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MLB ought to stop beanball wars once and for all

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The Cubs and Rockies traded throwing at each other’s hitters this week, and that’s just dumb.

Cole Hamels hit Nolan Arenado Wednesday. Was it retaliation?
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs and Rockies have a little bit of history going, and I’m here to tell you that history ought to stop.

Kris Bryant was hit in the helmet April 22, 2018 in Denver by Rockies pitcher German Marquez. KB wound up missing four games as a result.

Fast forward to this week. Bryant got hit again in Denver Tuesday night. Twice. That resulted in this:

And then, things got a bit out of hand in Wednesday afternoon’s game. KB gets hit? Well then, Cole Hamels is going to hit the Rockies’ best player [VIDEO].

This is what baseball people call “self-policing” by players. I call it “ridiculous” and it’s only going to lead to escalation. Hamels admitted to nothing after the game:

After Wednesday afternoon’s 10-1 win over the Colorado Rockies, Hamels was trying to explain the first-pitch, 90-mph fastball that drilled Nolan Arenado’s left arm in the third inning.

So that wasn’t retaliation for the Rockies hitting Kris Bryant twice Tuesday night?

“Not that I know of, no,” Hamels said.

Arenado barked at Hamels and yelled toward the visiting dugout. What did Hamels make of that response?

“That’s just baseball,” he said. “People yell at me all the time, good and bad. It’s just the nature of trying to get guys out.”

Pretty noncommittal, in my view. Obviously he’s not going to admit deliberately throwing at anyone.

That led to more extracurricular nonsense. Hamels got hit in the sixth inning and Anthony Rizzo in the eighth. Now, both Bryant and Rizzo get hit a lot, and it’s been noted by just about everyone that Rizzo stands closer to the plate than most hitters. On the other hand, this chart shows that all the pitches that have hit Rizzo in his career have been out of the strike zone. Yes, every single one:

I haven’t counted those — you can if you like — but it looks like at least half those pitches were fastballs.

Rizzo decided to take second base uncontested and he would have taken third that way, too, if Javier Baez hadn’t fouled a ball off. Javy later homered and Rizzo trotted home ahead of him. Rizzo being hit led to warnings being issued to both dugouts.

Even after that there one more HBP, of Tony Wolters by Brad Brach. Brach professed his innocence:

The man has a point. Even though warnings had been issued, apparently plate umpire Roberto Ortiz decided Brach did not hit Wolters with “intent,” thus he was not ejected. In my view, once warnings are issued, ejections should be automatic if players get hit. Perhaps that would stop this kind of play. Even if Brach didn’t hit Wolters intentionally, if teams knew ejections would be automatic after warnings were issued, perhaps it would eliminate a lot of the pitches that are thrown intentionally at hitters (and there are some, regardless of denials by teams).

Wolters then decided to advance on the bases the same way Rizzo did — obviously he’s not going to be held on base in a 10-0 game — and he scored the Rockies’ only run on a groundout, thus ruining what would otherwise have been the Cubs’ first-ever shutout of the Rockies in Denver. More childish play, in my view.

Here’s some video of all the HBPs, with commentary by both teams’ announcers [VIDEO].

Here are Joe Maddon’s postgame comments:

Personally, I’d say “go to first base.” Going to the mound? “Jabbering”? Nonsense. I’d like to think that these grown men could settle disputes without throwing baseballs at each other, baseballs that could injure someone. Sure, it seems like Arenado is all right, but why throw a pitch that could injure him? Bryant was all right after being hit in the head last year, but that’s dangerous.

Major League Baseball seems utterly uninterested in doing anything about beanball wars. Check out this incident involving Chris Archer in Pittsburgh against the Reds on April 7 [VIDEO].

This was apparently in retaliation for Derek Dietrich looking longer at a home run he had hit earlier in the game than Archer would have liked. To which my response is: If you don’t want him to do that, make better pitches and get him out. Archer wound up suspended for five games. Seriously, MLB? A five-game suspension for a starting pitcher is a vacation, not a punishment. If starting pitchers do this sort of thing, they need to actually miss starts, not have them pushed back by a day.

This incident created bad blood between the Pirates and Reds, to the point that Eugenio Suarez was thrown at in the ninth inning of a game the Pirates were leading 7-1 [VIDEO].

Reds manager David Bell got himself tossed after that one, and after that game he made these comments:

“(The players) need to protect themselves with any means necessary,” Bell said. “First of all, the ball doesn’t hurt when it hits you that bad, but it has a chance to do some serious damage. When someone is messing with your livelihood, your career, who knows? You’ve got to protect yourself. Clearly, we’re not going to get protected by the umpires or the league. That’s been made clear. Our players need to do whatever they need to do protect themselves. I’ll back them whatever that is.

”For some reason, we think it’s OK to throw at people. For whatever reason, that was OK many years ago, and we’re still living some rules that I don’t know about – that it’s OK to intentionally throw at our players. The umpires think it’s OK. The league thinks it’s somewhat OK. Somebody’s going to get hurt. We need to take as many measures as possible. Ours need to do whatever they need to do to stick up for themselves, protect themselves. They protect themselves, their career.”

The key statement in that quote is: “Clearly, we’re not going to get protected by the umpires or the league. That’s been made clear.” Sadly, Bell is right about that. The league needs to say this kind of thing is not OK, because... it’s just not right to throw a baseball at 90-plus miles per hour with the intent to retaliate for some real or imagined slight.

The Pirates, incidentally, are at this again in their current series against the Braves. Joe Musgrove hit Josh Donaldson in the first inning Monday, clearing the benches [VIDEO].

That video is from the Pirates broadcast. It’s instructive to look at the video from the Atlanta broadcast to get a different perspective [VIDEO].

Musgrove was ejected. Since he threw only two-thirds of an inning Monday, the Pirates started him again Thursday afternoon and guess what? He hit the second batter he faced, Dansby Swanson. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed after that. But this is ridiculous.

Someone, someday, is going to be injured in a situation like this to the point where his career might end. Even with all the protection players wear, particularly on their heads, there is still a risk that someone’s going to suffer a serious head injury when a 95 mile per hour fastball hits them there.

I’ve always viewed this kind of retaliation as childish. All it does is lead to escalating retaliation. The Cubs and Rockies don’t play each other again this year (unless they meet in the postseason), but as noted above, this little war might have started as long ago as last year. MLB should stop it, by legislating longer penalties and ejecting players automatically after warnings, before someone gets more seriously hurt.