I love Baseball. When I became an umpire, part of the reason was a strong desire to be part of the game, to help keep it strong where it mattered most. As an umpire, my job was sometimes tough, but always founded on three simple objectives:
1. Keep it safe.
2. Keep it balanced.
3. Keep it sporting.
Sportsmanship has always been at the heart of Baseball, and I have seen more than a few men whose character and integrity had been forged in their time playing the Game.
So it is, that I regard with utter contempt those petty men who cannot respect the Game, who believe they are entitled to strip away honor if it means gaining an advantage in the moment, especially in some vindictive manner. This is especially true in pitching. And so I put keyboard to action, to rebuke the cowardly and thuggish actions of Ozzie Guillen, whose version of Baseball is closer to Gang Warfare, with similar vocabulary and tactics.
A sad example is the incident at Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, reported by Sports Illustrated’s Jacob Luft, where Guillen brought in pitcher Sean Tracey for the express purpose of hitting a batter with a fastball. Even a White Sox fan site admitted the intent was obvious.
Now, I am hardly naïve about professional sports. I even got to work a minor league exhibition game once, and it’s certainly different from college or high school, to say nothing of PONY or Little League. The players more than earn their money in situations where they have to do things differently than they are used to doing, but there again I take the pros to task; despite the lame excuses they very much are role models for the kids, who can be counted on to imitate what they see a Major Leaguer do. And so while I understand that control is a problem sometimes, and that a brush-back pitch is part of the battle for control of the plate, a pitcher who would deliberately hit a player is scum, and a manager/coach who would order it should get jail time, not just a fine/suspension. 90+ mph pitches break bones and put people in hospitals, so deliberately hitting someone with a fastball at that level is nothing short of criminal. Ask Don Zimmer about fastballs hitting people, or the families of Ottis Jackson, "Stormy" Davis, or George Tkach, all of whom died from being beaned by a pitch.
Tracey, to his credit, had a hard time complying with Guillen's thuggish demand. I have seen pitchers become unable to find the strike zone after an intentional walk in a pressure situation, so I can only imagine what a pitcher would go through when ordered to deliberately hit a batter, a thing which all of Baseball rightly rejects at every other level. Here in Texas, the UIL has a no-nonsense attitude to deliberate hits; a pitcher will be ejected as soon as the umpire believes he was trying to hit a batter, and a repeat can cost a pitcher eligibility for a season is proven (and in these days of videocams, that's more common than you might think). My understanding is also that the NCAA similarly takes a dim view of any pitcher trying to hit a batter. So it comes as no surprise to me that Sean Tracey was finding it difficult to obey his coach yet maintain his self-respect; Guillen might as well have asked Tracey to molest a child, as to deliberately hit a batter. So it was that Sean Tracey found himself unable to hit Hank Blalock with a pitch, and so he met with the ire of Guillen. Guillen pulled Tracey from the game, and then kicked him down to the Minors. OK, maybe Tracey's control issues would have sent him there anyway, but the way Guillen chose to do this was classless and may have done serious damage to Tracey's development - I mean, if Tracey gets his control at AAA and impresses folks, his reward is - swell - to go back to the White Sox, where Guillen's sub-decent management style will be waiting. I'd call that a conflict in motivation.
The fact that the White Sox are not punishing Guillen at all for this obvious and dishonorable decision, lowers my estimation of the White Sox organization and the city of Chicago by a large measure.