It’s time again for my annual, “hey, stop throwing at hitters, you jackasses” column. It’s a little later this year than I would have guessed, but I knew it was coming sooner or later. After all, if there is one truism in baseball, it’s this: No one who hasn’t been hit in the face by a baseball has enough respect for what one thrown at 95 mph can do.
Baseballs are missiles. But you don’t need me to tell you that. Instead, you can look at what happened to the Tigers’ JaCoby Jones a couple weeks ago, when he was hit in the face by Minnesota’s mop-up man, Justin Haley.
It was entirely unintentional, with Haley apparently shaken up and attempting to apologize after the game to Jones and the Tigers.
Nevertheless, Major League Baseball’s idiotic macho code had been invoked, so Matt Boyd threw a pitch behind Miguel Sano, sparking a bench clearing incident.
Now, those missiles seem to all be aimed at Manny Machado. A couple weeks ago, the Red Sox’s Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Barnes both tried to hit the young superstar. Barnes’s pitch was right at Machado’s head (so close that it actually hit his bat behind his head). Machado followed that up with a double.
On Monday, Machado homered again, so Chris Sale started him off with a fastball behind his legs last night. While Machado struck out in that at bat, he did get revenge later in the game with another home run off of Sale.
Baseball has long tolerated this dangerous practice. And its players continue to endorse this code. We’ve seen players injured by fastballs to the ribs, the wrist, the foot, the knee, and, yes, to the head. Players have been permanently handicapped, maimed, and killed by fastballs to the face and head. And yet, we go on as if these risks are inevitable. Just the cost of doing business.
And for what? Are you getting anything out of this? Because I’m sure as hell not.
And neither, if you think about it, are the clubs throwing at each other. The pitcher gives up at least a ball and potentially puts a man on base. And it certainly seems like angering Manny Machado doesn’t help their line score either. Pitchers are deliberately putting batters at risk (and, frankly, themselves at risk if the batter charges the mound) to “protect” themselves and their teammates. To honor the game.
Well, the game wouldn’t have been served if Manny Machado, one of the best young players in the history of the game, had had his jaw or his eye socket broken. The game would not have been served if he was forced to drink his meals through a straw while his bones stitched themselves together. The game wouldn’t have been served if, in understandable anger, he had tackled Sale and damaged the ace’s shoulder.
I’m tired of having to write this column every year. I’m tired of nothing changing. Baseball is a beautiful game and it brings me, and millions of others, so much joy. But every time someone is deliberately put in danger, I get rocked out of my bliss. Will this start a war? Will someone get hurt? Will the trainers wind up having to pick teeth out of the dirt around home plate? Jesus, that ball Sale threw was 98 miles per hour. Imagine the damage it would have done if he had missed his spot. He should have been tossed from the game right then.
Any pitcher who throws at a batter should get at least 10 games on the sidelines. And if the batter they threw at got hurt, the pitcher should not be allowed back until the batter returns or the end of the season, whichever comes first. Give these penalties teeth and make them fair. End these useless wars before someone really gets hurt.