Yanks should stand up and take medicine

June 18, 1998|By John Eisenberg

When Armando Benitez beaned Tino Martinez and started a brawl at Yankee Stadium last month, the Orioles took the high road, behaved like adults and accepted their punishment without whining.

The Yankees aren't doing the same in the wake of yesterday's decision by American League president Gene Budig to suspend reliever Mike Stanton for five games for beaning Eric Davis Monday night at Camden Yards.

Stanton called the suspension "unjustified" and said he would appeal. Yankees manager Joe Torre said he was "disappointed" and took a shot at Budig's non-baseball background, saying "you have to have a feel for the game" to know how to rule in such a case.

George Steinbrenner, as graceful as ever, said, "I'm not sure when the last time he [Budig] wore a jockstrap was."


Budig's judgment was fair, reasoned and on the money.

Stanton deserved a suspension whether or not he intentionally hit Davis. He deserved a suspension not quite as harsh as Benitez's eight-gamer, but harsh nonetheless.

The Yankees should just accept their punishment and shut up, as the Orioles did last month.

Not that the Yankees are wrong to argue that Stanton's beaning was less evil than Benitez's. They're right there.

Benitez's mistake was obvious to players on both teams and anyone who knows baseball; he almost took Martinez's head off. Stanton's intentions were at least debatable. More than a few Orioles think Stanton was guilty only of pitching Davis inside.

"I can't say that he did hit me on purpose, and I can't say that he didn't," Davis himself said yesterday.

David added that he had shaken hands with Stanton and spoken to him on Tuesday and that he "didn't have a problem" with the Yankees reliever.

And Stanton, never known as a troublemaker, said that his reputation "has to come into play."


All wrong.

Stanton's reputation doesn't matter one whit. Nor does it matter whether he intended to hit Davis, or whether Davis is angry. That's all irrelevant.

What matters is that Stanton did throw ridiculously far inside and hit Davis after Rafael Palmeiro had touched him for a home run in the seventh inning of the Orioles' 7-4 win.

What matters are the facts, simple and damaging.

Given that Benitez hit Martinez in almost exactly the same situation last month in Yankee Stadium, a punishment similar to Benitez's was entirely warranted.

"This [Stanton's beaning] is so unlike the other incident," Torre said.


Yes, it was different in that a brawl didn't ensue, but that's the only way it was different. And that difference doesn't exclude Stanton from punishment.

When you hit a guy that badly, right between the numbers, immediately after a home run, you have to pay the price regardless of your intentions.

Just shut up and take it.

John Hirschbeck, the home plate umpire who immediately ejected Stanton on Monday night, made the most sense of anyone involved.

He told Orioles manager Ray Miller on Tuesday that he would eject any pitcher who threw so wildly after giving up a home run that he beaned the next batter standing in the middle of the batter's box.

"He [Hirschbeck] told me that anyone, a major-league pitcher, who does that is going [to get ejected]," Miller said.

In other words, any pitcher good enough to reach the majors probably isn't going to throw that wildly unless he intends to throw that wildly.

That's sound reasoning from Hirschbeck.

Pitching inside is one thing, an important part of the game, but missing that wildly and dangerously is another. And it's not hard to tell the difference.

If Hirschbeck's standard seems a little strong, tough. Baseball needs to start cracking down on this silly part of the macho code that endangers batters.

Here's hoping that the next AL pitcher that does the same thing gets a five-game suspension as well.

Budig needs to follow through with that to demonstrate that he didn't suspend Stanton simply because of last month's brawl.

Stanton inferred yesterday that such was the case.

"If [the brawl in] New York doesn't happen, do you think I get five games?" he asked.

OK, probably not. But that incident changed the landscape, possibly forever, and Stanton and the Yankees are just going to have to live with that in the end.

Yes, Benitez deserved a longer suspension than Stanton because he dropped his glove and gestured to the Yankee bench after hitting Martinez, precipitating the brawl.

The Orioles have never denied that their closer deserved his punishment, even though Miller suddenly made an ill-advised defense of Benitez on racial grounds yesterday.

"If you run from a fight in the Dominican Republic, you're branded a coward forever," Miller said.

No, Ray, don't go there. Such stereotyping has no place in this discussion.

Anyway, a fight is a fight and a beaning is a beaning. And since the two beanings involved in this case are virtual clones, they warrant similar punishments.

Eight games, five games, whatever. If you bean a guy that badly after giving up a homer, you should sit. Thumbs up to Budig for getting one right. Thumbs down to the Yankees for whining. End of story.

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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