How to prevent another Francisco fiasco

Better security is item No. 1 on our list of Ways to Make Sure the Francisco Fiasco Never Ever Happens Again.

Updated: September 16, 2004, 1:06 AM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

The Oakland A's announced Tuesday they were beefing up their bullpen security force for the rest of the season. What they should have announced was that they're beefing up their bullpen security for the rest of eternity.

It isn't enough to take measures that prevent another Frankie Francisco fiasco from happening this week or this month. We need to make sure it never happens again in this lifetime. Or the next one, either.

Better security is item No. 1 on our list of Three Ways to Make Sure the Francisco Fiasco Never Ever Happens Again. And maybe the most important item, too.

1. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH SECURITY

An unidentified fan tends to a woman who was struck by a chair thrown by Rangers reliever Frank Francisco.
On most levels, it's a beautiful thing that we build our ballparks in a way that lets fans get an up-close, intimate look at baseball and the people who play it. It's not such a beautiful thing on nights like Monday.

We live in an age in which fans can make themselves famous by behaving like idiots. We live in an age in which fans are sometimes encouraged, by their favorite talk-show heroes, to behave like idiots.

That doesn't excuse players from the responsibility to tune out the idiocy, no matter what that takes. It especially doesn't excuse them from the responsibility of making sure they don't react to it like Stone Cold Steve Austin.

But we need to protect all these folks from themselves -- and from each other. There is no better way to do that than to assign real security, and lots of it, to any areas of the ballpark where fans are right on top of players. Bullpens. Dugouts. Whereever.

What passes for security in some parks is absurd. A middle-aged woman in a blue usher's suit is no deterrent. A tough-looking guy in a blue, policeman-like suit works a lot better. A dozen tough-looking guys is way, way, way better.

It's a sad commentary on our world that this is what it takes. But Monday in Oakland showed us again that this is exactly what it takes. It's either better security or barbed wire and snarling guard dogs. How would you vote?

2. STRIKE OUT THE BEER VENDOR

Nothing is more American than a beer and a ballgame. But nothing fuels more trouble than 12 beers at a ballgame. And finding that middle ground is a challenge no one in sports seems to be able to conquer.

One frustrated baseball man suggested Tuesday that teams ban sales of beer to all customers within 15 rows of fan-accessible bullpens. But that's an idea that's pretty much 100 percent unenforceable.

What WOULD be enforceable are these two ideas:

1) Allow no beer vendors in sections that are adjacent to fan-accessible bullpens, so fans would have to physically get out of their seats and walk to a concession stand.

2) And impose a one-beer-per-customer limit on both concession-stand sales and on fans walking back down the aisle to their seats in those sections.

The idea isn't to stop anybody from drinking or buying a beer. The idea is to stop them from drinking or buying too many beers. Which is a noble goal for more reasons than just to keep the middle relievers safer.

3. REMIND THE PLAYERS WHO PAYS THEIR SALARIES

So far in this column, we've pointed fingers way too much at fans and way too little at players. We won't let that happen again.

We have no sympathy for Frankie Francisco in this case. Zero. Nada. We don't care what was said to him or Doug Brocail or any occupant of that Texas bullpen. We don't care what any fan did to incite this riot.

That's irrelevant. It's the responsibility of any professional athlete to accept all hoots, all hollers, all insults, all descriptions of his family tree, all criticisms of his finely tuned athletic physique, all suggestions that he couldn't get Bernie Mac out and all other remarks uttered in any language ever invented.

With no exceptions. None.

Whatever these men have to do to learn the fine art of tunnel vision, we suggest they do. See a psychiatrist. Stuff cotton in their ears. Take up yoga. Take up knitting. We really don't care how they pull that off.

But Major League Baseball, the teams that employ them, their union and their agents all need to remind them that this is the deal. If you want all the perks and accolades, then learn to take whatever crap goes with it.

Don't moan about it. Don't groan about it. And whatever you do, don't throw chairs at the customers. They may not always be right. But if you do any of that, you'll always be wrong.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES

MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM