by: Garret Heinrich (@GarretHeinrich)
It’s that time of year again, where I turn off ESPN for two weeks because I can’t stand 30% of the programming to be about inferior baseball when there is real baseball being played. I hate the Little League World Series. I hate it. I wish it would stop being shoved down our throats every August. Here are the top 10 reasons the Little League World Series needs to go away. (There are actually 12 reasons! There are two bonus reasons at the bottom because as I was writing this it came on the TV in my office that is on ESPN and I just kept finding more things I hate about it. (Which yes, contradicts my first statement that I turn off ESPN at this time of year, but what am I going to do start watching Fox Sports 1? HA That is hilarious.))
10. It’s Not Really Even Baseball.
It has a feel of baseball, as in there are four bases a pitching mound and three strikes and you’re out, but it really isn’t baseball. It’s just posing as baseball. They can’t lead off, the fence is the same distance all the way around and everyone has to play. I hate watching anything that isn’t the best a sport can be. Which is why I avoid the WNBA, MLS and Astros games (Which isn’t hard, because it’s not like they are on here).
9. Stop With The Breaking Balls
The Little League World Series features, by my count, 65% breaking pitches. That breaking pitch is almost always a curve ball because no adult should let their child of 12 years old throw a slider. Just to put that in perspective, Clayton Kershaw throws his curve-ball 11% of the time and his slider 19.5% of the time. Can someone teach these kids a change up. It would be way more effective. It would would help their shoulders/elbows more. It would help their development (not that any of them are going to play in the big leagues, but we’ll get to that later). Also learn to throw a fastball over the plate. And on a separate but related note: TAKE A WALK! There is no way more than 23% of pitches thrown would be called strikes by the letter of the rule (the number would probably be 70% strikes if we relied on the umpires, but we’ll get to that in a bit as well). Teach these kids the art of NOT swinging a bat.
8. Horrible Catching
These 12 year old catchers have to face so many balls in the dirt they should just stand behind the umpire to field the pitch like a ground ball. If a fastball gets by down the middle of the plate the ump will be fine he’s wearing a chest protector. This is a good defensive strategy too, since the runners can’t steal until the pitch crosses the plate you’ll have less runners advancing on passed balls. Think of it like the shift of Little League proportions. Defensive alignment is all the rage.
7. The Wall Is The Same Distance All The Way Around
225 feet to Left Field foul pole. 225 feet to the power alley. 225 feet to center field. 225 feet to the right field power alley. 225 feet to the right field foul pole. Why!? Why would you make a baseball field with the equal distance to home from every part of the park. That isn’t baseball. Short down the lines, deep to center. Then a home run to center might actually be an accomplishment.
6. It’s Only 225 Feet To The Wall
I could throw a ball that far (after a warm up or my shoulder would probably dislocate) and hit a lob wedge that far. These kids are taking pitched balls to high density super enhanced metal and check swinging balls over the fence. Home runs are cool. I get it. When I was playing little league only about 2 kids in the league could hit an actual home run. Now everyone has a legit shot if they hit a pop up. It’s like if the Green Monster were three feet high instead of 35 feet high. It’s stupid. The home run should still be an art of the very special. Also the outfielders play like 5th, 6th & 7th infielders because of it.
5. Inclusion In Top Plays
Hey ESPN, we get it. They are kids and not paid to do this and that one time a kid dove and made a catch was awesome. It doesn’t mean the kid who slid on the routine fly ball 3 feet to his right is the 3rd best play of the day. The Top 10 should not just be a fly by night list (like this one). It should be something that is taken seriously. Please stop putting every back handed ground ball to the short stop who has less range than Derek Jeter on top plays. Thank you.
4. The Umpires
It’s great these grown men are volunteering to umpire the Little League World Series. But wouldn’t it be a good idea to possibly get some that:
- Know what a strike zone is.
- Don’t try to steal the show with strike calls.
- Don’t dramatically pause the safe out calls on the base paths.
3. The Bats
I mentioned this a bit above, but the bats are WAY too advanced. These things cost a couple hundred dollars a piece and are pushed to the limits of technology so that the 4’7″ kid who should be a slap hitter with speed using his tools to help the team will try to be a power hitter because all he has to do is make contact in the air for a shot at a home run. Yes this has some parts to do with the fence, but if the bats didn’t just make a bunt a gap double the fence distance might not be as big of an issue.
2. Not Even The Best Age For Little League
I played little league from 4 years old until I was 16. I always had fun. but Majors (or under 12’s as the Little League World Series is) wasn’t even the best time had in Little League. The best time was 13-15 when the field went regulation. Kids could actually lead off and it was like you were actually playing baseball. The time when you walked on the field and hit a double into the gap and knew that double would be a double if you were playing for your favorite pro team. (I hit 2 doubles and 1 triple in my entire 4 years playing 13-16 on the big field. I was a “career” .340 hitter. I was a singles hitter, but today if I was 12 I would probably have 22 HRs and think I should be batting 5th instead of 8th when I moved up to the bigger field.)
1. These Aren’t Going To Be Major League Players EVER
Good baseball players don’t play Little League any more. That ended about 10 years ago when Legion ball and AAU clubs started dominating the College and Pro scouting resources. You used to play Little League until high school, go play for your high school team and when high school season was done join a little league team and all star team to keep playing the rest of the summer. Even if you were Major League talent you played Little League (I played my whole Little League life with Chris Grueler the No. 3 overall pick in 2002. He had injury problems and never made the Majors, but the kid was good. And played Little League. And was dominant, but it was great playing with/against him all those years.) These kids are now just the ‘meh’ players from their town. The likelihood that any of these players are good enough to actually play in the pros is such a long shot I just don’t even care.
BONUS: The Uniforms
Stop with the “Regional” uniforms. It’s stupid. I never know what city the kids are from or what state if it wasn’t for the scoreboard. Let the kids wear the jersey and hats that represent their cities. That is why they are they. That is who they are. Let them show it. They aren’t “New England,” “Southwest,” “Great Lakes.” Allow them the uniquenesss of their city. Also the kids probably love the jerseys they’ve torn up, got dirty and made their own mark in. Don’t take that away from them because it’s on TV and you want it to look pretty.
DOUBLE BONUS: The Radar Gun
Stop with the “70 (MLB 99)” crap. It isn’t 99. It doesn’t mean that they will be throwing 99 when they get older. They are 45 feet from home plate. My cat could hack up a hair ball at that speed from that distance. It also doesn’t matter because they probably aren’t ever throwing fastballs anyway.
And when I say it needs to go away, they can still play it. It’s great for the kids. I would have loved to have that experience. But I just want it off TV, because I don’t know how to change the channel on my cable box.
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