Coleman case underscores need for stronger discipline


August 29, 1993|By PETER SCHMUCK

This is the state of baseball's disciplinary system: Vince Coleman admits to injuring several fans by throwing an M-100 firecracker into a crowd and the worst disciplinary action the game has to offer is six weeks off with pay.

That's how the New York Mets got him out of their hair last week, and that may have been the only thing the club could get away with in the current state of labor/management relations, but it still stinks.

The Mets should have sent him home without his salary and terminated his contract, but they would have had too much trouble making such an action stand up in a grievance hearing. They decided instead to eat the rest of Coleman's 1993 salary and take a big step toward rebuilding public support of a troubled team.

The Mets have said they will delay any further discipline until after his Oct. 8 arraignment. Perhaps after the court system is through with Coleman, the Mets may be able to duck his 1994 salary, but even that seems highly unlikely with baseball's unbalanced labor relationship.

Management needs to rewrite the collective-bargaining agreement to allow for much stiffer penalties when a player becomes incorrigible, but don't expect it to happen this year. Everyone is too preoccupied with the player compensation system to worry about anything else.

Perhaps the arrival of two new league presidents next year will make a difference. Perhaps the owners eventually will wise up and appoint a strong commissioner who can take decisive action in the best interest of the game. Perhaps you'd like to buy some swamp land. The inmates really are running the asylum.

Legal advice

Milwaukee Brewers general manager Sal Bando has advised Brewers catcher B. J. Surhoff to file charges against Oakland Athletics reliever Edwin Nunez after the early Wednesday morning bench-clearing brawl at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Surhoff took a punch to the face from Nunez while his arms were pinned to his sides by other combatants. He had to get stitches in his upper lip. Bando felt that the cheap shot was not typical of a baseball brawl.

"I've encouraged B. J. to think about bringing charges," Bando said. "Two guys were holding B. J. and he [Nunez] sneaks up and hits him with a left hook and gives him eight stitches. If he did that on the street, it would be assault and battery."

Surhoff already has said that he will leave any possible disciplinary action up to American League president Bobby Brown, which probably is the best thing. The courts have been reluctant to get involved in on-field altercations during professional sports events.

Windy City blues

Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas is disappointed that local baseball fans have not flocked to Comiskey Park to support the American League West leader.

"Face it, it's a Cubs town," he said. "Why aren't the fans out here watching us this year. Man, we're leading the division. They should be selling out this place every night . . . getting behind the team. I think it's a crying shame that we can't sell out the park for a team like ours."

Thomas may be disgusted, but he can't be surprised. Chicago really is a Cubs town and he knows why.

"The reason it's a Cubs town is Wrigley Field," he said. "It's really a beautiful place. You've got people on the rooftops . . . those bars around the ballpark . . . all those things to do. That's Chicago tradition. Wrigley Field seems like a happening place. Here [pointing at the nosebleed section in the new Comiskey Park], we've got this."

Now batting, Aunt Bea

The Red Sox were so down after their disastrous 3-9 homestand that manager Butch Hobson tried to cheer his players up by posting a phony lineup card before a game in Texas last week.

The starting lineup included Goober Pyle at third base, Floyd "The Barber" Lawson in left field, Opie Taylor at shortstop and Otis "The Town Drunk" Campbell on the mound. Lest you're a little rusty on your TV trivia, those are all characters from "The Andy Griffith Show."

No apology forthcoming

Colorado Rockies first baseman Andres Galarraga isn't going to apologize for his terrific batting average, especially after San Diego Padres manager Jim Riggleman said recently that anyone who played 81 games in Mile High Stadium didn't deserve to win the batting title.

"Somebody told me about that," Galarraga said. "I told him it's too bad I didn't get to play in any of our games in San Diego. If I did, I'd be hitting .420."

Galarraga would be a lock to win the batting title if he was sure of getting enough plate appearances to qualify. Injuries have limited his playing time, so he'll need to average 4.3 plate appearances per game the rest of the way to get the required 502.

If he doesn't get there, however, league rules allow the addition of theoretical hitless at-bats to make up the difference, but he'll have to have a commanding lead to win the title under such a circumstance.

Brewers barrage

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