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Francisco: Ruder Than Kreuter or Aping Oprah?
2004-09-15 00:44
by Mike Carminati

I have now seen the footage of the little conflagration last night at whatever they Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum now via the great MLB.TV, and I know no more than I did before by just reading about it.

With two strikes on Rod Barrajas, the announcers noticed some flareup in the Ranger bullpen. By the time the cameras were trained on the bullpen, there was just a group of people milling about menacingly though a chair did fly into the crowd a good ten or so feet. The announcers wouldn't know who threw it for some time. The woman whom, we are later told, the chair hit was visibly bloodied but it wasn't possible to tell the reason why at the time. The footage does show how close the crowd was to the bullpen area, which is an old style hugging-the-foul-line type pen. That's why there were folding chairs out there in the first place. They're used for the relievers to sit on until call to warm up and then fold away easily, and therefore, a nice little package to fling a good ten/fifteen feet into the crowd. They're the remnants of players leaving their gloves on the field.

Now what happens?

Apparently, the woman will threaten to sue and probably secretly settle for a huge amount of money. The deal will be contingent on her secrecy as a matter of fact. Baseball can win the argument that a ball hitting someone in the stands is not out of the ordinary and therefore, it's incumbent on the fan him- or herself to be vigilant in this case. The same cannot be said for chairs or other furniture.

Frank Francisco will draw a big suspension, I would expect. It may be the rest of the season. When Chad Kreuter went into the stands at Wrigley, he only received an eight-game suspension, but he was responding to a personal assault, no matter how slight, and he attacked his assailant, not an innocent bystander. Francisco threw a chair into a crowd which contained, apparently, at least one person who was razzing someone in the bullpen, maybe Francisco. He hit and apparently caused physical harm to someone who was, as far as one can tell, an innocent bystander. The Oakland announcers alluded to a fan who is a real troublemaker in that section, whom they thought was the instigator. But whatever that fan or those fans, if it was more than one, said, they were just words. Yes, those fans should be removed from the game—there's no place for excessively brutal personal attack at the park. But no one deserved to have a chair thrown at him.

Will Francisco draw a larger fine than John Rocker (three months but just 28 games, which an arbitrator cut to 14, in 2000) for his, to quote Ali G, racialist statements or Lenny Randle, also a Ranger, (thirty games in 1977) for punching his manager, Frank Lucchesi, or Pete Rose (thirty games in 1988) for shoving an ump. One would have to expect that he'll outdo Bill Madlock's 15-game suspension in 1986 for "mocking" an ump. And he'll probably be joined by a teammate or two.

One thing's for sure, the Rangers don't need their bullpen decimated when they are hanging onto the barest fringes of a playoff hunt (six games back in the division and eight in the wild card). And baseball doesn't need another black eye, especially on the day that Oprah Winfrey decides to hysterically reward everyone in her audience with a brand new car. Maybe Francisco was just emulating Oprah but only had a chair to give away—he couldn't afford a car on a rookie's salary.

I couldn't stand watching Oprah for five minutes, but she does have something to teach baseball about entertainment: keep the fans happy. It's a lesson that baseball continually fails to learn, but the game's so great that we go back for more even without the free car.

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