Two recent incidents and their aftermaths give evidence that Bud Selig and the rest of the commissioner's office is rapidly losing the ability to reasonably run major league baseball.
OK, you're saying, you've known this for years. But the two incidents, both involving the Cubs, are so egregiously wrong that it calls into question virtually anything that Selig and his designated discipline minion, Bob Watson, whose formal title is Vice President, Rules & On-Field Operations. Watson handles all appeals of suspensions and other matters related to on-field discipline.
While there is no question that players shouldn't be allowed to simply run amok on the field, these recent incidents show that umpires -- and in one case, a manager -- are beginning to put themselves above the game and common sense.
First, let's talk about Milton Bradley's two-game suspension for (allegedly) brushing the bill of his helmet against the bill of umpire Larry Vanover's cap during a brief argument after Bradley was called out on strikes at Wrigley Field on April 16. All the video replays showed contact, if it even happened, was brief and incidental. Sure, the rules say that "contact" with an umpire should result in a suspension. But common sense in viewing that video should dictate that someone should pull Larry Vanover aside and say, "C'mon, Larry. It barely touched you. Yes, Milton has had problems in the past but this time he just beefed, got close for a second and then walked away." It's almost as if they suspended Milton on reputation -- that's just plain wrong.
In any case, Bradley had his appeal heard last Wednesday in Houston -- that's six days ago. Why has there been no ruling? Here's a purely speculative guess: they're considering eliminating the suspension completely. Most times, when a suspension is appealed, it's reduced by a game or two or three. Reversing the suspension is the right thing to do, but they're probably considering what the consequences of doing this is for future suspensions.
That's wrong too. Eliminating an unjustified suspension is not only the right thing, it should send a message that umpires and administrators should use common sense when filing reports on minor incidents like the Bradley one.
Now, let's discuss the Ryan Braun/Ryan Dempster incident from last Saturday. As you know, a pitch from Dempster to Braun in the fifth inning sailed at Braun's head. It did not hit Braun -- the video replays on this are absolutely clear -- it hit his bat. Nevertheless, plate umpire Jerry Crawford, as shown in the photo, pointed at Braun's head and sent him to first base, when it should have been a foul ball. Further, in the video, Dempster is clearly shown slipping; the ball just got away from him.
Nevertheless, Brewers manager Ken Macha asked for a "probe" into this.
What is this, MLB or the CIA? And did Macha take some of the stupid pills that Ned Yost left behind in the clubhouse when he was fired last year? In any case, Paul Sullivan says this likely won't amount to anything:
Club sources said the team is confident MLB won't act, noting Dempster's solid reputation and the fact he slipped while making the pitch that sailed toward Braun's head as Braun squared to bunt.
A fine is a possibility, though a suspension is unlikely.
Even a fine is way over the top. Sullivan agrees with me that Dempster slipped and this was a non-incident (and further, an incorrect call by Crawford).
When things like this happen, someone in the commissioner's office has to stand up for common sense and say to Ken Macha, "Grow up." Unfortunately, no one there seems to have any common sense.