Let's first agree that baseball brawls are inherently stupid, especially those instigated by a batter who charges the mound whenever a pitcher seeks to reclaim the inside portion of the plate.
But let's also agree that fights are more of a nuisance than a substantial problem and that penalties leveled by Frank Robinson, baseball's vice president of on-field operations, for last week's Detroit Tigers-Chicago White Sox altercation are disproportionate.
Suspending Tiger third baseman Dean Palmer, who was plunked by Sox right-hander Jim Parque, for eight games, and White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez, a budding star, for five is too harsh given the infrequency with which these incidents occur.
Baseball is a game performed by competitive athletes who occasionally lose their cool. There were 2,429 major league baseball games played in 1999, and only seven American League contests resulted in conduct necessitating suspensions - and not all of them involved fighting.
Assessing a punishment beyond the usual three-day suspension attempts to address a problem that doesn't exist. If the purpose is to eliminate fights from the national pastime altogether, to dim the competitive fires of those seeking to break up double plays or run into the catcher in an attempt to score, FRobby's action actually can prove harmful.
By means of comparison, venture back to 1965 when, for reasons that remain inexplicable, Juan Marichal, the future Hall of Fame right-hander for the San Francisco Giants, clubbed Los Angeles Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a bat.
The Dominican Dandy was, indeed, suspended. How long was he gone? A month? Two months? The rest of the season?
Try eight games which, back then, amounted to no more than two starts. That, the argument can be made, was insufficient. But it shows that some of the Tiger-White Sox suspensions were like crushing an ant with an anvil.
Who, after all, is harmed by these assessments? The fan who pays more and more money to visit the ballpark will watch a team field an inferior line-up because of overlong suspensions. Robinson, indirectly, is affecting the outcome of games.
The players? They'll be rich men despite the suspensions.
It's suggested that Robinson, who himself never backed down from a challenge of any sort on the diamond, is looking to send a message to the nation's youth that fighting never solved anything. Who says it does? The game ended with the White Sox, who were ahead at the time of the incident, victorious.
Tempers flared and a fight ensued. That's it. The incident had nothing to do with solving anything. To blow it all up beyond proportion, view it as a microcosm of what is wrong with America, and have FRobby cop an attitude that the new sheriff is going to come in and clean up Dodge is wrong-headed, silly and harmful to the folks baseball is seeking to attract - the fans.