As anyone who has been around the game at any level knows, there’s a certain omertà in clubhouses where you protect your own and there doesn’t need to be a lot of talk about it. Let’s face it, MLB players have always policed themselves. There are unwritten rules and unspoken shows of respect that go beyond friendship and being a good teammate when you’re a professional athlete.
These kinds of symbolic gestures have been going on forever and it’s something that may very well continue after we’re all dead and gone. It doesn’t make it right, per se, but it is what it is and you and I are not going to change it by tweeting or writing about it on the world wide web.
And seeing as you can’t easily judge intent with some guys (think Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, or Carl Edwards Jr. on their worst days), it’s a slippery slope to head down when you start handing out suspensions and fines subjectively. So how does baseball address this ongoing problem and how should fans react to this type of barbaric behavior?
Hitting human beings with 95 mph fastballs isn’t necessarily a great way to settle scores or call attention to (unwritten) rule-breakers, but it does send a message. But what message is that exactly, and what is the right way to retaliate when your guys are constantly getting plunked?
Sure, you can take your free base each time it happens and go on your merry way, thanking the other team for another baserunner. Most in the game agree that you take an eye for an eye and that’s that. However, not all fans and players agree on the right thing to do philosophically, and that makes an already ambiguous issue even more polarizing.
I guess the right way to handle it is to do exactly what Javy Báez did against the Rockies Wednesday when he was dusted earlier in the game: Hit a bomb. And for good measure, he gave Rockies reliever Phillip Diehl the Ghost Rider Penance Stare as he carried his bat to first.
HBP or 460' HR? pic.twitter.com/dEYpri5MuI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 12, 2019
But as awesome as that was and as much as everyone not pulling for the Rockies or other NL Central teams loved it, it’s not going to solve a darn thing. Kris Bryant is going to be pitched up and in because it’s one of the ways you can get him out. Anthony Rizzo is going to be worked in because he stands right on top of the plate. Pitchers aren’t all of a sudden going to stop pitching him in because Báez hit one 700 feet and then deliberately took his time circling the bases while consuming his opponent’s soul.
Is the old-school way of hitting someone in the back or the backside (staying away from the head and wrists) the right thing to do if you have to send a message? Maybe it’s acceptable for some, under certain circumstances. While El Mago’s pelota larga was magnífico and probably the best way to serve revenge with a cold icy stare, no amount of tape-measure shots are going to effectively change anything.
Balls being hit in the seats and subsequent staredowns won’t stop anyone from throwing wherever they want, whenever they want to Javy, Bryant, or Rizzo. Maybe we just leave it up to the players, omertà and all, and really enjoy it when the retaliation is a missile being launched 460 feet into the stands rather than 60 feet, 6 inches at 95 mph into someone’s ear.