Just yesterday we found out that the Jackie Robinson West team that knocked the Taney Dragons out of the Little League World Series and went on to win the U.S. Championship was being looked at for rules violations. Stuff like this happens all the time, I figured, so we’ll hear about an investigation and they’ll make a little show of it and nothing will happen. Wrong. Jackie Robinson West has been stripped of its title, its coach has been suspended, and its 2014 LLWS wins have been vacated. As a result, the United States LLWS Championship has been awarded to the college-aged men of Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas.
So what did Jackie Robinson West do wrong? ESPN says they were found to have used a “falsified boundary map,” and that “team officials met with neighboring Little League districts in Illinois to claim players and build what amounts to a superteam.”
Little League International CEO Stephen D. Keener said in a statement:
This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome.
As our Little League operations staff learned of the many issues and actions that occurred over the course of 2014 and prior, as painful as this is, we feel it a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries …
Little League takes these matters very seriously and has spent countless hours gathering information about the many issues facing Jackie Robinson West Little League and Illinois District 4,” Keener said. “During our review, it became clear that both Jackie Robinson West officials and District Administrator, Mike Kelly signed documents to make players eligible who should not have been.
Where does that leave Taney? Nowhere. The team obviously got the most publicity out of the tourney and Mo’ne Davis is playing in the NBA All-Star Celebrity game (really), but that fame will fade. The rest of the kids on that team will be (and have already been) forgotten. They were robbed. And it’s not even surprising.
So if anyone ever asks you what it’s like to be a Philly sports fan, just remind them that in addition to all the painful, legitimate losses in recent years, the city’s Little League team’s quest for a title came to a halt at the hands of a bunch of cheaters, the pro baseball team lost the 2009 World Series thanks in large part to two clutch hits from perhaps the most prolific and notorious PED user in sports history, Villanova lost to National Champion North Carolina in the 2005 Sweet 16 thanks to a bogus traveling call, and the Eagles lost the Super Bowl to a team that was likely filming their practices and perhaps using a ball that had the structural integrity of a shuttlecock. Maybe it’s time our teams start skirting the rules. Wait… what’s that? The 1993 Phillies were loaded up with more steroids than Victor Conte’s storage unit, the Flyers fought and intimidated their way to two Stanley Cups, and the defending National League champs Phils’ feared lineup started regressing in 2010 once they stopped stealing signs? Oh, well, carry on. Nothing to see here.