Alright, alright, settle down. It looks like we have some unwritten rules to dig into, and time’s wasting, so we have to act fast. Apparently Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox threw at ... [squints at notes] ... huh, this reads that it was Manny Machado. That can’t be right.
My intern screwed up again.
You know what, though? Looks like this news report also says Machado. Getting a confirmation here and here, too. This seems legit. Which means the Red Sox have thrown at Machado six times in the last week. They’re trying to set a record.
To get thrown at this much, Machado must have used a Red Sox jersey as a prop in an obscene piece of performance art. Then he must have spent an hour talking about how awful the Dropkick Murphys are while peeing on a Dunkin Donuts bag. Because you can’t be telling me this is still about Machado accidentally sliding a little late. That would be unfathomably dumb.
OK, maybe it’s Chris Sale just having an uncharacteristic bout of wildness. Total misunderstanding! Let’s just see where the pitch was, according to Texas Leaguers:
Oh. It doesn’t show up on this plot. Maybe that’s a mistake, and MLB Gameday has it.
Well, shoot. That is pretty danged inside. Of the 3,068 pitches Sale has thrown since May 1, 2016, about five of them were even close to that inside.
Let’s give Sale the benefit of the doubt and give him two more that were so wild they couldn’t be plotted. That means there’s about a quarter-of-one-percent chance that this was an accident. Then you remember that Sale is the jersey-slashing bandit, which is basically a gateway drug to making suits made from human skin. I’m willing to believe that he’s not all there. His mind is 30 percent off, if you will. He was probably throwing at Machado because he wanted to.
Or because it gave him a strategic advantage! If you’ll look at the Gameday plot again, note that the at-bat ended with a called strike on a 98-mph fastball on the inside corner. That is cold blooded and old school, and I almost approve.
But I’m burying the lede. Machado is the one making the news because of his postgame quotes:
I’ve seen people call this a threat. This is not a threat. This is a succinct argument against the baseball tradition of throwing baseballs at hitters. And it’s absolutely correct.
If you want a threat, Machado could have made it a threat. “I’m a gonna come out there with a bat,” would be a great way to start. “If he’s got a ball as his weapon, guess what? I have a bat” would be another. There are so many ways to turn the blunt object into a specific threat. “Maybe I’ll just have the weapon that’s available to me, then.”
That’s not what happened. It was an exercise in absurdity to highlight just how inequitable baseball’s unwritten rules are. We’ve had a batter attack another player with a bat, and we’re still talking about it 52 years later. The suspension (10 games) for Juan Marichal was hilariously weak in retrospect, but there was a widespread belief that the incident kept him out of the Hall of Fame for two years. Don’t hit players with bats. Seems like one of the more obvious of unwritten rules.
For a more recent example, Delmon Young was suspended 50 games for throwing his bat at an umpire:
And in a completely applicable example, Machado was once suspended five games for using his bat as something between a weapon and a demonstration of his displeasure.
That was a shameful incident. However, if you give me the choice of standing 90 feet away from Manny Machado throwing a baseball bat at me or standing 60 feet away from Chris Sale throwing a fastball at me, I’ll take the bat every single time, and you would, too.
All Machado is saying is that pitchers have an unfair advantage when it comes to expressing their displeasure, and he’s not wrong.
Like, what if baseball thought it was normal for the batter to charge the mound with the bat, but only if he promised to hold the barrel and whip the knob end towards the pitcher’s toes? Just a real good thwack, right on the ol’ piggies. If a toe gets broken, that’s a shame, but most of the time, there will be sore toes and nothing more. It would send a message.
At the very least, imagine a batter chasing a pitcher and trying to do this, straight Benny Hill-style. I’m not even sure what I’m arguing anymore, other than that I really want this to happen. We deserve this addition to the unwritten-punishment arsenal.
Except, while that’s roughly as ridiculous as throwing a baseball at someone, except doing that can’t actually concuss the pitcher or end his career/life. So the pitchers still have the upper hand. The only logical way to make it equitable is to allow batters to wield their potentially fatal tool as a weapon, too, and we know that’s not going to happen.
Because you can hurt someone with a bat!
But you can hurt someone with a baseball, too.
You just don’t understand the sport. That’s how it’s always been.
It’s nonsense. As Marc Normandin wrote earlier, the real answer is an increase in suspensions for the pitchers who use the baseballs as weapons. With the average velocity of fastballs increasing year after year, baseball is hurtling toward a tragedy. You can kill someone with a baseball. You can kill someone with a baseball bat. Players use one as a weapon regularly because it’s tacitly allowed. They don’t use the other one as a weapon because baseball would freak the hell out.
Baseball should freak the hell out in both instances. It would take a lot of work, a lot of muddling through gray swamps, to determine which pitchers were throwing baseballs at batters on purpose, and it would be a mess to identify the true offenders. But the alternative is to let this stupid infection fester indefinitely.
When people start whining about nanny states and “pussification,” we’ll know that baseball is on the right track. Cross your fingers, everybody.
The alternative is that we could just wait for someone to get killed, whether it’s because of a bat or a baseball. That’s one of the possible solutions, I guess. It sure would take the least amount of work. Manny Machado is right, though. The de facto system of checks and balances is unfair and hypocritical, and I don’t know how much longer baseball can keep the status quo.