Hold onto your blood pressure cuffs, sports fans. Larry Bowa has a valid point. It's just not the one he's trying to make.
In case you missed it, baseball's enfant terrible got tossed, fined, and suspended the other night for the vein-popping hissy fit he engaged in with umpire Ed Montague. The brouhaha started when Montague observed Bowa, the L.A. Dodgers third base coach, standing outside the chalk lines, in violation of the new rule that forbids base coaches from crossing the lines of their designated boxes toward home plate or the field until batted balls pass by them.
It's a simple rule to understand and follow, but Bowa believes the statute somehow doesn't apply to him because it is "ludicrous" and was written by "people in New York that wear the coats and ties and don't get on the field." Bowa, who has always had difficulty connecting the dots between his behavior and expected comportment, somehow missed the basic grade school lesson: you don't get to flout the authorities without consequences just because you think they're dumb.
In Bowa's defense, however, the behavior of Ed Montague was equally, if not more, egregious-- as revealed in a video we reviewed on YouTube before it was apparently taken down. All Montague had to do was inform Bowa of the violation and direct him to make the correction. Had Bowa refused to comply after a simple warning, Montague could have tossed him.
Instead, Montague got right up in Bowa's grill, violated his personal space, and jawed with him in a manner that was clearly provocative. Bowa naturally exploded and Montague, instead of walking away, kept circling like a peacock in heat, maintaining close range, and trading on his perceived immunity as an umpire to engage in behavior that players are forbidden from exhibiting. Even when Dodgers manager Joe Torre inserted himself between Bowa and Montague, the ump kept pressing in, pouring gasoline on the inferno.
Without a doubt, Bowa committed the cardinal sin by making physical contact with Montague, making his suspension inevitable. But seriously, I get jostled more firmly than Montague did just getting on a bus.
In the aftermath of this particular variant of schoolyard inanity that seems unique to baseball, both Bowa and Montague waxed idiotic.
Said Bowa regarding his suspension, "...that's a joke. It's totally uncalled for. You got guys that tested positive for steroids and they admitted they took them. No suspensions."
Can't you just hear the conversation at MLB headquarters? "Yeah, we really screwed up this steroids thing, so we gotta let the chippy stuff slide this year. That outta restore our credibility, don't you think, Bud?"
Montague, the provocateur, called Bowa's ejection "stupid," referring to Larry's behavior when he should have been referring to Moe's. "I think he got off," said Montague, feeling that Bowa's sentence was light, given the owie he must have gotten from the physical contact between them.
And then there was Torre, assessing Bowa's behavior in this vein: "That's how we should all play this game, with a sense of urgency." Uh . . . yeah.
Two days removed from the incident, Bowa remains symptomatic, spewing paranoid accusations against Bob Watson, baseball's vice-president of field operations, challenging his manhood, and asserting that since nobody from Watson's office personally told him about the new rule, he shouldn't be held accountable for not reading the literature describing it, which was handed out to every major league club prior to the start of the season.
Watson, who finds himself in the middle of the sandbox, has an easy solution at his disposal. All he needs to do is to ask Ed Montague how long he really should have suspended Bowa and then impose that sentence on Montague.
Can't we all just get along?