I am sure by now that you all have heard the news, but last week, Goffstown, New Hampshire’s Little League Coach Pat Dutton made a cheating accusation against Barrington after the conclusion of the regional tournament in which Barrington won and qualified for the Little League World Series.
Dutton claimed that the Barrington players were stealing signs between his pitchers and catchers and gained an unfair advantage in doing so.
These types of issues are always intriguing to me. I love debating what is right and wrong. I love debating whether or not something is overblown or overlooked. This situation falls into each category, so I was looking forward to writing this all week.
First off, let me say that this is an embarrassment on so many levels, primarily on the New Hampshire side of things.
Of course, Barrington Little League has since denied the accusations, which is predictable.
But do I believe that they were actually stealing signs?
Unfortunately, these things happen all the time in all sports across the entire country. Teams are always looking for an advantage and they’re always looking to push the envelope as much as possible.
Stealing signs is one of the easiest ways to gain that advantage in baseball. There are numerous avenues to do so, and even in situations like this when accusations are made, the evidence is usually circumstantial at best.
The Little League rules state that it is left to the umpire to police these issues when they occur. The Barrington team was spoken to during the game, so it was addressed, and that is when I believe it should have been put to rest.
Unfortunately though, it wasn’t, and Dutton decided to approach the media and spread the story, which eventually fell into the hands of major outlets like ESPN.
I do not blame Dutton for being upset and for voicing his frustration at all, but he should have done so by speaking directly to the league. I’m not saying that I think that would have solved the problem, because in reality it would not have. But to make this into a national story is just such a poor look for him, his team, his league, and Little League in general.
Little League has always been about celebrating the kids. These players sacrifice so much time, including their entire summer, to playing the game they love and are passionate about. The players, along with their coaches and parents, are all in it together to accomplish the same goal which is to play at the highest level. To try to compromise and smear those accomplishments in that way, especially over such a small issue, is disgusting.
Like I said, I believe that Barrington was likely stealing signs and I would also want to hear some answers if I was in Dutton’s shoes. Speak to the league, speak to the Barrington coaches, whatever.
Ultimately, by blowing this story up the way that he and the Goffstown Little League has only makes them look bitter and still won’t accomplish anything. If teams want to steal signs from them down the road, then they’ll still be able to do so.
This also is not me condoning cheating, Barrington should have just let the kids play the game and not have to worry about cutting corners. Let the kids play.
At the same time though, these kids are 12 years old. The advantage that they were gaining was essentially having a better idea of whether or not a fastball or curveball was coming. This isn’t the MLB, kids aren’t facing a variety of effective pitches. Essentially all they were learning was whether or not the pitch was coming in hot or not.
I’m not saying that that isn’t an advantage, because it is, but the margin is still so narrow. Dutton’s complaints, although they were valid, stemmed from sour grapes and would have not even been brought up had New Hampshire won.
The story should have been the effort from both Barrington and Goffstown. Although Goffstown ultimately fell short of its goal, the kids still won their district, their state, and made a deep run that very few Little Leagues ever make. The kids accomplished a great deal despite losing, but we’ll never hear about it since this is now, and forever will be, the storyline of the summer.
Not only that, but Barrington has since moved on and just picked up a win in the losers bracket in Williamsport and are still in the mix.
To break it down as simple as possible, my point is this.
Goffstown made a major story regarding a possible minor offense, and in doing so, they diminished the accomplishments of their players as well as the players of Barrington … and despite all of this, nothing will change moving forward, and these issues will always be present.
I would like to say congratulations to Goffstown for a fantastic season. Advancing to the regional finals is an awesome accomplishment, and each player should be proud.
I would also like to express my sympathy for the players, since the above sentiments have put on the back burner by their coaches and league.