If Major League Baseball can outlaw collisions at home plate, making what some critics saw as a change to the very fabric of the game in the name of safety, how is it possible that players still are allowed to come off the bench, and out of the bullpen, for the possibility of a fight, with no repercussions whatsoever?
There is no reason that a baseball player should leave a dugout, let alone a bullpen, to fight other players, to engage in macho posturing, or to do anything else other than play baseball at the appointed time when the very regimented rules of the game compel him to do so.
What happened over the weekend in Baltimore, where benches cleared for incidents involving Orioles third baseman Manny Machado on Friday and Sunday, not only is inexcusable, it’s the latest proof that baseball’s system of frontier justice simply does not work.
It all started with Josh Donaldson tagging Machado at third base to end the third inning in the series opener between the Orioles and A’s. Machado, who had taken himself off balance by contorting his body to try to avoid the tag, tumbled to the ground, then spiked his helmet and confronted Donaldson, leading the benches to clear.
On Sunday, Machado hit A’s catcher Derek Norris in the head on the follow-through of his swing. Norris had to leave the game, and afterward called Machado’s actions “a disgrace to baseball,” leaving little doubt that he thought there was intent on his part. Before the game ended, Fernando Abad threw at Machado twice, Machado threw his bat down the third base line, both players were ejected, and benches cleared again.
Fortunately, the bench-clearing incidents led to no further injuries. Last year, Zack Greinke was not so lucky, when he broke his collarbone in a fight with the Padres. What kind of injury will it take to get MLB to crack down on this useless way of players pretending as if they police themselves? Buster Posey’s torn ACL provided some of the impetus for the changes on plays at the plate, as did concussion awareness. Every time benches clear, there is a chance for such injuries to happen to not just one player, but every player, coach, manager, and umpire involved.
“I always try to let the players handle those things, instead of getting involved with them,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters after Sunday’s game. “I’m very careful, through the years.”
That’s nice, but letting the players handle things does not work when one player did not receive his copy of the code that was authored by King Friday XIII in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. The fact that Showalter was willing to say that Machado and Donaldson on Friday “are probably both a little right and both of ’em a little wrong,” tells you that, in fact, Machado was 100 percent wrong in that instance, just as he was in throwing his bat on Sunday.
Instead of having pretend rules in which players make things up as they go along, any lone actor is free to create havoc upon the system, and managers must try to defend the indefensible, start with a simple, clear, written rule. If you leave the bench to get involved in a fight, you’re sitting for 10 games. If your actions are judged by MLB to be the reason for a bench-clearing incident, you’re sitting for 20. That includes both the pitcher who throws at a hitter, and the hitter whose reaction to being thrown at leads to the benches clearing, as well as anyone else who is a primary perpetrator.
“We’ll let people who do that for a living handle it,” Showalter said when he was asked if he was worried about Machado possibly being suspended. “I know how I would handle it, but it doesn’t really matter. … We’re responsible for the safety of really both teams. Time and place for everything. But you know, it happened, what, two days ago, that they had a disagreement over what Manny perceived as something. I’m always going to support him. Two days later, in a 10-0 game in the eighth inning, someone decided to do something else. I’ll manage my club accordingly and they can live with their decisions.”
If a 10-0 game in the eighth inning is not the time and place for sending messages via pitched baseballs off the inside corner of the plate, then there is no time and place for that form of nonverbal communication. News flash: there is no time and place. Violence upon violence only means more violence, and as Showalter manages his club accordingly, it’s fun to know that some member of the best team in the American League could be subject to a justiceball he doesn’t know is coming, the next time he sees the Orioles.
MLB can get started right away by having Machado and Abad sit for a nice, long time. After that, it’s time to get serious and recognize that under the current way of doing things, it’s only a matter of time before there’s another serious injury over something seriously stupid.
Name your future
There were 1,215 players selected in the draft, with each team adding to its organization and giving fans hope for the future. The real hope for everyone is getting to talk about exciting prospects with exciting names. Here’s each team’s best one to watch in the years to come, with their position, round and overall pick number in parentheses.
Arizona: Toukki Touissant (RHP, 1-16)
Atlanta: Wigberto Nevarez (C, 20-613)
Baltimore: Nigel Nootbaar (RHP, 12-361)
Boston: Cisco Tellez (1B, 24-734)
Chicago (AL): Bryce Montes de Oca (RHP, 14-408)
Chicago (NL): Diamond Johnson (OF, 40-1189)
Cincinnati: Seth Roadcap (C, 39-1175)
Cleveland: Argenis Angulo (RHP, 19-578)
Colorado: Hunter Brothers (RHP, 30-893)
Detroit: Joey Pankake (3B, 7-220)
Houston: Brock Dykxhoorn (RHP, 6-166)
Kansas City: Cole Way (LHP, 38-1143)
Los Angeles (AL): Kam Uter (RHP, 12-369)
Los Angeles (NL): Karch Kowalczyk (RHP, 37-1119)
Miami: Justin Twine (SS, 2-43)
Milwaukee: Bubba Blau (RHP, 24-716)
Minnesota: Mat Batts (LHP, 17-500)
New York (AL): Mariano Rivera (RHP, 29-872)
New York (NL): Dash Winningham (1B, 8-235)
Oakland: J.P. Sportman (OF, 27-822)
Philadelphia: Rags Rogalla (RHP, 37-1102)
Pittsburgh: Montana DuRapau (RHP, 32-971)
San Diego: Jason Jester (RHP, 23-687)
San Francisco: (tie) Cov Covington (1B, 30-898) and Deac Deacon (C, 33-988)
Seattle: Sheehan Planas-Arteaga (1B, 24-711)
St. Louis: Blake Drake (OF, 18-555)
Tampa Bay: Alec Sole (SS, 18-547)
Texas: Chris Mathewson (RHP, 28-846)
Toronto: Chase Mallard (RHP, 14-414)
Washington: John Henry Styles (LHP, 36-1084)