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May 8, 2007 at 10:30 AM

Musings from Detroit

Just arrived here in the Motor City and already I’m tired of it. Not my favorite town. Some folks like it here but I prefer cities that don’t turn into ghost towns when the clock strikes 5 p.m.. Actually, “ghost town” is a little too complimentary. Post-apocalyptic wasteland is more like it. Anyway, I’m staying at the Renaissance Center (police headquarters for the Robocop movie back in the 1980s) right downtown, just a 15-minute walk from the ballpark. If you don’t hear from me later, it’s because I’ve been mugged in broad daylight. OK, OK, enough bashing of my “all time favorite” road spot.
So, my mood growing ever so happy as my cab driver slothed his way past burned-out buldings and crack houses, I got to thinking about Julio Mateo. Someone in the comments thread about him last night posted a very intentionally racist comment about Latin Americans and we’ve since deleted it from the site. You know what? I don’t have time to police that garbage and every little exchange that readers have here. I’m still trying to cover a team, you know? So, I’ll make this real simple. If anybody else posts something that is an obviously deliberate racial remark, they’ll be permanently banned from the forum. That’s it. No second chances. I just don’t have the time or the patience for that kind of nonsense.
The issue of domestic violence isn’t confined to any one racial group or nationality. I can trot out the names of numerous white-skinned baseball players who have hit their wives over the years.
On the subject of Mateo, the one thing I forgot to mention in last night’s posting is that the Mariners do deserve some credit for the creative way in which they managed to suspend him for 10 days without actually having to wait for his case to play out in court. They could have just used the “our hands are tied” excuse as the Philadelphia Phillies and ex-Mariners GM Pat Gillick tried last year in the Brett Myers case. Remember that one? When Myers hit his wife in the face on a crowded Boston street corner in full view of dozens of witnesses? She later refused to testify, despite the objections of prosecutors, so Myers doesn’t have a criminal record. But there’s no doubt he hit her.
So, the day after Myers was charged, the Phillies used the ‘hands are tied” excuse and said they planned to allow Myers to pitch the following day. Naturally, they were crucified for it. Gillick and company promptly had a change of heart and put Myers on an extended leave of absence.
One of the team’s limited partner owners, Bill Giles, made a jerk of himself with these comments. They also didn’t go over very well in Philadelphia.
Seems the Mariners learned a thing or two from the Philly fiasco. I mean, how creative is this Mateo suspension? Tell a player to forget about the baseball game and turn himself in to police, then suspend him without pay for not having obtained permission to skip the game. The team does deserve applause for this end-run around excuses for inaction. We’ll see what the Players Association thinks about it. I tried getting a hold of anyone there to comment on this case and they either did not call back or wouldn’t touch the topic. How would you like to be in their shoes on this? My guess is, if they start to champion Mateo’s rights, it will be done very quietly.
So, belated kudos to the team. But please, no more talk about how Mateo “cooperated with authorities” on the matter as if that’s something that should be taken in his favor. Had he waited much longer before “cooperating” everyone knows darn well the NYPD would have hunted Mateo down, slapped some cuffs on him and dragged him off by the ears — or worse. So, please, let’s stop pretending he didn’t “turn himself in” to police. Because that’s what he did.
There are plenty of questions left unanswered by the team’s statements and — more importantly — Mateo’s rather scripted written apology. Some of you have asked in the comments thread the one big question that I would like to see answered. Namely, the problem Mateo is getting counseled for, is it a one-time, heat-of-the-moment problem, or more like a recurring problem? Have police in Seattle ever been asked to respond to a call like the one the NYPD had to? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Any Seattle cops out there who’d like to help out, you have my email address below.
Now, another question. Will Mateo ever pitch for Seattle again? I must say, from the looks of things, it appears the team is considering that. And they would not be setting any sort of precedent if that happened.
Here’s the harsh lesson Myers learned from his episode. Yes, three years, $25.75 million. No, he was never found guilty because his wife wouldn’t go through with the case. But once again, there is no doubt he hit her. Didn’t seem to matter to the Phillies once they got their staff ace back.
This wasn’t a first for the Phillies, as witnessed by this case involving Terry Adams a few years back. Yes, Adams stayed on that team. And yes, my good, civic-minded Toronto Blue Jays picked him up as a free agent the following winter.
We could go into other cases, but I’ve got to eat lunch. The bottom line? Julio Mateo is not a staff ace. I realize the Mariners have the right to employ whoever they choose. Mateo also has the right to earn a living within the confines the law permits. But Mateo, I repeat, is not a staff ace. He is a middle reliever, the pitching equivalent of a fourth outfielder (apologies in advance to Bloomquist, Broussard and Ellison). If ever the team wanted to make some kind of moral stand, this would be one of the least painful ones. Or, they can simply let Mateo serve his 10-day suspension, do some counselling and carry on with the business of baseball as usual.



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