If star is hurt, brawls don't seem so macho

BASEBALL

June 13, 1993|By JIM HENNEMAN

Now that the fines have been levied, the suspension imposed, and the obligatory appeals filed, it's time to take a long, hopefully final, look at what transpired between the Orioles and Seattle Mariners a week ago.

The hockey game that broke out at Camden Yards was more than the worst brawl in the 40-year history of the Orioles. Those who thought it was the highlight of the week or a needed diversion for a team that had been in a trance are advised to rethink their position.

It was one of the scariest scenes in club history, and emphasized once again that such altercations are stupid. Maybe, because of the circumstances, a lesson can be learned by this latest display of macho ignorance.

The melee that caused a 20-minute delay in last Sunday's game was described by plate umpire Durwood Merrill as "the worst fight I've seen in 17 years." Seattle manager Lou Piniella acknowledged "there were a lot of angry people out there."

American League president Bobby Brown obviously agreed with both assessments, suspending seven players for a total of 27 games. As severe as the penalties sound, if Brown came down hard on the brawlers because he thought intentional acts triggered the incident, then he was far too lenient.

To recreate the ugly scene, Seattle's Chris Bosio had thrown a couple of low breaking pitches behind the knees of Mark McLemore and Harold Reynolds. As you might suspect, that is a difficult pitch to hit. It's also a difficult pitch to dodge, making the location ideal if you want to hit someone or get his attention.

Judging by the post-game reactions, Bosio got enough attention from the Orioles to inspire retaliation. What followed after Mike Mussina hit Bill Haselman on the shoulder with a high fastball was ugly and dangerous.

For those who suggest, as some always do, that these situations are part of the game, here is a counter suggestion -- so are the inevitable injuries, which generally are more serious than those sustained during play. This time, Bosio ended up on the disabled list after reinjuring his left collarbone.

It could have been a lot worse. Suppose it had been Bosio's right collarbone (he's a right-hander)? Suppose Mussina, Ken Griffey or any of the other star players had been injured seriously, their careers put in jeopardy by an act of on-field brutality?

There was a long, agonizing moment last week, when Mussina was buried under a pile of bodies on the mound, that must have tortured the Orioles. And for good reason.

If, and the word is emphasized to protect the presumed innocent, Mussina was told to throw at Haselman in retaliation for Bosio's indiscretions, his timing and location were bad. Two out, none on, and the hitter having hit a home run in his previous at-bat certainly made it appear obvious. And the shoulder-high pitch, as opposed to the low-and-behind serves of Bosio, wasn't an even exchange.

One popular theory is that pitchers have to protect their hitters by retaliating, or risk losing their respect. But why can't the hitters protect themselves? Why don't they just let the bat slip out of their hands -- charge the mound, be suspended and get it over with when they think they're being used for target practice? At least that way the two principals are the ones involved.

It's hard to believe that Mussina had to throw at Haselman to earn the respect of his teammates. It's equally hard to believe that he would risk his career by taking such action.

If Mussina had been injured seriously, a lot of people would be asking tough and embarrassing questions. That alone should be enough to put an end to such nonsense.

Not even the slightest risk of injury to Mussina was worth what took place last Sunday. It should make a lot of people pause to reconsider whether the macho tactics are worthy of the potential consequences.

Weaver laid down the law

The fiasco between the Orioles and Mariners brought back memories of a debate former manager Earl Weaver had with pitcher Grant Jackson shortly after the left-hander joined the club in 1971.

When he suspected Jackson of throwing at an imposing hitter, Weaver went to the mound and said: "Take a look at the players around you," said Weaver, referring to the likes ofBrooks and Frank Robinson, Boog Powell and Paul Blair.

"Who do you think is going to get hurt the most if a player goes down -- them or us?" asked Weaver, a staunch opponent of knockdown pitches. "I don't know what they do where you came from [the National League], but we don't do that over here."

The language was more colorful, but that was the message -- and end of discussion.

Kieschnick a household name?

Most fans don't know much about Brooks Kieschnick yet. He is a pitcher-designated hitter for the University of Texas who was the 10th player picked (by the Chicago Cubs) in this year's

amateur free-agent draft.

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