We’ve had an uptick in violence this past week in Major League Baseball. Beanball wars and brawls are breaking out all over the MLB, and despite the possibility of mutually assured destruction, nothing seems to be deterring managers and players from raining down baseballs and chaos on their opponents. Every game is a tense affair, where anything could happen at any moment, except in Houston, where no one cares anymore this year. It’s August. It’s hot, and the season has been going for four months, and people are cranky. We’re reaching a point where, as Fred Thompson says in The Hunt for the Red October, “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”
The first, and the most disturbing of these, took place on Sunday in Detroit, where Jered Weaver was pushed too far and snapped, He had been the hero of Angels and baseball fans everywhere, cutting a wide swath through the American League with his incredible pitching this year. But for a moment, he lost control, causing all sorts of havoc in the Motor City. His turn, and the potential danger it unleashed, brings to mind another great hero who brought hell down around the ears of an unprepared town, the great and unequaled John J. Rambo. Rambo wandered into the small town of Hope, in the Pacific Northwest in 1982, sad about the death of his platoon-mate, and looking for a place to grab a bite and a cup of coffee. But he finds only trouble.
First of all, here’s video of the sequence in session:
Carlos Guillen is Sheriff Will Teasle
Teasle (Dennehy) begins and escalates the conflict the conflict with Rambo by trying to dump him outside of the city limits, saying that hippy-types are not welcome in Hope. When Rambo refuses to leave, Teasle arrests him for vagrancy. Things get bad, however, when Rambo escapes custody and takes to the woods. One of Teasle’s deputies, who was attempting to shoot down Rambo in cold blood, falls from a helicopter in pursuit of the hero. Then, after his deputies are picked off, and Rambo warns Teasle to just “let it go,” he calls in the National Guard. Teasle is paranoid and suspicious, and cannot tolerate being shown up by a scraggly vagrant. Even after learning that Rambo is a medal of honor winner, he refuses to call off the search and let the situation calm down.
After Magglio Ordonez stood at home plate, waiting to see whether his home run would remain fair or go foul, Weaver took offense, and then yelled at the next batter, Miguel Cabrera to get running. Seeing a bad situation about to get worse, Guillen proceeded to pour gasoline on the embers, hitting a home run to right field and preening in the afterglow. He turned to stare down Weaver as he bounced, sideways, toward first base. What in the world did he think was going to happen? Make no mistake, Carlos Guillen bears a large measure of responsibility for what happens next.
Alex Avila is Deputy Mitch
Mitch (David Caruso) seems like a nice guy. He tries to talk the sheriff out of persecuting Rambo, and tries to treat him well. But his hand is forced by the Sheriff’s bullheadedness, and he ends up stabbed in the leg and bleeding heavily in the forest:
Later, of course, he’d change his name and solve crimes in Miami. Hey, Horatio, if a deputy is stabbed in the woods, and no one can hear him scream, does he make a sound? Keeee–yaahhhh!
Similarly, Avila doesn’t do anything wrong here. He takes his turn at the plate, minding his own business. But because of Guillen’s actions, he’s forced to duck out of the way of a fastball aimed at his head. Avila escaped, thanks to some quick reflexes, but there’s no doubt that the situation could have been much, much worse.
Jered Weaver is like John Rambo
John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) proved himself to be an excellent, and sympathetic, figure in First Blood. Wandering the country, several years after returning from Vietnam, Rambo mostly wants to be left alone. Similarly, Jered Weaver mostly wanted to be left alone. He pitches hard, does his job, and has been a hero as the Angels have struggled to keep pace with the Rangers. But then the Tigers had to go and harass him.
When pressed, Rambo has a flashback to his time as a POW while in the sheriff’s custody and escapes, taking to the hills. There, he hunts down and incapacitates a host of sheriff’s deputies (including Mitch), and outsmarts a bumbling National Guard. He makes his way back to Hope, where he blows up a car dealership, shoots up a downtown area, and eventually defeats the Sheriff. Weaver’s path of destruction is much more direct, but potentially no less devastating. He throws a fastball at Alex Avila’s head.
Neither Rambo nor Weaver ultimately meant to hurt anyone, but felt the need to send a message. But both of them ignored the potentially devastating consequences to human life that a bullet, or a 92 mph baseball can have. And while context makes their reactions somewhat understandable, it ultimately does not mitigate the responsibility both men bear. Rambo must go to prison, as he’s dangerous and unstable, and disregarded the public’s safety. Weaver must be suspended. You simply cannot be allowed to throw at or near someone’s head on purpose. That’s how careers and lives are altered. It’s how tragedy occurs.
The good news, for both Rambo and Weaver, are that there are sequels in the offing. After some time off, Rambo is let out of prison to go re-fight the Vietnam War and rescue some POWs. Weaver, after appealing his 6 game time-out, pitched nine shutout innings last night, and will have several more opportunities to help his cause this year. And like First Blood Part II and Rambo III (sadly, I’ve yet to see 2008′s Rambo), it’s likely that Weaver’s starts are going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Jim Leyland is like Colonel Trautman
A father figure to Rambo, Trautman is the man responsible for ending the cycle of violence in this first movie. He tries to talk Teasle out of calling in the National Guard, and he tries to talk Rambo into laying down his arms. Neither listen, until Trautman is able to show Rambo that there’s no escape for him. That he’s dangerous. He asks Rambo to let it go, and allows him a moment to grieve for his shattered life. Rambo refrains from killing Teasle and accepts that he’s got to go to jail. He has nothing on the outside to live for anyway.
Leyland, somehow, was able to convince the Tigers not to retaliate last Sunday. After seeing their teammate hit the deck and almost beheaded, surely Detroit pitchers were looking to exact some vengeance. Thankfully, the old man convinced them to hold back, to lay down arms, and to just play baseball rather than dodgeball. Would that the Cardinals had had the same advice a few days later.