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Protecting Our Nation's Youth?
August 10, 2006 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Bottom half of the final inning, Red Sox batting, Yankees ahead by a run. Runner on third and 2 outs. Up at bat is the Red Sox's star hitter, followed by the weakest hitter in the lineup. Do you pitch to the star, or intentionally walk him? The choice is obvious in the majors, but not so much in the PONY leagues. Or is it? Complicating matters - the weak hitter is a cancer survivor with ongoing health issues. Not surprisingly, there's been a story in the local weekly. Then it got picked up by a major local paper, a radio station, and now Sports Illustrated. A lot of attention for a kid who was last in the paper 6 months ago when he got his Make-A-Wish granted.
posted by booksherpa (53 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
The intentional walk cheapens the game, cancer patient or otherwise.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:09 PM on August 10, 2006


I've never understood this attitude in reference to organized, competitive sports:

Just good baseball strategy? This isn't the pros. This is: Everybody bats, one-hour games. That means it's about fun. Period.

If its "Just about fun, period" then why was this a championship game? The instant someone decided that this game decided something, the decision to pitch to gimpy was already made. Period.
posted by ChasFile at 9:15 PM on August 10, 2006


My point is: eliminate the competitive aspect from these games or eliminate the mandatory "fun" even for the losers. This whole "yes its a sport and yes you should try hard to win but don't try so hard that you stop having fun or it becomes too competitive, but still play hard enough that its a good game and you do your best becaus eyou always should but don't do so good, that you make the other kids feel bad" attitude is absurd on its face.

The coach of Cancer Kid put him in right field because he's least likely to touch the ball there. HOW DARE HE!!! I DEMAND JUSTICE!!!!

You could draw these lines anywhere; best to remove them entirely.
posted by ChasFile at 9:20 PM on August 10, 2006


The fact that the weaker player is a cancer survivor is just icing on the cake. Am I supposed to feel sorry for him because he survived cancer?

...a survivor of brain cancer who played little league baseball, in part, because he wanted to be a regular kid who did regular things...

Well, guess what - a lot of people suck at baseball. Join the fucking club.
posted by graventy at 9:26 PM on August 10, 2006


It's all been downhill since they let Lance Armstrong put the motor on his bike.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:29 PM on August 10, 2006


If I were that kid, who wanted to play baseball as a regular kid, and the other team made a boneheaded move just because they felt sorry or pitied me, I'd feel cheated out of my shot at bat. Besides, the upside/downside ratio is very high here: he strikes out, so what, he's sick whadya expect; he gets a hit, the place goes apeshit and he's on top of the world. How miserable it would be to always wonder if you were succeeding just because people were arranging it to happen.
posted by iconjack at 9:33 PM on August 10, 2006


Q: What do you do when you're facing an elephant with 3 balls?

A: Walk him, and pitch to the giraffe.
posted by iconjack at 9:34 PM on August 10, 2006


Soooo, where on the internet can I order a tar/feathering/run out of town on a rail. Who the hell does that coach think he is... Leo Durocher?

Pony league, as for all of the beginning leagues, is, or should be about the following:

-Fun
-Learning fundamentals of the game
-Giving opportunities for kids who have never played, to do something amazing, to do something they thought they couldn't do.

I coached rec teams for a decade, and there was never NEVER a consideration to do something so cheap. Everybody got pitched to. Even in a year where we were undefeated in the regular season and then losing a game, came in third in the championships.

You make adjustments in the field. This helps build fundamentals for your pitchers, infielders and outfielders. This also builds fundamentals for the batters, because they recognize the adjustment in the field and try to "hit it where they ain't". That is baseball strategy.

The reason they have championships, is because even the littlest kid realizes that winning, or the effort to win, is an important part of the participation.

But it is the responsibility of the adults to balance this participation where it falls to everyone to make a contribution. This means pitching to a good hitter, as it is an opportunity for pitchers and fielders to expand his or her capabilities as well.

Baseball is the only game that matters, and to see evil men stand in front of young players and set that example. To twist the meaning of what baseball is about... That is every flavor of wrong.

He should be fired, reprimanded, give a public apology, and then banned from those leagues effing forever.
posted by somnambulist at 9:39 PM on August 10, 2006


Yes, it's good baseball strategy. No laws were broken and I don't think you can discipline anyone over this. But intentional walks never happen in Little League, certainly not at the 10 year old level. The coach knows this.

Asshole of the year.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:47 PM on August 10, 2006


I say the kid gets to make another wish.
posted by eegphalanges at 9:59 PM on August 10, 2006


Good post, interesting story, I hadn't read it yet, thanks.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:01 PM on August 10, 2006


The intentional walk cheapens the game, cancer patient or otherwise.

This situation aside... how do you think that the intentional walk "cheapens the game" ? And, more to the point, how would you do away with it? I can't think of a way around allowing it... which is one of the reasons that it has been around forever.
posted by cadastral at 10:29 PM on August 10, 2006


They should have put on the squeeze.
posted by Venadium at 10:31 PM on August 10, 2006


Dude, like the man said - it's good baseball strategy.
cancerkidfilter
posted by Jeremy at 10:45 PM on August 10, 2006


Also... not to be too cruel... but it's just bad coaching strategy on the part of the batting team.

You gotta give your power hitter some protection. You put your weakest batter after your slugger and just watch how many pitches he sees.

What's the weak batter doing that high in the lineup?
posted by cadastral at 10:54 PM on August 10, 2006


Bah. The darwinist in me says that sometimes kids need to see the eggs getting broken so that half of them can eat an omelet when it's over 'til it's over.

Or something.

The future parent in me (no, I'm not expecting just yet) thinks this sucks.
posted by bugmuncher at 10:55 PM on August 10, 2006


Bah. The darwinist in me says that sometimes kids need to see the eggs getting broken so that half of them can eat an omelet when it's over 'til it's over.

Or something.

The future parent in me (no, I'm not expecting just yet) thinks this sucks.
posted by bugmuncher at 10:55 PM on August 10, 2006


Everything else aside, that Salt Lake Tribune column is the worst piece of writing I've read all year.
posted by cribcage at 10:56 PM on August 10, 2006


Something like this happened to Chicken Little once and it was really character forming.
posted by missbossy at 11:01 PM on August 10, 2006


The father of the kid claimed no team in the league had intentionally walked anyone all year. Don't know if that's true - but if so, then it means that the opposing team's coach broke an unwritten rule and specifically singled out the cancer boy (which would be pretty lousy).

The opposing team's coach claimed he didn't know the kid had cancer. The kid's mother claims he's lying, because he had previously coached her son in another sport and she had talked to him at length about her son's cancer. So the coach might be a liar, too.

Still, if there wasn't a consensus in the league about not intentionally walking other kids then it's a little hard to blame the coach for, you know, helping his team win.

Besides, no doubt the kid just wants to be treated like a regular kid. Well, most regular kids suck at baseball too and plenty have contributed to losses. It's a growing experience. And after surviving cancer, this isn't anything to lose sleep over. Heck, he got to play on a team that made it to the finals. That's more than most kids in the league can say.

Besides, it's also easy to imagine what a feel good story this would have been if the kid with cancer had won it all for them. Maybe next year (after a little more batting practice).
posted by Davenhill at 11:02 PM on August 10, 2006


there was never NEVER a consideration to do something so cheap

I coached for a few years in a parochial league, and it so happens that two of my old players (now in college) were visiting the house tonight. We talked about this, and we just don't get what was cheap about this.

Was it cheap to the guy that got walked, or the guy that hit next? And why?

We honestly don't get it, so if someone with a strong opinion and a good baseball background could explain the 'cheap' factor and who got shafted here, we'd appreciate it.
posted by F Mackenzie at 11:11 PM on August 10, 2006


The fact that this is news at all shows what a nation of fucking pussies we've become. It reminds me of when my elementary school stopped giving out prizes at the end of the school year because awards for achievement "promoted competition". WTF?
posted by Spacelegoman at 11:20 PM on August 10, 2006


The take home lesson for the kids is really the importance of winning. The Red Sox deserved to lose because they let Cancer Boy play on their team in the first place.


Damn, I hope this coach is available to my son when he's old enough to play. He sounds like the Colonel Kurtz of the Pony League.

"Ok, boys. Before you pick up your championship trophies, I want you all to think about what happened tonight. Sure, we took advantage of a sick little boy...But you have no right to judge me...To be a champion, you need to do what it takes to be a champion. Out there on the mound, I realized...like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us."

"Now go enjoy your pizza."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:42 PM on August 10, 2006


The intentional walk cheapens the game, cancer patient or otherwise.

No it doesn't. It's a good strategy, and also a gamble. Take, for instance, the Seattle-Tampa Bay game on Tuesday. M's have the winning run (Ichiro) on third. Tampa intentionally walks Adrian Beltre and Raul Ibanez to get to Richie Sexson, a guy with 24 HRs, but a .200 BA and well over 100 K's. Sexson uses the opportunity to hit a walk-off grand slam. Gamble failed. But you'd rather have him than Beltre or Ibanez, who are better hitters this year.

No, the real question to me is why they even allow the intentional pass in PONY ball. Seems silly that they do.

For all the bellyaching about this, imagine the reaction if the kid had hit a game-winning double in that situation.
posted by dw at 12:06 AM on August 11, 2006


Good sportmanship (and good sport) is two things: beating the other guy's best game and doing everything you can to bring out his best game. Neither was done here.
posted by klarck at 3:51 AM on August 11, 2006


10 year olds dude, 10 year olds.
posted by fullerine at 4:04 AM on August 11, 2006


If you want the kids to compete, let them compete. If you don't, don't. You can't have your cake and eat it, you know?
posted by reklaw at 4:17 AM on August 11, 2006


Q: What do you do when you're facing an elephant with 3 balls?

A: Bear down, Rhyno's on deck.
posted by eriko at 5:12 AM on August 11, 2006


The intentional walk cheapens the game, cancer patient or otherwise.

I've always though that all we needed to do was change how an intentional walk is given. I think, instead of the four fake pitches, the Pitcher should be required to go up and kiss the batter.
posted by eriko at 5:13 AM on August 11, 2006


Metafilter: Pitching to Gimpy
posted by bokeh at 5:43 AM on August 11, 2006


My moral outrage basically hinges on whether intentional walks are part of the game at that level or not.

If they're a standard part of the game, and everyone in that league uses them, then I'd be morally outraged in a coach pitched to the stronger hitter just to avoid making the cancer survivor feel bad about his self-image. Because being pitied is a hell of a lot worse for a kid's self image than not winning at baseball.

If they're unheard of in that league, then I'm morally outraged by a coach who would take advantage of and embarass a particularly weak child (regardless of reason) for strategic reasons.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:47 AM on August 11, 2006


My moral outrage basically hinges on whether intentional walks are part of the game at that level or not.

Same here. The idea that poor widdle Cancer Boy should be treated differently out of pity is ridiculous and insulting, but if it's true the intentional walk is never used at that level, then the guy who ordered it is a jerk.

The intentional walk cheapens the game

That's ridiculous. The intentional walk is just good strategy. You wanna know what cheapens the game? Interleague play cheapens the game. And the fucking designated hitter. And don't get me started on having the All-Star Game decide home-field advantage for the Series. And furthermore, these kids today... bitch, gripe, moan...
posted by languagehat at 6:02 AM on August 11, 2006


The intentional walk at this level is sort of lame, and not exactly the best coaching behavior, IF you are most concerned about developing kids as players. It may have been the highest percentage move to win the game, some youth coaches focus on this, just not the 'best' ones. The fact that he is a cancer survivor is completely irrelevant. To vilify the coach is ridiculous. He's a friggin' dad, for crying out loud.

I am of the opinion that if you have never volunteered your time to coach kids, and faced this situation yourself, you should try to refrain from commenting - particularly if you have an extreme opinion. Its always easy to judge, just not so easy to always maintain the ideal behavior 'in the moment.'
posted by sfts2 at 6:23 AM on August 11, 2006


I am of the opinion that if you have never volunteered your time to coach kids, and faced this situation yourself, you should try to refrain from commenting

I am manfully trying to restrain myself from an obscene insult. While I struggle, let me just point out that I'll comment on whatever the hell I feel like commenting on, and I encourage everyone else to do the same, including you. But if you say nonsense like that, expect to be mocked.
posted by languagehat at 6:59 AM on August 11, 2006


"A lot of people suck at baseball. Join the fucking club."

Hear. Hear. I, for one, sucked.

A friend of mine shared a similar story, when she complained to the her son's coach that they weren't playing the scrubs, and only the coach's own song and friends. A sugary-sweet ending warms the heart.
posted by yeti at 7:06 AM on August 11, 2006


Excuse me. This is baseball, right? And that kid COULD have got a hit. That's the game. Jeezzzzzzzz.
posted by cccorlew at 7:08 AM on August 11, 2006


"Look, Romney, they just walked our best hitter and they're gonna throw you fastballs. I need you to lean a little bit inside and get in the way of a pitch. You get hit, you take your base, and it's all baseball."

Yeah, if they had wanted everything to be square (assuming that second was still open), they shoulda pitched out on Romney too. But frankly, the most important thing you can learn from baseball is to lose. To lose graciously, to lose and still have fun. Not to lose and then have your parents whine about it, or to lose and then claim that someone else cheated.
Look, I've both been the worst kid on the team (without cancer, granted) and been a Tigers fan for a long time. That's even one benefit from the MLB playing so many games— learning to lose and realizing that some nights it just doesn't come together even though everyone played as hard as they can. When I was ten, I was playing right field and getting hit in the face with balls. I'm sorry this kid has cancer, but learning to understand the disappointment inherent in sports is a much more important lesson than trying to make sure that the cute little soap bubble of a perfect day of sports never gets popped. (And granted, having cancer should be enough to teach him that life isn't fair. But life isn't fair in its unfairness either, and his manager could have always put in a pinch hitter).
posted by klangklangston at 7:09 AM on August 11, 2006


Also... Think of the pitcher. How would he feell giving up the winning run to a great hitter? The coach saved HIM huge trauma!
posted by cccorlew at 7:09 AM on August 11, 2006


This is little league folks. Had the coach not walked that batter many of the parents would have requested his immediate resignation, or at least the fathers would have. The mothers would have demanded his immediate execution.
posted by Chuckly at 7:39 AM on August 11, 2006


Ummm, isn't it usually considered lame when the weaker player does not get to play? Now the weaker player got to play and participitate fully. Grown-up style too. In baseball, the individual player comes very much into spotlight when he is batting or pitching, even in Pony League Baseball.

It would have been wrong for the other coach to single out the cancer kid as too pitiful to even be considered as a normal player.
posted by insomnus at 7:56 AM on August 11, 2006


languagehat,

While you stuggle manfully, I'll continue to wish that people that have never walked a mile would refrain from holding strong opinions, in this, and honestly, most other topics. To not do so is truly nonsensical.
posted by sfts2 at 8:02 AM on August 11, 2006


cccorlew : "This is baseball, right? And that kid COULD have got a hit."

Oh Lord. I think we should all be thankful this isn't a repeat of that autistic kid who hit six three-pointers.
posted by graventy at 8:04 AM on August 11, 2006


Have we learned nothing about what it means to be an asshole, and how to respond to one, from Tanner Boyle? "Hey Yankees... you can take your apology and your trophy and shove 'em straight up your ass!"
posted by The Bellman at 8:20 AM on August 11, 2006


"All we got on this team are a buncha Jews, spics, niggers, pansies, and a booger-eatin' moron!" Ah, Tanner Boyle.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:28 AM on August 11, 2006


Honestly, the first thing that went through my head when I started reading this was "Cool, they gave the cancer kid a chance to be the hero." After further reading, I guess I see how lots of folks got their panties in a bunch, but come on, they're treating the kid as if all he has to live for is a chance to skip around in the sunshine pretending to be involved in a game while everyone goes easy on him. Presuming nobody's been forcing him to play little league (which I doubt), he obviously wants to be out there competing like the rest of the kids.

Sure, he went home crying that night -- who wouldn't, after losing a big game. But at the end of the SI article:

"I'm going to work on my batting," he told his dad. "Then maybe someday I'll be the one they walk."

The kid hasn't been surviving cancer by waiting for it to go easy on him.

Or,
Listen, Lupus, you didn't come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.
posted by Zippity Goombah at 9:10 AM on August 11, 2006


The kid hasn't been surviving cancer by waiting for it to go easy on him.

Oh come on. Saying this kind of thing is really stupid when talking about people who've had cancer. As if you get better from cancer by some kind of sheer force of personal will, as opposed to medical treatment. Always comes up, always annoys me.
posted by reklaw at 9:13 AM on August 11, 2006


I didn't say he was miraculously curing his cancer from within using willpower. I was pointing out that he's had more adversity thrown at him then most of us who are three times his age have had to face, and having dealt with all that he can probably handle the relatively minor setback of striking out to lose a baseball game. Apparently better than all the hysterics around him, anyway.
posted by Zippity Goombah at 9:29 AM on August 11, 2006


The really dumb thing is that it would have been really easy to pitch around the kid. Four balls in the dirt, exact same effect, no controversy.

Even kids who fully appreciate the spirit of fun and good sportsmanship are going to pitch cautiously around great players. But at the Little League level, an intentional walk is just strategic showboating. It's wagging your finger at the other team and chortling "Ha ha, not this time, my friends. I think we'll take Cancer McGee over Slugger Von Bashingham, thank you very much." That's a dick move regardless of how brave and cancerous the weaker hitter is.
posted by Simon! at 9:44 AM on August 11, 2006


Kind of foolish for the weakest player to follow the strongest batter in the order. You got to wonder whether the coach did that intentially thinking the weaker player's specail status would protect his stronger batter from walks.

cadastral writes "And, more to the point, how would you do away with it? I can't think of a way around allowing it... which is one of the reasons that it has been around forever."

Yep, eliminate the intentional walk and you mandate the "accidental" hit.

dw writes "No, the real question to me is why they even allow the intentional pass in PONY ball. Seems silly that they do."

See above. However, my wife's mixed league ball (where batting order alternates sexes) has the rule that walking a guy also walks the girl on deck. How about a change in the rules: if the on deck batter has a worse hitting or slugging percentage than the batter they both walk.
posted by Mitheral at 10:31 AM on August 11, 2006


There are a lot of practices which, though they occur within the letter of the rules, should be discouraged. At the major league level, an example of this might be stealing signs from the stands. There are numerous examples at the 9 and 10 year old level.

One of the authors of the book Baseball and Philosophy relates a story from when he was younger. He was facing an imposing pitcher, and deliberately swung for strike three on a pitch way out of the strike zone, allowing him to steal first. When I was younger, I was in a similar spot, and had the bright idea to crouch down like a catcher in the batter's box, making the strike zone miniscule (though to the pitcher's credit, he managed to get a called strike before walking me). I've also heard of coaches encouraging very young players to run after baserunners with the ball since they are not coordinated enough to throw and catch reliably.

Admittedly, these behaviors ought to be discouraged because they exploit a lack of mastery on the part of the opposition (or in my case, the umpire, who should have used a normal sized strike zone regardless of how I chose to stand). They're bad habits, and they cease being effective after a certain point. It might be argued that intentional walking is different, because it's something that people grow into rather than out of. True, but nonetheless, the understanding at this level is that the game is to be played a certain way, and similar understanding exists at all levels of play.

There is far more that governs play than what's in the rule book. This is why pitchers aren't assessed with a ball for taking more than 20 seconds between pitches in Major League Baseball. It's why the league-wide batting average remains at about .260 regardless of official attempts to change the strike zone. It's why umpires permit batsmen to be thrown at in retaliation. The unwritten rules take precedence over the written ones.

Intentional walking appears to me to conflict with PONY League's intent to have every player on the roster come to bat. It encourages bad habits, as it can be relied upon to get a pitcher out of far more jams under these circumstances than when only the fielders get to bat. Requiring weak hitters to bat already waters down the offense.

The coaches of Romney's team should have impressed upon him the fact that the game is won and lost as a team, and that he shouldn't feel that he has to bear the entire weight of the loss. If the rest of the team had contributed more, it wouldn't have all been on him.
posted by alphanerd at 10:46 AM on August 11, 2006


I'll continue to wish that people that have never walked a mile would refrain from holding strong opinions, in this, and honestly, most other topics.

So you only have opinions about subjects concerning which you have intimate personal knowledge? Interesting. Also unbelievable.
posted by languagehat at 11:16 AM on August 11, 2006


Too bad other psychopaths aren't generally stupid enough to announce themselves as clearly as coach Farley and coach Farr did here.

Hmmm... maybe I should have another look at this thread before I jump to that conclusion...
posted by jamjam at 6:59 PM on August 11, 2006


"They told their pitcher to intentionally walk a hitter. An absolute anomaly in a low-key recreational league in which regular-season games were governed by competitive limitations, such as a maximum of four runs allowed in an inning. Those limits had been suspended for the championship game."

Interesting. I'm left wondering why they suspended the rules specifically for this game?
posted by deemer at 4:57 PM on August 12, 2006


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