MLB: Please Stop the Madness!

After hitting Prince Fielder with a pitch, Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Matt Capps has been suspended for four games by MLB.

Capps hit Fielder in the shoulder two pitches after yielding a J.J. Hardy homerun. There was no previous warning issued by the umpires, yet they immediately tossed Capps from the game and the NL slapped him with a four-game suspension.

One inane comment from Joe Starkey of the Tribune-Review:

Capps, noted for his impeccable control, went 0-1 on Fielder before unleashing a fastball that sizzled toward the slugger’s skull. Luckily, Fielder got his right arm up in time and absorbed the blow on his shoulder. … But when a ball heads for a cranium in that situation, whether intended or not, Major League Baseball needs to act swiftly and severely.

What?

So … regardless of whether a ball “intentionally” or “unintentionally” hits a batter in the head, MLB should suspend the pitcher?

Further, if a batter can’t get out of the way of pitch coming at his head, it’s the pitcher’s fault? Puh-leeze.

I know, I addressed this issue a month ago. And I’ll likely continue to address it every time MLB suspends a pitcher for doing his job, and every time MLB disempowers pitchers everywhere, and every time the Almighty Selig forcefully changes the game of baseball.

Starkey goes on further to state:

You can’t blame Capps for denying he meant to hit Fielder. There would be nothing to gain from admitting it, only more trouble. And it’s possible he simply lost control of the ball or meant only to move Fielder off the plate.

Point is, the pitch could have ended Fielder’s career. And the circumstances pointed overwhelmingly to an intentional act, which is why umpire Alfonso Marquez immediately and rightfully ejected Capps without warning.

“Point is, the pitch could have ended Fielder’s career.”

Please explain to me how it is that imbeciles like this are getting paid by newspapers to write this drivel?

Maybe I’m the moron, but last I checked, Major League hitters wear ear-flapped, impact-resistant headgear made from high-tech materials and built specifically to protect a human cranium from the force of a 100-MPH fastball. This isn’t 1920, when Ray Chapman’s only protection was a wool cap. Further, Major League hitters are the best in the world at what they do, in part because they have excellent eyesight and outstanding reflexes. That said, the reason hitters get hit by pitches is because they 1.) do not expect to get hit and 2.) have not practiced the art of getting out of the way.

Anyone who played baseball before 1985 knows the above to be true. For example, I played Little League baseball in the early 1980s. Back then, we kids weren’t dressed down with multiple pads, guards, facemasks, and other protective accessories. Instead, we were given a helmet, and we were taught to get out of the way. The coach would throw tennis balls at us as we stood at the plate, and we learned to bend our knees, duck, and turn our head toward the catcher — the idea being that if the ball was going to hit, it would hit you in the back or the meaty part of your backside. It sounds crazy, I know — learning to protect yourself, as opposed to being reliant on various pieces of plastic. Similarly, the pitchers were taught to follow through in such a way that they faced the batter after releasing the pitch, glove up and ready to field the ball. Batters and pitchers went through these drills because the possibility of getting hit by the ball was part of the game.

Strange, isn’t it, that pitchers don’t wear football gear, helmets, or face masks, when they are in direct line of the batter’s fire?

Question for Joe Starkey: if a pitcher gets hit in the head by a batted ball — intentionally or unintentionally — shoud MLB act “swiftly and severely” by suspending that batter for four games? Would you expect the umpire to throw the batter out of the game?

Hmm … when Carl Crawford hit a lightning line drive into Matt Clement’s skull in 2005, Crawford remained in the game. The umpires, I guess, thought that Crawford’s hit was unintentional.

But the point is, that hit could have ended Matt Clement’s career … so why was nothing done?

Further, how can we be so sure it was “unintentional” ? Ask any batter at any level of play what their goal is, and their answer is likely to be “to hit the ball up the middle”.

Why the double standard? Why is the batter allowed to hit the unprotected pitcher, but the heavily armored hitter is not responsible for getting out of the way?

Seriously people, let’s be logical about this. And instead of being so quick to throw pitchers out and suspend them, consider how these knee-jerk reactions are affecting baseball on the whole. Look at the situation that YOU created, MLB. Did Matt Capps hit Prince Fielder with a pitch? Or, in fact, was Prince Fielder irresponsible in avoiding the pitch? Because umpires continue to toss pitchers, and MLB subsequently suspends them, the real issue at hand — the fact that batters don’t know how to protect themselves — looms larger and more dangerous.

Forget about the implications of the strike zone getting smaller, because pitchers will be afraid to pitch inside. For the moment let’s focus on this problem: by telling pitchers they cannot hit batters, you are in effect telling batters that they won’t get hit. In turn, batters will not learn how to get out of the way, will continue to dive into the plate, and will stubbornly stand their ground as a pitch comes near their body.

MLB, by suspending Matt Capps, is not helping the situation — it is only making it worse.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Lynne May 14, 2007 at 2:33 pm
    You know, I’m with you 100%. When Kaz Ishii was hit by a line drive, it did end his career for all intents and purposes. But did the batter get ejected? No.

    This week-end, Carrasco was ejected by the home plate umpire after throwing a high curve ball that was obviously a mistake and hit the batter. Stupid? Yes. Cause for ejection? No way.

    Umpires have been given way too much authority because there are no real rules governing pitches that hit a batter. Yes, it can be deemed that a batter didn’t not get out of the way and the hit pitch shouldn’t count (that’s what should have occured in Sunday’s Angels-Rangers game), but you don’t see that too often.

    I suggest that a real set of rules be set in place. Meaning that all games are given the same opportunity to be played fairly and aren’t at the whim of some umpires digestive system that day.

    First of all, forget the warnings. They are stupid and meaningless. And forget the suspensions, they don’t serve any purpose either.
    Right now, if a batter is hit with a pitch, they are given first base. I suggest that if a second batter is hit with a pitch, they are given two bases. If a third batter is hit, they are given three bases. Now, suddenly, the manager has a dilemma (and it should be in the hands of the manager all along to decide when a pitcher should be taken out or left in). Should that manager continue with the idea that if his pitcher is truly out of control, he (or she, someday) should left in there with the potential in walk in runs? Or in this case, walk in hit batters? And if the offensive action is escalated to two, three and even four bases, the manager has to decide if leaving the pitcher in is worth losing the game.

    I really doubt that there would be very many instances when this scenario would occur, but I honestly believe it puts the outcome of the game back into the hands of the managers and the teams where it really belongs, and not in the umpires. They have enough to do calling balls and strikes.

  2. joe May 14, 2007 at 2:40 pm
    A base for every hit batter — a very interesting idea!

    Agreed that the warnings are nonsensical. I’m trying to remember when they first appeared, and what was their intended purpose? All they do now is tell the batter he won’t be seeing any inside pitches for the rest of the game, effectively cutting home plate in half. Sounds more like homerun derby than a baseball game. But I guess that’s what Bud Selig and the rest of the offensive-minded greedmongers of baseball want, isn’t it? Pretty soon, I won’t be surprised to see aluminum bats brought into MLB. LOL

  3. Lynne May 14, 2007 at 2:54 pm
    Well, I have to say, there seemed to be a lot of home runs with those pink bats yesterday. Did they have extra juice inside? Or (horrors) cork? (grin).