I don’t know about you, but I need a break, however brief, from the NBA’s political correctness self-immolation and the NFL proving that it really has no idea what’s right or wrong when its players are violent off the field. Fortunately, Major League Baseball has its own, rather less societally significant ethics scandal for this baseball fan to focus on.
Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon has been very good this year, unlike the rest of his team., but he was lousy Sunday, blowing a big lead for the last place Phillies in front of a home town crowd over the weekend. The Philly fans, as they are famous for doing, booed him lustily as he left the field, so classy Papelbon grabbed his cup and gave it a heave, as he stared down the mob. Translation: “Boo THIS!”
At this point, home plate umpire Joe West, a crummy umpire from a technical viewpoint but notable as an outspoken arbiter of the conduct of players, threw Papelbon out of the game. This was unusual, because Papelbon was almost certainly through for the day anyway. The ejection under such circumstances didn’t mean the umpire’s usual, “You are unprofessionally challenging my authority regarding a call that does not favor your team and delaying the game, so you can’t play today any more,” but the more succinct and far more rare, “You’re really an asshole.”
Papelbon then took offense, and furiously confronted the umpire. Now Major League Baseball has suspended Papelbon for seven days, and is enjoying it, telling sports fans and the media, “See? The NFL suspends its players for a game or two when they punch women in the face and beat their kids with a log. We kick out our players for seven games just for being rude.”
Good for West, who is an Ethics Hero. He shamed Papelbon, who richly deserved it, and stood up for sportsmanship, civility, and basic gentility in the sport. There were families and kids in that crowd: the pitcher’s lewd gesture showed disrespect for baseball’s traditions, his team, and the people who pay his substantial salary. This is how a culture, a business and a sport enforces its values.
As for Papelbon, he is not only an Ethics Dunce for his unprofessional behavior, but also delivered one of the most extended, ridiculous and unbelievable dishonest excuses I have ever heard. He told reporters,
“Ryno (Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg) went and talked to him and [West] said that I did an inappropriate gesture and something about grabbing myself. And Ryno looked at me he said, ‘I have no idea what he’s talking about.’ I mean this is baseball, I had to make an adjustment and I did it. By no means was I directing anything at any fans. I mean, I’ve got a 4- and 5-year-old son and daughter, I’m not out here to be doing inappropriate things. I mean, c’mon, this is baseball, it’s what we do. Go look at the game and see how many people do that just in today’s game.”
Sure, Jonathan, you just had to grab your testicles and heave them upward just as you were being booed and jeered, with every eye in the stadium on you. You couldn’t possibly wait the…what, 15 seconds?…it would take you to reach the relative privacy of the dugout. You just happened to need the most emphatic “adjustment” ever made on a baseball field, almost lifting yourself out of your spikes, at that exact moment. What a coincidence!
If he could possibly be telling the truth, then he would be confessing that he has the social graces of the typical ape. Which lesson is worse to teach your 4- and 5-year-old son and daughter, I wonder: “Make obscene gestures in public when you’re annoyed,” or “Adjust your genitals, pick your nose, have sex, and do whatever other disgusting personal acts you feel like in full public view, even on TV” ? I think its a close call.
Papelbon’s bald-faced lying is as insulting as his crotch grab. Still, I doubt that he went home and took out his frustration by punching his wife and beating the kids, and I am quite sure we won’t see Phillies fans defending his conduct or wearing shirts with his photograph on it to protest his suspension.
It’s been an awful season for the Red Sox, but I think I’m going to miss baseball even more that I usually do this winter.