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National pastime - Passing the buck

June 16, 2002|by MARK KELLER

Roger Clemens got off easy.

Saturday was the day the Yankees pitcher was to be paid back for plunking, then later throwing piece of a broken bat, at New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza in 2000.

Instead, Shawn Estes, a pitcher who was a member of the San Francisco Giants when the first two Clemens-Piazza incidents took place, missed his chance to get revenge on Clemens.

And when I say he missed, I mean he missed.

On his first pitch to Clemens, Estes - a left-handed pitcher - threw a foot behind Clemens - a right-handed hitter.

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Nobody pretended it was an accident. The look of disgust on Mets manager Bobby Valentine's face after Estes missed Clemens said it all.

The game went on after the home plate umpire warned both benches. No batter was hit by a pitch in the game.

Right or wrong, this kind of retaliation has become part of the game. The problem is, it should have been taken care of two years ago. The Mets would not have been able to hit Clemens since he didn't pitch against them in Shea Stadium. But there's no reason Valentine couldn't have had Armando Benitez tag Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter.

Estes' "errant" pitch amounted to little more than a wink and nudge to Clemens and the Yankees. The message: "Don't let that happen again, or we just might hit you next time."

It's doubtful Boston pitcher John Burkett will be named to the American League All-Star team. With Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez and Ugueth Urbina in line for spots ahead of him, Burkett will likely find himself with a couple of days off in the middle of July.

Now, Burkett is saying he'll take the days off even if he is selected to the team.

Burkett is refusing to play in the game, in Milwaukee this year, because of Bud Selig's connection with the team.

Selig used to own the Brewers, but he "gave up" the team to become commissioner. Selig's daughter now runs the Brewers, though few doubt that Selig still has a hand in the operations of the team.

Burkett said he doesn't want to play in a game that will benefit Selig and is willing to take a stand against it by denying the All-Star honor if he is chosen.

It's a great decision by Burkett and one that some of his fellow players might try emulating.

Instead of setting a strike date, which players appear ready to do, the players should instead decide not to strike, no matter what happens during the labor talks.

Refuse to create another work stoppage. Force the owners to lock players out of training camps in the winter, which they almost certainly will.

The owners, and particularly Selig, have shown a penchant for sticking their collective foot in their mouth time and time again. Put the ball in their court and they are sure to do it all over again.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at keller@herald-mail.com or 301-733-5131 ext. 2332.

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