The most common complaint about the occasional bench-clearing brawl is that it exposes players to potential injuries. But as much as pushing, shoving, punching, kicking, biting or whatever can harm players, nothing is as dangerous or as bush league as a pitch intentionally thrown at someone’s head.
The mere idea of a hard baseball traveling 90-plus mph toward a human body should be enough to make you say, “You know what? There’s a strong chance this guy ends up feeling some physical pain.” But when a pitch is thrown near someone’s head, the accompanying danger is so great that it often creates a sinking feeling within onlookers. That’s why throwing at someone’s head is nothing to mess around with, and it’s exactly why Ian Kennedy deserves a big punishment following Tuesday’s brawl between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
Plunking batters intentionally will remain part of the game. And that’s fine. But Kennedy’s pitch to Zack Greinke in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s heated affair went beyond protecting a teammate or sending a message. It was a dangerous and reckless display of immaturity, and it’s one thing that baseball needs to clamp down on when it comes to in-game fisticuffs.
Tensions were running high at Dodger Stadium. Greinke plunked Cody Ross in the fifth inning, and Kennedy hit Yasiel Puig in the nose — yes, the nose — in the sixth inning. That particular beanball from Kennedy didn’t seem all that intentional, but it laid the groundwork for what was to come. Greinke drilled Miguel Montero in the top of the seventh inning — likely as retribution for the Puig beaning — and Kennedy responded by throwing a ball right at Greinke’s head when the pitcher came to bat in the bottom of the seventh.
Sometimes, you can debate whether a pitcher threw at a hitter on purpose, but there’s no debating Kennedy’s intentions. In fact, it’s pretty clear that Greinke drilled Montero on purpose, too. The difference is that Greinke protected his teammate by hitting Montero where the slugger was unlikely to get hurt. He didn’t go throwing up and in like a mad man — something Kennedy clearly has mastered the art of. Everything should have been over and done with once Montero was hit, the benches cleared for the first time and the fire was extinguished. Instead, Kennedy reignited the flame with his despicable antics, leading to an uglier scene than was necessary.
Kennedy appeared ready for the repercussions, as he sauntered off the mound immediately after tossing the dangerous pitch that struck Greinke high on the shoulder. Now, Major League Baseball should send a message that those repercussions are far greater than an ejection and the six-game suspension that’s typically handed down to pitchers following on-field brawls.
Drilling a batter is one thing. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Kennedy chose the latter path, and it’s something that shouldn’t be tolerated.