Royals' Gamboa lashes out

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The images remain so vivid, so violent, that it's difficult to review them even by memory. Television replays aren't needed, especially for the man who was brutally attacked at Chicago's Comiskey Park and still carries the scars - both emotionally and physically.

Can anyone blame Tom Gamboa, the former first base coach and current bullpen coach of the Kansas City Royals, for his anger toward the lenient sentence given to William Ligue Jr.? Can anyone fault him, and Major League Baseball officials, for failing to understand how a hard tackle and bare-fisted blows warrant only a slap on the wrist?

Ligue and his 15-year-old son ran onto the field during the ninth inning of a Sept. 19 game in Chicago and jumped Gamboa. Players from both teams rushed to his aid, pulling off his shirtless assailants, but Gamboa still suffers from hearing loss in his right ear.

Last week, Cook County Circuit Judge Leo Holt ordered Ligue to serve 30 months' probation, perform 80 hours of community service, attend substance-abuse and parenting classes and obey a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew if he's not working or looking for a job.

Apparently, two counts of aggravated battery won't put you behind bars. Maybe he should have been forced to sit in a dark theater and watch Gigli. But where's the jail time? Where's the justice?

"Nobody ever said our judges or our legal system are perfect. Life isn't fair. In this case, I think I'm not alone in saying the judge made a mistake," said Gamboa, who was reassigned to the bullpen this season.

"Personally, I'm stuck with a permanent reminder of this because of the stuffiness in my right ear. Yet, the person that did it for obviously no reason whatsoever is able to walk away like it never happened. To me, probation is nothing.

"My fear is, should this happen again to another player, coach or manager in any sport, that there's been a precedent set that is a bad one."

Ligue could have faced up to five years in prison for leading the rampage, but Holt chose to spin the blame in another direction, noting how players often fight on the field.

At least they keep their shirts on, and don't wear a path to the beer concession.

"The violence that ballplayers are exposed to comes from within," Holt said. "What fan has not seen a pitcher intentionally hurl a baseball at a player's head at 90 mph? Who has not seen a batter leave home plate headed for the pitcher's mound, bat in hand, bent on mischief and mayhem?

"What is the expected conduct of fans who sit for two or three hours drinking unlimited quantities of beer? How did Comiskey come to be known as the world's largest outdoor saloon?"

It gets worse: Holt rejected the White Sox's plea to have Ligue permanently banned from the ballpark, which was renamed U.S. Cellular Field.

"I guess we can't stop him," said team spokesman Scott Reifert, "but he won't be very welcome."

Neither will Holt, who should forget about throwing out the first pitch next Opening Day.

Said Ligue: "I don't think there's another judge in the courthouse that would have given me probation."

Ponson update

Writers who cover the San Francisco Giants already have noted how former Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson tends to go against the norm.

Two hours before making his debut with the Giants last week, Ponson sat alone in the clubhouse, watching The Oprah Winfrey Show and laughing. Who needs to review matchups or apply a game face?

Ponson threw seven shutout innings before allowing two runs in the eighth and losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-0.

"This is a very casual team," said manager Felipe Alou. "From what I've seen so far, it's a perfect fit for him to be here. We don't dress in big suits."

That's good news for a player who prefers a torn South Park T-shirt beneath his uniform jersey.

Grace on DL

The Arizona Diamondbacks put first baseman Mark Grace on the disabled list Wednesday with a hyperextended right elbow, though there are suspicions that his .195 average really pained the team.

The roster move was complicated by the Diamondbacks' inability to reach utility man Robby Hammock at Triple-A Tucson.

Hammock, who has a 3-week-old baby, set his cell phone to vibrate Tuesday night as he tried to get some sleep. When his wife checked the phone the next morning, it listed 13 missed calls from Tucson trainer Greg Barber and D-Backs farm director Tommy Jones.

"I better check that," Hammock said.

Tigers getting worse?

Could the Detroit Tigers be getting worse? In their first 18 games after the All-Star break, the Tigers' starting pitchers posted a 9.00 ERA, compared with 3.86 in 18 games before the interruption.

The Tigers also were outscored 68-14 in the first three innings after the break.

They do have one nice quality: Their games average 2 hours, 32 minutes, fastest in the majors. They treat losing like pulling off a Band-Aid. Do it fast, and it won't hurt as much.

Padres back off

It's unlikely that the San Diego Padres will continue to pursue Pirates outfielder Brian Giles and overpriced catcher Jason Kendall until after the season.

General manager Kevin Towers said the likelihood of pulling off a deal was "remote." The latest proposal had pitchers Oliver Perez and Kevin Jarvis and outfielder Xavier Nady going to the Pirates, who would have picked up $20 million of the $42 million owed Kendall. But the Padres don't want to lose Perez.

"We may revisit this in the winter," Towers said. "I've all along wanted to wait to the wintertime to see what is available on the free-agent market.

"The last thing I want to do is move players if I don't have to."

Bordick on a roll

Former Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick took a career-high 15-game hitting streak into Friday. He was batting .404 during that stretch, raising his average to .282 in his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays.

So much for tutoring Chris Woodward and slipping quietly into retirement.

Bordick is playing five days a week because the Blue Jays prefer his steady defense.

Willis embarrassed

Florida Marlins rookie Dontrelle Willis is getting a little embarrassed by all the attention he's receiving.

The left-hander spotted a newspaper ad offering a Marlins' "D-Train Flex Pass," a package of game tickets for $75 that guaranteed seats for Willis' starts.

"The D-Train Flex Pass? That's a little too much," he said. "It's nice to see the fans come out, but they should want to come out to see all the players."

Willis (11-2) is the main attraction, and a big reason the Marlins have their best record since the 1997 team that won the World Series.

Quote of the Week

"He was visibly shaken. And when you look a man in the eye and see hurt, that's good enough for me." - Colorado manager Clint Hurdle on umpire Tim Welke, who admitted that he was wrong to call out Jay Payton on a 6-4-3 double play.

Quote of the Week II

"I had trouble sleeping last night. Believe me, I care. As an umpire, our goal is to have nothing to do with wins or losses." - Welke.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

It's one thing to be guilty of hyperbole. It's quite another to say something so stupid, you should be sentenced to life.

THE KUBATKO QUOTIENT

Carlos Tosca, please approach the bench.

The Blue Jays' manager went too far with his lavish praise of pitcher Roy Halladay after Wednesday's 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Halladay became the majors' first 16-game winner, and in the eyes of Tosca, a legend. As if it isn't absurd enough to compare him to Cy Young, Tosca gave the edge to Halladay, rating him ahead of a pitcher who amassed 511 wins during a Hall of Fame career.

"I don't know what Cy Young looked like," Tosca gushed, "but he ain't got nothing on Doc."

Yes, Halladay's 15-game winning streak, which ended in his previous start, fell one short of the American League mark. He'll probably win the Cy Young Award (it still hasn't been renamed the Roy Halladay). But let's wait a while before putting him first on the list of all-time greats. Let's not wait, however, to give Tosca a 7 on the Kubatko Stupidity Scale.

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko has written this week's baseball notebook, team rankings and "Quotient," filling in for staffer Peter Schmuck.

TEAM RANKINGS

1. Braves (1)

Bobby Cox poised for another World Series loss. Just try to stop him.

2. Giants (2)

Sidney Ponson liked trade for wrong reason. Thought home games were played at Taco Bell.

3. Yankees (3)

Acquiring Jesse Orosco showed desperation. Left-hander is so old, he has faced every hitter in Monument Park.

4. Mariners (5)

Punished Jeff Nelson by trading him to Yankees. It was either that, or sending him to bed with two suppers.

5. Red Sox (4)

Couldn't trade an injured Brandon Lyon. Will next attempt to deal Luis Tiant for two prospects.

6. Athletics (6)

Barry Zito going so bad, was replaced by another dad for family softball game.

7. Marlins (7)

Might be this year's version of the 2002 Twins, minus the division title.

8. White Sox (8)

Next year, somebody set Paul Konerko's alarm clock for April 1.

9. Phillies (11)

Pat Burrell promised sick kid in hospital that he'd pop up to shortstop.

10. Astros (9)

Jeff Bagwell could hit 60 homers and they'll still miss playoffs without another starting pitcher.

11. Cubs (14)

A dozen quality arms in rotation. Not one legit second baseman.

12. Royals (10)

Losing record since the break. Tony Pena's car just turned into a pumpkin.

13. Diamondbacks (16)

Team holds $2 million option on Mark Grace. Would be better served using money on pyramid scheme.

14. Dodgers (15)

Offense ranked last in 11 of 25 NL categories, costing hitting coach Jack Clark his job.

15. Cardinals (12)

Team says broken hand gives Matt Morris time to recover from achy shoulder. Now there's optimism.

16. Rockies (13)

Great at home, bad on road. Didn't see that coming.

17. Expos (19)

No truth to rumor that Dundalk is putting in bids for 2004 Expos.

18. Twins (18)

Still can win division, which says plenty about AL Central. Devil Rays petitioning to get in.

19. Blue Jays (17)

Heading into weekend, Carlos Delgado had three homers, nine RBIs and two sore knees since break.

20. Orioles (21)

Rule 5 shortstop as DH? Someone please give Mike Hargrove a full roster to manage.

21. Angels (20)

Only guarantee for Angels is someone named Molina will be catching.

22. Pirates (22)

Remember "We Are Fam-a-lee?" City ready to divorce itself from this team.

23. Reds (23)

Pete Rose took the "over" on Ken Griffey surgeries.

24. Rangers (24)

Gonzalez went from being Juan Gone to Won't Go.

25. Indians (25)

Thirteen rookies on 25-man roster. Clubhouse has Yoo-hoo on tap.

26. Mets (26)

Only thing Amazin' about these Mets is that anyone still goes to their games.

27. Brewers (27)

Baseball's "lite" brew. Half the wins of your regular team.

28. Devil Rays (28)

Trying to secure loan to refinish division basement next year.

29. Padres (29)

The SD on caps stands for "Still Dormant."

30. Tigers (30)

Michigan's new Fab Five: Next year's projected win total.

(Last week's rankings in parentheses)

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