>Being a good dad and a productive employee and a blogger has proven difficult in recent months, but The Common Man is compelled to write tonight, not because of baseball (though he’ll get around to that, he promises), but because he can’t get three murderers out of his head.
The first is Nidal Malik Husan, the alleged shooter at Fort Hood, who murdered thirteen people on Thursday of last week for reasons that are as yet not understood. Hasan has been described by classmates and colleagues as being opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afganistan, and has been alleged to have had contact with extremist Imams who advocate the killing of American troops and civilians. Hasan’s attack was probably religiously motivated (though this is not an indictment of Islam in particular or of religion in general. But what resonated with The Common Man today is the Eugolgy given today by President Obama. Obama discussed each victim and his or her accomplishments and got to a specific nurse from Milwaukee, Captain Russell Seager, who was a beloved husband and father. It was the “father” part that got to The Common Man, who has cherished being a dad for just under three years now. And as The Boy grows and changes, The Common Man could not help but picture, as he listened to that story, what life could be like for The Boy without a dad. Indeed, as he seethed, The Common Man could think of little else other than Hasan knew how wonderful it was to have a father, and chose to deny another son or daughter that opportunity. It is this impersonal cruelty that The Common Man just doesn’t understand and makes him wish Hasan and all others who cold-bloodedly murder fathers and mothers and sons and daughters around the world dead.
But, of course, that’s part of the problem. The second murder on The Common Man’s mind, John Muhammad, is (as of the moment The Common Man is writing) scheduled to be executed tonight in Virginia. After killing mothers and fathers and sons and daughters, Muhammad is going to be taken fromt he world. And as much as The Common Man knows that Muhammad (and Hasan) deserve it, The Common man realizes that his emotional reaction to these crimes is exactly why justice is not served through exectution. Justice is a bitch godess who constantly disappoints us; yet, to be effective, she must remain blind to the emotional undercurrents tha make me want to slam Hasan and Muhammad into walls again and again while showing them pictures of adorable babies who will grow up without fathers and mothers, and ask them what those babies ever did to Hasan and Muhammad. And, as several studies have demonstrated that execution does not substantially deter crime, there does not seem to be a rational reason for capitol punishment. The world may be a better place without Muhammad in it tonight, but justice (whose guarantee is the basis of civilization and of our society) is not served by it.
But there must be a happy medium somewhere. As much as capitol punishment is too much, given the emotions and uncertainty that play into its application, some applications of justice are startling in just how inadequate they are (particularly for the wealthy and powerful). In particular, the case of Angel Villalona, a prospect in the Giants organization, who is accused of shooting a man in a nightclub in his native Dominican Republic. According to prosecutors, Villalona has agreed to pay roughly $140,000 to the family of the deceased, who are now claiming that Villalona was not the man killed in the incident. Obviously, there is a lot we don’t know about this case. We don’t know whether Villalona was acting in self-defense. We don’t know whether the charges will stick without the cooperation of the victim’s family. However, the appearance in this case is definitely that Villalona, as Matthew Poirot points out for Circling the Bases, is buying his way out of trouble with his $2.1 million signing bonus. This gives the appearance that, at least in the Dominican Republic, that Justice is for sale, even with her blindfold on.
Fortunately, in this case, baseball is the lone major American sport where character seems to be taken into account (at least where prospects are concerned). Guys like Ugueth Urbina and Ambiorix Burgos typically become persona non grata when their behavior veers from unpleasant to unacceptable. Jose Offerman was forced out of baseball early; and minor league players (such as the Twins Delmon Young and Anthony Swarzak) have had their careers delayed because of their naughtiness. While baseball has a long way to go, as they still welcome wife-beaters and drunks back with open arms after they’ve proven their talents indespensible, at least they are not the NFL, where Leonard Little continues to suit up every week for the St. Louis Rams despite a second drunk driving conviction, even after being convicted of vehicular manslaughter in 1998. And at least the MLB is not the NBA, where crazy, destructive behavior often seems to be the rule, rather than the exception, with players going into the stands, choking coaches, demanding trades, and sulking their way out of contracts.
Villalona’s case is an interesting one, particularly if he is acquitted in the D.R. If there is justice in baseball, and Villalona truly is guilty of murder, hopefully we’ll never have to hear from him again. Hopefully it will leave such a bad taste in the mouths of the Giants (and Villalona’s potential teammates) that they will ask him not to return in the Spring. Baseball will probably be better for it.