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On Gregg Zaun and hazing

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Class and respect and, of course, daily beatings.
Class and respect and, of course, daily beatings.
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

I didn't want to write about the latest Craig Zaun stuff. For one, I think I talk about Zaun too much. And I thought that Andrew Stoeten did a great job saying how stupid his comments were. Add in that, in the story, as told by Zaun, he's clearly the victim of some pretty lousy treatment and I don't really want to beat on a victim.

Then, Keith Obermann went off on him (I'll embed the You Tube video below and, after that, (and likely after Cal Ripken yelled at him for awhile) Zaun tried to back away from his own comments on Brady and Walker's show this morning: "What was meant as a funny & positive story blew up in my face". Hmmm, Zaun says that Ripken and teammates stripped him, tied him with tape, spreadeagled on a trainer's table and poured ice into his shorts. I'm not exactly sure what the 'funny & positive' part of that story was, unless it also turned out to be a scene in 50 Shades of Grey and we could laugh at the irony.

Zaun also told a hilarious story about how demigod Cal once, on a flight, invited him to the back of the plane and then physically beat him for, you guessed it, going to the back of the plane. And there was this:

"If I had a dollar for every time Ripken worked me over physically, I'd be a wealthy guy."

Now I wonder, if Ripken figured Zaun deserved a beating for doing what Cal told him to do, and thought stripping him and taping him to a table was just punishment for being a mouthy rookie, what would Ripken do to Zaun for breaking the 'code of silence', telling everyone about what went on behind the scenes between rookies and veterans. I figure that's why Zaun was back peddling from the story, because Ripken was on his way to lay another beating on him. If I'm Zaun, I'm taking a long vacation somewhere far far away so that Cal couldn't find me.

It does remind me of the line 'daily beatings will continue until morale improves'.

Ripken is smart enough to say 'hey this never happened':

"I talked to him because he's a friend of mine. I consider him a good friend," Ripken told MASN's Roch Kubatko. "I don't know how it got all out of whack. He apologized and said he used the wrong words. There was no abuse, there was no hazing. It doesn't do anything for team unity. He knows that and everybody who knows me knows that."

Cal is smart enough to know that, despite Zaun thinking this was just a cute story, that it makes Cal look like a creep (at best). And, as much as Gregg was telling this story to show how hazing makes the team better, Cal says "It doesn't do anything for team unity". Of course it doesn't. It is stupid to suggest it would. All it does is give people, who figure they have a little power over others, a chance to enjoy a little sadistic pleasure.

Brady Anderson echoed what Ripken said:

"I never did that to anyone," Anderson said. "I don't believe in rookie hazing or status based on tenure and that nonsense. Hated it then and wouldn't put up with it as a rookie, and certainly didn't carry on a tradition I thought was absurd.

"I didn't do it and wouldn't allow it done to me. I've always felt that it's hard enough to feel comfortable as a rookie and a veteran's job was to include them and make them feel a part of the team. We want them to perform and help us win games and I never understood how being dismissive of them or dressing them up in silly costumes was a logical path to that desired outcome."

I'm with him on the silly costume thing. What that does to help a team I'll never know. I would think that instead of trying to make rookies second class teammates, it would be better for team unity to make them part of the team instead of making them separate from the team.

Anyway....

As much as Zaun tells us that putting rookies in their place makes for a better team, that Orioles team wasn't all that good. Even with Ripken beating on people. And, even with the veteran presence of Zaun, his Blue Jays team weren't any more successful than our current Blue Jays. It]'s pretty tough to see what value this had.

For me the veteran hazing stuff is just away for people that feel they have power over someone to use that power. And, most often, it seems that people who have power tend to use it in less than optimum ways. If we believe Zaun's story (I think he might have exaggerated parts of it, but I figure it was basically true) Cal decided he had power over Gregg and he used that power to abuse him.

Now, Zaun doesn't say that Ripken did this to other rookies, though it is implied. Maybe it was more that Cal took a bit of a dislike to Gregg. Not that I'm wanting to insult Zaunie, but he does have a pretty strong personality, I'm sure that he has rubbed some people the wrong way. Cal maybe figured that Gregg needed be taken down a notch or two, not all rookies. Maybe it had less to do with him being a rookie than him being Zaun.

I get guys being guys. I get that when you put a bunch of guys in a enclosed space that they won't always treat each other well. I'm old enough to believe that some 'old school' stuff is the right way to go about things. I think good-natured teasing to influence someone's behavior, sometimes even a little less good-natured teasing. Or outright saying 'hey you are messing up' is a good thing. I do believe in a giving a little respect to one's elders in any activity.

But I totally don't believe that "working" someone over "physically" is ever the right thing to do. I don't believe rookies should be seen and not heard. Yeah there are some right ways to do things, but I don't think there should be fun police out there to beat on people that break unwritten rules.

I think that some in baseball should grow up. They should learn you don't bean a player, or start a fight, if he breaks some imagined rule. Or, you know, strip a guy and tie him to a trainer's table if he is a little yappy. Thank god, as Zaun says, behavior like he discribed doesn't happen anymore.

I also wonder what Zaun would say about someone else telling a story of how they were treated as a rookie. Clearly it is the breaking of some unwritten rule. I mean Dirk Hayhurst had enough trouble with teammates for telling his stories, but at least Dirk had the sense to change names, to protect people. Zaun wasn't even smart enough to do that. And telling this story about a universally loved Hall of Fame player......I can't imagine that isn't breaking some sort of rule.

If Zaun hadn't framed this as a 'this is what should be done to rookies' I'd feel sorry for the guy.