Trading Beanballs an Increasingly Dangerous Game


Aug 11, 2009

Trading Beanballs an Increasingly Dangerous Game When reliever Mark Melancon first sent a fastball flying over the head of Dustin Pedroia on Thursday, then pelted him on the shoulder a few pitches later, it was clear that the Red Sox and Yankees were gonna play the feud.

It took two days — and a ridiculously overblown Clay Buchholz curveball thrown over the head of Alex Rodriguez — but Sox reliever Ramon Ramirez eventually returned the favor, hitting A-Rod in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game at Yankee Stadium. Ramirez was immediately thrown out of the game. On Thursday, Melancon was not.

Despite the two straight brushbacks and Pedroia’s profanity-laced reaction as he was shepherded toward first by Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, Melancon denied hitting the reigning AL MVP on purpose.

“I guess it’s Boston-Yankees, that’s the only reason it is a big deal,” Melancon told Newsday on Friday.

“Obviously, I can see why you’re upset when you get hit,” Melancon said. “I’m sure now he realizes it wasn’t on purpose, but I’m sure at the time [when] one comes over your head and then one hits you, it hurts. I can see why you’re upset.”

Thankfully, the Boston Herald reported Monday that Ramirez won’t be fined or suspended for his actions. Manager Terry Francona said that it was possible that the umpiring crew had simply overreacted to the Sox-Yankees rivalry.

No harm, no foul. Right?

Sure, a little back and forth is part of the game. One team hits one guy. The other team hits one of the other team’s guys. It’s how the teams police the game. It’s been that way for years.

Another part of it is pitchers’ historical and everlasting desire to control the inside part of the plate. Lots of baseball’s finest hitters — Pedroia and Derek Jeter among them — dive in toward the plate as the pitch is approaching. The pitchers need to keep them off balance and their 95-mph heaters are all they have working in their favor. It’s been this way since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson — and others before and since — dominated and intimidated opposing batters with inside heat.

But some managers are getting fed up with it. And rightfully so, given that it’s their superstars who are the ones coming under fire. 

After Pirates closer Matt Capps allowed a late home run on Sunday, his next pitch pounded Cardinals All-Star Albert Pujols in the side. Capps was immediately tossed from the game, but that didn’t suffice for irate St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, who suggested that Pujols was hit on purpose, possibly as a result of a directive from Pittsburgh pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.

“I think [the umpire] read it exactly right,” La Russa said. “I think it was an intentional hit. And there’s no doubt in my mind it came from the bench.”

Not surprisingly, White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen was outspoken in his reaction to three of his players getting plunked Saturday in a game against the Indians.

“I know it’s not on purpose,” Guillen said. “If I see somebody hitting my players and I know it’s on purpose, two guys are going down. I don’t care if I get suspended, I don’t care. … Somebody can get hurt out there.

“I know for a fact they’re not throwing at anybody, but enough is enough,” Guillen continued. “I’ve got Konerko [who was hit by four pitches during the White Sox’ 10-game homestand] who’s got bruises all over the place. Around the league, be careful because we’re going to hit people. I don’t care if they suspend me because I have to protect my players.”

This sort of superstar-hunting is also responsible for last week’s spat between Prince Fielder of the Brewers and Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota. Mota had drilled Fielder in the ninth inning of a 17-4 game, two innings after L.A. star Manny Ramirez was grazed by a pitch, causing the 270-pound Milwaukee slugger to seek out a postgame “meeting” of sorts with the 36-year-old righty in the Dodgers clubhouse.

To be fair, there’s a fine line between controlling the inside corner and beaning someone in the noggin. And yes, there’s something to be said for gamesmanship and that whole “policing the game” argument.

But where will this all end? Hopefully not with a star player suffering a serious, career-ending injury. Baseball’s powers that be have to put an end to it before someone gets hurt.

Update: Guess I was looking into my crystal ball when this was written Monday night.

In the first inning of Tuesday night’s game at Fenway, Red Sox rookie Junichi Tazawa hit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera with a high fastball. Cabrera looked both physically hurt and ticked off, especially after also getting plunked Monday night by Brad Penny, but he went to first as Detroit went on to score three runs.

In the bottom of the first, Tigers starter Rick Porcello came in high and tight on Red Sox slugger Victor Martinez. Even though he’s new to Boston, V-Mart wasn’t too shy to stare down the lanky Detroit rookie.

Cabrera was removed in the middle of his at-bat in the top of the second. Then, in the bottom of the second, it got ugly.

With his first pitch after retaking the mound, Porcello popped Kevin Youkilis in the middle of the back. Youk, who had also been hit last night by Tigers starter Edwin Jackson, wouldn’t take it any more. He charged the mound, tried to take down the backtracking Porcello and fell to the ground, igniting a huge brawl.

Youkilis was thrown out, and Porcello was eventually tossed as well.

Were the hit batsmen intentional? Probably.

Is this the end of it? We’ll find out.

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