Monday, August 29, 2016

Southern League Intrigue Tempts Baseball Sins

Baseball Sins


When Losing Means Winning

Having a conversation with a well placed source, I learned there was a freak thing that could happen. A bad thing, a terrible temptation for gain that hearkens back to the early days, shaking the game to its core. Its something that every fan has been protected from over the years, sheltered in order to preserve the "best interests of baseball".

And the Biscuits could be the victim, even if justice prevails.

Its a rare occurrence, perhaps one of the rarest paradoxes in any form of baseball, ever. I could not find another reference to such an occult alignment in the annals of history. So rare, that bringing forth the possibility of its existence has resulted in the ultimate punishment, complete expulsion from organized baseball for the mere suggestion.

That is a fate that I personally wish to avoid. By writing of this now, I hope to avoid the fate of Horace Fogel.

You probably haven't heard of Horace Fogel, I certainly hadn't until I studied the MLB list of persons declared "Permanently Ineligible".

NL Prez Tom Lynch
Fogel was a sportswriter who penned words after the fact, hopefully my preemptive authorship excludes the damning burden of proof, or equally damning lack of it. When asked to substantiate his mentions of this nature, Horace Fogels failure to produce evidence confirmed his own expulsion - driven out by National League President Tom Lynch for having "undermined the integrity of the game."

I hope not to be accused of such an offense for pointing this out before it has a chance to occur, per MLB rules, as we shall see.


The Chattanooga Lookouts could find themselves in a position to make the postseason by losing a game.

The league website defines what happens when a team wins both halves of the season thusly:

 "The runner-up club, which shall be the opponent if a club wins both halves, shall be defined as the divisional club with the second best overall record for the entire season"

The Jackson Generals, who already won the first half, lead Montgomery by a half game in the division standings on the very last day of the season...

The Lookouts are in third place but lead the overall Wins and Losses record, which is being called the wild card.

A Chattanooga Lookouts win in the final game of the regular season means the Biscuits would take the second half championship, by virtue of the Generals being knocked out of first place in the division for the second half.

By winning the final game in that situation, the Lookouts would not make the playoffs and have a chance at back-to-back Southern League championship titles.
However, and here is the ultimate baseball sin.... IF THE LOOKOUTS LOSE that final home game, they MAKE THE PLAYOFFS and the Biscuits finish in second place but without the best overall record and so get nothing.

Let that sink in a minute. How does a team get into the playoffs by losing? Here it is, a total fluke but absolutely a flaw in the league tiebreaker rules, giving a third place team incentive to lose a game.

lets check the mlb book on that...

Rule 21, particularly section (a) and (d) which states:
(a) Any player or person connected with a club who shall promise or agree to lose, or to attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which he is or may be in any way concerned; or who shall intentionally fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any such baseball game, or who shall solicit or attempt to induce any player or person connected with a club to lose, or attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which such other player or person is or may be in any way connected; or who, being solicited by any person, shall fail to inform his Major League President and the Commissioner.

(d) Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

Montgomery plays at 12:05 that day, the Generals and Lookouts will know the outcome of the Biscuits game before they play each other at 3:05pm that day.

How are we to know if "best effort" is given on the field or in the dugout without cameras at the ballpark in Chattanooga?

Would Lookouts skipper Doug Mientkiewicz put his best lineup on the field if it meant a win would keep them from a chance to repeat as Southern League Champions?
Doug Mientkiewicz (left) vs Randy Johnson

What kind of oversight can fans expect? Historically speaking, leagues let this play out and if proof is supplied (or often even it the suggestion is strong enough to establish a possibility) suspensions are handed out. However, it is incredibly rare that knowledge of such a situation is known beforehand.

And if it happens, what can the league prexie do, what are the options? Declare a forfeit in favor of the team that threw the game? Handing a Win to a team trying to lose sounds preposterous.

Even in Major League baseball such oversight required a complete rebuilding at the highest level, throwing games and fixing outcomes was beyond even the most experienced baseball authoritarians. An unimpeachable national figure was needed to handle such situations and the strength of office had to be redoubled before even Kenesaw Mountain Landis would agree to mete out baseball justice.

Can we expect Lori Webb to be a Judge Landis?
We have not a choice in it, and can only have faith that it will work out "in the best interests of baseball".

Fogel was owner of the Philadelphia team in the NL, a sportswriter who found his way into leading the purchase of the team.

Fogel accused the Cardinals of not fielding their best team vs the Cubs late in the 1912 season, so as to allow the Giants to win the league title over the Phillies. He also railed against NL umpires for favoring New York and was called to the National League office carpet to provide proof. Fogel was unable to offer evidence of his accusations and was banished.

In my opinion Horace Fogel likely deserved banishment, not for his angry 1912 finger pointing but as a minor league manager in 1887 he tried to convince pitcher Christy Mathewson to switch positions to first base!

Justin Williams
Outfielder Justin Williams returned to the lineup after a bout of the flu.
Alec Sole

Unfortunately he passed it off to infielder Alec Sole, who has it bad enough that he was put on the disabled list.

Infielder and part time left fielder Tommy Coyle was activated to fill the vacated roster spot.

Chris Kirsch has been working on his slide step.
Although he says he has been using it all season he felt it needed some work and spent time in the bullpen during the last homestand perfecting his mechanics.

It must have worked, the Lackawanna Lefty punched out six hitters in six shutout innings to complete the sweep against Bham.

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