It’s Part of the Game, But Is It Legal?

Time for a hypothetical.

Suppose Person A walks up to the same spot on the street each day at about the same time.  Further suppose that Person B, who opposes Person A, elects to pick up rocks and flings them at a high speed at Person A.  On the first three tries, Person A misses but on the fourth attempt, Person B connects, striking Person A in the back with the rock.  There are a number of witnesses to the event and it is caught on video.  The police are called and Person A is arrested and charged with aggravated assault.

Any debate about the propriety of the arrest?  Any doubt about the outcome and resulting conviction?  I think not.  The reasoning is based firmly in the law.  Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1204 provides that a person is guilty of aggravated assault if that person intentionally causes physical injury to another person and uses a dangerous instrument (here, a rock thrown at a person).

So is there a different interpretation in the law when the rock is replaced by a baseball and it is thrown from a mound rather than from some other location?  The answer is no, as there is no “baseball exemption” in the criminal statutes.  In fact, a coach at a baseball academy recently was found guilty of aggravated assault for intentionally throwing baseballs during batting practice at and repeatedly hitting one of the teenage “students” in the program to toughen him up at the plate.  The coach was sentenced to probation and is not allowed to even touch a baseball for the next eighteen months.

Let’s turn to the events of Sunday, August 18, 2013.  Ryan Dempster was on the mound.  A-Rod was at the plate.  Dempster threw right at A-Rod on consecutive pitches until he struck A-Rod in his upper back.  The event was witnessed by about 40,000 people, including numerous members of law enforcement.  It was also televised nationally and likely witnessed by at least a few million people.  Given the hypothetical above as well as the applicable law, shouldn’t Ryan Dempster have been escorted off the field in handcuffs?

There are a number of story lines as to why Dempster threw at A-Rod.  Many believe that Dempster was protecting the integrity of baseball by going after Public Enemy #1.  Others think it was because A-Rod was a snitch, having reportedly leaked information against Ryan Braun and others.  Another report is that Dempster had a personal beef against A-Rod because A-Rod had allegedly snubbed Dempster at a past public event.  No matter the belief, there is one thing that is clear: Dempster intentionally struck A-Rod.  Aggravated Assault, plain and simple.

But no charges have or will be filed against Dempster.  That is because Major League Baseball appears to be immune from prosecution.  A Major League pitcher can hurl the equivalent of a rock at near 100 mph at another player with the intent to hit that player and not be threatened with criminal prosecution.  It is part of the game and is used to self-regulate the participants.  In other words, baseball polices its own and they believe that it all evens out in the end.  They might as well post a sign that says “Law Enforcement: Keep Out!”

More importantly, no one is clamoring for prosecution and if they are, it is directed at the true villain, A-Rod, rather than at the perceived hero, Dempster.  Here, A-Rod is the bully and Dempster is the guy that finally took him on.  A-Rod has given baseball one of its most noteworthy black eyes for his cheating, selfishness and denials in the face of near incontrovertible evidence.

For full disclosure purposes, I am a lifelong Yankee fan, although they have been second in my heart to our beloved D-Backs since 1998.  As a Yankee fan, there is nothing about the Red Sox for me to cheer.  That is, until Sunday night.  As a baseball fan, I saw the replay of A-Rod’s first at bat and when he was struck, I clapped for Ryan Dempster.  I don’t care whether Dempster did it for baseball’s integrity, because A-Rod is a snitch, or because he was a jerk when they met at some time off the field.   I just  say “thank you, Ryan” for showing A-Rod that he is not better than the rest of us and, in fact, has become a joke.  His salary may pay him millions, but millions will always believe that he belongs in the Hall of Shame with the likes of Bonds, Sosa, Clemens and McGwire.  You see, baseball regulates itself, and over time, baseball will pass the ultimate judgment on a guy who could have been one of the greatest ever to have played the game.

One last thought to Ryan Dempster:  If you are charged with a criminal offense for intentionally throwing a “rock” at A-Rod, I would be happy to represent you, free of charge.  I still love the Yankees, though.  Just sayin’.