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03-19-00 06:54 PM #1
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- Jan 2000
March 19, 2000
SPORTS OF THE TIMES
Players' Words and Actions Lead to a Disturbing Double Standard
By HARVEY ARATON
recent story that came across the wire began with the news that although Pedro Astacio still faces a trial on domestic violence charges, he is scheduled to be on the mound for the Colorado Rockies when they open the season in Atlanta on April 3.
What a relief for the Rockies and their fans that their 17-game winner from last season will be available for starters, and at least through July 5, when he faces possible deportation to the Dominican Republic.
On the same day Astacio pitches for the Rockies, absent from the same ballpark will be John Rocker, beginning his 14-day suspension for his off-season remarks about various ethnic groups and gays. Astacio, meanwhile, is free to pitch, even though he has once admitted guilt -- a plea that was withdrawn last week -- to hitting his estranged and pregnant wife in August.
The point is that for months after Astacio received a two-year deferred sentence in exchange for a guilty plea on charges of third-degree assault, Commissioner Bud Selig had nothing to say about the quick-fisted pitcher. He had no fine to impose, no discipline to mete out, no standard to uphold and no integrity of the game to protect.
In the meantime, Selig the righteous has been all over Darryl Strawberry for abusing himself with drugs, and on top of Rocker for insulting so many, while injuring nobody.
"Normally, when a crime is part of it, we let the criminal procedure take place without interfering," said Richard Levin of the commissioner's office. "Then we may or may not take action."
That sounds fair and just, except Astacio had already, in effect, admitted to hitting Ana Astacio in the right eye in an argument at the home they had shared until the couple separated in June. The police report noted that Ana Astacio had swelling and a red mark on her face.
Under federal law, immigrants convicted of domestic violence -- felony or misdemeanor -- are subject to deportation. When the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service initiated proceedings, Astacio sought to withdraw his plea. In Littleton, Colo., last week, a county judge allowed him to, on the grounds that Astacio's lawyers did not adequately inform him of the consequences of his plea.
An I.N.S. district director, Joe Greene, said, "Our efforts to seek his deportation are suspended until the courts have spoken." He explained the attempt by adding that "the message should be that no matter what your station in life or public visibility, you're not above the law."
Compared with the Rocker ruckus, this story has not been so much as a footnote. Should we be surprised?
This winter, an athlete who has been accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend (Rae Carruth, formerly of the Carolina Panthers) caused less of a national uproar than the lunkhead left-hander who sounds like a rebroadcast of Howard Stern's show every time he opens his mouth. Rocker got a standing ovation last week when he pitched in his first spring training game, which only proves that wrestling fans go to baseball games.
One of the players, Denard Walker of the Tennessee Titans, was cited after pleading guilty to assault on the mother of his son. While this is no earth-shattering development against the alarming trend of athletes who physically abuse women, it is a good start, and at least the N.F.L. has a policy.
Baseball has none, said Levin, though he correctly pointed out that baseball's off-the-field violence -- at least those cases we find out about -- has not been close to the plague on football.
Yet Selig's aggressiveness with Rocker and his silence on Astacio opens a window into baseball's soul. Rocker created a celebrity scandal, a media event, the South's most disparaging mouth versus the country's most diverse market. Something had to be done. The image of the game had to be saved. The notion of ballplayers as role models for children had to be preserved. But when Astacio beats on a pregnant woman, baseball is happy to let the courts handle it, in the hope that some judge or jury will finesse the case and the only remaining blemish will be the one on Ana Astacio's face.
The double standards are as depressing as the way we react to them, and report them. While we were consumed with Rocker, analyzing his words as if they were preceded by thought, an Arizona relief pitcher named Bobby Chouinard is being accused of choking and slapping his wife on Christmas for refusing to buy him more beer. When that did not convince her, his wife told the police that he held a loaded pistol to her head and made her beg for her life.
Chouinard, facing 5 to 15 years if convicted, asked to be put on waivers by the Diamondbacks so he could work on "difficult and regrettable problems." This relieved baseball, for the time being, of any obligation to suspend him. Selig's inaction on the Astacio case suggests that Chouinard may have, no pun intended, jumped the gun.
[This message has been edited by yankoholics anonymous (edited March 19, 2000).]
03-20-00 04:06 AM #2
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- Jan 2000
- Hilltop Park
It's a disgrace. Selig should be keel hauled.
03-21-00 07:46 PM #3
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- Jan 2000
The player that Bud allows to pitch opening day, without even commenting on the charge, is Pedro Astacio the guy who hit his pregnant wife. Yet Bud is quick to suspend and blast Straw and Rocker... yeah I'd say there's a double standard.
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