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Savran: Expos owed dose of Pirates revenge

Saturday, June 08, 2002

Josh Fogg said he wasn't trying to hit Montreal Expo Mike Mordecai. If he wasn't trying, he should have been.

In fact, I think he was trying to drill Mordecai. And for that, he should be applauded. But it should have happened to somebody wearing a Montreal uniform 24 hours earlier.

Under the watchful eye of countless dozens of Expos fans Tuesday night, four Pirates were plunked by starting pitcher Carl Pavano. Hit me once, shame on you. Hit me thrice plus one, and you're goin' down!

No Expo did. It was painfully obvious what was going on. Jack Wilson was drilled immediately after Rob Mackowiak's second home run of the game. Mackowiak became a target in his at-bat after the second homer. Come on! Who's kidding whom? Yet, no Expo felt the earth beneath his back.

I realize the Pirates were in the midst of constructing a 5-2 victory. Given that any win for this team is hard to come by, the Pirates didn't want to disrupt their opportunity. They haven't won two in a row since May 21st. But after Wilson got nailed, and perhaps even before then, retaliation was in order. Even after the warning from umpire Brian Gorman, they could have sent in an expendable arm to get an out or two and a Montreal body along the way.

Perhaps the message was sent strongly enough by waiting a day. But anyone who has watched baseball for more than a week knows how Frank Robinson manages. It's the same way he played. He might not have instructed Pavano to drill Wilson or Mackowiak, but such a tactic is implicit in his baseball tone and demeanor.

Rather paradoxical, don't you think, considering Robinson is the former minister of baseball justice, the man who was responsible for meting out punishment for crimes and misdemeanors for a number of years? But he was hit frequently in his playing days, partly because he crowded the plate, partly because he was a brilliant hitter, but largely because of his combative nature. And that's fine. Old-time baseball is fine, if somewhat inexplicable. But it's only fine if what's good for the Expos is good for the Pirates.

I've never subscribed to the theory that it's OK for a pitcher to seek revenge by unleashing a 93 mph projectile at a batter's head because he, or his teammate, took him deep. Maybe I'd be more willing to accept this gunslinger mentality if it were equally tolerable for the hitter to walk to the mound and smack the pitcher with his bat after being struck out. (Don't get any ideas, Aramis.)

But they've been playing the game for more than a century now, and that's just the way it is. So if those are the rules, then a team must play within them. And the rule states in the baseball bible, "An eye for an eye, a black-and-blue mark for a black-and-blue mark."

It's also abundantly clear that the rules governing the umpires' warnings about retaliation desperately need to be changed. While the intention is good, it puts the aggrieved team at a tremendous disadvantage. Based on how these things generally unfold, the barn door is closed well after the horses have run away ... leaving the plunked no opportunity to get back at the plunkers. At least not on that night.

Perhaps the umpires should be given the latitude to go to the mound after a guy hits his second home run of the game, but before the next hitter comes to the plate, and issue the warning then. This is hardly an optimal plan because it does seem intrusive. It also asks the umpires to read minds instead of arbitrate. But it beats what's going on now. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Given the current rules as written and given the unwritten laws of baseball justice, an Expo or two should have tasted dirt Tuesday. And after Mordecai's roll block on Abraham Nunez while he stood on the shortstop side of the bag Wednesday night, Expos players should be made to eat shovels of dirt when the poster boys for contraction stumble into PNC Park June 29. Believe me, Frank Robinson will understand.

Stan Savran is the host a sports talk show from 8 to 9 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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