Reaction to “Why Your League Should Not Re-draft”

It’s that time of year! We get lots of emails from Little League board members who tell us that their league is considering whether to be a titled league, (players stay on the team to which they were drafted for the duration of their league participation) or a re-draft league where the entire pool of players is tossed back into the hat each season prior to the draft. Below is a recent email we received and our response. You can read the original post on titling here.

Hi

I am a long time baseball coach and board member in Bedford Mass. I am in the middle of a movement of new people changing our league from a titled player league to re-drafting every year. I read your paper on your web site.  Needless to say I am in agreement with everything you say as is the minority group. I was wondering if there is any more data or info out there that I can use to try and convince the new people that the title players is the way to go? This would help me greatly.

Thank you

(Our response):

Thanks for your note. In order to help you, I’d need more information…especially in terms of the reasons why the majority of the board wishes to overturn titling, (my guess is they think the teams will be more fair). Since I do not know which of my article you read, I am not sure what more information I can provide. You might want to go back to our blog and search for “titling” and “re-draft” because I believe there are several articles with additional information, including one with a long back and forth discussion between a re-draft proponent and me.

As far a data goes, what I always look at are standings of divisions that do re-draft every season, either in the younger age groups or in other leagues. (e.g. your Minors divisions might re-draft every season and a neighboring league might re-draft its Majors division). You’ll always find that there are teams that go 15-1 and 2-14 in those re-draft divisions which disproves the theory that re-draft leads to more competitive balance and “fairness.” My main argument is that every new season half of the managers are returning and know all of the kids. The new managers coming up from Minors don’t know any of the players. In a titled situation, at least those rookie managers get a few established players on their team as a base, so that if they don’t have a great draft they will still be competitive. But if they have to draft an entire roster against managers who know the players much better, they are at a huge disadvantage and risk picking a very weak team.

Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

Thanks

(And our reader’s reply):

I got your article on coach deck and it is titled Why your league should not re-draft. In it is every reason that they brought up. The 10 year old being groomed by a manager. The Dynasty issue.  On top of that they are picking the draft order every year as well. Which eliminates the order of who won the year before. They do not get the concept of keeping the kids in one system helps them develop faster.

Why your league should not re-draft

Below is an article originally posted on the CoachDeck site which we would like to re-post to our blog:

Why Your League Should Not Re-draft

The Little League in which my sons have played does not re-draft players each new season in Majors. Players, once “titled” to a team, stay on that team the remainder of their Majors careers. At their recent international congress, Little League International nearly voted to eliminate titled players as an option for leagues to utilize. Fortunately, while the measure received a majority of votes, it did not receive the two-thirds required to carry. This means that, for at least another two years until the next congress (and, hopefully, forever), your league can choose to title players. I heartily recommend you do so, and here’s why.

First and foremost, titled players have more fun. There is something about coming back to a new season and knowing that many of your teammates from last year will be there again. Camaraderie and bonding are greater when kids experience multiple seasons together. A few years back, there was a board member in my league who felt titling was unfair, mainly because her son had experienced three losing seasons in Majors. She reported to us, with surprise, that she’d asked her son, who was now out of the league, what he thought. She fully expected him to tell her that he’d hated being “stuck” on the same team. However, when she posed the question, he acted as if it would be ludicrous to consider anything other than titling. His response was, “Mom, titling is the way to go!”

For seven years in Majors, the team I coached was the Braves. I frequently had former players who had aged out of the league, some were even in high school, drop by one of my practices. I always stopped what I was doing and asked them to say a few words to this year’s team and talk about the history of the team, the championships they’d won when they played, and what it meant to be a Brave. I know that the current kids felt the tradition – felt they were part of something bigger. And I know that feeling had a positive effect that was immeasurable.

Kids get to experience leadership opportunities. At the beginning of each season, I always asked my returning “veterans,” to explain how we did things and what was expected. I would try to pair a “rookie” with a veteran when warming-up. I’ve seen returning 12 year-olds who were not the most talented players on the team turn into confident “big brothers,” because they were taking younger players under their wings. Each year, the “rookies,” got to feel like they were being brought into something bigger than just another new team. And year after year that thread continued from returning player to new player.

Players get a fairer shake. Imagine this: You’re the manager of a team and your son is 10 years-old. You draft another 10 year-old player hoping that he’s going to be a good player for you. Unfortunately, it turns out that he’s not the player you thought he was and it looks like this pick was a mistake. If you know you’re going to redraft next season and let this kid be someone else’s problem, what is your incentive to work with him? But if you know you’ve got him, for better or for worse, for the next three seasons, you’ll do everything you can to develop this player’s fullest potential, since it is in your best interest. I’m sure there are some coaches who never give everything they’ve got to kids since they’re afraid that the next season those same kids will use what they learned against them. I know this is a terrible aspersion to cast, but there is some element that is just human nature. Why not eliminate any conflicting thoughts by keeping the kids on the same team?

Which leads to another point: Kids will develop more quickly if they don’t have to re-learn a new system every year. Each year, my returning players already knew our defensive plays and baserunning plays. They already know all of my drills by name. All I have to do is call out, “Outfield Fly-By” or “0-2 Drill,” and they’re on their way. And once again, when the returning players get an opportunity to teach the new players how to do a drill, time is saved and leadership skills are gained. My league’s all-star teams have traditionally not fared as well as surrounding leagues, which would lead one to the conclusion that we haven’t had the best players. However, our League Champions have dominated in the Tournament of Champions vs. neighboring leagues, because we have the best regular season teams. I attribute that almost primarily to the benefits of titling.

I believe I’ve heard all of the arguments against titling. Here are the main ones: “Titling leads to managers picking younger players at the expense of older kids so that they’ll have them longer,” and “Titling causes dynasties where coaches can build great teams each year.” I don’t feel any of these hold water.

Typically, when leagues go to draft, there will be an evenly-balanced mix within the ages of the managers’ children. In other words, if there are six managers drafting, there’s a good chance that a couple have children who are 12 and in their final seasons, a couple have 11 year-olds and a couple have 10 year-olds. And while a manager with a younger child may choose a younger player over an older player so as to be able to develop and keep him or her longer, it is counterbalanced by the managers of the 12 year-olds whose only motivation is to pick the best team for this, their final season. Plus, in Little League anyway, now all 12 year-olds who wish to play Majors must be drafted onto a Majors team, eliminating the concern that titling causes managers to pass up deserving 12’s.

As for dynasties, my contention is that a good coach will win, whether the league titles or re-drafts. The way the LL Operations Manual structures the draft is that the team finishing in last place the previous season gets the first overall pick in every round. This is the way it’s done in the NFL to try and ensure parity. Why wouldn’t this also work for Little League? The answer? It does. This is not to say that, just like in football, some guys can’t get the first overall pick and still not win, just as having the last pick doesn’t guarantee a last-place finish. But the scales are balanced each season with this system so that, ideally, a kid who plays on a non-winning team as a ten or eleven year-old should have a chance to play on a winning team when he’s twelve. And one final point to be made here: If you think this system is unfair to the competitive balance of the league, imagine when you have a few returning managers who have been in Majors for several years drafting against rookies whose children are just coming up from Minors. The Majors managers know all of the returning Majors players – the ones who are going to have the most impact. The new guys only know about the younger, Minors players, most of who will only play part-time. If every team starts from scratch and a new manager makes a mistake on his first several picks because he doesn’t know who the best players were last season, the team has the potential for disaster. At least with titling, every new manager inherits a core group of returning players as a foundation; therefore the effect of a few not-so-great picks is substantially lessened.

There is one pro re-draft argument I have heard that does contain some validity. And that is that there may be situations where a sub-par manager is given a team, and now, as long as he has the job, all the kids titled to that team are stuck with him throughout their Majors careers. But my answer to that is that it’s the kids who are titled to the team, not the manager. And in the case where there is a manager who is not fulfilling expectations, it is the duty of the league to find or develop someone better, so that the kids get an opportunity to fully enjoy their experience.

It amazes me how few leagues in my neck of the woods title their players. And I’m equally amazed when I speak with guys from other leagues, sometimes board members, who don’t even know titling is an option. I’ve heard many say, “That’s how we did it when I played!” But, their league continues to re-draft players each year because, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I encourage you to explore the titled player option in your league. Once you experience it, you, the players’ parents and, especially, the players themselves, will never want to go back to a re-draft.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at http://www.sportsbooks4kids.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com.

Little League drama

A Little League in Arizona felt they had an integrity issue to deal with and there is some outrage over the board’s action. Some feel that a coach may have illegally stacked his team with travel-ball players. The coach denies any wrongdoing. Not only is it sad when youth baseball comes to this but, as we’ve written several times, if the proper draft procedures are followed, the process is documented and made public prior to the draft, all of this mess can be avoided.