San Antonio's Double-A baseball team, The Missions, had a pretty interesting game Tuesday afternoon. The visiting Frisco RoughRiders had a home run disallowed in the top of the ninth which led to manager Steve Buechel arguing the call and eventually getting tossed.
Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary until some unrest began over by the RoughRiders' dugout. The players were obviously upset with the call but their anger began to shift from the umpires to the fans. One thing led to another and then a trash can from the dugout was tossed into the crowd of fans who congregated in the area.
Not wanting to seem intimidated (although pretending to be wounded could have lead to a large payday) the fans threw the trash can right back at the players. Then Frisco players decided to up the ante and launch BASEBALL BATS into the stands. Had the players taken a moment to think about their actions, they would have realized they just armed their likely beer'd up opponents, and similarly the trash can, the bats were promptly hurled back at the Frisco players.
In the end several fans were arrested and ejected from the stadium before a full-on brawl ensued. The Missions went on to win the game 6-5 but the more interesting story will be the fines and suspensions surely to be handed down by Major League Baseball. Or should I say, the lack thereof.
Let’s face it, this was a Double-A game played on a Tuesday afternoon in April. The team might get a small fine and the players be suspended for a game or two, but this will hardly get any mainstream coverage or have any public outcry, even though there is precedent.
In 2004 Texas Rangers pitcher Frank Francisco was suspended for the last month of the season and faced criminal charges for throwing a chair at a fan in Oakland. Also in 2004 Milton Bradley, then with the Dodgers, slammed a plastic bottle into the stands of his home stadium after it had been thrown onto the field by a fan. Bradley was suspended for the final weeks of the season and was given an undisclosed fine.
But when it comes to minor leaguers using bats as projectile weapons, the most famous incident has to be the case of Delmon Young. On April 26, 2006, the Rays prospect threw his bat at the home plate umpire after being called out on strikes. Young had taken several steps to the dugout before turning around and sending the bat toppling toward the ump who was hit in his protective chest plate and suffered no serious injury. This altercation caused massive outcry from the media and public alike, and Young was swiftly suspended for 50 games without pay.
If you are looking for similar actions this time around, you might be in for a disappointment. So far there has been no mention of the incident on MLB's minor league website, MiLB.com. In fact the only recap is on the Frisco RoughRiders site, and that reads like someone relaying the box score to you.
Even though details of what was said or how the melee escalated are still unclear, but the fact that players started physical violence by throwing dangerous objects at fans is really all you need to know.
Trust me, I'm no supported of hecklers. In fact the last time I did a study, I found that 99% of them are tools. They are the guys who go to the game just to drink, so then after the game they can go to the bar and tell their boys how they were in the right fielder’s head the whole time. They think they game is their personal stand-up routine and we are their audience. A heckler thinks he can impact the game and that makes him a true fan.
In reality, they are the stereotypical failed athlete who never made it and trash talking a player during a game is the closest they will ever come to being a pro.
For whatever reason, minor league baseball seems to be a hotbed for it. It’s probably a combination of unimportant games, mediocre players and mediocre fans. And on a day like this you are going to get some foul-mouthed clowns who didn't have anything better to do on a Tuesday afternoon, like say, a job.
I'm not going to defend the fans who were trying to fight players, I'm glad they got escorted out, I wish all belligerent hecklers would. But I am going to hope for a very stern punishment on the Frisco organization and players. Players attacked fans during the game using bats as weapons, and if they get less punishment than Francisco, Bradley, and Young, it would be a travesty. Yet more than likely, the penalty won't be as harsh. It was a Double-A game, in April, in San Antonio. There are no images of people injured or children crying, just enraged players facing off against enraged (read: drunk) fans. MLB would rather you not be bothered with these, and this story will fade away.