Written by Steven Vitte
Throughout the history of sports there has been a fair share of controversial events when players, coaches or teams have attempted to either bend the rules or flat out break them. We can date all the way back to 1919 when the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds because some players on the team were willing to take bribes which were better payments than what they were originally getting. This scandal is often referred to as the “Black Sox Scandal”. We can date not too far back to 1989 when Pete Rose, also known as “Charlie Hustle”, was officially banned from baseball for betting on the game. From time to time we hear about pitchers doctoring baseballs, making spitballs or scuffing the baseballs to make them break differently as they pitch them toward home plate.
In the past decade there was a huge crusade by MLB to put a stop to the Steroid Era where many players were caught cheating by taking performance enhancing drugs. Most of the 2000’s were pretty much consumed with news on what was happening with players and the suspicions that generated about them being on the juice. MLB was indeed pressured by the United States congress to start such a crusade, which effectively highlighted the idea that MLB knew what was going on with steroid abuse but leadership (Bud Selig) turned a blind eye to it.
Needless to say, the sport of baseball is no stranger to scandals and events that are out of the ordinary, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised when we look at the most recent developments regarding baseball on different levels. First up, in the independent Frontier League, a league that I had the pleasure of covering as a blog correspondent for over 3 years in the 2000’s, the Evansville Otters are the subject of controversy involving an integral rule that they have been caught breaking. Pitcher Will Oliver’s age has come into question, and this is because of a long-standing rule that the FL has had in place where no player can exceed the age limit of 27 prior to January 1 of a regular season. The problem? Oliver turned 28 on July 4, 2015. The Otters have apparently covered up his real age by listing him as 27 (7/4/1988), but in reality Oliver’s date of birth is July 4, 1987. Oliver is also listed as being born on July 4, 1990 on Pointstreak.
However, even though Oliver himself has moved on to another independent league, the Frontier League hasn’t done anything to address this issue, and some who are close to this situation are speculating that the FL is attempting to sweep this issue under the rug, so to speak. Knowing all of these details, more attention should be paid to this issue and one would hope that FL leadership will do something to the Otters to right this wrong.
Another story comes from the sport of softball where a Little League softball team from Washington allegedly threw a game to prevent a team from Iowa from advancing to the next round of the Little League Softball tournament. The manager of the Washington team purposely rested 4 of the team’s everyday starting players in the game that they supposedly threw, and it was hard for anyone to not notice this. The Little League governing body quickly picked up this information and decided to do something about it. They ended up pitting a play-in game between the Washington team and the Iowa team to determine who would advance to the next round of the tournament.
There are unfortunate wrinkles that come with this decision. For starters, the Washington team had already beaten the Iowa team earlier in pool play, essentially doing their jobs of directly beating whom they needed to beat. Secondly, the way that the Little League governing body has managed the pool play format of determining who advances in the tournament has come under question by many observers, with most observers pointing out that there are big enough gaps that allow what Washington ultimately did to easily occur.
It’s never good when sports fans have to hear of such controversies because in this day and age we are supposed to have firmly structured leagues that are obligated to protect and preserve the integrity of their respective sports. In comparison, the National Football League has had to deal with multiple scandals such as Spygate, Bountygate, and Deflategate, and we can see how controversies like these negatively effect a fan’s perspective on how the NFL is governed. Rules are not meant to be broken. Rules are supposed to mean something to a sport. Rules are supposed to signal to players, coaches, owners and commissioners that there are certain lines that you just don’t cross no matter what the reasoning. A rule that is rarely ever followed by members of a sport really isn’t a rule to begin with.