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Anger steps up to the plate



Published: Tue, July 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Rangers' ace Kenny Rogers is at the All-Star game despite a recent tantrum.

DALLAS (AP) -- The recent tirade by Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers against two TV cameramen -- certain to be replayed repeatedly with Rogers participating in tonight's All-Star game -- is just the latest vivid image of anger boiling over on a baseball field.

At least six major league players and four managers were ejected from games in the first 10 days of July, with most of those ejections involving heated arguments with umpires.

Frank Francisco, another Rangers pitcher, threw a chair into the stands at taunting fans in Oakland last September.

Yankees right-hander Kevin Brown missed three weeks during the pennant chase that month after punching a clubhouse wall in frustration.

So why all the tantrums?

Maybe there's just too much pent-up aggression in baseball.

Adrenaline factor

"There is a natural adrenaline that comes from competition," said Todd M. Kays, a licensed psychologist in Ohio and founder of the Athletic Mind Institute. "You're in an environment and situation where there is a lot of adrenaline, and don't have that release."

Football and hockey players can respond with vicious and legal hits during a game. Basketball and soccer players are constantly in motion and expelling energy.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Nationals manager Frank Robinson screamed at each other face to face during a game last month. Both benches emptied, and several players pushed and shoved each other.

Rogers broke a bone in his non-pitching hand when he hit a water cooler in frustration after coming out of a June 17 start. Twelve days later, he shoved a TV cameraman and ripped a camera from the arms of another as he came onto the field for pregame warmups.

Rogers has continued to pitch while the players association appeals his 20-game suspension and $50,000 fine. The pitcher's contract includes a $50,000 bonus for being an All-Star.

Rogers has apologized, but offered no explanation for his actions when he read from a two-page handwritten statement last week or spoke to a group of reporters for the first time this season after pitching Saturday. Home fans greeted him that night with mostly cheers, though there were some boos.

John Hart's perception

Texas general manager John Hart said the pitcher was upset over the perception by some fans and reporters that he skipped a start the day before his outburst as a possible negotiation ploy. Rogers is in the final year of his contract and has sought an extension since the winter.

"The brief explosions of anger are the results of him having so many external things going on and coming at him, and not dealing with them well," Kays said. "The frustration and irritation keeps arising in him ... you keep it all in, you have this explosion, like with the water cooler and the cameraman."

The day after Rogers' blowup, Francisco pleaded no contest in San Francisco to misdemeanor assault for throwing the chair that broke the nose of a woman whose husband had been among those heckling Texas pitchers in the bullpen. He was sentenced to a work program and anger management classes.

Francisco and two other Texas pitchers also were suspended by baseball after that fracas.

"I think both instances were the acts of very competitive people. Sports is all about competition," Hart said. "Both of them were inappropriate actions. ... They are very unfortunate incidents that have nothing to do with what we're trying to build."

But there have been other problems involving the Rangers.

Texas closer Francisco Cordero almost ignited a brawl last month in Kansas City when he took several steps toward the Royals dugout and grabbed his crotch after getting the last out.

And there was a scuffle in the Texas dugout during another game, when pitcher Ryan Drese and catcher Rod Barajas had to be separated by teammates -- apparently after a disagreement about pitch selection.

Manager Buck Showalter, while certainly not condoning all the actions, often says baseball is "an emotional game played by emotional people."

There are signs of that in or around probably every dugout in the major leagues, including broken fixtures and dents in the walls from fists and bats slammed in disgust. Most are heat-of-the-moment reactions out of the public view.

Much of the emotion is driven by the pressure and expectations created by multimillion-dollar contracts.

"Contracts are getting bigger, and there is less leeway to do poorly," said Leif H. Smith, a sports psychologist in Hilliard, Ohio, near Ohio State. "The pressure is there whether you are achieving or not. On top of that, you have to deal with your own stuff."




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