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April 15 - The Rivalry Gets Ugly

Every day I am surprised by something  I see. It could be a change in my surroundings, a bad driver or
something unusual done by a friend.

Today, I sit in complete shock after having witnessed another player-fan incident.

You see, a simple baseball went down the right field line and into the corner.  The ball rattled around
and initially skipped past the outfielder.

And then, it happened.  Another normal Yankees-Red Sox tilt took a turn for the worse.

Gary Sheffield went to play that simple ball and a Sox fan swung his arm over the fence.  It looked
innocent enough, and the intent was not distinguishable; however, the man apparently made contact
with Sheffield, and that was all it took.  Sheffield immediately went after the fan with a two-handed push
that bordered on a punch, then threw the ball back to the infield and went back after the fan.  No real
punches were landed - whether this was to be attributed to cooler heads prevailing or the fast-arriving
security guard is debatable - but the fan was removed from the ballpark, as one would expect.

That should be the ultimate answer.  Instead, all it did was leave me with questions.

Why was Sheffield not ejected?  I immediately asked this after the incident happened, and continued to
ask it through the rest of the contest.  Sure, the fan was in the wrong for going onto the field.  I have no
qualms with the fan's ejection.  However, Sheffield went into the stands after the fan.  This is
inexcusable, irrespective of what caused the incident.  Any time a player goes away from the field of play
other than to chase after an in-play ball, that player needs to be immediately ejected.  If you are going to
eject the fan, eject the player.  Leaving Sheffield in the game is indefensible.  The second he pushes
back at a fan, he needs to be removed.

Why have people not learned from the Pistons/Pacers incident?  There is obviously no need to revisit
that sorry incident, but tonight's events had the capacity to reach that level.  The series is emotionally
charged enough, and an incident like this with emotions already on high can create an atmosphere
usually reserved for soccer matches.  The fan should know immediately  to keep his arms in the stands,
and Sheffield should know not to even go into the stands once, much less make a repeat trip.

What happens next?  Will Sheffield be suspended?  Will he file charges?  Will the fan file charges?  Will
the Red Sox put up hockey-like plexiglass around the low-reaching seats?  Precedent dictates that
Sheffield should at least get a week's vacation, as Milton Bradley received for his educational efforts
about recycling in Los Angeles.  He will, of course, appeal, and may get the suspension lowered, but in
today's climate, a message needs to be sent, and now is the time to do so.

And lastly...

What in the world was Joe Torre thinking?  In Torre's post-game comments, he commented that
"people like that shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets, much less come to a ball game".  If you would
say that about the fan, Joe, what would you say about your player?  I know that was said in the heat of the
moment, and we all say things we regret in the heat of the moment, but to call that overreacting is a mild
statement.  Express your disappointment with the situation, Joe, and maybe even take a shot at the Red
Sox organization for allowing something like that to happen, but calm down on calling the man a
hardened criminal, whether real or implied.

Last night marked another in the latest line of sorry incidents where, even though the night ended with
another number in the left-hand column for the Red Sox, no one really won - as cliche as that may
sound.  Baseball affords its fans incredible views of amazing ballparks and eternally memorable feats
from world-class athletes.  Let's just hope that the separation between spectator and player stays in the
heart and mind, and does not manifest itself in further physical barriers.