Fights Mar Baseball’s Bright Spots

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 1, 1998

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / June 1, 1998

What is it about major league baseball that every time something positive occurs, it has to do something to give itself negative press.

David Wells pitches just the 15th perfect game in major league history.

Mark McGwire launches home runs at a record-setting pace. But what gotthe most attention the last couple of weeks? The brawl between New York and Baltimore, precipitated by Orioles pitcher Armando Benitez who hit Tino Martinez after Bernie Williams hit a three-run home run.

What Benitez did was inexcusable and immature but it should have ended after he was rightfully tossed from the game. But the punches thrown byDarryl Strawberry, Alan Mills, Jeff Nelson and Graeme Lloyd in the melee afterward were just as inexcusable and immature.

There is no love lost between the Orioles and Yankees. Throw in theOrioles’ frustration after a disappointing start and a tense contest between the two teams and tempers were sure to boil over. But one wouldthink these so-called professional athletes would find another way to vent their frustrations.

The boys of summer were at it again Monday night in Atlanta. The Braves’Curtis Pride tried to knock the ball loose from Cubs’ catcher Sandy Martinez. Martinez held onto the ball, got up, flipped Pride over and threwa punch at him, causing both benches to clear. Both were ejected from thegame.

The players involved in the fights received suspensions for their actions, ranging from eight games for Benitez to one for Pride.

But guess who gets get hurt by the suspensions? Not the players, who actually will get paid during their time off. No, it will be the players’teams and their fans that will be the most hurt. And the game itselfreceives another black eye just when it should be glowing in the exploits of Wells, McGwire and others who are having newsworthy years.

And we the media is almost to blame to an extent. As one of thecommentators on SportsCenter pointed out, why when a fan runs onto the field or there is a fight in the stands, it is not shown on television but fights between players are? Is not showing the brawls sending the wrong message? Yet on almost all the sports shows, the Yankees-Orioles brawl was the top story.

Bench-clearing brawls are not new in baseball. There are ugly incidentsabout once every season. But they seem to be becoming more prevalentover the smallest of things. Pride’s play at the plate occurs over and overduring the course of the season, something Martinez needs to realize and deal with in a hurry.

The same is true in regards to Benitez. He is going to give up home runsover the course of this season. And why do batters think they have tocharge the mound after being hit or pitched inside? Benitez was already out of the game and facing a lengthy suspension. Why make a bad situationworse? The NBA and NHL already have rules in place to discipline players for getting involved in a fight. Baseball needs to follow suit quickly. It needsto clean up its own messes and find a way to quit placing black clouds over its brightest moments.

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