Selig To Span: “Stop Hurting Fans”

Disclaimer

For most of the past decade, the Minnesota Twins lacked a true leadoff hitter. There was a time where outfielder Jacque Jones would hit first, but his lack of patience made him a poor fit. The Twins then traded for outfielder Shannon Stewart, and he briefly filled the hole well until his power and speed dissipated. There was even a time where Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez was at the top of the lineup, but only his speed was a positive contribution. Then, the Twins finally discovered Denard Span in 2008. Although he was a first round pick and widely considered to be the successor to Torii Hunter, he was viewed as a minor league bust until his first call-up to the major leagues to replace Michael Cuddyer. He hit well upon arrival, and eventually wrestled the leadoff spot away from Gomez and became the hitter the Twins had been missing at the top of the lineup.

Span’s minor league numbers weren’t great, but he exploded on to the scene in 2008, putting up numbers that he hadn’t reached in the minors. His batting average, patience, and power all significantly improved after the promotion. However, the improvement of one particular skill may be turning deadly.

The first piece of evidence is from March 31st of this year. In a spring training game gainst the New York Yankees, Span was facing starter Phil Hughes when he used a three-quarter swing to protect the plate on a full count offering. His soft swing sent a screaming line drive into the 3rd base seats, striking his own mother, Wanda Wilson, in the chest. Span ran into the stands to see if she was fine, and eventually completed the at-bat, but later would take himself out of the game because he could no longer concentrate on playing. His mother remained at the game and was later reported by Span as “feeling ok right now!” from his Twitter account.

The second instance was from last night’s game against the Kansas City Royals. On a nearly identical swing from the Yankees game, Span sent another line drive into the seats near home plate, apparently injuring a fan. There was no current news on who the fan was or what condition he/she was in, but the common belief is that the injuries were not serious.

However, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was not amused with the recent events. “Span needs to understand that he’s engaging in dangerous behavior. Fans don’t come to the game looking for guys to have 10-pitch at-bats. They want home runs, strikeouts, excitement. (Span) has to figure out that he should halt his defensive swings so he can stop hurting fans near the playing field,” said Selig.

Span was unavailable for comment, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire spoke on his behalf. “What Denard does for us is valuable. He wastes pitches, he allows our hitters to see what the opposing pitcher is throwing that day. I don’t endorse him hitting people in the stands, but they have to get off their cell phones, their Twitter, and pay attention to the game. They paid 40, 50, 60 bucks to sit in those seats, you might as well enjoy what that money’s going towards.”

Some Twins players, who asked to remain anonymous, echoed Gardenhire’s quotes. One hitter said, “It’s either foul off a bad pitch and look for something better to hit, or take the pitch, get called out on strikes, and go back to the dugout with your manager and half the team (expletive) off at you. I’d rather protect the plate.”

When asked about extending the netting behind home plate to protect more fans as an alternative plan of action, Selig replied, “I don’t want to mess with tradition. It’s never been that way, and I don’t want it that way. The hitters need to be smarter, plain and simple.”

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