Tantrums and “open mouth, insert foot” moments are becoming synonymous with baseball. Most of the time it’s Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, but occasionally someone else steps up to the plate.
Although Guillen is in the spotlight for his most recent actions, (calling Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jay Mariotti a “fag” after Mariotti criticized his handling of a young pitcher), he isn’t the founder of rude outbursts and politically incorrectness.
That title goes to John Rocker who used to be a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves but is now just part of baseball history.
In 2000, Rocker was interviewed by Sports Illustrated and commented on the diversity in New York – and not in a flattering fashion. He covered everything from ethnic groups to his own teammate.
Rocker made remarks about teenage mothers and homosexuals; he even called an African-American teammate a “fat monkey.” Later Rocker made apologies, but his career hasn’t recovered since.
Guillen is picking up where Rocker left off. His most recent action earned him a spot in sensitivity classes, the result of the anti-gay insult.
Of course, Guillen apologized for his comment but blew off the suggestions of sensitivity training.
He tried to tell people that his misuse of the word was because of his Venezuelan background, but that is an excuse at best.
Crude remarks aren’t the only action baseball is seeing. Tantrums are now becoming part of the game at the minor league level.
Asheville Tourists manager Joe Mikulik set the standard for blow-ups at a minor league game in Lexington, Ky. Mikulik’s fit started when a call was made at second base, and it wasn’t in favor of the Tourists. Mikulik protested the call but not in a normal fashion: he headed out to second and tore the base out and threw it into the outfield.
That was just the beginning. Later he covered home plate with dirt, poured water on it, and then threw bats in the dugout. His actions got him ejected from that game.
The best part is that Mikulik later made comments to a newspaper about how a mannequin has better umpiring abilities and that he wanted to know when the “real” umpires would show up. Clever.
Although these tirades and comments make baseball a little more interesting, it is also setting a negative example for youngsters.
My brother played high school baseball last year. During that time, I saw tantrums and name-calling that would make Mikulik and Rocker proud.
My favorite occurred when a senior pitcher for the Atascadero Greyhounds was pulled from the mound and proceeded to throw a fit on the field, including taking off his glove and throwing it to the ground. He went into the dugout and continued to release his aggression by throwing his hat and other gear.
I remember watching and hearing someone in the crowd telling him to grow up and be mature. Sadly, that wasn’t the only time this young athlete threw a temper tantrum.
More than once, I heard him utter a four-letter word that is the golden gem of curse words. However, I never saw him get reprimanded.
Atascadero wasn’t the only school I saw fairly un-sportsman-like conduct occur. The San Luis Obispo high school baseball team took first for its ingenious and rude comments. I can’t recall all of them, but there is one that sticks out in my mind.
An Atascadero pitcher, caught a hard-hit line drive resulting in an out. In response, a San Luis Obispo player remarked “happy birthday” and said that the out was the only present the pitcher was going to get.
Heckling and occasional comments are part of baseball, but some of these events are overkill. I can’t really blame the athletes at the high school and college level, in light of what their professional idols are up to.
Racist comments and making a scene aren’t reserved for baseball. Incidents and glossy statements are occurring in football and basketball.
Now games aren’t about who has the best pitcher, but who can throw the best fit or make the rudest comment.