Kid-glove treatment of Belle a chilling message for media

Media Watch

February 29, 1996|By Milton Kent

Let's see if we have this straight: Albert Belle delivers a profane and menacing tirade at NBC's Hannah Storm before Game 3 of last season's World Series, declines counseling and now gets to negotiate with baseball officials over the terms of a fine or suspension.

Yep, baseball is back.

Acting poobah Bud Selig's handling of this matter is Exhibit No. 1 for the prosecution in the case of why baseball desperately needs a commissioner with some semblance of a spine.

Ignoring the sizable conflict-of-interest issue over whether the owner of one club can sit in judgment of a player from another club in the same division, Selig's deafening silence in the four months since Belle harangued Storm sends the signal that baseball players not only don't have to cooperate with the media, but also can intimidate them without fear of retribution.

And don't think Belle hasn't been listening to the silence. He has told the Akron Beacon-Journal that he would "probably do the same thing again," that he couldn't see "how they can talk about fining or suspending me," following the perverse logic that, "There have probably been incidents involving reporters that were much worse than this or guys being roughed up and nothing happened."

It's obvious then that punishment of any kind will have no effect on Belle. He's too far down the road to boorishness to come back, and obviously too dim a bulb to realize that just being tolerant of us ink-stained wretches could pay dividends and actual cash money in terms of incentive clauses in his contract that trigger if he wins awards that are voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

While it's too late for Belle to learn, a nice stiff fine and/or substantial suspension should get the rest of his baseball-playing brethren into message-receiving mode.

By the way, the NBA yesterday fined Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley $10,000 each for skipping a media session during All-Star Weekend earlier this month to play golf. The fines should have been worse, because they're both previous offenders in this category, but then stars will be stars.

Wayne's world

ESPN, which broke the news of the Wayne Gretzky trade from the Los Angeles Kings to the St. Louis Blues, will have the newly relocated Great One's first game with the Blues tonight at 10:30 on ESPN2. St. Louis will meet Vancouver.

Barry Melrose, an ESPN hockey analyst who coached Gretzky for three years with the Kings, says the deal could have a damning effect on the L.A. franchise.

"A lot of other veteran players will probably be traded -- [Jari] Kurri, [Kelly] Hrudey, [Marty] McSorley. It will be a tough time for the Kings. The team will struggle and the building will be fairly empty," said Melrose.

On the other hand, Melrose said he thinks the Blues, while acquiring "the greatest player in the world" without giving up any key players, still need an upgrade in their defense to challenge Detroit, Chicago and Colorado in the Western Conference.

Warren Moon on BET

On the heels of a recent interview with O. J. Simpson, Black Entertainment Television has secured a chat tonight with Minnesota quarterback Warren Moon and his wife, Felicia, at 6:30 p.m., with a re-air at midnight.

Warren Moon was acquitted last week in suburban Houston of charges that he abused his wife after a trial at which she declined to testify. The couple will discuss their lives since the verdict, according to a release issued yesterday by BET.

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