Saturday, August 15, 2009

Baseball and feeble discipline

Buster Olney has a column (subscription required) about the activity between Boston and Detroit this week, and sadly I don't mean the actual baseball that was played. I mean the stupid "you hit my guy, I hit yours" crap that has been "part of the game" for far too long.

Of course, MLB likes to crack down on this by suspending the offending pitchers, well, pretty much never, unless they're rookies. (Got another explanation for Porcello's suspension? Me neither.) So it keeps going, which isn't really a surprise, because somehow baseball has this stupid-ass policy that if you're suspended, you can appeal right away, and then not serve the suspension for weeks, until your team is in New York so your appeal can be heard. Unless you're playing Washington or Pittsburgh or someone, and then you can suddenly drop your appeal and start serving it. Of course, most appeals go through, and then a 7-game suspension becomes 3, or some crap like that.

Anyway, Olney's point is that Bob Watson, the head of MLB "discipline", should have a consistent set of rules to apply. That part he gets right. What he doesn't say is what really needs to happen.

First, you need to start enforcing the batter's box. (What?) Yes, the batter's box. You know, that chalk line that is painstakingly marked before every game and then immediately removed by the first batter on each side of the plate. (What a joke. Can you imagine this in any other sport? Besides NASCAR, that is.) Touch the line, you're out. (There are actually already rules on the books that cover most of this, and of course they are not enforced, because umpires don't do that. They make their own rules.)

So now hitters don't stand on the plate and glare menacingly at the mound, so there's no need to brush them off the plate. Now you can start penalizing pitchers for hitting batters. Something that takes into account a certain lack of control, but also the danger involved in hitting a guy. (Like the first one in a game is free, a second one gets you the day off, and then exceeding X in a season brings suspensions ... hitting someone in the head is an automatic 7 games ... that kind of thing.)

Now the good stuff. Charge the mound, you're out for 30 games. Do it again the same season, you're out for a year. Don't like being hit? Nobody does, that's why there are rules about it. But try to take things into your own hands and you're done.

Bench-clearing brawls? Be creative. Maybe fine each team 1% of its payroll, cumulative during the season (four brawls means you're paying 10% of your payroll).

It's stupid, it's not part of the game, and it needs to go. MLB is a joke for not protecting the players and not taking the crap out of the game, and the MLBPA is just as liable for doing whatever they can to prevent discipline. (Ever notice how players' associations don't represent everyone, only the superstars and the ones in trouble? Funny, I thought the victims were members too.)

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