Since Michael Barrett got 10 games for punching A.J. Pierzynski, factoring in the relevance of Derrek Lee’s niceness, why didn’t the Cubs first baseman get 12 games or so for swinging at San Diego’s Chris Young?
Asked if Derrek Lee’s Mr. Nice Guy reputation — a reputation he absolutely deserves, by the way — would impact his penalty from Major League Baseball for the brawl he started Saturday, Lou Piniella said, “It should.”
So since Michael Barrett got 10 games for punching A.J. Pierzynski, factoring in the relevance of Lee’s niceness, why didn’t the Cubs first baseman get 12 games or so for swinging at San Diego’s Chris Young?
I’m guessing because baseball’s power brokers, who handed Lee a five-game suspension Monday, can’t follow their own logic.
They are clearly trying to rewrite baseball’s unwritten rules these days, doling out curiously hefty suspensions for acts that used to rate no more than a shrug back at the central office. That’s how Piniella got four games for kicking dirt on an umpire, and that’s how Barrett got 10 games for walloping Pierzynski.
The problem with those penalties are a) Piniella’s museum-piece tantrum was hardly representative of a trend in managerial behavior, and b) Barrett’s punch was more or less an instantaneous reaction from someone prone to not thinking.
Lee got up, dusted himself off, began strolling toward first, started a conversation and, after not liking the direction the discussion took, threw a punch.
“After getting thrown at your head, you’re kind of looking for something, kind of the right words type of thing, and I didn’t like what (Young) said,” Lee said in the aftermath of the dust-up.
We can only imagine how far short of “Oops, sorry,” Young fell.
Perhaps the Princeton grad said, “You think this place has ivy? Ri-i-i-i-i-ght.”
Or maybe the 6-foot-10 Young told the 6-5 Lee, “Your momma was a point guard.”
Or maybe he really went for the jugular, saying, “Last night I slept with Zinedine Zidane’s sister.”
Yes, Lee is a nice guy, a consummate professional. He is, much more so than a manager teetering on the edge of relevance and/or retirement, or a catcher widely derided for his hot-headedness, an example to others.
Thus, making an example of him sends a much more powerful message.
If Derrek Lee does something, impressionable players in or aspiring to the major leagues are prone to think it is the right thing to do. Slap him, everyone recoils.
Frankly, everyone might need to take a step back.
The entire Cubs-Padres conflagration likely was caused by Alfonso Soriano backpedaling most of the way to first base as his eyes followed his home run on Friday.
A couple of Padres spoke up about the insult. Jake Peavy said, “I think a player shows me up like that, I like the next guy to take one in the stinkin’ ribs. That way, his teammate will let him know about it, tell him, ‘Hey, you’d better run the bases.’ ”
The above is a classic interpretation of the Unwritten Rule Book. The problem is, there are different editions.
Soriano’s copy allows for Sammy Sosa home run hops and chest taps, for Carlos Zambrano sky points.
“I enjoy the moment when I hit a ball just like they enjoy the moment when they strike someone out,” Soriano said. “It’s not only me. It’s part of the game. I’m not trying to embarrass anyone.”
Maybe more people would believe him if baseball were not so populated with the easily offended. Even the umpires have abandoned peace-keeping as a policy, instead merrily fueling the rage of others who dare to disrespect them.
This constant tracking of aggrieved parties is tedious. Baseball’s social contract is impossible for any two people to read the same way, so perhaps it’s time to simplify.
Throw a punch, grab some bench. Even you, Derrek.
Phil Arvia can be reached at email@example.com or (708) 633-5949. Read his blog at http://blogs.dailysouthtown.com/arvia.