It seems Major League Baseball has become more active in changing the rules of the game. Regulations concerning team roster sizes, replacing pitchers mid-inning, the designated hitter, concussion protocol, and equipment and safety gear have all been altered. Many others have been discussed and thankfully dropped, while a controversial rule becomes effective in 2020 that pitchers entering a game mid-inning must face a minimum of three batters unless the inning ends or the pitcher is injured.
But the league also seems intent on changing the game’s “rules,” those unwritten responses which follow unacceptable actions. For example, if your opponent’s pitcher is believed to have hit one of your batters on purpose, it is expected that your pitcher will plunk an opponent’s batter in retaliation.
And then it’s settled, done.
But MLB must want to eliminate a player’s choice to respond to a perceived breach of etiquette, although part of the response requires the offender to deny any purposeful wrongdoing all while everyone feigns ignorance of any such “rules.”
Last Wednesday, Kansas City’s Brad Keller gave up a two-run homer to White Sox batter Tim Anderson. Anderson flipped his bat towards his dugout and yelled at his own teammates after his home run was blasted far into the left-field stands.
The next time Anderson came to the plate, Keller hit him the rear end (the body part which would sustain the least amount of injury) with the first pitch. As the “rules” require, both benches and bullpens fan streamed onto the field. After an appropriate amount of time spent trash talking with a mixture of bumping, shoving, and pushing, everyone sauntered back to their places and the game resumed.
Keller insisted after the game that the pitch just got away from him as he tried to pitch Anderson inside.Both players were fined. Anderson was also suspended for one game because of his conduct after the players poured onto the field. Keller was suspended for five games, which actually translates into a one-day postponement of his next scheduled start, since starters usually have four days of rest between starts.
MLB’s reaction came less than a week after the Pirate’s Chris Archer was fined and suspended for five games (again, only a one-day postponement of his next start) for throwing behind Cincinnati’s Derek Dietrich, who earlier in the game had smashed a lonnnng home run against Archer, then stayed in the batter’s box, admiring his gargantuan go-ball.
Reds manager David Bell was incensed that Archer was not ejected from the game.
“I don’t know what those [unwritten] rules are,” Bell said. “All I know is this is pretty simple. Our hitter hits a home run and he didn’t do anything against MLB’s rules or umpires and anyone else’s rules. Everyone in the ballpark knew [Dietrich] was going to stand up there and get hit with a fastball that very easily could have hit him in the head. That would have done damage and that was OK because it was supposedly not aimed at his head.”
“My fastball in is something I’ve been working on since spring and really since the end of last season,” Archer said after the game. “I threw him a pitch middle in, and it got away. I yanked it. I missed my spot.”
Cincinnati’s Yasiel Puig, Bell, and the Pirates’ Archer were suspended and fined, while three other players were ejected from the game.
“Any time another team or another player is intentionally trying to hurt one of our players, that’s the problem,” Bell said. “It’s unacceptable.
“When you hit a home run,” Bell added, “you’re allowed to run around the bases any way you want. It’s unacceptable and unfortunate that that happened. It should never happen … for any reason. [I]t shouldn’t be part of the game. It shouldn’t be allowed.”
Sorry, David, but the game has always policed itself and should be allowed to continue the practice.
MLB should concentrate on rules changes, not “rules” changes.
JIM SANKEY is a baseball columnist for The Allied News.