The Spokane Indians treated their customers to a baseball game and a fight on Monday afternoon and the club is apologizing?
And the parent organization, the Texas Rangers – they’re sorry, too?
Yes, indeed. Seems the Indians’ annual Business- person’s Special at the fairgrounds was an affront to propriety, decency and the rules, both baseball and the Marquis of Queensberry. And when the benches cleared in the third inning and the roundhouses, rumbles and cheap shots broke out – most of them perpetrated by the home team – the response was both swift and forthright.
Unacceptable, said the Indians. Not to be condoned, said the Rangers.
“We apologize to our fans, sponsors and everyone who (has) come to expect a positive family experience at Avista Stadium,” senior vice president Otto Klein said.
By Tuesday afternoon, Northwest League president Bob Richmond had nailed six combatants with suspensions and fined a league-record 51 players. Before the day was done, the Indians trumpeted that the fine money would be used to launch the Bob Robertson Sportsmanship Award to honor local youth baseball teams that exemplify a mannerly ethic.
Come the next homestand, surely we can expect the Indians to be shagging the visiting team’s batting practice flies as a show of goodwill, no?
Or at least to be outfitted in hair shirts.
Hey, I’m all for appealing to our better angels, and reinforcing an ideal in kids is a good thing – though I’m pretty sure the only way for a youth team to win a sportsmanship award is to keep adults away from the games.
But the hand-wringing here is so overwrought to be audible.
For starters, if the Indians are going to apologize, I’d prefer it be for:
A) Hiring the spectacularly unfunny Myron Noodleman over the years to befoul my summer nights, or
B) The team going in the tank and not putting up a fight after the fight.
Also, if the Rangers truly regret this monkey business, then sucker punch specialist Matt West – who blindsided not one but two Canadians catchers – doesn’t just need to be suspended for six games, but needs to be on a bus out of here in about six minutes.
But, really, how sorry can the Rangers be when the president of the organization was a principal in one of Major League Baseball’s more legendary bench-clearings?
Look it up – Aug. 4, 1993. Nolan Ryan, in his final year of a Hall of Fame pitching career, drilled Robin Ventura with a pitch. Ventura, after mulling it over for a step, charged the mound – a significant miscalculation. When he arrived, Ryan – a spry 46 years old – put him in a headlock and pummeled him with six uppercuts.
The dugouts emptied and several other skirmishes broke out. Rangers coach Mickey Hatcher came away with a nasty cut over his right eye. It all lasted about as long as the Spokane-Vancouver dustup.
But here’s the thing: Nobody apologized. Not the Rangers, not MLB.
“You don’t want to see that in Little League or amateur ball,” reasoned Kevin Kennedy, the Rangers’ manager at the time. “But this is our business, our job. Emotions run high.”
And then there’s this: The Indians are part of the Brett Sports empire, which also owns the Spokane Chiefs, whose players drop the gloves and start swinging in nearly every game at the Arena. Often enough, entire lines brawl. When it reaches the ridiculous, the goalies skate to center ice and have at it.
Where are the apologies then? Well, there are none – because hockey always explains away fighting by saying, “It’s part of the game.”
And it is. The dumb part.
This is the dumb part of baseball.
Yes, it got ugly, what with West’s expansive interpretation of what constitutes a fair fight and Jose Monegro and Santo Perez ganging up on one Canadian. That didn’t stop the crowd from whooping it up in a way they haven’t all year, or prevent scads of people from whipping out their cell phones to capture the moment on video. Those folks weren’t lining up at the Indians’ office afterward seeking an apology.
Besides, the brawl got the Indians on YouTube, Deadspin and the Huffington Post. How else is that going to happen? Not, alas, by creating the Bob Robertson Sportsmanship Award.
How about an encore?