Major League Baseball has a very poor record of dealing with on-field assaults by players.
In my memory over the 50+ years that I have been following baseball, there have been two outrageous assaults on the playing field by so-called major leaguers, and the penalties were absurdly inconsequential.
I was in front of the TV on that Sunday afternoon in August, 1965, watching the Dodgers and Giants play in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. The game featured a rare match-up between Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal. Seldom did Giants Manager Herman Franks pair Marichal against Koufax. NL managers in those years almost never pitched their ace against Koufax, based on the almost always correct belief that it would be a wasted start, unlikely to gain a win, no matter how well the “ace” pitched. Marichal usually was paired off against Don Drysdale, but on Aug 22, 1965, he faced Koufax.
The Dodgers lead 2-0 on the second inning, and Marichal was already ticked off, and had knocked Maury Wills down with a high and tight fastball in the 2nd inning. Marichal came to the plate in the bottom of the inning, and after swinging and missing, Dodgers catcher John Roseboro came close to his head when he threw the ball back to Koufax. Marichal then turned towards Roseboro, and swung his bat at Roseboro, hitting him on top of the head, causing a two-inch gash and a torrent of blood.
The punishment from National Lwague President Warren Giles? Not the banishment from baseball that he deserved, but an EIGHT game suspension and $1,750.00 fine.
On September 13, 2004, while a relief pitcher with the Texas Rangers, Frank Francisco was sitting in the Rangers’ bullpen, when he was the butt of a fan’s heckling. Francisco’s response? He threw a chair into the stands, hitting an innocent woman in the face. Francisco was arrested but later pled no contest to reduced charges, and was sentenced to anger management classes. His penalty from MLB? Not the lifetime banishment he deserved, but rather a suspension for the final three weeks of the 2004 season. Really. A couple of weeks ago, the New York Mets signed Francisco to a two-year, $14 million contract.
Now, we have the Yorvit Torrealba incident in a Venezuelan League game just yesterday:
How will major league baseball deal with this? Granted, it did not rise to the status of the horrendously violent acts of Marichal and Francisco, but it was an assault on an umpire, during a game. At the least, Torrealba deserves a full season suspension.