Below is my decision and reflections regarding the appeal of James Pasquine. I appreciate your patience as I reached this conclusion. As it is not subject to appeal, I wanted to be as thorough as possible in reaching a decision.
You will find below:
A) The Ruling
B) Rational behind the ruling
C) Evidence considered in the ruling
D) Comments and consideration from the League President
E) Future Considerations
A) The ruling
James Pasquine has been deemed eligible for playoffs. The protest is denied and Jefferson Hills will be permitted to continue in the playoffs.
The decision was reached after careful consideration of the available evidence, and a review of our NABA rules. Prior to reaching this decision, I consulted with a number of managers, umpires, outside parties, and other League Presidents.
B) Rationale for denying the protest:
1) Insufficient evidence exists to prove that James Pasquine DID NOT APPEAR in the 5 game minimum as dictated by our local rules.
2) The filing of the protest itself did not meet the league specifications
C) Evidence & rules in support of denying the protest: (#2 – The filing of the protest)
I will start with the second reason (the protest did not meet specifications), because it is simpler to explain. Protests involving ineligible players must be filed within 24 hours of game start time. I was out of town without my rulebook present when the protest was filed. While I recommended to the filing manager not to file it, I did not realize then that it actually was not permissible. Regardless, I did encourage, and will continue to encourage, managers to file game day protests on players they believe to be ineligible. This is the only way to uphold player eligibility requirements.
In truth, this did not factor heavily into my ultimate decision because it was only brought to my attention after I collected and reviewed evidence. However, in the future, a protest of this nature would not be permitted. As such, and due to my own error, the protest fee will be refunded to the manager.
D) Evidence & rules in support of denying the protest (#1 – appearing in 5 games)
In this case, the burden is on the managers to prove that James Pasquine did not appear in the 5 game minimum. When this rule was added in 2012, it was done so with my permission, and by a vote of the managers. However, I expressly stated then, and in every managers meeting since, that the enforcement of this policy would come down to individual managers keeping accurate books during the regular season.
Within 8 hours of the formal protest, I had collected all of the evidence I required. However, I wanted to have a few independent parties review the evidence and come to the best decision possible knowing the impact it would have on the league either way.
Jefferson Hills has James Pasquine listed as played in 6 games by their official scorebooks. Three opposing scorebooks corroborate those records completely. One scorebook differs in that it does not show the substitutions that the Jefferson Hills scorebook does, including the entry of James Pasquine into the lineup. The opposing managers in the two other games did not keep a scorebook at their games.
While I can only certify that James Pasquine played in 3 games, I cannot uphold the contention that he didn’t play in the two others where no book was kept by the opposing manager. Since the burden of proof is on the opposing managers in this case, James Pasquine must be given credit for having played in at least 5 games as indicated by the available evidence. The 6th game where the books are clearly disputed by the two managers is therefore irrelevant in reaching this conclusion, because the other 5 games are uncontested.
While I can’t deny there are many inconsistencies in what I found, I cannot prove that James Pasquine did not play in 5 games without the support of managers and their records. The worst evidence against James Pasquine in this case was Jefferson Hills’ own record keeping. However, I cannot determine if that was out of negligence, or outright fraud.
After having multiple conversations, and reviewing the rule book multiple times, it became quite clear to me that punishing an entire team (the penalty would have forfeited the Jefferson Hills club from the postseason) for the possibility of an infraction was not supported by the evidence, and simply not the right thing to do. Every League President I consulted with, and shared my evidence with expressed this same opinion that this protest must be denied.
Many mangers have brought to my attention inconsistencies, and outright falsified records on Jefferson Hills’ website. This did not factor into my ultimate decision other than to lay a framework for discussion with Keith Reynolds about his record keeping. It is my opinion that while Keith’s online records are riddled with errors, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies; that does not prove intent, nor is it evidence against Mr. Pasquine. In an unofficial review of other teams records (including my own), I also found records that did not add up, or did not completely match the record of the game.
Eteamz is not the host of our official rosters because it is subject to tampering and errors. As such stats are required to be posted simply to allow a public window into teams. Since 2012, I have enforced that teams post stats by our annual playoff meeting to ensure managers an opportunity to review player eligibility. Teams that did not have at least 9 players with at least 5 games played on the site were ruled ineligible for postseason play because opposing managers had no insight into them.
However, the league has never deemed an individual player eligible or ineligible using the website due to the inherent tampering/errors that could potentially exist while updating the site. Player playoff eligibility has been determined by my official rosters (waivers); and since 2012, a minimum of 5 games played. All questions on the use of illegal players should be resolved by a formal protest, and review of game day records.
It should be noted that while Jefferson Hills, and by extension Keith Reynolds, came into this league due to being forced out of another, that in and of itself was not a factor in this determination. As I have said every year at our managers meetings, if you have an issue with player eligibility, you need to address it at the field.
Until managers call out ineligible players at their field, and keep quality records for review, any talk about ineligible players is purely speculative. As such, people can develop reputations merely on the suggestion of fact, rather than fact itself. Without a doubt, that was a contributing factor in the case here.
The only reliable records I found in any of this were those of Cranberry, who should be commended. While their conflicting books did not ultimately factor into this decision, it was clear that the consistency of their records was the best of any of the other teams I reviewed, an opinion that was supported by multiple managers.
Unfortunately, not every team keeps as detailed and consistent records as Cranberry. For a rule like this to be enforced as it is written, accurate record keeping must occur.
It has been brought to my attention that denying this protest would cause players and managers to possibly lose faith in the rules of this league, and my upholding of them. My sincere response to that criticism is that I believe this particular rule is flawed. The spirit of the rule has good intention and is good for the league.
However, the proof required to enforce such a rule is very difficult to acquire as seen in this case. While the timing of the protest is unfortunate, I am grateful that the protest has shed light on the inherent flaws in a rule of this type. The league will be better in 2015 as a result of the discussion that takes place on this ruling.
E) Future Considerations
1) The 5 game minimum rule will be revised or eliminated in 2015. When the 5 game minimum was introduced in 2012, I am on the record as being in support of the spirit and purpose of the rule, yet clear in the difficulty of actually enforcing it. The national NABA rule is simply to have the player registered by the deadline, which I have always enforced, as it is a very clear cut thing to prove. If that rule were the only one in place here, the player would be eligible without any question.
2) Player protests of this variety will no longer be considered during playoffs. The idea that a team may advance in the playoffs due to a forfeit sickens me, and most everyone else I spoke with. Therefore, a rule will be implemented to permit playoff rosters to be verified in advance of the playoffs starting in 2015. In actuality, this rule was in practice from 2003-2011, but the addition of the 5 game minimum opened the door for protests of this variety in 2012. A players’ eligibility will now be determined in advance. Protests regarding ineligible players can therefore be handled immediately at the field, as a league-approved roster will be available. Therefore, no research will need to occur after the playoffs have begun and no delays in the playing of playoff games will result.
3) Jefferson Hills will be required to send a representative to all offseason meetings in 2015. While I have consulted with Jefferson Hills regarding rules, it is quite clear to me that they need to be present when rules are discussed with the league as a whole. In this manner, issues can be addressed face-to-face by managers, and a dialogue can be initiated. This will also afford Jefferson Hills the opportunity to help shape rules as they see fit, and eliminate any possible omissions I may make in discussing the rules with Jefferson Hills.
4) Enforce player eligibility, lineup, and scorebook rules on game day during the regular season. While no manager enjoys asking a player they don’t know for their ID, and then protesting the game if they are ineligible (not registered) during the regular season, this is the only way to ensure our rules are enforced. Protests can be dropped at any time, so this becoming a more common practice would be welcomed and supported by the league and its affiliates.
Joseph E. Graff Jr.