Texas reliever Frank Francisco's inexcusable behavior Monday gave baseball critics an easy -- and perhaps one of the only -- openings to criticize Major League Baseball this season.
Some want you to believe baseball is a violent sport. One co-worker this week said he believes a Major League Baseball game is no longer an acceptable option for a family. Perhaps he's never heard of the reserved family sections in most Major League Baseball parks.
Sure, a few benches have cleared this year. No different than gloves being thrown down in hockey. Not that the behavior is necessarily acceptable but to say baseball is a violent sport is an exaggeration. It's hard to fault A-Rod for wanting to make his feelings known when he got hit by a pitch. But at least his actions were directed toward players. And suspensions were issued as a result.
But Francisco's chair toss should earn him banishment from the sport of baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig should use Francisco to make a statement.
There's a lot to celebrate about baseball this season, not the least of which is the potential attendance records. Major League Baseball recently announced it surpassed the 60 million mark in total attendance, only the second time in history that figure has been reached before Sept. 1.
With all those eyes on baseball, Selig should use this opportunity to let our nation's youths realize that Francisco's assault was unacceptable behavior. Thousands of youths across the nation look to baseball players -- would you rather they look at career politicians as they squabble about their military careers? -- as role models. As a result, Selig needs to send a message to our youths that indefensible actions carry serious consequences. Role models must display honor and dignity. Baseball players must rise above taunting verbal abuse.
Selig's action also should be seen as an effort to erase this blemish from this year's baseball history books.
If you need a reminder of what's beautiful about baseball -- especially as a necessary escape from the ever-depressing national and international news coming out of Washington, D.C., Baghdad or Mobile, Ala., -- remember these wonderful moments and a few of my most cherished personal memories of the past year:
* Chicago Cubs' Greg Maddux 300th win, which may be one of the last -- if not the last -- 300th win many of us baseball fans will ever see in our lifetime.
* Twins' Johan Santana's near slam dunk Cy Young season.
* Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson's perfect game.
* Watching the Giants' Barry Bonds near the career 700 home run mark.
* Losing sleep over the National League wild card race, which had five teams earlier this week within 2 1/2 games. Go, Cubbies.
* Shaking hands with Tony LaRussa in Harry Caray's restaurant in Chicago before the Cubs' final series this season against the Cardinals.
* Reveling in Sammy Sosa's Web Gems and Top 10 moments this week, which will do well to quell your friends' criticisms of who they perceive as the worst right fielder in baseball.
* Eating a dome dog at the Metrodome, or better yet, eating a Chicago dog outdoors at Wrigley Field.
* Believing this year is the year -- Cubs vs. Twins in the World Series.
Selig, do the right thing. Toss Francisco.
KATHI NAGORSKI, city editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5859.
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