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Judging punishment against the crime

Raffi Torres

The Coyotes forward was suspended 25 games for his hit to the head of Blackhawks' star Marian Hossa.

Torres is a repeat offender, so his 25-game suspension was no surprise, and judging by the immediate decrease in dangerous hits, the message seems to have been heard by the rest of the league. However, the Flyers' Claude Giroux was suspended one game for a hit to the head of the Devils' Dainius Zubrus in Game 4 of that series.

Did the NHL get it right? Yes and yes. Funny how it works. Torres has a long history of cheap shots and his 25-game suspension seems fair. At the same time, Giroux is not known as a dirty player, but his hit deserved punishment. In the game Giroux sat out, the Flyers sorely missed his offense and were eliminated with a 3-1 loss. So that one-game suspension was every bit as effective as Torres' 25-game suspension.

tom jones' two cents

Sports leagues always have used suspensions as punishments and deterrents for players who step over the lines of fair play. But recently, suspensions have become especially prevalent. Here's a look at notable current suspensions in each of the four major sports and whether the leagues got it right:

Cole Hamels

The Phillies pitcher was suspended five games for plunking Nationals 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper in the back with a pitch just to welcome him to the majors.

Players policing themselves is not necessarily a bad thing. A slugger showing up a pitcher by admiring a home run should answer for it with a little frontier justice.

But in this particular case, Harper didn't deserve it. He has done nothing in the majors (other than playing well) to warrant having a message sent his way. Plus, who died and left Cole Hamels in charge of baseball?

Many see Hamels' actions as "old school.'' We always hear how legends such as Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson used to deliver chin music on a regular basis. I've never understood why Drysdale and Gibson were admired for that. Throwing at a hitter who is hot is out of line. It was wrong when Drysdale and Gibson did it, and it was wrong when Hamels did it. Want to send a message to hitters? How about striking them out.

Hamels was given a five-game suspension. Think about that. He wasn't going to pitch in the next four games anyway. So, essentially, a five-game suspension means his next start was pushed back one day.

Did Major League Baseball get it right? No. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Hamels should have been suspended 15 games, thus guaranteeing he would miss two starts. That sounds right. At the very least, a 10-game suspension would have forced Hamels to miss one start.

Jonathan Vilma

The Saints linebacker has been suspended, pending his appeal, for the entire 2012 NFL season for his role in the team's bounty scandal.

The NFL already handed out suspensions to Saints leadership, including a one-year ban to coach Sean Payton, over players being paid to injure opponents. The NFL claims Vilma acted as a ringleader. In his appeal, Vilma, who received the harshest player punishment, states the NFL has not produced evidence linking him to the program. Clearly, Vilma is in the wrong place at the wrong time as the NFL tries to get a handle on head injuries.

But there seems to be more at work here. There's a suggestion that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspects the Saints are not the only team to have implemented a bounty system and this suspension is as much a warning to the entire league as a punishment to Vilma.

Did the NFL get it right? Yes. No matter the factors that went into the NFL's decision, having anything to do with purposefully trying to injure a fellow player and, potentially, ending his best means for earning a living is despicable. Any punishment seems deserved.



Metta World Peace

The Lakers forward, formerly known as Ron Artest, was suspended seven games for throwing and landing a nasty elbow to the head the Thunder's James Harden.

Appearing on Conan O'Brien's show this week, World Peace said: "The elbow was too much and I deserved the suspension. I don't know if I deserved that many games."

That quote, along with his admission that he has not spoken to Harden, tells you the guy doesn't get it. This is the same World Peace who has been suspended 13 times in 13 seasons. That includes an 86-game suspension for being the key figure in the infamous "Malice at the Palace" brawl between the Pacers and Pistons in 2004.

Many believe World Peace is a decent person. Last year, he won the NBA's citizenship award for his off-court work with charity. And, until this latest incident, he had been suspended only once (for one game) in the past three years.

Did the NBA get it right? Not remotely, although with World Peace, I'm not sure any suspension is a deterrent. When World Peace is out of control, he doesn't think about past results or future consequences. So forget the deterrent, suspensions to World Peace are more about punishment. And suspending him for a first-round playoff series isn't enough.

Metta World Peace

The Lakers forward, formerly known as Ron Artest, was suspended seven games for throwing and landing a nasty elbow to the head the Thunder's James Harden.

Appearing on Conan O'Brien's show this week, World Peace said, "The elbow was too much and I deserved the suspension. I don't know if I deserved that many games."

That quote, along with his admission that he has not spoken to Harden, tells you the guy doesn't get it. This is the same World Peace who was has been suspended 13 times in 13 seasons. That includes an 86-game suspension for being the key figure in the infamous "Malice at the Palace'' brawl between the Pacers and Pistons in 2004.

Many believe World Peace is a decent person. Last year, he won the NBA's citizenship award for his off-court work with charity. And, until this latest incident, he had been suspended only once (for one game) in the past three years.

Did the NBA get it right? Not remotely, although with World Peace, I'm not sure any suspension is a deterrent. When World Peace is out of control, he doesn't think about past results or future consequences. So forget the deterrent, suspensions to World Peace are more about punishment. And suspending him for a first-round playoff series isn't enough.

Judging punishment against the crime 05/09/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 11:08pm]

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