Jonathan Zimmerman: Phils Set Bad Example





[Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in suburban Philadelphia. He is the author of “Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century,” which will be published in the fall by Harvard University Press.

I live near Philadelphia, and I love our hard-luck, up-and-down baseball team. Until the Phillies take Brett Myers off the field, however, I won't attend any more of their games. And neither should anybody else.

Last Friday morning in Boston, the Phillies' Myers was arrested for assaulting his wife. According to Kim Myers and a witness, Brett Myers struck her in the face during an argument near the team’s hotel. He also dragged her by her hair and pulled her shirt up around her neck, the witness said. He was released shortly thereafter on $200 bond.

And the Phillies did . . . nothing.

That’s right: nothing. The team’s website announced that it would not comment on the episode, “out of respect for the privacy of both Kim and Brett Myers.” And the Phillies put Myers on the mound the very next day, for his scheduled start against the Red Sox.

Nor did Major League Baseball censure Myers and the Phillies in any manner. But Commissioner Bud Selig issued a fine and mandatory “sensitivity training” for Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who insulted a local journalist with an anti-gay epithet. White Sox officials also called on Guillen to exert more self-control.

So let’s get this straight. If you use a hateful word to malign a reporter, you get fined and re-educated. But if you use your hands to pummel your wife, you get nothing.

Nothing.

You might reply that Myers--unlike Guillen--was charged with a crime.
So the courts—and not the Phillies—should sort out the matter. In the interim, Myers should keep playing.

That’s exactly backwards. Until we know what really happened on that streetcorner in Boston, the Phillies should sit Myers down. Otherwise, they’re sending a potential wife-beater to the mound every fourth or fifth day. And they’re sending the wrong message to the rest of us.

Let’s suppose that Myers had been picked up for buying cocaine or heroin on that same Boston corner. Do you really think he would have pitched the next afternoon? Not a chance.

Aah, you might respond, but drugs are a scourge on the game of baseball. And you’d be right.

But so is domestic violence. Just last month, Detroit Tigers infielder Dmitri Young was charged with choking his ex-girlfriend. Or consider Oakland outfielder Milton Bradley, who received three visits from police last year to investigate charges that he was beating his then-pregnant wife.

Other notables with domestic-violence rap sheets include Yankees pitcher Scott Erickson, Tampa Bay shortstop Julio Lugo, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, and, yes, San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds. We hear about Bonds’ alleged drug transgressions every day, but nobody talks very much about his arrest for assaulting his first wife.

Here you might argue that this double-standard infects our entire society, not just baseball. And again, you’d be correct. [ital]Two hundred dollars[ital] bail? For hitting your wife in the face? What does [ital]that[ital] tell you about America’s social attitudes and priorities?

There’s only one way to change these attitudes: with our feet, and with our wallets. If the Phillies continue to put Myers on the mound, we shouldn't go anywhere near their stadium. Trust me, the team will listen.

“I love the fans,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said on Sunday, defending his decision to play Brett Myers. “Believe me, without the fans, we don’t have a game.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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Eduardo Lage-Otero - 7/20/2006

Although I'm not a baseball fan myself (and hence wouldn’t really be able to boycott the Phillies), I agree with your comments about how society deals with domestic violence. It is sad to think that we can feel entitled to regulate women’s bodies and their reproductive rights whereas domestic abuse toward women is considered most often than not an internal affair to be sorted out by the couple.