- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
A Just Penalty
"Excessive and unprecedented." "Excessive and unjust." Those were the phrases uttered by, respectively, the executive director of the NBA Players Association and the agent for Dennis Rodman after the Chicago Bulls forward (page 30) was suspended for at least 11 games, fined $25,000 and ordered to undergo counseling for kicking courtside photographer Eugene Amos in Minneapolis on Jan. 15.
The union boss, Bill Hunter, and the agent, Dwight Manley, were wrong, even about "unprecedented." The suspension (Rodman will have to appear before commissioner David Stern to plead his case for reinstatement after 11 games) is the second longest in league history for an on-court incident. The Los Angeles Lakers' Kermit Washington was given 26 games in 1977 for a punch to the face of the Houston Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich. Neither is the Rodman penalty excessive or unjust. Rodman was out of control when he unleashed his unprovoked kick at Amos, and contrary to what many are saying, it doesn't matter whether Amos exaggerated the severity of his injury or not. (On Monday night Rodman reportedly agreed to pay $200,000 to Amos in an out-of-court settlement.) Then, too, repeat offenders should be—and usually are—treated harshly, and Rodman, who has been suspended for 29 games for various offenses since the start of the 1992 season, is an all-pro recidivist.
Rodman, who has a one-year, $9 million contract, can get along without the $1 million-plus in salary and incentives that he stands to lose, but it's clear that he can't get along without help. In April 1993 he sat in his pickup truck with a loaded rifle in his lap contemplating suicide. Police found him the next morning asleep with the gun in the seat next to him. His self-destructive behavior on and off the court since then points to a man who has still not gotten his life together. Rather than complain about the penalty, the players' association and Manley should be making sure Rodman takes the counseling seriously.
Let the Game Breathe
Senior writer Tom Verducci reports on last week's winter baseball meetings.
The debate over league assignments for the 1998 expansion clubs, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, degenerated into the usual every-team-for-itself bickering. So, unable to come to a simple, sensible agreement, interim commissioner Bud Selig and his band of do-it-yourselfers once again broke out their toolbox and tinkered with the game. Having already nailed together a framework for interleague play—which still needs improvement—the owners further damned the 96-year separatist tradition of the American and National leagues. In order to pass a vote to put Arizona in the National League and Tampa Bay in the American League, they empowered a realignment committee to consider switching clubs from one league to the other. The committee's report is due by June 30.
In one likely scenario the Houston Astros would join their intrastate cousins, the Texas Rangers, in the American League West. And the Kansas City Royals would go to the National League Central if, as expected, Tampa Bay lands in the American League East and the Detroit Tigers shift to the Central. The Royals would hope to develop an intradivisional rivalry with the cross-state St. Louis Cardinals. Such league-hopping would begin in 2000 at the earliest.
What if, as expected, baseball adds two more expansion teams around 2003? Will the leagues get gerrymandered again? Will the American League and the National League have lost their identities by then, having become as insignificant as the AFC and the NFC? Already the owners have given us a playoff system that puts a second-place club on virtually equal footing with a division champion. Interleague play begins this year, meaning that batting and pitching titles will be decided among players facing markedly different opposition. And the pooh-bahs still haven't solved the DH conundrum, choosing the bastardized compromise of using the rules of the home team—a system that has proved troublesome in the World Series.
These unfunny Tim Taylors should remember the old carpentry rule before they take their saws to the integrity of the leagues: Measure twice, cut once. No other sport relies on history and context to create drama the way baseball does. When they rework the schedule to accommodate interleague play for '98 and beyond, owners should also see to it that divisional rivals play one another more frequently. For instance, at a time when they're picking up games against the Montreal Expos, the New York Yankees should also start playing the Boston Red Sox more often. Realignment should be considered, but only as part of a well-thought-out long-range plan—not as a quick fix to the latest squabble among owners.