I’ve met photographers who believe they’re the baseball cards and we writers are the stale, powdered stick of bubble gum. (Except for ours at the Sun Journal. They’re absolutely fabulous. Really. I speak the truth.)

So I hesitate to make this confession, but here goes nothing. When I saw that giant photo of a bat-wielding moron losing his religion at the expense of two soon-to-be-hospitalized minor leaguers, I went more than 18 hours without knowing it was former Boston Red Sox free agent debacle Jose Offerman.

The photo said it all. Screamed it, actually. It gave me such an absolute panic attack that I looked at it with my mouth in wisdom tooth extraction mode for about an hour, then dropped the paper in disbelief without ever reading the caption.

Really, did I need to? The guy ready to give his brusher-back an ash-kicking or bamboo-beating could have been Jose Cruz, Jose Canseco or Jose Cuervo for all I cared.

It was singularly, unequivocally the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in the athletic arena.

Well, maybe I haven’t watched many crowd shots at European soccer games. And perhaps Marty McSorley trying to play Score-O with Donald Brashear’s head a few years back qualifies as something that would get you 10 to 20 years if you tried to pull it off in a dark alley.

But as much as it pains me to think about inciting soccer and hockey apologists to riot, let’s face it, hooliganism is part and parcel of those two sports.

British dudes have gotten drunk and disorderly and killed people in the name of futbol since before David Beckham was a gleam in someone’s eye.

Hockey goons have created a cottage industry, becoming millionaires and making 20-year careers out of beating the hell out of a more talented opponent by any means necessary.

Baseball? It’s always been a relatively genteel affair, handled internally by the hard slides and chin music that I reluctantly accept as long as it doesn’t turn into a 10-year tinkling match. Such as Red Sox vs. Devil Rays. Or Roger Clemens vs. Everybody.

The ear hole buzzing, f-you shouting and macho posturing is all fun and games until some extreme coward tries to make like Tony Soprano’s henchmen and takes a Louisville Slugger along for the trip.

Two massive changes need to come out of this episode.

Call me crazy (and I’ll point to Offerman and yell, “Scoreboard!”, by the way), but I call upon the Newark Bears and Long Island Ducks of the world to behave more judiciously when signing former major league all-star wheeze kids for one final fling. You get what you pay for.

Look, I know you’re only trying to sell tickets. Just keep in mind that when you’re welcoming a Jose Offerman into the clubhouse, you’re inviting him to baseball’s equivalent of “The Surreal Life.” He has reached the nadir of his profession; the Has-Been Hall of Fame, if you will. It doesn’t take much more than a well-placed heater within six inches of his protruding belly to make him legally insane.

Oh, and Offerman needs to be suspended until he retires, thus put out of his misery. Attacking someone with a bat is one of those unpardonable sins.

This was nothing like those suspected syringes and alleged betting slips, either. We got to watch this transgression unfold in frightening color. Hey man, nice shot.


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