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Friday, August 21, 2009
Alan Dershowitz: MLB Needs Much Tougher Penalties on Beanballs
Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz (of many sources of fame, including being a member of O.J. Simpson's successful legal team in People of California v. Simpson and successfully representing Claus von Bulow in his murder trial), has an interesting op-ed in the Boston Globe on what he considers to be inadequate penalties for big league pitchers who throw at and hit batters, as well as the managers of those pitchers. Dershowitz proposes dramatic increases in punishment.
Here's an excerpt:
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It has become routine in baseball to throw at a batter. Being beaned is part of the risk of playing baseball . . .
Such was the case with Kevin Youkilis, back in the Red Sox lineup last night after a five-day suspension. The throw that prompted Youkilis to rush the mound was, according the Major League Baseball, deliberate. He was hit on the back.
Youkilis and pitcher Rick Porcello were both suspended for five days even though the decision to throw at Youkilis was premeditated and deliberate whereas Youkilis’s response was unpremeditated and provoked. Death, serious injury, and the end to careers can result from being struck by a ball, particularly in the head; it is rare for anybody to be seriously hurt when a batter charges the mound with his bare hands. Accordingly, an equal penalty for these two very different offenses was outrageous.
Moreover, the penalties were anything but equal in impact. Youkilis, one of the most consistent hitters and fielders in Major League Baseball, and one of its most difficult outs, missed approximately 25 at bats and numerous fielding chances. During his five game suspension, the Red Sox lost 4 games and won only 1. The five day suspension of Porcello, on the other hand, barely affected his team. Normally a starting pitcher gets to the mound only once in five days, so Porcello didn’t even miss one full rotation . . .
The message conveyed by Major League Baseball, even if unintended, is that it pays for a pitcher to throw at a superstar. Since human nature will often cause a batter to respond impulsively to being struck, a pitcher can trade a meaningless suspension for a meaningful one against the opposing team.
Moreover, had Youkilis not charged the mound, it is extremely unlikely that Porcello would have been suspended at all. But even if he were to have received a slap on the wrist, managers will now have an incentive to continue to encourage pitchers to throw at valuable batters, since their team can derive a benefit.* * *
The minimum penalty for a manager must be suspension for an entire season, perhaps even for life. For the pitcher, suspension for the season should be mitigated only if the pitcher turned in the manager. There should also be penalties for any baseball player who hears the manager or coach order the beaning of a player without reporting it.
* * *To read the rest, click here.