Coleman not deserving of player union support

August 01, 1993|By Bill Conlin | Bill Conlin,Knight-Ridder News Service

The last thing the despicable New York Mets need is another seven-figure free agent who can't play baseball. But they are probably going to get one whether they need her or not.

Her? Yeah, her. If I know anything about personal injury juries, the men who administer baseball's Devil's Island will be wise to offer the parents of Amanda Santos, age 2, the little girl with the burned face you might have seen on ESPN Wednesday night, something close to the $2.5 million a year Vince Coleman steals.

But let's clear up one media gaffe . . . The firecracker Coleman allegedly tossed from a vehicle driven by the Dodgers' Eric Davis, almost certainly an illegal M-80, is not the equivalent of a LTC quarter stick of dynamite as reported. It's the equivalent of 1/16 of a stick of dynamite, which is still more than enough explosive power to blow off a child's hand and inflict serious injury close to ground zero.

As a kid in Brooklyn, I saw a 10-year-old's ear mangled beyond recognition by a ragged piece of tin can blown to bits by an M-80. If Eric Davis gets a big laugh out of an M-80 tossed toward a crowd of baseball fans in a parking lot, then he's as sick as Firecracker Coleman.

You have to understand why no criminal charges have been filed to date and maybe won't be filed. With the trial of beaten truck driver Reginald Denny about to begin, Los Angeles is a powder keg. Charging two millionaire players, who happen to be African-Americans, with a felony when the civil process might yield a more satisfactory outcome, will be an emotional, high-profile event.

Coleman and Davis are entitled to their day in court, whether it be a civil court, a criminal court or both. That outcome should be held separate from the indisputable fact that the Mets outfielder is guilty of conduct detrimental to major-league baseball. He has given his sport more than a black eye -- this one is a burned and lacerated eye.

The surly lout, whose previous season lowlight was conking teammate Doc Gooden with a 7-iron in the Mets' pathological clubhouse, deserves to be unconditionally released and his remaining salary voided for breach of contract.

The all-powerful Major League Players Association is poised, of course, to block any such action. So deeply engrained is the confrontational mentality between the millionaire serfs and their alienated lords, the MLPA would block the release of a serial killer.

But the union will make a rare and potentially devastating mistake if it fights a rearguard action for an athlete who has made himself poster guy for the arrogant, bulletproof and increasingly despicable me-first generation currently polluting sports.

There is a Vince Coleman waiting to happen in every baseball clubhouse, pampered sociopaths increasingly emboldened by the virtual certainty that nothing more will come of a transgression than a wrist slap, an inconsequential fine or a few days off to play golf.

What the MLPA better realize here is that this Coleman outrage is not an dull abstraction wrapped in contract language and obtuse laborese. No, this is the scarred face of Amanda Santos we're dealing with and there is a sense of outrage in America over this that no player walkout in September could provoke. This is the real deal, jocks.

People who don't even go to baseball games are steamed about this, as well they should be. But the union will stonewall this one, because there but for the grace of God and Don Fehr could go almost any one of them.

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