Before I'm accused of being a communist and told by a torch-carrying mob of e-mailers to move to freakin' Siberia, let me drive home this point: I LOVE BASEBALL.
I'm addicted to our grand old game. I all but inject it every night. Royals, D-Rays, Pirates -- I'll watch anything with pitchers and hitters. Just give me my baseball and I'm one mellow fellow.
Until, that is, a manager runs onto the field and throws a fit over an umpire's call. Only then do I go nuts.
And I've been going nuts more than ever this season.
Why in the name of Abner Doubleday does our national pastime, in 2006, with commissioner Bud Selig repeatedly saying how he needs to protect baseball's "family appeal," still allow the authority figure in the dugout to run onto the field and engage in a nose-to-nose screaming match with the authority figures on the field, the umpires, then finish it off by kicking dirt on the plate or uprooting and throwing the base in question or even returning to the dugout and heaving bats or coolers onto the field in protest -- all without penalties or suspensions?
What kind of message does that send to our kids, Mr. Commissioner?
Yes, a manager or coach or player who crosses the language line with an umpire gets ejected -- and yes, the tantrums are usually thrown after they get the old heave ho -- but the team pays no immediate price. Umps can't start adding or subtracting balls or strikes or outs. Managers and players usually don't get suspended after they make fools of themselves and shame their game.
No, they get standing ovations from the home crowd and appreciative chortles from "SportsCenter" viewers everywhere. Why? You know the age-old answer.
I love baseball, but I'm not stuck in its past. I don't watch games to remember the way we were. I don't need to think that baseball is the one thing in this country that hasn't changed since the late 19th century. I don't care if players still honor the late-1800s tradition of wearing two pair of socks -- colored stirrups over white sanitaries -- on 100-degree days. And every time I actually allow myself to think about the absurdity of managers still wearing uniforms, I laugh out loud.
Can you imagine Bill Belichick pacing the Patriots' sideline in a helmet and shoulder pads? Phil Jackson sitting on the Lakers' bench in a tank top, shorts and sneakers?
For that matter, imagine what would happen if, say, Belichick ran onto the field and started screaming in the face of a referee, then punted the ball into the stands, stormed to the sideline and threw the down markers onto the field? At least two yellow flags would fly. Maybe three or four. Belichick's team might be penalized 60 yards.
Belichick would get ejected, heavily fined and surely suspended.
Or imagine what would happen if, say, Jackson lumbered onto the court and engaged in a lengthy shouting match with a ref, then heaved the ball into the upper deck, returned to the bench and began throwing chair after chair onto the floor? At least two technical fouls would be called. Maybe three or four.
Jackson would be ejected, heavily fined and definitely suspended by NBA commissioner David Stern, who would not sit still for such out-of-control behavior from a head coach and role model.
But of course, such outbursts would never happen during an NFL or NBA game because coaches know they're simply not acceptable. Too costly for their team. Too over the line and over the edge.
But that's football and basketball.
This is baseball.
Rhubarbs have forever been a colorful part of a night at the old ballyard. Yelling "kill the umpire" is as time-honored as "Casey at the Bat." Yet, not only do managers yell at umps, umps yell back at managers.
That's a national embarrassment.
For me, that's borderline hockey. That smacks of a game with a deep insecurity -- one that fears it's not quite exciting enough to entertain fans without a little extracurricular showmanship. During NHL regular-season games, it's as if the players believe the customers will feel they didn't get their money's worth if they don't see at least one fight featuring some blood.
In baseball it's as if managers -- and coaches and players -- are subliminally taught that part of "The Show" is putting on at least one show a night with an umpire. And these things do sometimes seem a little overacted. Don't you sometimes get the feeling the manager and ump are really hamming it up when they go jaw to jaw? It's right out of "Major League III."
Or the WWE.
For me, baseball loses some credibility during rhubarbs. Tell me the game isn't compelling enough without all this nonsense. Tell me I'm not going to hear from all the soccer nuts who have deluded themselves into believing their game is far more exciting than baseball.
Don't get me started.
But I can't defend baseball's antiquated traditions that keep getting grandfathered in from generation to generation. The NFL and NBA are constantly modernizing their rules. Why can't baseball?
Why not crack down on managers leaving the dugout with fines and suspensions? If they want to throw their fits in the dugouts, fine. But if a manager approaches an umpire, and his team is in the field, a ball should be added to the count. If he continues to argue, another ball should be added.
If that makes ball four, the batter should be awarded first base.
I'm not trying to be blasphemous just to get a reaction. I'm trying to improve the game I love. I'm simply asking you to step back and think.
Can you defend that minor league manager who looked sillier than some minor league mascot when he threw his one-for-the-ages tantrum a few weeks ago? You're right: That earned him comparisons with the greatest tantrum throwers, Billy Martin and Lou Piniella.
Can you defend Dodgers first base coach Mariano Duncan, who had to be pulled away from the umpires, then flipped his hat at ump Angel Hernandez who gave it to a fan in the stands.
I know: You got a kick out of it.
And so did your kids.
Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.