As you all undoubtedly recall, last Wednesday's post was about the absurdity involved with Brian Urlacher being fined by the NFL for his vitaminwater hat. Today, the story is even more absurd, leading to a peculiar Wednesday trend... does Wednesday need a special moniker, such as Wacky Wednesday? You be the judge...
Torii Hunter is both a good baseball player and a general all around good person. He is articulate, well spoken, thoughtful, and most of all, likes to have fun. As center fielder for the Minnesota Twins, fun must abound for Mr. Hunter, but late last year, he decided to create some more fun.
During the last week of the season, Hunter's Twins were in second place in the AL Central, behind Detroit. The Tigers were in Kansas City to rip the lowly Royals a new one before heading off to the playoffs. Something strange happened on the road to the playoffs for Detroit, however; they lost to the Royals, and the Twins ended up winning the division, with the Tigers taking the wild-card spot.
When alerted of this news, Torii Hunter jokingly quipped that he would send each member of the Royals a bottle of champagne for helping out the Twins. This weekend, he semi-made good on his promise, having four bottles of champagne delivered to the Royals locker room before their game with the Twins. Then, things went awry.
Major League Baseball caught wind of this seemingly harmless joke (which also doubles as a nice gesture, which is a rarity among jokes), and acted swiftly with the hand of judgement. First, the league ordered the champagne be returned to Minnesota unopened, as this was in violation of the league's antiquated "No Gift" policy. Then, the league had to decide what to do with the sinister perpetrator, Torii Hunter.
The "No Gift" rule is a rule that exists to prohibit players from one team giving gifts to players of another in an attempt to bribe the opposing team to throw the game or what have you. It most assuredly came about in the wake of the Chicago Black Sox scandal, but has since been enforced maybe this once, and here's why: violation of the no gift rule carries a minimum suspension of THREE YEARS!!!!! Minimum three years. Minimum. The least amount is three years. Years. Three sets of twelve months. Three cycles of 365 days. That's a long time in baseball.
The league, it appears, is not going to level the harsh punishment upon Torii Hunter, since the bottles were returned unopened, although slightly confused as to why they (being champagne bottles) were almost wasted on the Royals. What a horrible life for champagne, but I digress. Hunter should not have the punishment levied upon him for a plethora of reasons. First, the drinks were a thank you for an act already performed, so the gift served no purpose in influencing the Royals present day performance (although many fans would argue it always seems as though the Royals are drunk). Second, the rule is antiquated. There is so much riding on any game late in the season, and there is so much press in every locker room the entire season, that it has to be impossible for anybody to sneak a gift to an opposing team without someone noticing. Third, IT WAS A JOKE! It was meant to thank a team that is a perpetual bunch of losers, and give them a reason to enjoy champagne. The Twins were going to the playoffs anyway, so the only repercussion of KC winning was the the Twins drew the A's in the first round instead of the Yankees (which backfired anyway, seeing as the Twins got pasted in the first round).
In addition to all of this, the penalty most definitely does not fit the crime. In a league where players found guilty of taking a performance enhancing drug get a 10 game suspension, a man found guilty of having fun gets a 3 year suspension. How does that even begin to make sense? The league refuses to suspend the big headed, pill popping "slugger" from San Francisco when everybody knows hes on the 'roids, but it was ready and willing to pass swift judgement upon a man who represents the league with class and dignity for just having a little bit of fun. Imagine the scene when Bud Selig found out about Gift Gate (yeah, its gate-worthy): the commish is seated in his huge leather chair, behind his huge mahogany desk, lighting a cigar with a five dollar bill, when his pee-on aide rushes in. Upon hearing the news from the pee-on, the commish drops his cigar, utters a nice "Oh my sweet lord", opens the second drawer of his desk, and presses a huge red button labeled "GIFT GIVER". At this moment, air raid sirens go off, and the office transforms into a defense bunker, where a huge map of the US has a tiny blip on it in Minnesota. Only one person could be responsible.
Luckily, it appears as though leveler heads are going to prevail, and Hunter will not get the three year ban, since the bottles were returned unopened. That's good for Hunter, in that he doesn't owe three years of salary to the Twins. Its good for baseball in that it doesn't look quite as ridiculous. It's good for the champagne, because it won't be wasted on the Royals. And it's good for the Royals, because they won't be confused as to what type of play merits champagne. Of course Hunter, in his usual good nature, had a laugh about the whole thing, saying, "I have three brothers that can help me finish them". That sounds like one hell of a party. Thank god there are people like Torii Hunter in sports that can keep things like this in perspective.