Yesterday we saw, once again, the unwritten rules of baseball lead to something very stupid on the baseball field. Chicago White Sox infielder Tim Anderson hit a home run and flipped his bat and yelled TO HIS DUGOUT. He was clearly fired up about it.

He didn’t bark to the pitcher. Nor did he bark to the catcher. He crushed a baseball into the stands and got excited with his teammates. As a result, the next time he came to the plate the pitcher who served up that meatball, took a baseball and fired it at, and hit Tim Anderson. The benches cleared. No punches would be thrown. We’ve all seen this over the years. And it just keeps getting dumber and dumber.

There are certain things that, apparently, you just aren’t allowed to do on the baseball field according to a certain subset of baseball players. Those rules, however, aren’t written down anywhere. You are just supposed to know them. And follow them. Sometimes. Reds reliever Amir Garrett had some things to say about it last night.

He gets it.

Having your feelings hurt because someone “got one on you” is not a reason to purposefully throw a baseball at someone to “teach them a lesson”. The idea that this is how it goes, and how it’s “always been” is also very stupid. In 1972 the average fastball was LOWER than the speed of the average change up today. While I don’t think that guys in 1972 should have been throwing baseballs at guys, the consequences then were far less. First, guys actually had a chance to get out of the way because of the velocity. Second, they had a far lesser chance of injury if they didn’t get out of the way because of velocity. Then, of course, is this (screencapped because of the language used – but you can see the original here):

Mike Coolbaugh was a minor league coach. He died after a foul ball hit him in the head. This is why base coaches are now required to wear helmets.

As we saw with Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez last year – players actually get hurt when they are hit by pitches. The difference between “hit a guy in the butt” and breaking a guys rib is a matter of a quarter inch on the release of the pitch. It’s dangerous to purposefully try to hit a guy ANYWHERE, because no one is actually that good at controlling a 95 MPH fastball.

When Derek Dietrich was thrown behind in the Pirates series we discussed all of the things related to that. If you care to read my take on what the Reds should do in response the next time they play, you can do that here. It was the outcome from Major League Baseball in that, and other similar situations, that allows this to continue happening. Chris Archer missed fewer games than David Bell or Yasiel Puig. Yes, Archer was suspended for five games, compared to one for Bell and two for Puig. But Bell’s absence actually mattered. He will only manage 161 games this season. Puig will only be eligible to play in 160 games this season. For Archer, as a starting pitcher – he won’t actually miss any games he was scheduled to play in. He’ll still make all 33 of his scheduled starts this season.

And there is a part of the problem. Chris Archer essentially got fined. And while not getting paid for those five games probably did sting, the team and player aren’t really facing much. Archer just had his start pushed back a day and it was back to normal. The Pirates as a team didn’t face any actual suspension at all. And he’s the only one who threw a baseball at someone. David Bell yelled a lot. Yasiel Puig yelled a lot, and he ran at some guys, but never threw a punch. They both, and the Reds as a result, faced more of a punishment than the guy who literally threw a baseball at someone to try and teach them a lesson.

Major League Baseball has been running an ad campaign since last postseason based around “Let the kids play”, where the focus is Major Leaguers showing emotion on the field. Bat flips. Pitchers celebrating via a fist pump after a big strikeout. And yet when the hitters actually do that, and someone tries to hurt them for doing so, Major League Baseball is doing nothing about it that is going to in turn, stop them from actually doing it. A starting pitcher needs to be suspended long enough that his team will need to make a roster move in order to fill that spot in the rotation. A reliever should face a suspension of a week. When the team actually has to start making roster moves, costing them actual money and resources, all of this “throwing at hitters who hurt my feelings” stuff will stop. And it will stop very quickly. Until then, though, we’re going to continue to see an antiquated unwritten set of rules risk injury over someone else having fun on a baseball field that made a pitcher react like a toddler who didn’t get his way.

Joe Torre, the former manager and player, is in charge of handing down suspensions in Major League Baseball. Torre was born prior to the United States entering World War II. When he was managing, and when he was playing, this was happening, and was seen as far more acceptable. It’s time to stop it. This is no longer acceptable. Times change. So should the consequences. Joe Sheehan, who has a fantastic newsletter, offered this up today in a free preview:

MLB, Rob Manfred, Joe Torre, the entire power structure, has a chance today to take the stand it failed to take after the Archer incident. It can finally take a stand against the ugliest part of the modern game, when one player stands 60 feet away from another and throws a hard object at him, intentionally, at upwards of 90 mph, for no reason other than spite. If your kid did this at school, he’d be suspended for a week. If you did this in your office, you’d be fired. If you did it on 86th St., you’d be arrested. The act — throwing something as hard as you can at someone else out of anger in an effort to exact revenge — is something we teach four-year-olds not to do. It’s just as wrong, just as dangerous, just as ripe for punishment, when grown men in pajamas do it.

Former Major League Dale Murphy chimed in earlier today, too. He’s now writing at The Athletic among other things. Here’s what he had to say:


22 Responses

  1. Doc

    The problem is compounded because this is a one way street. If the pitcher shows exuberance after striking out a hitter, what can the hitter do? Essentially nothing. He can’t call up a hit, or a home run, on demand. He can’t line one back at the pitcher with any degree of call up on demand. He has nothing with which to retaliate.

    The pitcher is 100% capable of immediate or delayed retaliation. Has a ball in hand and can throw at the hitter any time he wants. Not a fair balance.

    Relievers who hit a batter in retaliation should get immediately tossed and at least 7 days suspension, no roster move allowed, no appeal. Starters should get immediately tossed, 21 days suspension, no roster move allowed and no appeal.

    Any player or coach who leaves a dugout, a coaching box or bullpen to join an on field melee should get immediately tossed, a minimum of 7 days suspension, no roster move or replacement allowed.

    Allow players to celebrate, and require snowflake players to suck it up and be a man. Serious action is needed before someone gets seriously hurt, or worse.

    • enfueago

      And the pitcher maintains at least a veneer of deniability. Its hard to argue that I charged the mound and punched the pitcher in the face because my fist “just got away from me.” We all know examples where we have no doubt but it isn’t that hard to blur the situation for a pitcher.

      What about retaliation for things other than celebrating though? A cheap shot slide at the second baseman well out of the base path. A Rod running back to first by going over the mound. I’m a little less bothered when its in response to a deliberate provocation or attempt at injury.

    • donm10

      I suppose the aggrieved batter could simply charge the mound when the hypocritical pitchers celebrate and pump their fists. Maybe they should! It would be, after all, much less cowardly and dangerous than throwing a fastball at someone.

      In all seriousness though, those pitchers need to lighten up. If the batter mocks you or yells at you then by all means stand up for yourself but merely celebrating is no need for retaliation. Reminds me of when George Costanza ranted about the ‘delicate genius’- perfect way to describe these butthurt pitchers.

    • MK

      Ask Manny Machado or Bert Campenaris what the hitter can do. They were both suspended for throwing a bat after being hit or thrown at. Campenaris threw a bat at Detroit pitcher Larin LaGrow (sic) after he threw at Bert’s leg s in 1972 Playoffs and I forget Manny’s incident.

      The problem as I see it is the warning the umpire gives to both teams. If Archer has to be worried he or one of his teammates is going to be drilled then he would have second thoughts about the first throw.

    • Bill J

      Like your ideas, one thing why do they have coaching boxes the coaches never stay in them.

  2. Big Ed

    I think you will have to run this by the Players Association. The PA might well be on board with cracking down on throwing at guys for celebrating “too much,” but the unwritten rules on retaliating for a shady HBP are likely going to continue. Properly played, the game often requires a pitcher to seize control of the inside corner; it changes the game if a pitcher is ejected for missing his target by a few inches and plunking a hitter. Intent can be hard to detect, and does anybody doubt that the established teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will get more benefit of the doubt than the Reds or Twins?

    Count me as one who doesn’t want guys strutting around after every double like basketball players do after a dunk. It’s a game, son. You scored two points with a dunk; you didn’t save children from a burning house. Are infielders going to be able to do the “do si do” or the Virginia reel to celebrate a routine double play? What exactly is wrong with the dignity of Henry Aaron or Roberto Clemente, or now Mike Trout, and why exactly are Bryce Harper’s “look-at-me” bat flips to be preferred?

    The absolute, No. 1, reason for the slow pace of pay is players’ styling instead of getting on with the game. (Watch a few snippets of the 1968 or 1978 World Series if you don’t believe me. Cut 4 seconds between pitches on average, and the games are much crisper and 15 minutes shorter.) Are we really going to encourage such things as the nonsensical routine of Jonathan Papelbon (and about 80% of those in The Closer Role), taking about 32 seconds between pitches, or the glove-tightening, etc. excesses of about 60% of the hitters?

    • Doug Gray

      The #1 reason of the slow play is because pitchers are insanely good now, and as a result hitters are striking out, and walking more (they walk more because no longer is it a thing to just reach out and slap a baseball and get a hit – you could do that a little bit when the fastballs were 83 MPH and the ground was concrete with carpet on top of it).

      • Big Ed

        Nolan Ryan’s 7 no-hitters were played in 2:20, 2:21, 2:22, 2:01, 2:46, 2:49 and 2:25. Ryan threw harder than 83 MPH, if I recall. He also walked plenty of guys, including in his no-hitters.

        Ryan did it by getting the ball and throwing it, without wasting time, and without having to face hitters who have 7-second get-ready routines. Watch about 2 hours of random You Tube games from the 1970s and tell me that the whole pace of things was not much faster then.

        I get it that the style of play is different, because of the power-pitching aspect of it. The flip side of that, though, is that the game in the 1970s included stolen base threats, and guys like Joe Morgan and Davey Lopes caused pitchers to make a lot more throws to first base.

        The game lags because players lollygag. There is nothing to prevent a power pitcher from being a fast worker. Yesterday’s game was 2:37, because Walker Buehler, a power pitcher (whom I saw pitch in Little League, high school, college and MLB) did not lollygag.

        Fans called Mike Hargrove the Human Rain Delay. The home crowd at Shea once chanted for Steve Traschsel (by no means a power pitcher) to “Throw the Ball!” Both Hargrove and Trachsel would be normal speed in today’s game.

        While a fan posting at RLN may not care about the pace of play, the Average Joe that baseball wants to attract finds it deadly dull to watch a pitcher, 200 times in a game, take 27 seconds to do something that should take 17 seconds. “Here’s looking at you, kid” is a great line. “Here’s . . . looking . . . at . . . you . . . kid” is not.

      • Doug Gray

        Nolan Ryan was not the average pitcher. The other guy in the game wasn’t Nolan Ryan. And hitters weren’t working the counts, either. The amount of pitches in the games today are far higher, on average, than they used to be. That’s the largest reason that games are longer than they used to be. Littler things like time between pitches have added, roughly 6 minutes to the game. We know this because there’s a pitch clock in the minors at certain levels and it’s shaved that much time on average off of a game.

      • CP

        Although I agree the modern pitcher is significantly better (and so is the modern hitter), the #1 reason for long games is none of those things. Advertising breaks were roughly one one minute in the 1970s to 2:25 for locally-televised games, and 2:45 for national games by 2017. Post-season games get even longer breaks. The additional time for commercials automatically add an additional half-hour to the game. Then you start factoring in the increased use of relievers which lead to more timeouts, that’s where the extra time goes.

      • Doug Gray

        That is also a good point. I was more talking about things that are actually happening on the field. It’s the number of pitches more than anything else.

  3. Ghettotrout1

    I hate the unwritten rule garbage. I’m with Amir Garrett all celebrations should be cool. If you can’t handle it find something else to do or just don’t suck at pitching or hitting problem solved.

  4. Scott C

    I agree with Doug 100% that the punishment for throwing at a batter should have substantial bite to it. I’m an old guy, born in 52, but there are a lot of old guys and players out there that need to grow up and let’s get rid of these unwritten rules once and for all. The only way to do it is but a hurting on teams and players that try to enforce them by hurting another player. It’s a game. It’s entertainment for Pete’s Sake!

  5. I-71_Exile

    “There are certain things that, apparently, you just aren’t allowed to do on the baseball field according to a certain subset of baseball players. Those rules, however, aren’t written down anywhere. You are just supposed to know them.”

    I’d argue that while the rules aren’t written down, they are certainly known. You celebrate a home run with a bat flip or watch it sail out of the stadium for 3 or 4 seconds, you are getting a “message” next AB.

    Regarding the supposed advantage a pitcher has over the batter—the batter has a bat. The pitcher has a ball that is no longer in his hand.

    Baseball gets the behavior that it wants. In the 90s it wanted gaudy home run numbers so it turned a blind eye to steroid use. If it really wanted celebrations after home runs or strike outs, then you’d see serious suspensions handed down to the Chris Archers (and Clint Hurdles) of the world. A marketing campaign isn’t going to cut it.

    What bugs me is the chicken fights afterwards. If you are going to fight, fight. Otherwise just walk on down to first. Hockey has it right: you fight, you risk hurting your team and losing the game with a five minute major.

    • Scott C

      Of course if a batter takes a swing at another player he will be suspended for a lengthy period of time, plus risking be called into court for assault with a deadly weapon. Perhaps batters need to take that route against pitchers if the league won’t take action.

  6. SultanofSwaff

    No one seems to be getting to the heart of the matter, which is TAUNTING. Just like in basketball and football, put the issue in the hands of the officials. Let them judge where an excessive celebration crosses the line……with whatever punishments the league and players union decide. Have an issue with a bat flip or strikeout dance? Take it up with the ump, NOT with the opposition. Beanballs are assessed like flagrant 2 fouls in the NBA—immediate suspension for attempting to injure an opponent.

    Side benefit—some good old fashioned manager-ump arguments!

    • Steven Ross

      Let’s talk about Bell’s strange lineups. I don’t think he has a clue.

  7. Ed

    Can we just let them fight like they do in hockey?

  8. Rich H

    WV, the point is that Ryan Madson doesn’t have pinpoint control. He probably wasn’t trying to hit Votto in the knee. But he was throwing at him, and things like that happen when you do. Archer missed Dietrich. Entirely. When he was trying to hit him. What if that ball ended up somewhere else that did hurt him? What would he have been hurt for? Looking too long? That is asinine.

    And on what planet are the guys angry about getting a 90+ mph fastball thrown at them MORE sensitive than the pitchers who don’t like them celebrating success? None of what you say is making sense.

  9. docmike

    The only ones wanting a participation trophy are the snowflake pitchers, who get their feelings hurt because they gave up a homer. If you don’t like the guy flipping his bat, don’t serve up a meatball. If your feelings get hurt that easy, you need to find a new profession.

  10. Westfester

    What drive me nuts about both games was the ridiculous delays cause by both teams clearing the bench. They just wander around on the field and yell, causing a 20-30 minute delay in an already long game. I’d like to see MLB apply the same rules that the NCAA does for college basketball. Anyone who leaves the bench (or dugout) to argue is automatically ejected from the current game (additional suspension to be adjudicated later). Let’s see how quickly teams get their houses in order when they’re only able to put 5 guys in the field after a fight.