Tag Archives: Atlantic league

Why Isn’t Anything Being Done about the Evansville Cheating Scandal?

Two weeks ago today (August 4th), I was informed from some players within the Frontier League that big news was about to drop and an official statement would be made public by the league the following day.

However, an official statement was and has never made. The story that has been creating buzz around the league did come out publicly when the Evansville Courier-Press printed an article on August 6th.

It was discovered that an experienced pitcher with the Evansville Otters, Will Oliver, had turned 28 on July 4th, which happens to be against Frontier League age limit rules.

Frontier rules state:

No player or player/coach may have attained twenty seven (27) years of age prior to January 1 of that playing season with the exception of one player who will be designated as a “Veteran” player who may have attained thirty (30) years of age prior to January 1 of that playing season provided that he meets the qualifications listed below.

For the 2015 season, players must have been born on or after January 1, 1988 to be eligible, aside from the Veteran classification player (one per team) who must have been born on or after January 1, 1985.

Oliver does not qualify for Veteran status because he was not on a Frontier League roster for 100 games over the last two years. He only played with Evansville towards the end of the 2014 season, not nearly enough to qualify him as a veteran of the league.

What’s worse is that the team had presented three different birth years for Oliver.

Oliver’s real birthday is listed as July 4, 1987 according to Baseball Reference. During the season, he has been listed with a birthday of  July 4, 1988 and July 4, 1987 on different official rosters submitted to the league

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and July 4, 1990 on Pointstreak – the official stats website for the Frontier League.

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Oliver pitched in 13 games with the Otters with a 9-2 record and 1.59 ERA. Ultimately, the Otters ended up winning 10 games in which Oliver pitched, and the team is currently tied for first place with the Southern Illinois Miners.

Although he is not listed in any transaction page for the Frontier League, Oliver left the Otters at the beginning of the month and went to the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League.  On August 10th, he was quoted in an article on myCentralJersey.com saying:

I was in Evansville — and I found out from two other teams before my manager, which was irritating, but it wasn’t intentional because gossip got out fast — that I ended up aging out of the league due to a contract technicality,” said Oliver, who was set to make his team debut during Monday night’s game against the Sugar Land Skeeters.

The league commissioner approved my contract in April, so it’s their fault for missing it. Our manager sent me the contract in the off-season and asked if I wanted to play again, and I said of course. I loved it in Evansville, so it was a no-brainer. But I found out a few days ago that I aged out, and they’re nullifying my contract and I couldn’t play anymore. They wanted to take away my wins I had. I don’t think that’s going to happen, because that’s just not right.

From my research, this is the first time in the 23 year history of the Frontier League that anything such as this has occurred. Something needs to be done to set a standard and show that cheating and fudging birth dates to get around league rules will not be tolerated.

Since the story started spreading throughout the league, there have been many rumors on what is going to happen to the Otters. The first rumor was that the team has to forfeit the 10 games in which they won that Oliver had pitched. The next was that the team would be fined, but their record would be left as is.  The last one that I heard was that they would be forced to forfeit the games in which Oliver played in, but the teams that lost would not end up being credited with the win.

I’ve also heard many rumors among players that they believe the Frontier League will do nothing because the commissioner, Bill Lee, is very close to the Evansville Front Office and doesn’t want to cause any problems for them. The league has called in lawyers to investigate, but it appears as if they do not want to actually bring about a penalty to the team.

The Washington Wild Things Blog is the only other website I could find that even brought up this story.  It seems as if the Frontier League is hoping that they can sweep this under the rug, and no one would notice the difference.

With less than a month to go and the Otters tied for first place, the league needs to do something soon. If they’re worried about ruining the perception of the league by penalizing the Otters, it’s too late.  By not doing anything for over two weeks, they’re already ruining their reputation.

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The Atlantic League – Leading the Way in Pace of Play or Publicity Stunt?

The independent Atlantic League is no stranger to the Pace of Play initiative to speed up the game of baseball.  In June of 2014, the league formed a Pace of Play Committee.  The committee is “tasked with reviewing ways to reduce the average time and enliven the pace of baseball games in order to enhance overall fan experience.”

After reviewing extensive data collected throughout the 2013 season and soliciting ideas from the fans, media, and baseball personnel, the committee worked on implementing different pace of play rules during the 2014 season.

As of August 1, 2014, five pace of play rules were put in place for all Atlantic League  games.

  1. The Time-Out Rule – “The defensive team, including any manager, coach or player, shall be limited during a game to a total of three (3) “time-outs” in which mound visits or on-the-field conferences are conducted with a pitcher.” Each “time-out” is also limited to 45 seconds.
  2. Directing umpires to apply and enforce Rule 6.02 and Rule 8.04 – “The Atlantic League office shall intensify its directives to the umpires and direct them to be more diligent applying and enforcing Rule 6.02 (restricting batters ‘stepping out’ of the box) and Rule 8.04 (requiring the pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied).”
  3. Directing umpires to control the pace of play – “ALPB umpires shall be reminded that they control the pace of play and that they need to exercise that control and move the game on in a timely manner.
    The umpires shall adhere to the strike zone as defined in Rule 2.00 and to observe that definition when calling pitches ‘balls’ or ‘strikes.”’
  4. Reducing the number of warm-up pitches – “Reduce the limit for preparatory ‘warm-up’ pitches at the beginning of an inning, or when a relief pitcher enters the game, from 8 to 6 (as provided for in Rule 8.03).”
  5. Automatic awarding of an intentional walk – “When a manager or catcher of the defensive team indicates to the home plate umpire they wish to issue an intentional base on balls, the batter is to be automatically awarded first base without the need for the pitcher to deliver four balls.”

You can read the rationale for the decisions HERE.

In addition to the rules already in place, they are also reviewing six other potential pace of play initiatives.

  1. “At the start of each half inning, require that the leadoff batter take his position in the batter’s box and the pitcher take his position on the rubber and be prepared to deliver his first pitch within 120 seconds from the time of the last out in the preceding half inning.”
  2. “Install stadium “shot clocks” to time and count down (a) the delivery of the pitch to the batter, (b) timeouts, (c) pitching changes, and (d) the interval from the last out of one half inning to the first pitch of the next half inning.”
  3. “Amend Rule 3.05 (b) so as to require a relief pitcher to pitch to more than one batter during the inning in which he enters the game.”
  4. “Develop an on-going program to educate players, managers, coaches, umpires and administrators about the need to be attentive to the pace of play.”
  5. “Initiate an electronic system that would provide for communication and relaying of signs from the dugout to the catcher and/or the pitcher.”
  6. “Modify or eliminate the DH rule.”

Even more initiatives have been tabled for future review. The rules listed for future review can be found HERE.

The Pace of Play committee has already rejected five rules that were found to be completely irrelevant or impractical to put into place during a game.

  1. “Limit the number of pitching changes a team may make.”
  2. “Raise the height of the pitching mound.”
  3. “Limit the number of foul balls allowed a batter once he has two strikes.” *Take note of this rule*
  4. “Disallow batters who have become base runners from discarding their elbow sleeves and other protective armor.”
  5. “Outlaw Velcro batting gloves.”

The Atlantic League is looking to take things one step further to speed up the game, but only for one exhibition game. The league announced that they will try two more pace of play rules when the Bridgeport Bluefish visit the Long Island Ducks on April 18th.  These two rules were proposed by a 68-year old baseball fan and author, Paul Auster.

The batter will:

  • be given a walk for three balls rather than four and
  • be called out for a two-strike foul ball. (Which is a lot like the rule completely dismissed by the committee.)

The Atlantic League president, Rick White, claimed that these rules were not being considered for the long term, but that they are going to continue as an “experimental laboratory for ways to improve the pace of games.”

But why even put these rules, which greatly change the dynamic (not just the pace) of the game, into place for one exhibition game? Why use different rules for an exhibition game where there will be players who are trying to get noticed and land a spot on the team?

If the league isn’t seriously considering these drastic changes, is it just a way to get fans in the seats and the Atlantic League in the news?

Let’s stop trying to be a publicity stunt and just play the game as it was meant to be played, balls and strikes included.