Baseball deserves shame for its handling of Tim Anderson

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This picture will adorn countless walls in Chicago.

Picture this.

Picture yourself as the leader of an organization flush with exciting, young talent amid a culture that loves self-expression and fun. Your organization hardly has a history of inclusion and excitement, but alas, you’ve developed a loyal fan base. Maybe it’s time to stretch out the organization’s collective arms?

Picture yourself believing that — or at least, seeing the monetary potential therein — and launching a media campaign centered around one phrase, loaded with meaning: let the kids play. Picture yourself rounding up most of that incredible young talent — the Trouts and Judges and Bregmans — for a fun commercial shoot where the game’s leading ambassador and star, the unquestioned best in the business, looks right in the camera and says: just let the kids play.

And then, the first chance you get to act on this potentially exciting new initiative, imagine falling square on your face, undoing all that goodwill.

Here’s how it started, with Tim Anderson‘s epic blast and sweet bat flip:

Wonderful. I love a great bat flip. What followed, of course, was Brad Keller throwing at Anderson in response. Why? Oh, must you even ask? Anderson showed him up. It’s okay that Anderson drilled a long home run off Keller — sure, fine — but not okay that Anderson enjoyed doing it? This is stupid. Brad Keller, you were without a moment’s hesitation wrong to do this, and baseball should drop the hammer on you for it.

Now let me be clear about something. I am all for Tim Anderson flipping his bat. I am also all for Brad Keller striking Anderson out and emphatically pumping his fist after. Heck yes. I loved Jose Batista‘s epic bat flip. I love Aroldis Chapman‘s poses and Marcus Stroman‘s struts. Let baseball be fun. It turns out — I checked — that baseball is in fact allowed to be fun.

If a pitcher intentionally throws at a batter — as Keller did here — that crosses a line, and the punishment should be swift and leave a mark. The same would apply if a batter did something aggressive toward a pitcher, like for example tossing the bat toward the mound.

This is the baseball equivalent of targeting. It’s an old baseball adage to believe there’s some justice in a pitcher plunking a batter in the hip for some perceived slight, and I suppose everyone nodded in acceptance “because it’s only the hip.” But, and maybe this will be shocking to you, pitchers sometimes miss. Giancarlo Stanton‘s horrific accident wasn’t that long ago, and Mike Fiers was not trying to hit him. And yet, he did, right in the face.

Pitchers cannot be allowed to throw at batters intentionally. I don’t care if Anderson grabbed his nuts, did a dance, pointed at Keller and shimmied around the bases. We can handle that separately, but under no circumstances can a pitcher retaliate. The risks are too high.

And then, word came down that Anderson was suspended 1 game and Keller 5. We’ll get to Anderson in a second, but the idea behind Keller’s 5 game suspension is to make him miss a start, as starters work every fifth game. Well, that’s easily avoided by simply skipping Keller one day and using him the next.

Because I believe this retaliatory behavior is a tragedy waiting to happen, I think Keller should have been suspended for like 50 games. Baseball should have handled this a long time ago and didn’t. Shame on MLB.

So, about Anderson. Jeff Passon of ESPN.com had the scoop:

Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson was suspended for one game after calling Kansas City Royals pitcher Brad Keller a “weak-ass f—ing [N-word]” during a benches-clearing incident precipitated by Keller hitting Anderson with a pitch, league sources told ESPN on Friday.

Oh, boy. Look, this is a great place for a white suburbanite baseball writer to get into trouble. So, I’ll step aside and leave you with Michael Wilbon’s opinions on the matter.

“Rob Manfred and Joe Torre, neither of whom are of color, needs to stay the hell out of this. Bring in a black deputy if you need to, recuse yourself. Stay out of it,” Wilbon said. “They need to leave the n-word alone and any adjudication involving it.”

I completely agree. Manfred hasn’t been scoring points with me for awhile anyway, but to think that two old white dudes should be the arbiter of an issue like this is ridiculous. Have just a little bit of self-awareness. How hard would it have been to just call up, oh, I don’t know, CC Sabathia or Joe Morgan or Dave Stewart and get their insight? Maybe baseball did that, but I’d be shocked. This organization is rarely prudent.

Baseball’s history with race is abhorrent, a mark on the game that will never completely wipe away. This should have been an easy one, MLB. Ignore Anderson, suspend Keller, let the kids play.

You couldn’t even do that.

 

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