Saturday, September 01, 2007
In my pre-teens, I used to be a huge baseball fan. I went to my hometown Grand Forks Chiefs minor league games almost as often as they played at home. I was a member of the Knot Hole Gang (a special bleacher section for kids, at greatly reduced admission). I sold refreshments in the grandstand, more to get free admission than to make money (though I did make a little money).
I kept track of the stats of many major league teams and players. I was a Yankees fan, and closely followed the careers of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Don Larson and others.
My interest moderated as my thoughts turned to cars and girls (not always in that order) and as I passed through the military and the establishment of my career--though I went to the occasional game and often watched a game on tv.
After I moved to the Stalag, and the unfortunately scandalous move of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles, my apathy began turning to distaste--not so much for the game, but for the business of baseball. Read my earlier entry here, and follow the links therein if you want to learn more. It also gives other reasons for my fading interest in major league baseball.
Now, it seems that baseball is in the midst of another turn for the worse. It happens when a batter is hit by a pitch, and believes it's deliberate. He often runs out to the mound to beat up the pitcher for his offense. Of course, the catcher chases him in an attempt to stop him. This causes both entire teams to leave the dugout to run out to the mound to help their teammates.
I'm much more of a hockey fan. When this happens on the ice, it's accepted as merely part of the game. The National Hockey League has worked on stopping fighting in hockey, with some success--there are no more bench-clearing brawls in hockey. As an ex-player, I kind of miss that. Hockey players learn to fight on the ice almost from the time they first put on skates, and two-man fights still happen pretty often during the game.
Baseball players, on the other hand, don't seem to fight well. They usually look kind of clumsy and stupid gathered at the pitcher's mound, throwing punches that never land and grabbing at each other's uniforms. Too bad they don't just pair up and get to it.
Seriously, though, high-priced players can get hurt in these situations. Something ought to be done to stop brawling in baseball, even if it's just to put an end to these embarrassing shows of ineptness.
Here's my recommendation. It's been established that a major league pitcher can pitch a ball wherever he wants it--their control is incredible. Thus, I have to assume that when a pitcher hits a batter, it's because he wants to hit the batter. Thus, if a pitcher hits a batter chest-high or above, the umpire should award the batter with, not a walk to first base, as is now the practice, but with a home walk. That is, a walk around the bases to score, and to score all those already on base. Of course, if the batter placed part of his body into the strike zone and got hit, say, in the elbow, this would not be a walk at all, but a called strike.
That could give the offended team as much as a four-run boost and often might turn the game.
It'd be just about a certainty that this change would effectively put an end to bean balls.
Or, as an alternative, they could send baseball players to hockey camp and teach them how to fight bare-knuckle.
Love the sport, hate the business.