League Searches for Answer to Cancellations
Posted at 11 p.m. on July 25, 2012
It took years for Major League Baseball to accept the use of instant replay. And it’s still arguing about it. The House Softball League dealt with a similarly sweeping policy change over the issue of cancellations and forfeits. And it’s still arguing about it.
Entering this season, the high command of the HSL huddled to discuss, among other issues, the league’s policy on the matter. The heart of the policy centered on this: At 2 p.m., teams must give a heads-up to the opposition about the possibility of being unable to field a team. By 4 p.m., the team must deliver a final answer on whether it can play. Any notification after that is a loss by way of forfeit.
This season, the forfeit policy features three new provisions aimed at cracking down on teams with a more laissez-faire attitude about canceling games and at preventing teams from using the policy to bolster their records, according to league President Anthony Reed.
First is the weather rule. If the rain pours and a team captain decides not to send his players onto a soggy field, the team can cancel, regardless of any previous discussions leading up to the scheduled start time. Second, if by 7 p.m., a half-hour past the scheduled start time, a team lacks a minimum of eight players, three being women, it must forfeit. Lastly, a team must actually play 10 games to meet tournament eligibility. Forfeited games no longer constitute a played game.
A dispute over the legitimacy of a cancellation can be solved by the teams themselves or through arbitration, courtesy of the league commissioners.
To strike the right note, Reed and the others tried to find a middle ground that would satisfy the hyper-competitive without undermining the fun nature of the league.
“We want it to be casual, but you don’t want the shotgun approach where you make it too burdensome for everybody,” Reed said.
Some teams have legitimate reasons to pull the plug on a game at the last minute. For Capitol Hill staffers, a late evening floor vote or traveling back to the district certainly outweighs a softball game.
“It’s always been an evolving thing with the forfeit rules because the biggest frustration with people is that they never get enough notice on cancellation,” league commissioner and Raucus Caucus member Ben Stecker said. In June, Stecker wrote a piece for the league newsletter addressing the issue.
But if the metric of success is decreased frequency, then the provisions have clearly worked.
“I think so far this season we have not had a challenge come to the commissioner board, which … has never been the case in all our years prior,” Reed said.
Still, grumblings have not completely disappeared.
Adam Weinstein, team captain of the Big Lebowskis and a first-year league commissioner, expressed his concern over the weather clause serving as a penalty-free cop-out.
“You have people drop at 4:45 p.m. and you’re worried about playing a team you’re now going to lose to, then you can cite the weather,” he said. In May, Weinstein’s team became well acquainted with the new rules, as every game on its schedule was canceled.
On the league’s message board, the criticism has been more scathing. One poster, known as “The Hammer,” called for a full-scale overhaul of the rules to solve a problem he described as an “epidemic.”
“Commissioners please institute a tougher forfeit rule, one where any team who fails to honor their scheduling commitments is penalized with a loss,” the poster wrote in May.
For those such as Weinstein, who aren’t overly bullish on the current policy, there’s a recognition that this may be as good as it gets.
“There’s no perfect solution, and the current one might be the right way to go,” he said.