Bringing up the word “ratings” at a NAGAAA sanctioned tournament or event is the equivalent of telling a slightly off-color joke in a social setting. When you make your point about your ratings issue you might get a few laughs, a few smiles, a lot of tense looks and most likely everyone will immediately leave the conversation telling everyone else what was wrong with what you said.
NAGAAA might as well substitute “drama” in place of the word “ratings” in its Instruments of Governance, because that’s what you get when you play the ratings game. It would be nice when playing said game if you actually won a prize, but sadly more often than not those that play it end up landing on the proverbial bankrupt spot on the wheel.
At this year’s 2014 NAGAAA Winter Meetings in Dallas, Texas the adoption of new player ratings guidelines and team rating guidelines took place. Here is a snapshot of what the old guidelines were and what the new guidelines are:
Guidelines through 2014 (changes to take place in 2015 are in BOLD):
A Division – All teams must be rated 270 or lower
– No team can having a rating under 170.
B Division – All teams must be rated 185 or lower.
– No players rated over 22 allowed (No players rated over 19 allowed)
C Division – All teams must be rated 145 or lower.
– No players rated over 15 allowed.
D Division – All teams must be rated 105 or lower (All teams must be rated 95 or lower)
– No players rated over 11 allowed (No players rated over 10 allowed)
Masters Division – No players rated over 15 allowed.
(Team ratings are calculated by totaling the ratings of the top ten rated players on the team)
*Above ratings information taken from the NAGAAA IOG, Sections 5.03 & 5.04
Per the Change Summary on page 46 of the NAGAAA IOG, motions 69 and 71 passed to lower the ratings thresholds for the B and D divisions.
The major question is who does this effect and why is it important? Let’s take the first part of the question. Who does this effect? The largest group affected by the ratings changes are without question current high level D division players. Starting next year players that are now 11’s will be thrust into the C Division competing against players with ratings as high as 15. In terms of which leagues are affected, the smaller membership leagues such as New Orleans, Kansas City, Tulsa, Saint Louis and Oklahoma City just to name a few will certainly feel this the most. Provided all of these cities 11’s play next year they could be looking at a sudden boost to their fledgling C divisions (NOLA, KC & TUL only have 2 C teams in their respective leagues).
Is that fair? Probably not, but don’t expect a change to this new policy at the 2014 Summer Meetings. Current D division players are going to have to get used to a whole new brand of slow pitch softball starting in 2015 as those individuals that are in the top-tier of their current division skill wise sink to the lowest tier of their new division next year. With that being said the difference between an 11 and a 15 based on the NAGAAA ratings guidelines is similar to the distance across and depth to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (I will send a gift card to the restaurant of your choice to the first 11 and 15 rated Cactus Cities League players that send the DD a pic of them at the Grand Canyon).
The second part of that earlier question about why this change in ratings thresholds is important is probably the question that needs the most perspective and attention. The sheer difference in ability from an 11 to a 15 can be severe. In fact, the difference can be so severe that it could and already is causing D level players to look outside the confines of NAGAAA sanctioned events/leagues to get their softball fix for next season and beyond. For example, the most commonly seen ratings sequence for the highest level current D division player would be as follows – 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 15, 19, 20, 21. For those of you not as familiar with the player ratings guidelines there are 27 questions that allow NAGAAA to get a sense of a player’s skill level. If a player were to have all 27 questions that player would be an A level player and the highest rated player there could be. In depth ratings information can be found at http://www.nagaaasoftball.org on pages 32 & 33 of the IOG.
Going back to the most common player rating for a player rated an 11 and comparing that rating to a hypothetical rating for a player at a 15 and the difference is quite noticeable – 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22. Players rated at an 11 will be up against players that can consistently make diving stops in the hole on the infield, plays in the outfield within 30 feet, take extra bases on routine hits and balls hit over 150 feet and closer to 250 feet on a regular basis. Long story short, it will be a whole new ball game next season for this newest batch of “C” players.
A possible solution that could be talked about at the 2014 Summer Meetings to save membership across the continent that aren’t happy with the new changes could be the following:
Instead of poaching D and expanding the pool of players in the C Division, NAGAAA could enlist an E Division to create a truly recreational lower division while at the same time propping up the current borderline D/C level players in a more competitive D Division. Here’s what it might look like:
E Division – No team can be rated above a 75.
– No players rated above an 8 allowed.
D Division – No team can be rated above a 115.
– No players rated above a 12 allowed.
C Division – No team can be rated above a 155.
– No players rated above a 16 allowed.
B Division – No team can be rated above a 195.
– No players rated above a 21 allowed.
A Division – No changes.
Masters – No changes.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect and there would probably be players wielding pitchforks and torches if the DD’s scenario played out this summer. With less than 160 days until the World Series and the 2014 Summer Meetings one thing will be true. It will be up to each individual city’s membership to tell its delegates what they want in their league and on the national level. Maybe sending that message would generate enough interest to make delegates introduce a new motion that doesn’t displace as many players moving forward.