July 23, 1999
Is Society Dead?
An unindicted felon strikes it rich
I'm not one that worries about a lot of the fluff that goes on around baseball in specific, or sports in general. Organizations like ESPN are so desperate for broadcast material that they have no choice but to spend a lot of time and effort blowing things out of proportion. Minor fluctuations in performance become meaningful trends that require explanation. Society is reflected in sport, or so we're told, usually by someone who used to have a prostate.
But I am worried about the recent baseball draft.
Specifically, I'm worried about Ben Christensen being drafted and signed by the Chicago Cubs. Christensen is an unindicted felon who spent his college career at Wichita State. During a Wichita State/Evansville game last April 23, Christensen thought Evansville leadoff batter Anthony Molina was timing his pitches in the on-desk circle during pre-game warmups. (If you haven't played baseball, know that this is something pretty much everyone does, discreetly, so as not to tick off the pitcher and get a fastball in the ribs.) Christensen responded by firing a fastball at Molina's head while Molina was still in the on-deck circle, also during warmups.
This projectile, launched at about 90 miles per hour, struck Molina in his left eye, effectively ruining his potential baseball career and consigning him to an immediate future filled with delicate and risky surgeries, and a probable lifetime of blurred vision.
But hey, this is baseball, and these things happen. Ask Kirby Puckett. Puckett's career was probably cut short by a Dennis Martinez pitch. Unfortunate, but an accident nonetheless.
But was this an accident?
Well, according to published reports, Molina was warming up about 14 feet to the side of home plate. That means that if it was an accident, Christensen missed his target by approximately 20 degrees. Christensen's pitching coach, Brent Kemnitz, told reporters after the incident that he teaches his pitchers to dust hitters who time pitches.
This was a felony. Assault & battery with a deadly weapon. You've got intent to do harm, you've got deliberate action and you've got damn near deadly force. Christensen's behind should have been hauled off and booked, and charges should have been brought against him. Kemnitz should have been right there with him, and an investigation into how much Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson had to do with Christensen's assault should have commenced--by Wichita State itself, if the authorities couldn't be persuaded.
Instead, you've got the Chicago Cubs drafting and signing Christensen, and a totally insincere apology by this piece of human detritus. Fortunately, based on the Cubs' history of talent acquisition and development, it's probably safe to assume that Christensen will be hideous. He'll get a whole bunch of chances to fail, and I'll be hoping he capitalizes on all of them. I also hope he approaches Eric Chavez's ex-advisor for financial guidance.
On the off chance that Christensen is the next Greg Maddux, I'd really like to see him make millions a year and have to give it all to Molina, who has a civil suit pending. Perhaps the justice system can impose a bit of sanity to this completely out of control situation.
During his speech after signing with the Cubs last weekend, Christensen said "I hope he gets better quick, so he can get on with his life and I can get on with mine." Al Campanis was a racist buffoon, and the right actions were taken to remove him from MLB. But this goes way beyond what Campanis said. Christensen should be barred from setting foot on an MLB field. Ever. Compared to this guy, Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson are saints.
I like to stay clean, fight fair and all those good things...until my opponent deviates from this sort of behavior. If by some evil twist of fate, Christensen makes the majors, I hope the first pitch he sees is a mid-90s fastball at his Adam's apple. And I don't give a rat's ass whether he gets out of the way or not.
Which I guess makes me the same sort of human pusbag as Christensen.