- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2005

There are better places for Kenny Rogers to be this week than the All-Star Game in Detroit. A psychiatric ward, for one (or at the very least, the Dr. Phil show).

But Bud Selig must be worried about running out of pitchers again or something because Rogers — 11 days after being suspended 20 games for accosting a couple of TV cameramen — will be in uniform for the American League tonight. Here’s hoping AL manager Terry Francona opts to “save” him for the 27th inning.

You’d think the Congressional steroid hearings would be enough embarrassment for one year, but baseball — as we’re forever being reminded — knows no shame. If it can turn a blind eye to the BALCO boys for the better part of a decade, as the owners and players association only too gladly did, it can certainly ignore Rogers’ elephantine presence at the Midsummer “Classic” for a couple of days.

In a better world, the commissioner would have just banned the Rangers lefty from the game. Sorry, pal, but it’s not in the best interests of baseball. Less dramatically, he could have taken Rogers aside and, in his most persuasive car-dealer voice, said, “Come on, Kenny, we’ve taken enough of a beating lately. If you care about your profession at all, you’ll make up some excuse to miss the game — family matters, travel difficulties, shock treatments. I’m sure Pedro Martinez could give you some suggestions.”

But Bud, alas, has less clout than a minus-121/2 metal bat. The suits who run the players union, meanwhile, enablers to the end, have already filed an appeal in Rogers’ behalf. That’s why he was able to pitch Saturday night against the Blue Jays — when he should have been pounding rocks on some MLB work farm.

Think David Stern would have allowed Ron Artest to play in the NBA All-Star Game while his case was running its legal course? Never in a million 20-second timeouts. As for the NFL, well, look at how the Redskins dealt with Sean Taylor’s escalating troubles. They wouldn’t even let him near their minicamp, never mind an all-star game.

But baseball doesn’t work like other sports. Baseball, in fact, is broken. That was clear during the steroid abomination. Even if the owners had wanted to do something about performance-enhancing drugs — which they didn’t for much too long — they needed the permission of Donald Fehr and Co. to begin testing. And the players association, predictably, fought them every step of the way. Only when Rep. Tom Davis broke out his gavel did MLB begin to shape up.

But Congress isn’t likely to convene hearings on the Mistreatment of TV Cameramen by Professional Athletes anytime soon, so baseball is left to its own devices in addressing the Rogers issue. And those devices — apart from the commissioner’s huffing (“unprofessional … behavior”) and puffing (“completely unacceptable”) — have rendered the following lamentable verdict:

Play ball!

That’s right, a player voted to the All-Star Game is facing a 20-game suspension, $50,000 fine and possibly two assault changes (one has already been filed, the other is pending), and they’re letting him suit up, anyway. (Better yet, the bonus the player will earn for making the All-Star team will cover — exactly — his fine. How comical is that?)

Rogers’ staunchest defender hasn’t been his manager or one of his teammates, it’s been Red Sox loose cannon David Wells. Wells, who has gone from aberrant to worse since his run-in with a butter knife-wielding fan a few years back, sank to new lows during an appearance on a Rhode Island radio station last week, at one point comparing Rogers’ episode to a sexual assault.

“Some guy’s being aggressive with a woman,” Boomer said, “and she says no, and he keeps on doing it. Well, you know what’s going to happen. No is no in anything, when it comes to sexual or, you know, whatever it is. No is no. And I’m sure Kenny said, ‘Hey, get it out of my face. Don’t do it.’ But no, they want the big story, they want the scoop, you know?”

Looked to me like they just wanted some footage of Rogers during warmups — standard stuff, no big “scoop.” But somehow, in Wells’ twisted mind, Kenny was being violated. You’d think the cameramen were trying to shoot him in the showers while he was bending over to pick up the soap.

“I probably would have done the same thing [Rogers did],” Wells added bravely. And he probably would have, too — as long as the cameramen weren’t armed with butter knives.

Home-field advantage in the World Series will once again be determined by the outcome of the All-Star Game. It would be a travesty of a mockery of a sham if that outcome were influenced in any way by Kenny Rogers, the Man Who Shouldn’t Be There. But since this is, after all, baseball, I have to admit: I’m half-expecting it.

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