Another softball season is done and dusted. Great work by Softball Leinster as the League saw a second year of growth as Tullamore Tigers returned to the league for a full season and the Templebar Hippy’s joined the league replacing the disbanded Marlay Mayhem (Boo – we want the Mayhem name back, Rename the Meteors). This year the Leinster League had a whopping 26 teams. 8 in Prem, 8 in 1st division and 10 in 2nd division.
The 2nd Division was by far the most interesting down the stretch as it was split into two conferences with each team within the conference playing each other twice, and then playing each team from the other conference once. At the end of the season each team was paired off against it’s rival who placed the same in the opposite conference. Conference One was by far the stronger conference this season with 4 out of the 5 teams all having the same or higher points as the first team in conference 2 as they all played their head to head game to finish out the season. What this meant for the Titans when playing their 13th game of the season against the Castleknock Wildcats, was that winning meant a shot at first place and promotion, and losing meant they could end up as low as 8th place. The Titans lost, but went on to win their head to head game against the Homers finishing out the season in 5th place. In the end the 2nd Division was won by the Thunderbolts, beating the Wildcats in a playoff, who then went on to play for relegation against the Hippety’s.
But going forward, is the current divisional breakdown the best for the league in fostering the most competitive league? The Prem division was also competitive, with three teams sharing the same amount of wins and the league being decided by runs conceded. The first division, while a two man race for most of the season between the Blazzers and our own Beachers, fizzled out when they faced each other in the 13th week and the Blazzers showed up with only 9 players. That being said some of the Blazzers didn’t seem that upset about not winning the division and moving back up to Prem. The joke was on them when the Sluggers, who having struggled to get players all season, gave them the walkover in the relegation match. Now the Blazzers along with the Beachers, are going to Prem.
Speaking of the Beachers, I am extremely proud of the season the Beachers had, and the views in this blog are my own as a player in the Leinster League and should not be construed as the official word from the Renegades Softball Club. With that caveat out there and reaffirming how proud I was to play on the division winning Beachers, I can safely say that the Beachers got lucky. In some games we outright crushed our opponents, but in others we slid in by the skin of our teeth. At least two wins in extra innings, more wins in the bottom of the 7th. I myself had a walkoff sac fly to win the game which felt great, but it was the same flyout I had my first two at bats. Are the Beachers ready to play in Prem? The answer is simple. No.
We’d be stepping into the Prem as punching bags for the teams that having been playing with each other for years and are well established. The Beachers had 7 new players this year. 4 of them started most games. Out of Prem go the Sluggers (3-11) and the Dublin Bay Packers (0-14) and in come the Blazzers (12-2) and Beachers (13-1). Yeah we might win a game or two, but those records will be reversed next season. It’s not that we are so far off in player skillset, it’s that to field a competent team you need to always have a competent complete team. Just ask John Edwards from the Sluggers who wrote about the Sluggers 2014 woes in a blog this past week and who is hard at work on a cloning machine. Don’t be surprised if there is a few extra Junichiro’s in the outfield one of these seasons.
The solution that I’ve come up with and would recommend to Softball Leinster is a redistribution of the divisions into smaller 6-team divisions in 1st, 2nd and Prem and an 8-team in a 3rd division. Each 6 team division would play 15 games, three games against each other creating a rubber match. Teams with the better TLS (Team League Standing) in the division would have the extra home game that an odd number of games would create. Based on the TLS and if we have 26 teams again next year the breakdown would start with the Prem division looking like this:
- Odd Sox Green
- Dodder Dynamoes
- Kiely’s Kegs
- Marlay Martyrs
- Renegade Reds
This would create a fantastically competitive Prem division and to keep it competitive I’d suggest that this division no longer have automatic relegation. The bottom two teams in Prem would have to play the top two teams in 1st division keeping the best teams in Prem. Sitting non the SL committee and the SI council when they ran the Leinster League, I know they hate playoff/relegation games. Mainly because it costs money. I’m sure that Kiely’s Kegs and the Dynamoes would have been more than happy to pay for the chance to have a 3-game round robin to see which is the best team between themselves and Odd Sox Greens.
So dropping the bottom two teams from the Prem division is easy. Beachers and Blazzers would then join the relegated Sluggers and Packers in the new first division. The next two teams based on TLS would then remain in the 1st division leaving the division looking like this:
- Renegade Beachers
- Dublin Bay Packers
- Usual Suspects
- Marlay Meteors
Playing on the same night (Wednesday) the 2nd division would look something like this:
- Base Devils
- Kiely’s Chuggers
- Templebar Hippety’s
- Castleknock Bearcats
- Castleknock Wildcats
I have been asked, “Why have division 2 play on Wednesday night, not Monday or Thursday?” Thursday is a hard night to secure fields. Tag rugby and most teams have longstanding agreements in place to play on that night. 8 of the 12 teams already play on that night and the other four were going to play on Wednesday after their relegation or promotion. The most difficult aspect would be to have 6 umpires scheduled on that night, but as long as the greatest pool of umpires are coming from Prem players, then as long as 6 games aren’t being played on Tuesday night we should be fine.
Lastly, but most certainly not least is the third division. Keeping the upper divisions competitive is important, but nothing is more important than keeping this division evenly balanced. Players just starting out need to have the game scores not be so one-sided or demoralizing. the third division would look something like this:
- Oddsox Black
- Renegade Titans
- Tullamore Tigers
- Marlay Mustangs
- Deadly Suspects
- Templebar Hippys
Between now and the Softball Leinster AGM, the Renegades will have their own AGM (3rd of October at the Beachcomber) and we will have a lot of questions that will need to be answered. Coming up with solutions on every variable that SL might throw our way is only part of the night’s fun! l have been thinking on this a lot since the season ended, probably because I can’t believe how many days still remain between now and the start of the next season (BTW – 222 days and counting). What do you think? email me or better yet drop a line to Softball Leinster and bother them.