Friday, April 15, 2005

In defense of Sheff

First reaction on the latest Red Sox-Yankees fan fight was that the guy was simply trying to reach over for the baseball and accidentally grazed Gary Sheffield's face. It seemed as if these two people just met at the wrong time in their lives, not unlike when Sonny whacked that no-name in the street because he smacked Joe Pesci's windshield with a Louisville Slugger in "A Bronx Tale."

Upon further review, that is a load of hoo-hah! This was Bostonian scummetry at its best, which the rest of America understands to be the dregs of human lifeform.

It was a complete cheap shot at Sheff. With the help of constant replays on ESPN, YES, the Web and some assistance from the DVR, here's the tale of the tape:

* This Bostonian ham-and-egger fan didn't even try to bend down to get the ball. The ball was bouncing low to the ground the entire way and only the infield at Calhoun High School in the mid-1980s could generate an alternate hop high enough to change its path.

* The Boston fan was barely watching the path of the baseball.

* He swiped his hand at the ball after the ball was beyond his reach.

* The beer that turned Sheffield's Yankee jersey into a throwback Mickey Mantle uniform complete with the stench of alcohol was intentionally dumped. Don't believe the hype! It was completely intentional.

* Two fans to Sheff's left held cups of beer. The one closest to Sheff was a woman and she held on to her cup for as long as possible. The second person was a man who dumped his beer on Sheff just before Sheff came up to push the fan.

* Sheff did not throw any punches. He used his glove and his right hand to shove the Ma$$hole out of the way.

"These people shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets much less come to a ballgame," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Ordinarily, players should never go anywhere near striking a fan, no matter how much they deserve it. (And fans definitely deserve a solid pistol-whipping.)

The fools in Detroit deserved some sort of beatdown, and this Bostonian deserved a shot heard 'round the world with a Pesky Pole to the noggin.

He took a blatant cheap shot at a major league baseball player. It's no different than if in a bar or a sidewalk. It's attempted assault, but since it happened in a stadium during a sporting event, no one will ever see it as anything more than a fan who drank too much. (Note: The level of alcohol consumption of this man on Thursday night is not known, but drunkenness will be the popular assumption.)

Sheff was perfectly within his right to shove back once. The tape also showed Sheff heading toward the stands looking to lay the smack down on this fan's candy patoot. But somewhere between the foul line and the wall, he had a Ron Artest flashback and thought better of building a woodshed at Fenway Park and dragging this fan behind it.

Credit Sheff for showing restraint. The natural reaction to getting hit in the face is to strike back like Debo from "Friday." But Sheff makes more than $13 million each year to hit baseballs, not fans. This fan surely does not stand to lose as much as Sheff.

"It would have been worse if I lost my composure," Sheffield said. "I almost snapped, but I thought about the consequences."

Sheff should be fined $5,000 by Major League Baseball for his conducts because Bud Selig has some of his droopy, cheeky face to save. But Sheff was definitely not wrong.