It seems that for the large majority of Clint Hurdles time managing the Pittsburgh Pirates that the team he managed was known for purposefully throwing at hitters. They would always claim that it was just “pitching inside”, but it seemed that no one in baseball bought into that idea much. Jared Hughes, who pitched for the Reds in 2019 and pitched for the Pirates for six seasons in the past acknowledged that he indeed saw the Pirates intentionally throw at hitters, telling that to Jay Morrison of The Athletic last year.
After the early season problems with the Pirates pitchers throwing pitches at hitters, again, Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell was openly critical of the umpires and Major League Baseball for not doing enough, or really anything at all, to protect players from being thrown at on purpose. After a bench-clearing brawl in April in Pittsburgh that saw Yasiel Puig turn into the meme of the first half as he attacked the entire Pirates team at the plate while Tucker Barnhart attempted to hold onto his leg, suspensions were handed out – but from Major League Baseball’s side of things, it was just an incident.
Fast forward a few months to July 30th. The 9th inning began with Pittsburgh leading 8-3. Jared Hughes came out to start the inning, and hit Starling Marte with the first pitch he threw. He was removed from the game and was replaced by Amir Garrett. Facing Josh Bell he induced a ground out, but a single and a 3-run home run followed. Kevin Newman grounded out, and then there was a meeting on the mound. But during that, apparently there were some words said from the Pirates dugout and Amir Garrett wasn’t having any of it.
The next thing you know there’s an iconic, award winning photograph shot by Sam Greene of The Cincinnati Enquirer of Amir Garrett with his right arm cocked back about to throw a punch while surrounded by six Pittsburgh Pirates as the Reds left-handed pitcher charged their dugout ready to take on every last one of them. As crazy as that was, things might have been even crazier as Reds manager David Bell was going after Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, despite the fact that he had previously been ejected from the game. Bell had to be physically restrained by multiple people on the Reds. In total it took more than five minutes to clear the field.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network noted last night that the new enforcement of hit-by-pitch rules with regards to ejections and stricter punishment was actually related to what happened between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh during the 2019 season and not the Houston Astros fears and concerns of being thrown at intentionally due to their sign stealing and half-hearted apology tour that read like Dwight Schrute’s apology from The Office when he reads his formal apology from a sheet of paper: “I state my regret.”
When asked by co-worker Jim Halpert, “You couldn’t memorize that?”, to which Dwight responds, “I could not because I do not feel it.”
In the last few days more than a handful of Major Leaguers have gone on the record with their disappointment, disgust, and anger over the situation. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred sent out a memo about throwing at hitters, and in his sit down chat with ESPN’s Karl Ravech he specified it was about the Astros hitters. But he also noted that they “have been working on for some time a memorandum about being hit by pitches, intentionally throwing at batters. It’s really dangerous, really a dangerous undertaking, and completely independent of the Astros investigation we will be issuing at the beginning of this week a memorandum on hit by pitches which will increase the ramifications of that type of behavior.”
Where was this a year ago when David Bell was essentially begging Major League Baseball to do something? Where was it when Tim Anderson took one in the hip after homering in April that led to a bench-clearing incident? Why the wait? It’s not as if it’s some secret that players retaliate by throwing pitches at players they don’t like the actions of – it’s been happening for 100 years.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It sounds as if the intent of “throwing at a hitter” is going to be up to the umpire. Of course, hasn’t it always been that way? They’ve had the power to make that call, and eject players for a very long time and they have only exercised it after someone else was already hit by a pitch.