If you missed the Gerrit Cole/Carlos Gomez brouhaha, you can find a primer here. Or you can watch a video:
Gomez got three games. Martin Maldonado, who was the bald dude coming in late with a fist to the face of Travis Snider, got five games. Gerrit Cole didn't receive a fine, even, which surprises people.
Isn't it amazing that Gerrit Cole, who cursed Gomez to start the incident, wasn't suspended even one game?— Tom (@Haudricourt) April 22, 2014
Gerrit Cole was the cause of the brawl….the only one not suspended by MLB #Surprised #Unfair #Wrong 866-MLB-ONXM call us debate us NOW XM89— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) April 22, 2014
As such, this is a column to determine if it was #unfair for Cole to #getoff so #lightly. I was mostly #surprised, but after reflection, I'm #okay with it. Tell us your thoughts at SBNation.com/mlb on the Internet.
First, let's take a trip in the wayback machine to remember the last time Twitter was upset that a player wasn't suspended for his role in a fight.
That's Yasiel Puig winding up and whomping on another player's back. In the post linked above, I wrote that I have no idea what Eric Hinske did, but in subsequent viewings, I saw it. He wasn't exactly innocent. Still, Puig was playing hack-a-Hinske, and he didn't even miss a game. There isn't just precedent for a rabble-rouser like Cole missing the suspension sweep; there's precedent for someone who throws a punch evading punishment, too.
Almost everyone can agree that Cole's transgression wasn't as egregious as what Gomez did (flip out) or what Maldonado did (throw a legitimate punch when baseball-pajama-pushing was what was warranted), but was there still a transgression worth a suspension? To answer that, it's probably worth looking for a comparable situation.
Matt Garza did this, and he wasn't suspended or fined:
Justin Smoak and Felix Pie did this, and they weren't suspended or fined:
Here's a piece from Jeff Passan in 2007:
In the first inning, Giants pitcher Matt Cain hit [Matt] Holliday with a pitch. Two innings later, Holliday smashed the longest home run of 2006, nearly 500 feet, according to Hit Tracker, which keeps track of home run distances. Holliday stared at the ball as it bounded up the Coors Field concourse, then turned toward Cain, the Oklahoman in him brimming, and three times yelled, "Yeah, bitch!"
Cain also had opinions that he shared. Nary a suspension was issued. Here's Jamie Moyer and Chipper Jones chatting about shows they saw at Fillmore East, and neither one of them were even talked to by the league office:
In fact, I'm not sure if there's a single instance of a player getting suspended for yelling "Fire!" on a crowded baseball field. I looked. I looked for a while. But I couldn't find one. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but it would be especially uncommon. Jawing at an opposing player is a great baseball tradition.
If Cole were suspended, it would have set a precedent. It would have been a dangerous one, a slope covered with stuff extracted from Clay Buchholz's hair. Here's what the message would have been:
Everything you know is wrong
Everything you know is wrong
Chirp at opposing players when you have a disagreement, but for goodness' sake, don't chirp at anyone crazy enough to do something about it.
Suspending Cole wouldn't be telling players not to voice their displeasure with unwritten-rule breaking. It would be telling players to avoid doing that with people as nutty as Gomez or Kyle Farnsworth. That seems like a mighty fine hair to split, especially when the current, unambiguous status quo of, "Take a swing, miss some time" is working just fine.
If you take away a ballplayer's right to say chirpy things to opposing ballplayers, you're not going to stop fights. You're just going to sterilize the game and make it duller. Don't make baseball duller. Let the players complain at each other for our amusement without fear of getting suspended. If the yelling makes someone else take a swing, that's on the swinger, not the swingee.