Kangaroo Courts: On Why MLB Teams Need To Bring Them Back

MLB Kangaroo Court

Kangaroo Courts existed a while back as a way for teams to self-police players who made plays costing the team. Here’s why they’re needed now.

Kangaroo Courts were commonplace with most all MLB teams not too long ago, and based on the brand of baseball we are witnessing, they need to be reinstated ASAP for the good of the game.

For newer fans, Kangaroo Courts existed as a means for teams to self-discipline themselves instead of having or waiting for front-office intervention, which rarely came.

Kangaroo Courts are an informal gathering, composed of all team members, assessed judgment, and issued monetary fines for various infractions. All decisions are final, and there is no appeal.

Kangaroo Courts: Possible Infractions

Players are found guilty for any number of infractions that include but are not limited to:

  • Getting thrown out at third base trying to stretch a double into a triple with no outs in an inning.
  • Failure to move a runner on second up with no outs.
  • Failure to lay down a successful sacrifice bunt.
  • Missing the cut-off man from your outfield position.
  • Missing a sign from the third-base coach.
  • Failure to make contact with a runner in scoring position.
  • Not running out what should have been an infield hit.
  • And the list goes on.

It was up to teams to decide when and how often a Kangaroo Court was to be convened, as well as to assess a gradation of $$ fines proportional to the “offense.”

Most teams decided to create a fund dedicated to a charity or hold the funds for a team party at the end of the season.

The details didn’t and don’t matter. Instead, the point is that aside from some egregious offense, usually committed off the field, and there is no way for teams to confront – in an informal but decided way – a teammate who may have cost them a victory.

Here’s a video that will cause a laugh or two, but not in the dugouts…

The issue of accountability runs throughout MLB, and once a player has a guaranteed contract in hand, it’s a get-out-of-jail card similar to the one I once had as a fully-tenured teacher in New York State.

No player can escape a Kangaroo Court, though. As long as it’s handled professionally, serious messages can be delivered to and digested by players on the receiving end that create a newfound determination to “not let you guys down again.”

MLB Players: Stay In The Game – Or Else!

Notice that none of the infractions listed above have anything to do with “errors,” a phenomenon in baseball that spells humanness.

Instead, they all have to do with lapses in concentration and making wrong decisions a player has no business making at this level.

All of this falls in line with the essay I wrote yesterday, titled “MLB: Is The Pitching That Good Or Are The Hitters Stubborn And Stupid”? (See reader’s comments)

A hitter who strikes out swinging at a pitch a foot off the plate with the winning run on third base and one out – gets to walk back to the dugout where he can put on a useless act exhibiting his frustration, banging his helmet or whatever – but at the end of the day, the bi-weekly check he receives will be the same.

The front office may or may not notice depending on whether they are interested in moving this player. Still, otherwise, they wait to see the cumulative numbers at the end of the season, when they will settle the matter in arbitration, or when he reaches free agency.

Teams, for instance, will make a note of the infraction in the portfolio they’ll bring to an arbitration hearing when they sit across the table from that player, telling him what a “schmuck” he is. Still, there is nothing immediate, except maybe a brief encounter with his manager.

Kangaroo Courts are now, and they have nothing to do with a player’s personal interaction with the team and future contract considerations and outcomes.

For example, Clint Frazier hit a home run in a Yankees victory over the Orioles, but within the game, he also committed a play in the field that leaves you scratching your head. Postgame, Frazier told the post:

“It can’t happen,’’ Frazier said after the Yankees beat the Orioles, 7-0, at Camden Yards. “It was a bad baserunning mistake. I joked with a few guys I hadn’t been out there in a while, and I was excited to get to this. It’s not gonna happen again.”Dan Martin, New York Post

So, Clint Frazier is doing what he should do as a professional in this game by owning up to his mistakes – but why hasn’t it cost him a dime?

I’m a good driver, except that I’ve been ticketed, and rightly so, for driving 45 in a 35. I pay a fine because I was in the wrong, as Frazier admitted to. I pay my fine, and life goes on, except that in the future, I’ll pay more attention to those signs on the road.

Speeding fines and the like are assessed unilaterally and not following one’s ability to pay.

But to make Kangaroo Courts effective, fines need to be levied as a percentage of a player’s salary. A $100 fine levied against Giancarlo Stanton is not the same as one levied against Tyler Wade.

MLB Can’t So Teams Must Enforce Player Accountability

But that’s beyond the overall emphasis here. If I lost you along the way, I apologize because the salient point remains that professional ballplayers need to be held accountable every day – every game – and not just at the end of a season when all the numbers are in.

Oops, I thought it was gone.

Clint Frazier’s faux pax didn’t cost the Yankees a game the other day, but in a different game in a similar situation, it could have, in the same way as a hitter missing the hit-and-run sign from the third-base coach, and the runner gets easily tagged out at second.

Now, the best of the best can fail trying to do something they know is right but save for a slip-on wet grass; for instance, they can’t execute the play. No harm, no foul – and everything needs to be weighed on its merits.

Do Kangaroo Courts take time and effort? You betcha they do, but no more than the game of pinochle in the corner of the clubhouse take.

Will Kangaroo Courts wrangle the “feelings” of a player or two? Likely, but then again, this should tell his fellow teammates a thing or two about that player.

To put it another way – it’s one thing for my manager to tell me I f___ed up on that play, but it’s quite another thing when a teammate I respect tells me the same thing with the entire team present.

Kangaroo Courts are not THE answer, but they can help make players more accountable…


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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.