William Rhoden seasons a seemingly reasonable piece with two off-the-wall statements. In this column he addresses the topic of Al Pedrique’s numerous craven free passes to Barry Bonds this weekend. He reaches a couple of conclusions which can only be characterized as reflexive and cockamamie. One is racism:
Bonds is being challenged by a strategy of avoidance that has as much to do with fear and resentment as with winning baseball games. Maybe it’s the realization that the foundation of our national pastime is shifting: the top two career home run hitters will be a couple of black Americans, with Bonds joining Hank Aaron. Or maybe the baseball establishment doesn’t like Barry Bonds.
The instinct to blame race in this case is surprisingly easy: Bonds, surly black man, attacked by defensive white establishment. Except that Pedrique is Hispanic (not that Hispanics can’t be racists) and certainly not part of the “BE”, and baseball, if one can characterize the game collectively (which is probably a mistake) would love nothing more than a stretch run at immortality during a pennant race: ratings bonanza. Playing the race card here seems just so easy as well as insulting – whatever you think of Pedrique’s actions (and of other managers who have given Bonds his walks), it’s really quite unfair to charge them with malice, with protecting the game’s less-colorful origins. What about when Frank Robinson walked Bonds, or Dusty Baker? Were their motivations noble, somehow, while Pedrique’s weren’t? And what could he possibly mean by “the baseball establishment”? In the same column, he quotes Bud Selig (THE symbol of the “BE”) as wanting to rectify this weekends’ situation and get Bonds his fair share of pitches. Does Rhoden understand he’s undermining his own insinuation?
and then there’s Rhoden’s proposed procedural whopper:
Selig was clearly expressing doubts that any rule changes would come out of the discussions, but there should be at least one: the Barry Bonds intentional walk rule. If a team intentionally walks a batter with the bases empty, the batter is automatically awarded second base. Period. The intimidation factor is rewarded and cowardice is not. Walk Bonds, he goes to second. Seems fair.
Where to go with this one? Alter baseball’s rules because a single player is being walked ridiculously? Change the structure of the game for a once-in-a-half-decade piece of individual accomplishment? This proposal is patently absurd, and if it gets any consideration from MLB I would be shocked. Maybe we should start altering all sorts of other rules, just so extraordinary players can get shots at records.