Bryce Harper playing for Class-A Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League hit a home run and as he circled the bases, Harper blew a kiss at the Greensboro pitcher. This was captured on video and has gotten considerable media attention. Yesterday on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" TV program Michael Wilbon stated that for the remainder of the season every time Harper faced this pitcher, the pitcher should hit Harper in the ribs. Wilbon was quite clear. He did not advocate that the pitcher merely throw the ball close to Harper but that the pitcher actually hit Harper each time.
I know Yankee fans, who are otherwise responsible adults, who advocate that Yankee pitchers hit Red Sox DH David Ortiz in the ribs because Ortiz is too successful. Suppose tennis player Roger Federer fired his racket over the net and hit Rafael Nadal in the ribs because Federer cannot beat Nadal on clay? How would that be different?
Firing a baseball into a batter's ribs has become synonymous with a non-injury event by people who have not played sports for a very long time. In 2007 I was playing one on one basketball and was elbowed in the ribs causing a kidney to be concussed, internal bleeding for a week, followed by a urinary tract infection, despite hospital treatment the day of the injury. That other player's elbow was not moving at 90 miles per hour. Hitting someone the ribs can cause considerable pain and injury. Baseball people, wake the heck up. Grow the heck up.
How is this different from those two men outside Dodger Stadium who beat a Giants fan nearly to death earlier this season? Their brutality was tangentially related to baseball but was outside the game itself. How is a perceived breach of baseball protocol during a game a reason to physically attack the offending player? Why is a media person allowed to advocate such an attack with impunity? Suppose Wilbon had advocated or defended the attack on the Giants fan? Wilbon would likely have been criticized, censured and possibly fired by ESPN. Why then is Wilbon permitted to advocate that one baseball player attack another, not to defend himself, but because of an otherwise non-dangerous and trivial act?
I am not an attorney but let me try to look at the legal implications as a lay person. It's my understanding that a professional boxer's hands are legally considered deadly weapons and that for a pro to hit a non-pro outside the ring is considered an attack with a deadly weapon. How is that different from a baseball pitcher who is capable of throwing the ball 90 miles per hour from about 55 feet from the batter, intentionally hitting the batter? Isn't that an attack with a deadly weapon? If the pitcher did the same thing in a bar to someone who challenged him to do so, figuring that he was quick enough to evade the ball, and the challenger was hit in the head and died, wouldn't that pitcher be charged with manslaughter at the very least?
Am I missing something? Why is violence not just condoned but advocated? And at what age is it permissible for baseball players to be violent? Twelve year old little leaguers? Should they be encouraged to engage in such acts of violent retribution?
I raised the topic of age in this post:
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2010 Derek Jeter behaved badly and should apologize.
It involved the non-dangerous innocuous act of faking an injury. NOBODY took my point of view. Shame on EVERBODY. Shame on Michael Wilbon. Condoning behavior in adults that you would not advocate for kids is reprehensible, especially when it involves violence. Baseball as national pastime should demonstrate our best behavior, not display our worst. To the extent that bad behavior is deeply rooted in baseball, it should be removed. Wife beating is no longer condoned in general society. Why is batter beating?
Many of my posts are radical. This one is not, but tragically will be perceived as such. That's radical.