Thursday, August 06, 2009

Prince Fielder Deserves Lengthy Suspension for Clubhouse Charge

It's not often that Major League Baseball gets disciplinary matters right. Their system is dilapidated and often ridiculous, with too-short suspensions delayed by appeals, often until it's more convenient for the suspended player to take the punishment.

Such is the case this week, as the powers-that-be have inexplicably ignored what could have been a major off-the-field incident involving a star player.

Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Brewers did something that their fans have become accustomed to as of late. They got absolutely thrashed, 17-4, by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the seventh inning, Brewers "pitcher" Chris Smith plunked Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers with a pitch up high (not as high as the head, but high). The Dodgers led the game 12-3 at the time, but according to reports, no one at the game with a functioning brain really thought it was on purpose. At that point in a blowout, the losing team is more concerned with getting out of the game and using as few pitchers as possible.

(Especially when you're the Brewers, and most of the pitchers you have barely qualify as major-league caliber.)

In the ninth, with the score 17-4, Dodgers pitcher and former Brewers gas can Guillermo Mota flung a pitch way inside on Brewers slugger Prince Fielder. Fielder stared a hole through Mota, who was immediately ejected, but Fielder didn't charge the mound.

He saved his charging for after the game.

This isn't about being for or against emotion in baseball. It obviously has a place in the game, and it's okay for players to display it however they feel is appropriate.

There should be agreement, however, that charging toward the opposing team's clubhouse in an effort to deal with an on-field dispute goes beyond inappropriate. Fielder was dead-wrong to react the way he did, even in a sport where players feel it's necessary to throw baseballs at each other until umpires stop them.

Since they're fully aware that missing five of 162 games is not a good punishment, but is the best baseball has to offer, guys are usually content with this form of justice.

After Tuesday's incident, Fielder played dumb about things, and both sides defended their on-field behavior. The Brewers claimed they weren't targeting Ramirez (why would they when it's 12-3 in the seventh inning?), and the Dodgers didn't hide from the fact that Mota chucked one at Fielder.

"We don’t want the same scenario as in last year’s playoffs where the Phillies tried to intimidate us by throwing at Manny and we didn’t really retaliate," Martin said. "We don’t want to be considered as a team that doesn’t have our players’ backs. It’s about keeping the team unified and pulling the wagon altogether."

Despite the obvious evidence (video) of Fielder's behavior, and the Dodgers' implicit admission that they indeed had Mota throw at him, baseball has again reacted with incredible stupidity.

None of the parties involved will be suspended.

That's right.

No ban for Dodgers manager Joe Torre. None for the pitcher Torre sent out for the ninth inning, who obviously threw at an opposing hitter after teams were ordered not to engage in such behavior. None for the catcher who called for the pitch, and admitted afterward to a need to "protect" Ramirez.

(It's broken logic, really, because Fielder had nothing to do with Ramirez getting hit by a pitch.)

More inexplicably, none for Fielder, who tried to charge into the Dodgers' clubhouse after the game, only to be held back by security and level-headed teammates. Thank goodness for that, because it doesn't seem that Fielder was going in there for tea and fellowship.

There will come a day where fans can better understand decisions like this. There's no telling what the explanation would be if anyone asked a baseball official about this one. What can be promised, however, is that there is a 100 percent chance that explanation will not be good enough.

Fielder should be sitting, and it shouldn't be for a game or two. All baseball has done is encourage guys to settle disputes like this the wrong way. Then again, their disciplinary system has been doing that for many years, and it doesn't appear anyone is willing to change it.

UPDATE: HT to Tom Haudricourt, who notes that benches were not warned after Ramirez was plunked. Still, duh.

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