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Appeal process in baseball makes initial rulings inconsequential

Dec 7, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred answers question from the media after naming Cal Ripken Jr. (not pictured) Senior Advisor to the Commissioner on Youth Programs and Outreach during the MLB winter meetings at Gaylord Opryland Resort . Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred answers question from the media after naming Cal Ripken Jr. (not pictured) Senior Advisor to the Commissioner on Youth Programs and Outreach during the MLB winter meetings at Gaylord Opryland Resort . Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
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It happens every few days or so. An athlete is suspended or fined for their actions out on the field, or in an arena. Most often, the heat of the moment gets to some players and all rational thought goes out the window.

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But the appeal process in baseball allows a player to have a meltdown, or play a little dirtier, knowing that the penalty will likely be minor after it is all said and done.

Baseball has been brightly shining now for the last few years after cleaning up the mess left by the acronym PED. But the MLB and its players’ association must continue to drive the point home that new fans, young ones in particular, are vital to the sport’s survival.

The game can be used in many instances to teach the youth to have character and honor. To be a teammate who everyone enjoys playing with. To be prideful of the name on the front, as opposed to the name on the back.

But with the increased influence of the business side, baseball has become more distant, and less influential on the youth.

There are opportunities to protect the integrity of the game, and show the fans that the game is indeed more important than the individual players. One in particular is the enforcement of penalties when they are given.

Most often when a ruling is made to fine or suspend a player, it goes through an appeals process. Of course, the players’ union needs a way to make sure that the player is fairly treated, and I get that. But the process has become more of a discount card at a restaraunt. Commissioner Rob Manfred hands down a 10 game suspension. The player appeals, knowing it can get knocked down a few games, and gets to play while the process takes place. (Some have even played or pitched the next game or two, then drop their appeal. Those games mean something to the season, and if the player deserved the punishment, their participation should not be allowed.)

The most recent decision to rescind the 2 game suspension for Chase Utley was one instance where an appeal wasn’t necessary. It was dirty, everyone knew it, and he shouldn’t have been able to play the rest of the series.

So what is the solution to all of this?

Appeals are fine for what they actually should be used for. A questionable inside fastball by a pitcher may or may not be intentional. That could take a day or two to figure out. A fight on the field may need a day to look at the footage and see what really went on. Drug suspensions, fines for not talking to the press, or whatever, all can be handled with appeals.

But the way to fix the issue is to enforce the rules just like the arbitration rules. If a player appeals, they need to say how many days they think they should get, or money they should be fined. If the player wins, they serve the penalty they submit. If the league wins the player serves or pays double the penalty that the league initially submitted.

This will stop all of the nonsensical appeals that are handled each year. Some appeals can change playoff races (pitcher purposely head-hunts, appeals the 10 game suspension, and beats your favorite team, knocking them out of first place. And then drops his appeal.

Next: Change in Utley Ruling Bad Look For Baseball

Having to serve double the penalty would make players and their unions think twice about trying to get a discount on their discipline. The impression that can leave on kids is not a good one. A punishment is made to deter bad behavior. Showing the youngsters that no penalty is definite, leads to integrity questions in baseball.

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