Little League gets it wrong

If “modified double elimination” means treating two teams unfairly, then Little League Baseball’s recent World Series got it right … two teams got messed up by the new rules.

For the first time in this year’s World Series, Little League put all the American teams, eight of them, in one bracket, and all eight foreign teams in the other bracket.

One by one, as the teams went through the tournament, teams fell with their second loss. Eventually there were only four teams left. In the American bracket, Montana was undefeated and California had one loss. In the International bracket, Mexico was undefeated and Japan had one loss.

In any other tournament in the history of sports, the remaining two teams in each bracket would play each other. If the undefeated team won, it would advance. If the team with one loss won, the two teams would have to play another game, with the loser suffering its second loss (remember, it’s double elimination) and the winner advancing.

But here’s the x-factor: television. Having an “if necessary” game scheduled would mess up the TV coverage on ESPN and ABC. How can you sell time for a game that might not be played? That wouldn’t work.

So, the powers that be at Little League came up with a solution. At this point, the tourney would change to a single-elimination format. Never mind that one team was undefeated and the other had one loss. It would be a winner-take-all situation.

As with all of these TV-dominated plans, something usually goes awry. And it did. In those winner-take-all games, Mexico and Montana, the two undefeated teams, each lost, and California and Japan each reached the final televised championship game. The problem? At this point, all four teams had one loss. Two of them got to play for the title, and two of them were dropped into a consolation game, which was then cancelled because of the hurricane.

Can someone tell me how this is fair? I know, the teams knew the rules before the tournament, but that doesn’t make it right.

Part of the Little League pledge goes: “I will play fair and strive to win…”

Maybe some of the Little League decision-makers should read that pledge and put it into practice.

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