No interference should be called at 1st base.

So as the rule is now written, what is at issue on the field is whether or not there was a collision on any given play… and for a smaller percentage of those plays, whether or not a runner intentionally tried to knock a ball out of a defensive players hands… beyond that, everything else is legal.

In reality, it’s truly difficult to mitigate a play at the plate, or at any base for that matter…. no matter how much “in social mode” any team might be in for any given game, we’re still playing baseball and certain plays in baseball involve contact. My advice would be that if you’re adverse to this contact, don’t put yourself in that situation in the first place. Playing 1st base for my own team, where our catcher is not really interested in any contact, I’m always the one covering home for plays at the plate.

IMPORTANT > This sort of post was exactly why I’ve wanted to switch to this new blog-style format for a while. The rules in question here have already been changed… but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be changed again if one of you were to offer up an unthought of idea, something that’s been overlooked, a more succinct wording, etc. Use the comment box below to post your thoughts…

In the meantime, the web as well as the printable version of the rules have updated… these rule updates are in effect for all games moving forward… feel free to print out a fresh copy for your bat bags.