Who says baseball players want more privacy? It seems they really want more
attention. After Kimboís highly rated bout on CBS two weeks ago, it seems
baseball players want a slice of the action as well.
In the past week,
baseball diamonds have turned into boxing rings. Last week, Tampa Bay Rays
pitcher James Shields hit Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crisp, starting a brawl
between the clubs that saw some vicious punches. After fighting the Rays, the Red
Sox fought each other three innings later when heated words between Kevin Youkilis
and Manny Ramirez might have caused the two to fight had they not been separated
by teammates. Likewise, after fighting the Red Sox, the Rays fought each other.
After surrendering a home run Sunday, Rays starter Matt Garza and his catcher
Dioner Navarro shouted at each other on the mound when the Rays pitching coach
talked with Garza. At the end of the inning, both ends of the Rays battery fought
in the dugout before teammates separated them. Apparently Arizona Stateís Ike
Davis and Brett Wallace saw how well the Rays and Red Sox were doing this year and
thought fighting had something to do with it, as they fought each other Monday
evening before their superegional game against Fresno State. Some sources claimed
after the game that the fight was staged to loosen the team up, but even if this
fight was not real, baseball has seen its share of fighting in the last week.
And that may not be such a bad thing. Whenever thereís a ìfightî in
baseball (usually just players coming out of the dugout and exchanging words) we
hear all sorts of people wringing their hands about how bad it is that players
fight and that thereís no place for it in the game. Actually, there is a place
for fighting. Take the Rays-Red Sox game. The night before, Crisp took out Rays
second baseman Akinori Iwamura when he slid into second. The Rays rightfully felt
they had to protect their players and show that they were not going to be bullied
by a team they will face nine more times this year, so Shields threw inside to
Crisp. When Crisp charged the mound, he insured that he, along with Jonny Gomes,
the Rays designated hitter who punched him several times, would be suspended.
Nonetheless, if the Rays felt they had to protect their players by hitting Crisp,
certainly Gomes had to protect his pitcher from Crisp.
say that fighting is dangerous to the players involved. However, fighting is how
ballplayers police themselves. Consider what would have happened if the Rays did
not hit Crisp after his slide Wednesday night. Crisp would have no reason not to
slide hard again, possibly injuring other second basemen. Fighting provides a
deterrent against such injuries. By trying to eliminate fighting, Major League
Baseball is not protecting the players in the long run, unless it decides to
suspend players for taking out other players, something it has never considered
Besides, fighting is entertaining. The NHL has long allowed
players to fight because it brings in more fans. True, baseball is not as
desperate to bring in more fans, but fans still love fights on the diamond. A
friend of mine (he wrote a book on the business side of baseball, so he is no
loon) once told me that he used to dream of catching foul balls when he went to
the ballpark. He has given up on catching foul balls, but he now wishes that once
in his life heíll be at a game when a brawl breaks out. Several years ago, when
the Rays were still a joke, they led SportsCenter one night, not because they were
good, but because they got in a fight with the Red Sox that evening and the folks
at ESPN knew people would want to see a fight. Sure, most fights are not very
good, but they do captivate fans.
It would be a disaster if teams fought
every night. Fighting once in a while, however, especially to protect oneís
teammates, is not the evil some claim it is. Baseball players may not always
think less attention is best, and, well, perhaps we should not always think that
less fighting is best.