Baseball owners and officials, usually concerned with mundane subjects such as revenue sharing and scheduling formats, are ready to take a swing at a much more volatile topic _ the growing number of on-field fights.
Several got a firsthand look Tuesday night when they watched from the stands as two brawls disrupted the Los Angeles-Colorado game, the fourth game in the past 16 days marred by major on-field incidents. It was enough to prompt some officials to say they believe fighting has reached new _ and dangerous _ levels.
"I've seen it a lot in the 20 years I've been in the game, but I've never seen it uglier than this year," New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.
Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley said fighting has become a big concern. "This is not a part of baseball, it hasn't been and it shouldn't be," he said. "But it's happening too frequently. Something has to be done."
Owners in both leagues discussed fighting in meetings Wednesday afternoon and instructed league presidents Bobby Brown and Bill White to take whatever action they can.
"We told Bill to fix it, that he has our total support, and he said he would," Rockies chairman Jerry McMorris said.
There were no foolproof suggestions made to deal with what Brown termed "not an easy problem." Among the ideas:
Larger fines. With the average major-league salary exceeding $1-million, fines of $500 or $1,000 don't have much deterrent value. "Fines, unfortunately, get into relativity, and with the current salary level they're not too effective," Atlanta Braves chairman Bill Bartholomay said. Fines are said to be limited to $5,000.
Longer suspensions. Even after some particularly vicious fights, players are suspended three to five days, and most still are paid by their teams during that time. Brown said rules ordering blanket suspensions would pose practical problems, and cases need to be handled on an individual basis _ such as suspending a starting pitcher for more days than a position player. There is no limit on the length of a suspension.
Stronger rules. Basketball and hockey have rules punishing players who leave the bench to join fights. Several officials said baseball should adopt similar rules with hefty fines or suspensions as punishments. Others say that wouldn't work in baseball _ where the usual fight starts with a batter charging the mound after being hit by a pitch. "We have a different number of players on the field," Brown said. "We have nine on one side and a hitter and two coaches on the other. It would be very difficult to keep players on the bench when the odds are nine against three and the three are pretty much getting taken apart by the nine." McMorris said quicker, more authoritative action by umpires could "stop it before it starts."
Shorter appeal process. A suspended player has the right to appeal the punishment, and sanctions are delayed until the appeal is heard. Appeals are heard in the league's New York office and can be delayed months if the player's team has no games with the Mets or Yankees.
Brown said the number of fights has not increased over the past few years, but brawls are getting heavier media attention so people are more aware of them.
McMorris said fighting is still a concern. "I think we have a family sport we want kids to be emulating," he said.
Other owners seemed less troubled. "Frankly, it's part of the game," Texas Rangers general partner George W. Bush said. "But when it gets to be excessive, it could hurt the game."
"Most baseball fights," New York Mets general manager Al Harazin said, "are not noted for their heavy doses of real pugilism. They're mostly pushing and shoving."
Major base-brawls of '93
Date Teams Lowlight
May 13 Brewers, Yankees Started after the game.
June 2 Angels, Blue Jays Toronto's Darnell Coles mixed it up
with California fans.
June 6 Mariners, Orioles M's pitcher Chris Bosio re-injured
collarbone in 20-minute melee.
June 10 Padres, Dodgers Tampa's Gary Sheffield tackled
Dodgers pitcher Rick Trlicek.
June 16 Rockies, Dodgers Rockies manager Don Baylor
suggested L.A. players should "get
a skirt on" if they don't like