A former Major League Baseball player has been charged with assault after storming the mound during a minor-league game and attempting to hit an opposing pitcher with his bat. Good.
Phase 1 is complete. There’s no place in baseball for a coward who would take a piece of baseball equipment and use it as a potentially deadly weapon against an opponent. The Long Island Ducks’ Jose Offerman should be prosecuted to the limit of the law.
Now, on to Phase 2: When do we begin filing assault charges against pitchers who intentionally throw 90-plus mph rocks at batters’ heads?
I was as disgusted by Offerman’s sudden lapse of sanity as anyone else when I learned of his bat attack on Bridgeport Bluefish pitcher Matt Beech, which resulted in a broken finger for Beech and a concussion for catcher John Nathans, who got hit on Offerman’s follow-through. Truth is, however, I’ve seen this coming for a long, long time. That a batter would finally snap after years of watching pitchers fire at hitters with impunity was inevitable.
Since the inception of the game, hitters have been expected to stand in the box and endure the attacks of gutless pitchers who buzz fastballs into their ribs, their shoulders, or even their heads “like men.” They’re told to shake it off, jog to first base, and quit bellyaching about their bruises — even when it’s clear to both dugouts, all umpires and every fan in the stands that certain pitches are intentional. If the hitter even thinks of charging the mound to defend himself, he knows that suspensions and fines await when he gets there.
“You don’t want to see anybody charge the mound," Mets pitcher Tom Glavine said, “Much less when they’re coming out there with a bat.”
True enough. But I believe most batters would agree that you don’t want to see a head-hunting pitcher throwing 90 mph heaters at their heads for personal reasons, or to enforce baseball’s unwritten ‘code’ either. But that doesn’t seem to stop them.
You know the code — it’s the arm’s length list of invisible rules that ballplayers accept as part of the game, which includes such gems as “No showing up the pitcher after a home run.” For you see, if a hitter stands and stares at a long bomb, or if he pumps his fist too many times in celebration while circling the bases, baseball’s code says he’ll be wearing one high and tight his next time up. Or, depending on who’s pitching, the guy who follows him to the plate might take the hit instead.
It’s the same code that says, “You hit one of our guys, we’re hitting one of yours.” Which means that a curveball that doesn’t quite break or a fastball that accidentally gets away from a pitcher will result in one of his teammates being drilled intentionally in the next half-inning. That’s supposed to square things between the teams, even though one batter is hit accidentally —which is part of the game — and the other is the victim of an assault by the opposing pitcher.
Two weeks ago, Yankees starter Roger Clemens put one between the shoulder blades of Toronto’s Alex Rios in retaliation for Josh Towers’ beaning of Alex Rodriguez. Clemens didn’t even bother with an appeal, all but admitting the Rios hit was intentional.
Ever been hit with a 90 mph baseball thrown from 60 feet away? It’s painful. And it’s dangerous. But you’ll never see any blue uniforms swarming a field and hauling a guy like Clemens off to a holding cell.
Phase 1 is complete, and Offerman will correctly be facing the business end of a gavel. Let’s get to work on Phase 2.
Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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