Sunday, April 24, 2005

Fun and games at the ballpark!

The Sox and D-Rays have always seemed to have a little tension between them - predating most of the players (and both managers) on the current rosters.

So this weekend's series should have come as no surprise - on Friday, Kazmir hit Millar and Ramirez (having been thrown out of one of his early major league starts last season for hitting Ramirez and Millar...), while Wakefield hit Gomes. On Saturday, McClung hit Millar, having missed behind him earlier, and Schilling hit Crawford in retaliation...

And then today...

Let me get things straight - I don't have a problem with pitchers throwing at hitters - one of baseball's joys as an 'outsider' is the unwritten code that players follow. Each side understands these rules, even if they aren't written down, and you quickly get to appreciate what scenarios may lead to what action. In the Bissinger / La Russa book (3 Nights in August), one of the more interesting parts of the book covers La Russa's thoughts on when a pitcher should be plunking a pitcher, and on the negative impact that it can have on a ballclub if a team doesn't feel that its' pitchers are protecting them... but Tony's advice - never throw at a guys head.

When Arroyo hit Huff, I personally felt it fell into the silly category, Arroyo appears to struggle with Huff, so he hit him, low on the leading leg. So when Carter threw behind Manny, I didn't have a great amount of beef with the pitch (though if the umpire's thought it was deliberate, issuing warnings to both teams, why wasn't Carter thrown out of the game at that point?) - though if I was Huff, I would be asking why my pitcher can't hit a fairly large target when required. And Manny had the perfect response - next pitch was hit to deep left center for a HR.

That was when things got a bit silly.

Carter decided that he would send the next pitch at Ortiz's head - not in his general direction, a rising pitch aimed directly at his head. In my opinion, that is lower than a cheap shot. We all know that hitters have very short amounts of time to decide whether to swing, to check or, as in this case, to take evasive action. When you throw at someone's head, the panic factor reduces that time even further, and can lead to a hitter diving into that pitch with horrendous consequences. Needless to say, that pitch lead to the inevitable benches clearing 'brawl' with Brazelton and Nixon the main protagonists.

Then in the bottom half, in a play called from Neil in NY to Neil in UK, Arroyo stayed in the game to hit the next guy up, which, unfortunately for him, was Singleton - but this was done in the right way, hitting him in the ass, but still brought a benches clearing situation (I was looking for an alternative to brawl, but handbags at dawn didn't quite fit) - though I really don't know what the Rays thought might happen... especially with two guys up in the Sox bullpen. If the Rays don't want their guys getting hit, they have to stop their pitchers throwing at people's heads.

Anyway the point of this rant... pitchers have to be allowed to pitch inside... pitchers should be allowed to hit hitters under the baseball 'code'... but in no scenario should pitchers be allowed, or encouraged, to throw at a hitter's head - the suspension has to be significant enough to ensure that pitchers know it is not acceptable, and given the way pitchers are managed, that means a minimum of 10 games.

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