League considering going away from titling

From time to time we receive inquiries from youth baseball board members who have read our article, Why Your League Should Not Re-Draft, or one of several others we’ve written on the subject of Titled Players, (Titling, or “Keeper”) vs. Re-Drafting. Usually, the questions come as a result of a perceived issue of fairness relative to wins and losses. We had an email discussion with a league yesterday we wanted to share. Here is how the email began:

I am a Little League Manager, Board Member, played Div I College Baseball and coached a Jr College Team to the JUCO World Series. I know baseball. I am one of those that believe in Titling. I read your article in CoachDeck about re-drafting and up until this past weekend have always been opposed to re-drafting. Here is my problem and I’m hoping you can offer advice……quickly.
Our LL has 5 major teams. 3 of those teams are matched evenly. Another team has the 2 best players and pitchers in the league and has a total of 6-12 yr olds, 3-11 yr olds, 2 10’s and only needs to draft 1. On paper they are the best team in the league. On the other end our 5th team has only 6 returning players. Last year they only won 1 game and I believe it’s that reason why he lost his 4 returning players to other sports. In our upcoming draft he will have to choose 6 newbies from the minors and will undoubtedly lose almost every game this year and we as a board are concerned with more players quitting.
Our player agent who is a fantastic volunteer and one of the most honest and fair gentleman in LL wants to re-draft so he can balance the league. His intentions are there for the kids. (Incidently the best player in the league is his son who plays on the best team).
We have an emergency meeting tonight to figure out this problem. The choices are going to be:

  • to dissolve the team and put the 6 kids into the draft
  • keep things status quo
  • re-align the league into a 9-10 division and 11-12 division (Some leagues in our area has done that)
  • re-draft the majors keeping all 5 teams

My meeting is at 6:30 this evening and if you are able to respond with your advice and any ideas I would appreciate it very much.

We responded with some questions. Answers are in parenthesis:

Thank you for reaching out. I would like to help. Let me ask a few questions:

  • The “best” team with all of the kids returning, how did they do last season? (Funny you ask. They ended up in 4th place but should’ve been more towards the top)
  • The team that you’re afraid will lose every game has six kids returning. They should have had 10 returning, but four quit? Is that right? (Yes)
  • It seems like there must not have been many 12’s last year and there are a ton of them this year, is that correct? (Last year we had 16. This year we have 18)
  • Are you coaching/managing one of these teams below? (I manage one of the middle teams)
  • Of the five teams, which have returning managers and which have new managers? (All returning managers)
  • How many kids from Minors will the three evenly-matched teams be drafting? (About three per team. We need 17 players to keep 5 teams. Draft consists of:  1-12yr old (Never played before), 4-10’s, 13-9’s)

Based on the information we received, here is the advice we provided:

Seems very strange that there are zero 11 year-olds in this year’s draft.

So here is my take on this. Of your four options below there are only two I’d consider. I would not put the six kids in the draft and I would not dissolve the league and re-draft. And, unless there is a long-term reason to re-organize to two divisions (9-10’s and 11-12’s) and you just feel this would be better for the league for other reasons, then I’d stay with the status quo. I hear from leagues all the time that are reacting to an individual season, worrying about one team that is going to have a rocky year, and want to suddenly throw everything away and start from scratch to prevent that from happening. As you read in my article, Titling is the most fair system for the MOST kids. No system is fair for all kids. The team that will be favored to win it all this year came in fourth last year. After they had to endure that season, their reward should be that they have a great chance this year. Why is it fair to take that away from them, just to try to protect another team? I don’t believe that is right and would argue strongly against it.

If the manager of this team returning six players is strong, he’ll make something positive of this situation. If he is weak, then I can predict he’d also have a weak draft and that his team, (and those 12 kids) will still have a bad year (in terms of wins and losses). So re-drafting isn’t necessarily going to fix anything. I know it is no fun to lose every game, but the truth is Little League is not designed to ensure that every team goes 8-8 and every game is decided by one run. The object is to try your best, have fun, be with friends, learn baseball, exercise, etc. We adults put so much emphasis on winning that we forget that for the kids winning is often lower on the importance scale. And there are just as many lessons we learn in losing as in winning – maybe more.

The bottom line is that Titling has worked for 60+ years. There were probably teams 25 years ago that went 0-16 (and survived) and in leagues that re-draft each year there are teams that go 0-16. As far as kids quitting because of being on a losing team, that’s an issue of leadership, coaching and parenting, not Titling vs re-draft. Imagine how rewarding it will be in a year or two when all of these kids who (might) do poorly this year are on top because of the natural cycle of the Titling system. It’s working this year for last season’s 4th place team. It might work next season for this year’s last place team.

Good luck and thanks again for your note.

Interested in finding out how it turned out? We’ll let you know the resolution in tomorrow’s posting!