Editorial: When pitchers strike

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By Zach Redwood
Major League Baseball has always been a game of storied tradition. Fans of the game might have seen that there are many unwritten rules that are as much a part of the game as the seventh inning stretch.

These unsaid rules are basically there for respect and are mostly self-enforced by the players, but when the players feel that another player has crossed the line, the dugouts clear and much harsher enforcement than a fastball to the backside begins to ensue.

There are some MLB players that believe baseball’s sacred tradition was purer when it was free of bat flips, reckless slides into second base, and long trots around the bases after homeruns.

 

“If you’ve got something wrong with a guy, go see him. And then they’ll break it up and continue to play the game.”

 

This mindset is one that is very common among players in the MLB, but the thought process is starting to change with the younger players coming into the league and these players are not pulling any punches, literally.

There were 12 total bench clearings in 2016 and so far in 2017 there have been three. The most memorable scuffle from 2016 was when Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was struck with a reciprocal pitch from Texas Rangers reliever Matt Bush, then while running from first to second base on a ground ball, Bautista slid past the base and directly into the legs of Texas second baseman Rougned Odor.

Odor then promptly shoved Bautista, punched him in the jaw, and dugouts were cleared.

All of the animosity toward Bautista came from him taunting and flipping his bat after hitting a home run to put the Blue Jays ahead by three runs during Game Five of the 2015 American League Division Series against the Rangers.

At the time the MLB was focusing on trying to prevent players from sliding past the base so that more players do not get injured. The new slide rule was adopted in 2016 and reads as follows:

“If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01.”

The altercation caused Odor to be suspended for six games for what some call the best MLB punch ever and Bautista for one game for his intentional slide into Odor’s legs.

In May of this year, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was the main target for San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland’s retaliation pitch.

 

 ‘Listen, we’ve got to get beyond this               situation, because it’s very dangerous to           everybody.’ But again, I do not blame Harper one bit for what he did.”

 

Back in 2014, Harper hit a pair of enormous homeruns off of Strickland during Game One of the National League Division Series and apparently Strickland did not appreciate Harper admiring the homer off the bat and then heckling him once in the dugout after the game-tying second blast.

Harper admitted that in that situation, Strickland had a lot of nerve to throw him a fastball with a 3 balls and 1 strike count. After the pair of homers in 2014, while talking to the New York Times about the exuberance in the dugout, Harper said,

“I don’t even know what I’m doing, you could say, because I’m going so crazy and I’m so happy about it.”

When Strickland finally faced Harper again, three years later, he threw a fastball and hit Harper in the right hip area. The players had words and then Harper threw his helmet near Strickland and began charging the pitcher’s mound. The two exchanging punches, then the dugouts cleared and an on-field scuffle started.

Players and coaches from around the MLB reacted to the fight the day. While talking to local Chicago CBS radio station, 670 The Score Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta said the fight was “awesome.”

“If you’ve got something wrong with a guy, go see him. And then they’ll break it up and continue to play the game.”

Arrieta also called the fight “refreshing,” saying that he would rather see some action, rather than listening to guys yell back and forth.

Also talking to 670 The Score, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon spoke on the castigation the MLB would hand down and the mindset the players would need to have to help reduce this problem.

“I don’t think it can be external. I don’t think people in suits or managers or whatever talking to them is going to change anything. It’d have to almost be a paradigm shift among the players, peer discussion that ‘Listen, we’ve got to get beyond this situation, because it’s very dangerous to everybody.’ But again, I do not blame Harper one bit for what he did.”

Strickland was suspended for six games for intentionally throwing at Harper. Harper was initially hit with a four-game suspension for charging the mound and fighting, but after an appeal, the Nationals outfielder was given a three-game suspension instead.

When asked about Strickland waiting three years to exact his revenge, Nationals manager Dusty Baker said,

“Baseball is a game where you don’t forget, you can hold grudges for a long, long time, and that was my take on it.”

The MLB has been decent when it comes to “getting it right” on player’s suspensions.

The only difference comes when one considers how pitchers are at an advantage when the suspension deals specifically with games. Instead, MLB should consider suspending pitchers for six starts rather than only six games.

A starting pitcher might only pitch every four games. A relief pitcher often takes multiple days off per week.

A position player will often play every single day of a series. The position player’s absence will usually hurt the team more than if a pitcher misses one start.

The current discipline should be amended to punish pitchers the same way that position players are punished.

If enforcing the unwritten rules of baseball is going to be punishable by suspension, then the players that have the upper hand, the pitchers, should be subjected to the same penalty as a position player that will actually miss said amount of games that he is suspended.

It may take a paradigm shift from the players in the league to keep the enforcement of the rules. And maybe a pitcher should not hold a grudge longer than most post divorcees. Both are

The difference between hitting someone in the hip and hitting someone in the face is very little considering some pitchers in MLB can throw upwards of 95 mph.

Since the eye for an eye rule is still in effect when someone gets hit, it will remain the norm even if the pitch was not intentional. Until this changes, MLB should consider penalizing the pitchers a little more practically.

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