Suspensions nothing new for MLB skippers

Suspensions nothing new for MLB skippers

Suspensions nothing new for MLB skippers
What became a first in the National Football League this week -- the suspension of a head coach -- is an event baseball has seen countless times throughout its history.

Managers get suspended in baseball every season, be it for an argument with an umpire that gets a little too up close and personal, his pitcher hitting a batter after benches have been warned, or the occasional foul tweet (see: Ozzie Guillen, 2011).

Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, was suspended on Wednesday for a full season without pay for his involvement in a bounty scandal in which players were paid for causing injuries to opponents.

In baseball, managerial suspensions, though rarely for anything as serious, are as old as the strike zone -- which is frequently the issue.

Of course, the conversation about baseball managers being suspended begins with Pete Rose.

The former Cincinnati manager -- who starred for the Reds, Phillies and Expos over 24 seasons while becoming the all-time hits leader -- is serving a lifetime suspension from baseball dating back to Aug. 23, 1989. He was charged with betting on baseball and running up large debts to bookmakers along the way while serving as manager of the Reds. His ongoing suspension, imposed then by Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, means he can't be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, among other things.

Now living in Las Vegas, signing autographs most days at Caesar's Palace, Rose told recently, "The only thing I don't quite understand about the whole situation is: Why is it so difficult for me to get a second chance?"

The historic nature of that situation and all the questions it poses wasn't the first time Rose was suspended as a manager for an extensive period of time, however. The year before, he was suspended for 30 days for shoving umpire Dave Pallone -- up to that point the longest such punishment for an on-field incident and one that was also imposed by Giamatti, then the president of the National League.

It is that kind of behavior that has caused many field leaders trouble with the Commissioner's Office over the years, much more often than gambling or other such scandalous activities, and usually just for two or three days.

But in the vein of Payton's suspension, baseball's leaders are held accountable for the actions of those under their charge as well.

Since they receive an automatic ejection and one-game suspension when one of his pitchers hits an opposing batter following a warning to both benches, it's not uncommon for managers get an unwanted day or two off during the marathon season.

The 2011 season had a couple of examples that showed that suspensions for others' behavior is not necessarily an exact science, even when it comes to automatic punishment.

Example A: Then-Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was suspended for one game and veteran Jason Marquis for five after Marquis hit Arizona's Justin Upton with a pitch after both teams were warned because of previous hit batters. Marquis argued that it wasn't intentional in a 1-0 game with a runner on, and Riggleman, while accepting his suspension, made the case as well, using the language of baseball's code as his foil.

"I'll tell you, we were not trying to hit them," Riggleman said. "If we were trying to hit them, I would dance around it and say other things. But I know we were not trying to hit them."

Example B: On a weekend that began with the Orioles' Kevin Gregg and the Red Sox's David Ortiz squaring off on the mound in what turned into a benches-clearing incident, both managers were ejected as the series progressed. But only one served a suspension.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona was ejected when rookie Kyle Wieland hit his second batter after the teams were warned after his first. Orioles manager Buck Showalter was ejected after reliever Mike Gonzalez threw behind a batter afterward.

But Showalter received a one-game suspension and Francona did not, because the Commissioner's Office determined Gonzalez's actions were intentional but Wieland's were not.

"Good for Terry. Saved him some money," Showalter said. "If you got a nice charity, let me know. It's pretty obvious we took the short end of it."

Managers haven't always been held accountable for the actions of their underlings, be it a coach or a player. For instance, manager Kid Gleason was not implicated in the Black Sox scandal in which eight players, including would-be Hall of Famer Shoeless Joe Jackson, were suspended for life.

In what some consider fallout almost two decades later from that dark brush with gambling, Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher served a one-year suspension for "the accumulation of unpleasant incidents" that were "detrimental to baseball," as Commissioner Happy Chandler put it. It all started with a beef between Durocher and Larry MacPhail, the former general manager of the Dodgers and then an owner of the Yankees, each accusing the other of having gambling ties. Leo the Lip was suspended for the 1947 season, returned to the Dodgers in '48, then switched midseason to the rival Giants.

Durocher managed New York for seven more seasons after that, including the 1954 World Series championship year. Durocher, unlike Rose, wound up managing in all or parts of 17 more seasons after his suspension.

Fast forward about 65 years, and a manager making another statement in a way that Durocher frankly couldn't have imagined got dinged for a couple of games. (Consider: @TheRealLeoDurocher.)

Guillen, then the manager of the White Sox, was suspended last April for tweeting inappropriate comments, and if you think that doesn't stand out ... #ItDoes.

But even that might not be the most unorthodox way a manager has been suspended. Here's one: Maury Wills, managing the Mariners in their infancy, was once suspended for having the grounds crew extend the batter's box by a foot because Tom Paciorek was stepping out of it. A's manager Billy Martin, an all-timer himself when it comes to suspensions, called Wills on it, and Wills served two games for stepping over the line.

Managers long have been suspended for invading the personal space of an umpire, perhaps after a particularly close call either at the plate or diving into the really hot water of questioning the strike zone. In more recent decades, they also have been suspended for having a role in -- or not doing enough to stop -- benches from clearing.

In one of the ugliest incidents in memory, the Padres and Braves had a series of fights on a hot Atlanta afternoon in August 1984, and afterward Padres manager Dick Williams was suspended for 10 games while Braves manager Joe Torre was suspended only three.

"Dick Williams is an idiot," the normally more diplomatic and articulate Torre said at the time. "It was obvious he was the cause of the whole thing. Precipitating a thing like that was inexcusable."

Terry Kennedy, the catcher on that Padres team and now the manager of Triple-A Tucson, knows times have changed.

"If that would have happened now, Dick probably would have gotten suspended for the year and been fined $250,000," Kennedy said in a 2009 interview with the North County Times. "We would have been on the news for a month."

Perhaps the freshest example of managers getting involved in the bad blood and being stung with penalties alongside their players was the melee between the Cardinals and Reds in 2010 that gathered dangerously against the backstop at Great America Ball Park. Managers Tony La Russa of the Cardinals and Dusty Baker of the Reds, who had heated words for each other, were suspended two games apiece.

"What can you do? When the judge rules, the judge rules," Baker said once the dust settled.

Baseball hasn't been alone in its punishment handed out to coaches prior to the NFL's debut in that department.

In the National Hockey League, where coaches used to be suspended if one of their players left the bench during a fight on the ice, Rangers coach John Tortorella was suspended for a game for squirting and then throwing a water bottle at Capitals fans in Game 5 of the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. In the National Basketball Association, a recent example was that of Lakers coach Mike Brown, who was suspended for one game for contact with an official in February. That said, neither coach was suspended in the wake of the infamous Pacers-Pistons melee that extended into the crowd at The Palace.

Over time, no leadership position in professional sports has seen more suspensions than baseball managers.

Lou Piniella, the fiery and popular manager of five teams, was suspended six times, including once for four games in 2007 for going off on the umpires in one of his famous dirt-kicking tirades. The career of Martin, another manager whose fiery personality dated back to his playing days, was littered with ejections and suspensions, both as a player and as a manager. Bobby Cox holds the all-time mark for ejections with 158 and had his share of suspensions to go with some of them.

But Earl Weaver might have topped them all, at least until Rose's lifetime ban. One of the game's innovative geniuses and a genuine hothead, Weaver was suspended for multiple games five times in his career. Once, it was because he asked the public-address announcer to announce to the crowd he was protesting the game "on the grounds of the umpire's integrity." Another time, and for the last time, it was when he slap-punched umpire Terry Cooney in July 1982, drawing a seven-day suspension.

According to an Associated Press account at the time, as he was to begin a news conference to discuss the suspension, Weaver muttered "I can't believe this!" and knocked a couple of microphones off his desk.

"Now you can see why I was suspended, I guess," Weaver said.

Indeed, it was as clear as Weaver's admiration of pitching, defense and the three-run homer.

But, hey, Weaver certainly wasn't the only one to get used to the feeling of sitting out a game or two. Suspensions of managers have come in many shapes and sizes over the years. And while it's not exactly a badge of honor, football coaches only just now are getting on the scoreboard.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.