Charlie’s Take: Will Little League’s decision to implement ‘rotary lineups’ compromise All-Star Tourney play? It sure looks that way. (2024)

I’ve been covering Little League All-Star Tournaments for over 3 1/2 decades and there’s obviously been many rule changes through the years.

Some, in my opinion, have made things better. Others, at times, made little sense. But regardless of whether I agreed or not, nothing ever made me cringe.

Until now.

In a nutshell, Little League has instituted a policy in which every player on an All-Star roster must be in the starting lineup from the onset of a game. There’ll still be nine fielders when a team takes the field — for now, anyway — but if a team has a roster of 12, for instance, every player will be included in the starting lineup and get a regular turn at the plate throughout the game.

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Many people say winning doesn’t matter, that it’s all about the kids having fun and this new policy sure does reek of that notion. Yes, you most certainly want to see kids have an enjoyable, learning experience while playing sports. But anybody that truly believes winning is not paramount to most is kidding themselves. It’s important to a lot of people, from league administrators, to coaching staffs and parents.

I question whether a ‘rotary lineup’ or a ‘continuous batting order’ (CBO), as District 24 Administrator Frank Cambria called it, compromises what would have been the true outcome of a Little League All-Star Tournament game if it had been played under previous rules.

But we’ll get to that a little later.

Why the need to change?

First, I wondered why Little League would make this change since, in my view, it appeared to have the correct policy in place during recent years — every player must get at least one at-bat per game. That seemed fair as the starting nine more often than not got the majority of the playing time and the reserves were guaranteed one plate appearance while, in a lot of cases, they got more. Just like other sports, each Little League All-Star team has its share of ‘stars’ and role players. And there has always been X amount of kids who were thrilled to just be a part of the team, even if they didn’t play as much as some of the others.

So why the drastic change? The answers I received were similar.

“They’re going this route because they want more players to get more playing time, to be more involved from the beginning,’' said Cambria.

“I think because (Little League) received some complaints that, with a roster of 13 (the standard for most All-Star teams in recent years), some kids were only getting one at-bat (per game) and some weren’t playing the field,’' added South Shore LL president Ben Defibaugh. “With a rotary lineup, other kids will get up more often.’'

But that’s where it can compromise the game’s outcome. Traditionally, most managers bat their best players at the top of the lineup, hoping they’ll get, at the very least, four plate appearances in a six-inning contest. That method is as old as the wheel and makes sense, of course.

In addition to the new CBO policy, Little League also instituted a rule that all teams must have rosters of at least 12 (leagues with low enrollments may ask for a waiver for a lesser number from its District Administrator, but it’s mandatory in New York State to have at least 12). When the CBO rule was released months ago, some suggested leagues would counter it by limiting its roster to 10 players. That idea, however, was quickly nullified when LL made it mandatory to take 12.

Top players will get less plate appearances

Truth is, with 12 players batting, those at the top of a batting order will be lucky, in some cases, to get a third at-bat in a game.

“Some kids are getting more at-bats (than they normally would), but the batters at the top of your lineup are only guaranteed to get two at-bats. Your 5th or 6th batter, who is usually among your top hitters, might not get a second at-bat in a game. Think about that,’' explained Mid-Island Little League president John Pleszewicz. “Plus, where most teams used to take 13 players (on a team), now teams are only taking 12. So there’s one kid from each team in each league that didn’t make it this year (because of the new rule).

“It 1,000 percent can have an impact on the outcome,’' Pleszewicz added. “Your top players are no longer getting up more, they’re getting up less in a game where there’s only 18 outs.’'

“(Little League) thinks this new rule helps, but it’s really not because you’re forcing teams to only take 12. On Staten Island, that’s 20-25 kids who aren’t getting All-Star spots because of (the new policy),’' added Defibaugh. “Playing it this way is not true baseball (and softball). It’s not All-Star caliber baseball (softball).’'

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For the most part, strategy goes out the window too.

“One of the problems with this new rule is you’re taking all strategy out of a manager’s hand,’' added Cambria, who said although Little League is using the CBO rule this season, it promised to reevaluate it sometime after All-Star Tournament play concludes. “The way they played it last year, for instance, a manager and his coaches would have a game plan and hope the team could execute it, but there’s no way to strategize this way.’'

Although it won’t happen during District Tourney play, which begins later this week, there can be instances down the road when a team with a roster of 12 could play a squad with a roster of 10. That doesn’t appear fair, according to the District Administrator.

“To me, it’s an unfair advantage to the team batting 10,’' said Cambria, who also made it known there’ll no longer be special pinch runners in All-Star play. “If a team gets a waiver from its District Administrator to have 10 or even 11, that gives them a major advantage if they’re playing a team that has to bat 12.’'

Other head-scratchers

But the mind-boggling policy changes didn’t end there, either. According to Cambria, if a player on a team gets injured or becomes sick over the course of a game and needs to miss a turn at the plate, the team will not be assessed an out. Instead, the next batter steps to the plate under the same situation.

Does anybody think this rule won’t be exploited somewhere? That the No. 12 hitter wasn’t really sick with the bases loaded, two outs and the winning run at second? Please.

“Asinine,’' is how Pleszewicz put it when asked about that policy.

What appears to make matters worse under the new policies is Little League made the changes without consulting members for their opinion on the matter, not locally anyway.

“It was done without any consultation with District Administrators or the Little Leagues themselves,’' said Defibaugh. “There were no discussions over the pros and cons of making a change like this. It was just added to the rule book, and that’s it.’'

Ultimately, depth takes centerstage

This is an obvious case of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’' It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with participation trophies. Feathers are bound to be ruffled somewhere along the way and it very well could happen right here on Staten Island, where the teams are usually very good and the competitive juices run high.

Will there be a story or two centered around a No. 11 hitter, for instance, delivering a big hit here and there? Sure, it could happen occasionally.

But the new polices, mainly the CBO and not being assessed an out if a team skips a player in the batting order, favor teams with depth and won’t make the games better in the long run. In fact, it could hurt enrollment should the higher impact players get turned off by only getting a couple of plate appearances a game. Or, it could put added pressure on the players who, under previous circ*mstances, would only get one at-bat per contest.

Look, nobody says policy making is easy, particularly for an organization at the international level. You’d like to think anything implemented is in the best interest of the kids and Little League decision makers have done, at the very least, a good job through the years.

But remember, contrary to what some preach, winning DOES matter. The new rules, unfortunately, are a far cry from the policies that previously existed and greatly compromise the games of baseball and softball.

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Charlie’s Take: Will Little League’s decision to implement ‘rotary lineups’ compromise All-Star Tourney play? It sure looks that way. (2024)


What is the continuous lineup in Little League? ›

Continuous Batting Order (CBO) is a variation of the batting order used in Little League which places all players in the batting order regardless of whether they're currently playing a fielding position. Players can be swapped in and out of fielding positions without affecting the batting order.

How are all star teams picked in Little League? ›

The method of selecting a Tournament Team is to be determined by the local league Board of Directors. While methods vary, Little League recommends multiple groups within a local league participate in a fair selection. These groups may include players, league officers, team managers, team coaches, and volunteer umpires.

How do you rotate a lineup in Little League? ›

Rotate Players on Defense:
  1. After Each Batter: 1st base moves to 2nd base, 2nd base moves to right field, right field moves to 1st base.
  2. After Each Batter: Pitcher moves to Left-Center Field, Left-Center Field moves to Right-Center Field, Right-Center Field moves to Pitcher.


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