Since when did professional athletes get so sensitive? I fully understand that Major League Baseball has had bench-clearing brawls since the first games were played in the late 1800′s. It just seems now that these brawls occur far more frequently than I remember seeing as a kid. Maybe that is due to the daily broadcasts we have of most every game today as compared to the two games we would get to see each week as I grew up.
So, what causes these baseball brawls? As I see it, showmanship does. I understand that a hitter will object to a fastball under his chin or getting drilled in the back. The pitcher has a so-called reason: the hitter somehow “showed him up.” Perhaps a long pause to watch a tape-measure home run gets under the pitcher’s skin. Grow up, pitcher! You make millions to get that hitter out; he makes millions to hit that drive. He won; get over it. You will still get paid.
Red Sox/Rays skirmish, June 10
A specific event on June 10 illustrates the general example above almost to perfection. In the sixth inning of the Boston Red Sox/Tampa Bay Rays game, Boston pitcher John Lackey nailed Rays hitter Matt Joyce in the back. Joyce homered off Lackey in the first inning, making the score 6-1, Boston. Then in the second, Joyce pulled one down the line that would have been another home run had it stayed fair. I have seen the video. Joyce apparently watched the ball and then reacted in frustration as the ball went foul. Lackey saw Joyce’s reaction differently. He shouted at the Rays’ dugout as he left the mound at the end of the inning. Lackey then hit Joyce in the back in the sixth inning.
Only words and a few shoves were exchanged and the gamed resumed with warnings issued to both dugouts. Still, though, that was a pitcher throwing a hard object as fast as he can at another player because he did not like the batter’s reaction to a foul ball. Joyce did nothing wrong; Lackey overreacted and could have really hurt him.
Dodgers/Diamondbacks brawl, June 11
It took four hit batsmen for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks to clear the benches, but it happened in the seventh inning between the two teams on June 11. The exchange of batters hit went as follows: Cody Ross (ARI), Yasil Puig, (LAD), Miguel Montero (ARI), and Zack Greinke (LAD). Greinke had already hit two Diamondbacks (one intentionally), so I understand his beaning – but not close to the head. Benches cleared, and a few punches were thrown. It could have gotten much uglier.
Stiffer penalties needed
What can MLB do to reduce or eliminate the fighting? A few games of suspension does nothing to deter the fighting. Perhaps some stiffer penalties are in order:
- Longer suspensions – without pay.
Think back to when the San Diego Padres’ Carlos Quentin charged Greinke on the mound. Greinke hit Quentin with a pitch – unintentionally. Quentin charged the mound and broke Greinke’s collar bone. Greinke missed six weeks; Quentin missed eight games. He should have had at least double that time. In six weeks, Greinke missed 10-12 starts, but he did not throw at the hitter intentionally. Quentin had the intent to hurt someone and did. He should have missed at least 15-21 games – without pay.
In the June 11 game, Arizona’s Ian Kennedy threw at Greinke’s head. Most likely, Kennedy will get a five-game suspension, maybe eight. Either way, he will miss one start at most. Greinke will likely get the same penalty for throwing at Montero earlier as will Lackey for hitting Joyce. Compare their penalties to Puig’s, who could get five games himself. Pitchers will miss one start. Position players will sit out more.
- No appeals
The current appeal system allows the players to decide when they will serve their light suspensions. Quentin dropped his appeal only a few days after receiving the suspension, but he still had that decision. He chose to miss the Dodger games still in front of him that week.
Many players will wait until they need rest to drop their appeals. Hypothetically, Puig could go into a slump, drop his appeal, serve three games, work on his swing, and return to light it up again. A starting pitcher – Kennedy, for instance – could decide to wait until he faces a team that he just cannot beat and then serve his suspension then. MLB should allow one day for appeal and then enforce the suspensions immediately.
Some people like the fights, but in general, fans pay a lot of money to see their favorite teams play baseball. It gets frustrating to turn on the highlight shows and see the first ten minutes devoted to yet another bench-clearing donnybrook, especially when it all started because someone got his feelings hurt.
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