Why Baker and LaRussa should not see each other again this season.
I have a few thoughts about the Cardinals-Reds brawl from their last series. You may remember Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips made numerous provocative comments about the Cardinals then when he came to the plate, Yadier Molina chastised him, benches cleared, bodies flew and hell was raised. At least two pitchers were tossed against the fence in a scary scene. One of them, Johnny Cueto, received a seven game suspension because of kicking at the Cardinals surrounding him. Jason LaRue suffered a mild concussion as a result. I firmly believe that Cueto’s lengthy suspension was based on the injury that his actions caused, not the actions themselves. Random kicking into an onrushing crowd is much less dangerous than throwing a fastball at a batter’s head. Cueto was obviously frightened and, as a pitcher, smartly avoided throwing punches. As we’ve seen too many times, a single arm injury can cost a pitcher his career, millions of dollars and his team a championship.
More importantly, MLB should institute a blanket rule covering fighting the way the NBA has done. In the NBA, if you are on the bench and cross onto the playing floor you are automatically suspended. (I think there should be a little gray area there because basketball benches are so close to the court that players on the sidelines are often less than a step away from the court so crossing over sometimes happens during actual play, much less during a melee.) In baseball, the idea might be to simply punish anyone who comes onto the field or, if already on the field, leaves their legitimate area of engagement. That covers guys playing defense, warming up on the sidelines, the on-deck hitter, the base coaches, everybody. As usually happens in these fights, Phillips and Molina were yelling at each other but not fighting. It was only when 50 other guys crowded the area that things became physical. (Reason #37 professional sports are like junior high school.) Removing the additional people from the scene means that umpires and security personnel can tamp down confrontations quickly, easily and safely. Ideally, managers would be exempt from this rule and allowed to bring their players back to earth from Planet Testosterone.
That notion took a beating in the Phillips-Molina encounter because Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker failed in their primary responsibility as managers during a fight. They did not serve as peacemakers protecting the game and their players, instead they escalated the confrontation. For them, two games was not a severe enough penalty. I think MLB missed a perfect opportunity to declare that fighting is a dangerous problem for baseball by dropping the hammer on these managers. Baker and LaRussa should have been suspended for the rest of the season series between these teams. I mean, full blown suspended too, as in, can’t enter the stadium during these series. These are old school guys who behave in old school ways that simply don’t make sense in 2010. These great managers behaved in ways that encouraged their players to fight. That is entirely unacceptable. What I am suggesting is the kind of draconian penalty that would make it clear to managers that fighting will no longer be tolerated. Too harsh? Perhaps. That’s kinda the point.