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Coleman case underscores need for stronger discipline

THE BALTIMORE SUN

This is the state of baseball's disciplinary system: Vince Coleman admits to injuring several fans by throwing an M-100 firecracker into a crowd and the worst disciplinary action the game has to offer is six weeks off with pay.

That's how the New York Mets got him out of their hair last week, and that may have been the only thing the club could get away with in the current state of labor/management relations, but it still stinks.

The Mets should have sent him home without his salary and terminated his contract, but they would have had too much trouble making such an action stand up in a grievance hearing. They decided instead to eat the rest of Coleman's 1993 salary and take a big step toward rebuilding public support of a troubled team.

The Mets have said they will delay any further discipline until after his Oct. 8 arraignment. Perhaps after the court system is through with Coleman, the Mets may be able to duck his 1994 salary, but even that seems highly unlikely with baseball's unbalanced labor relationship.

Management needs to rewrite the collective-bargaining agreement to allow for much stiffer penalties when a player becomes incorrigible, but don't expect it to happen this year. Everyone is too preoccupied with the player compensation system to worry about anything else.

Perhaps the arrival of two new league presidents next year will make a difference. Perhaps the owners eventually will wise up and appoint a strong commissioner who can take decisive action in the best interest of the game. Perhaps you'd like to buy some swamp land. The inmates really are running the asylum.

Legal advice

Milwaukee Brewers general manager Sal Bando has advised Brewers catcher B. J. Surhoff to file charges against Oakland Athletics reliever Edwin Nunez after the early Wednesday morning bench-clearing brawl at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Surhoff took a punch to the face from Nunez while his arms were pinned to his sides by other combatants. He had to get stitches in his upper lip. Bando felt that the cheap shot was not typical of a baseball brawl.

"I've encouraged B. J. to think about bringing charges," Bando said. "Two guys were holding B. J. and he [Nunez] sneaks up and hits him with a left hook and gives him eight stitches. If he did that on the street, it would be assault and battery."

Surhoff already has said that he will leave any possible disciplinary action up to American League president Bobby Brown, which probably is the best thing. The courts have been reluctant to get involved in on-field altercations during professional sports events.

Windy City blues

Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas is disappointed that local baseball fans have not flocked to Comiskey Park to support the American League West leader.

"Face it, it's a Cubs town," he said. "Why aren't the fans out here watching us this year. Man, we're leading the division. They should be selling out this place every night . . . getting behind the team. I think it's a crying shame that we can't sell out the park for a team like ours."

Thomas may be disgusted, but he can't be surprised. Chicago really is a Cubs town and he knows why.

"The reason it's a Cubs town is Wrigley Field," he said. "It's really a beautiful place. You've got people on the rooftops . . . those bars around the ballpark . . . all those things to do. That's Chicago tradition. Wrigley Field seems like a happening place. Here [pointing at the nosebleed section in the new Comiskey Park], we've got this."

Now batting, Aunt Bea

The Red Sox were so down after their disastrous 3-9 homestand that manager Butch Hobson tried to cheer his players up by posting a phony lineup card before a game in Texas last week.

The starting lineup included Goober Pyle at third base, Floyd "The Barber" Lawson in left field, Opie Taylor at shortstop and Otis "The Town Drunk" Campbell on the mound. Lest you're a little rusty on your TV trivia, those are all characters from "The Andy Griffith Show."

No apology forthcoming

Colorado Rockies first baseman Andres Galarraga isn't going to apologize for his terrific batting average, especially after San Diego Padres manager Jim Riggleman said recently that anyone who played 81 games in Mile High Stadium didn't deserve to win the batting title.

"Somebody told me about that," Galarraga said. "I told him it's too bad I didn't get to play in any of our games in San Diego. If I did, I'd be hitting .420."

Galarraga would be a lock to win the batting title if he was sure of getting enough plate appearances to qualify. Injuries have limited his playing time, so he'll need to average 4.3 plate appearances per game the rest of the way to get the required 502.

If he doesn't get there, however, league rules allow the addition of theoretical hitless at-bats to make up the difference, but he'll have to have a commanding lead to win the title under such a circumstance.

Brewers barrage

Milwaukee designated hitter Kevin Reimer obviously wasn't rattled by the brawl on Tuesday night. He went 6-for-6 in the second game of the doubleheader against the A's and had a hit in his first at-bat on Wednesday to tie a club record with seven consecutive hits. His 7-for-8 performance in the doubleheader Tuesday raised his average from .247 to .260, which is a mighty jump for an everyday player at this point in the season.

Dykstra testimonial

Philadelphia Phillies GM Lee Thomas is not stingy with his praise for outfielder Lenny Dykstra -- a key reason the Phillies are streaking toward the National League East title.

"He reminds me of Lou Brock, only he does it better," Thomas said. "Lou Brock had more power, but Lenny gets on base more. He'll take more walks than anybody I've ever seen."

Dykstra doesn't just get on base, he is getting around them as well as anybody has in many years. He entered the weekend with 115 runs in 125 games, which puts him on pace to score nearly 150 over a full season. The club record is held by Chuck Klein, who scored 158 in 1930.

Thomas marvels at Dykstra's performance, but he doesn't expect the rest of the league to have much good to say about him.

"I've said it before . . . I hated him when he played for the Mets," Thomas said. "He has a swagger about him that says, 'Hey, you aren't going to get me out. I'm going to beat you.' And he usually does."

Going south

Houston Astros third baseman Ken Caminiti has 17 errors at third base this year, but five have come in the six games the Astros played at Joe Robbie Stadium in Florida. Caminiti did not offer an alibi.

"I've made more errors here than I've made anywhere else, but the field is not that bad," Caminiti said. "It's just a mental thing."

Belcher on leadership

The White Sox have been criticized this year for being too unemotional, but newcomer Tim Belcher isn't sure that's a legitimate rap. He was on the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers World Series championship team, which didn't have a lot of vocal leaders.

"I've always felt if you had guys with good work ethics, guys who respect the game and the money being offered, then you don't need that kind of leadership," Belcher said. "They'll come out and put in the extra work on their own.

"Kirk Gibson [one of the leaders of that Dodgers team] wasn't into yelling at his teammates in the clubhouse. He led by going 2-for-4 and going bananas. He'd come back to the dugout and break your hand giving you a high five."

Trivia quiz

Who was the last pitcher to win the Cy Young Award by a unanimous vote?

Who's the MVP?

If Toronto Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud seems like a lock to win American League Most Valuable Player honors this year, Frank Thomas would like the voters to keep him in mind when they cast their ballots at the end of the regular season.

"Sure, I feel I'm the MVP," he said. "People shouldn't choose Olerud just because he's chasing .400. That doesn't mean you're the MVP of the league. Not only that, but he's got a great lineup around him. He hasn't had to carry the team."

The National League appears to be a one-horse race. Phillies fans would like to see Dykstra get some consideration, but that isn't going to happen with Barry Bonds within range of the NL's first Triple Crown since 1937.

Trivia answer

Orioles pitcher Rick Sutcliffe was the last pitcher to receive all of the first-place votes in the Cy Young balloting, winning the award in 1984 after going 16-1 to lead the Chicago Cubs into the playoffs.

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