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A French Debacle

Earlier in the year, I wrote about the interesting travels of Ariel Soriano in France’s Division 1. I didn’t expect Soriano to be in the news again this year unless it was for his usual stellar play. Until the D1’s semifinal round started it appeared as if I was going to be in the right. Soriano had been excellent for Barracudas de Montpellier since joining their ranks. The hard-hitting infielder had positioned the Barracudas for a showdown with D1’s preeminent dynasty, Huskies de Rouen. 

After two games the Barracudas found themselves facing elimination and suddenly without their star player. Why is that, well, it’s because the Huskies decided to be pedantic about the rules. You see, D1 has a transfer deadline of June 15th. According to the rule, any player transferred from one team to another after that date will be ineligible for the playoffs, no matter the reason for the transfer. Most years this is a sensible rule, but not in a 2021 season that was greatly altered by the ongoing global pandemic. The D1 season didn’t begin this year until the start of June, a whole two months after the league’s typical start date. Thus, when Soriano switched teams in the middle of July it made sense to everyone that the rule would not be followed for obvious timeline-related reasons.

The Huskies thought otherwise and before the start of their semifinal series against the Barracudas filed a motion with D1’s governing body, Fédération Française de Baseball et Softball, to bar Soriano from playing in the series. Their argument was that pandemic or not the transaction deadline is June 15th and Soriano transferred teams in July so he should be ineligible. Sensibly, those reviewing the motion for FFBS ruled against the Huskies and Soriano went on to play in the first two games of the series. Then the Huskies went up the ladder and appealed to Comité National Olympique et Sportif Français. For some reason, this organization has a say in D1 and FFBS matters and they apparently felt differently than the FFBS did when ruling on the matter. With the added pressure of CNOSF disagreement, the FFBS reconvened and now voted in the Huskies’ favor, ruling that Soriano could not play for the Barracudas for the remainder of the playoffs.

The Huskies went on to win the series against the Barracudas three games to one. They are likely on their way to yet another D1 title, which will be their 15th in 16 years. Technically according to the letter of the law they were simply following the rules and the Huskies have gone hard on the idea that their actions merely respected the sanctity of the sport. I believe we can all call that for exactly what it is, a heaping pile of bullshit. The Huskies don’t care one iota about the sanctity of the sport, they went down the path they did because they care about winning above everything else. Normally that is something I would champion in a team, but not in this case. No, the Huskies have shown that they are willing to be the villain and circumvent common sense as long as they gain some kind of competitive advantage. 

What makes this situation even worse is that the Huskies were well on their way to eliminating the Barracudas from the playoffs even with Soriano in the lineup. Instead, they’ve raised the ire of the French baseball world, put a big asterisk next to their series win, and denied baseball fans the world over from seeing an electric talent like Soriano in the biggest games of his season. Winning is great, we all want our teams to want to win and to put forth their best effort to win. However, we want to see that in the form of money spent, roster construction, and on-the-field play. What we don’t want is a team choosing to be pedantic losers like the Huskies did in this situation. They haven’t shown themselves to be winners at all and instead have left the entirety of French baseball and the D1 with a massive black eye.

Special thanks to Benjamin Witte and Le Baseblog for the background work for this story.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Behance

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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