The news that Oriole relief pitcher Alfredo Simon is being questioned in two shootings in his native Dominican Republic - one person was killed, another wounded - failed to send shockwaves through the Baltimore community over the weekend. Dominican police said on Sunday they believe Simon shot and killed 25-year-old Michel Castillo Almonte and wounded his 17-year-old brother during a New Year's Eve fight in the northeast coastal town of Luperon.
Two people shot on New Year's Eve. Same as here in Baltimore, where both of the victims died.
Anyhow, Simon has turned himself in to police; at right is his picture with the chief of police down there.
People were quick to blogulate and comment on Facebook about all this, saying that being in Baltimore had influenced Simon to the point at which he is acting like a Baltimorean, which is to say, shooting a gun recklessly.
I think it has nothing to do with Baltimore or even Maryland or even the United States. I don't know what the gun laws are in the Dominican Republic, and I don't know who shot Almonte and his brother, and I don't know why they were shot. I do know that they were, and that there is one less person on the planet today because of it, and I wish that people would stop toting guns around and shooting each other. Simon says that he was in the area on New Year's Eve but that he had nothing to do with the shooting. Of course, who knows what happened? I don't, and it will be up to the Dominican authorities to determine where to go next with this case.
But back here, we hear so often that young people turn to violence because the futility of their existence, the hopelessness that pervades so many lives, leads them down a path of nihilistic abandon. They don't care about anything, since they have nothing to live for, goes the popular explanation.
At 6'4", 230 lbs, Alfredo Simon has a God-given talent to pick up a baseball and throw it very hard and very fast. He has honed that talent to an ability to throw the ball past opposing hitters in a baseball game. For this, he was paid $400,000 in 2009, the last season for which his salary was available. You'd have to surmise that since he had a decent 4-2 season with an earned run average of below 5 per game, that makes him a real star on the beleaguered Oriole pitching staff, and so he was in line for decent raises.
Even if he is cleared of charges, even if there is a trial and he is found not guilty, still, a man is dead down there in the Dominican, and people are dead all over our town. Baltimore just about threw itself a huge pizza party over the weekend because "only" 223 people were murdered in our fair city in 2010, most of them by handguns.
I keep asking if this is what the framers of the Constitution had in mind, and for someone to explain why criminals are allowed to run around with guns, shooting each other as if this were Chicago in the 1920s, but no one is willing to explain it.
And people call sports talk radio shows to discuss who might be tapped to take Simon's place in the bullpen this summer.
And still the killing goes on.
UPDATE from late last night: Simon now says that he was firing his pistol in celebration of the New Year and somehow the bullets shot the two men, who happen to be his cousins.