The regular season came crashing to an end on Sunday with the Brother Elephants’ 4-0 blanking of the post-season-bound Uni-President Lions, setting up a post-season without a playoff series.
League rules allow for a playoff series between the teams with the second and the third-best winning records for the entire season to play a best-of-five series, before the winners earn the chance to take on the top-ranked team in the annual Taiwan Series in the event that the same team wins both halves of the regular season.
However, this season the Lions won the first half and the Lamigo Monkeys won the second half outright, thus eliminating the need for a playoff series.
“This will definitely give both teams more time to get ready,” said Brother Elephant skipper Chen Rei-chen, whose squad missed out on the second-half title by 3.5 games after owning the lead for a long period.
Chen was speaking just after finishing a press conference held earlier this week to announce the sanctions that the league had imposed on several players, who were charged with unsportsmanlike conduct in Sunday’s game in an attempt to secure the most-saves honor for Brother Elephants closer Brad Thomas.
With a 4-0 lead, the Elephants were charged with intentionally allowing two runners to reach with two outs via back-to-back walks by reliever Yeh Yong-jeh in the top of the ninth to set up a save opportunity for Thomas, who went on to pick up his 23rd save of the year to beat Lions closer Lin Yueh-ping to the honor.
Thomas had trailed Lin by a 23-22 margin in saves heading into Sunday’s game and he needed the save to win the tiebreaker for the most saves this season.
The league has since nullified the award for this season and is considering a rule change by not counting any saves picked up by a pitcher in the regular season after the post-season matchups have been determined, in an effort to prevent such an incident from occurring again.
“To be accused of fixing a game may be too severe a description for what happened on Sunday, since the players have the right to go for individual honors under the existing rules; perhaps the rules should be modified a bit to prevent something like this from happening again,” Brother Elephants pitcher Lin En-yu was quoted as saying in the Chinese-language press.
While a rule change may be the long-term solution to the age-old problem, it did not keep the league from imposing a NT$50,000 fine on Chen and Lions manager Terushi Nakashima, on top of a three-game suspension for failing to enforce positive sportsmanship.
Yeh and Lions hitter Lee Yu-rue were suspended for three games, Yeh for intentionally walking and Lee for intentionally swinging at bad pitches thrown by Yeh to prevent himself from being walked. Home plate umpire Su Chien-wen was also tagged with a three-game suspension for not enforcing positive sportsmanship, even though Su did verbally communicate the inappropriateness of the players’ actions at the time.