Sports Baseball

Time to end baseball's unwritten code

By Torben Rolfsen

It’s silly season in major league baseball parks.

With the light wrist-tap suspensions stemming from last week’s Giants-Nationals dugout-clearing brawl at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, commissioner Rob Manfred and company have once again shied away from any meaningful punishment that would start to affect the roots of the throwing-at-hitters problem.

This needs to change. It’s time to end baseball’s unwritten code.

In this latest chapter of stupidity, Giants reliever Hunter (ha!) Strickland beaned Nats superstar Bryce Harper because Harper had hit two postseason home runs against Strickland three years ago.

What?!? (Oh, and the Giants went on to win the World Series that year.)

As a result of hitting Harper with a 97-98 m.p.h. fastball, Strickland received a six-game suspension.

Harper got zapped for four games for responding by charging the mound.

Unlike most mound-charging scenes, Giants catcher Buster Posey chose to stand behind home plate and not come to the aid of his battery mate because, well, he must have realized how ludicrous this revenge scenario was.

Other triggering behaviours that cause pitchers to throw at batters include, but are not limited to: bat flips, slow-jog home run trots, sliding the wrong way, looking at the other team’s bench, looking at a player for half-a-millisecond too long, and my personal favourite, stealing with a lead in the later innings.

This last one typically occurs when a team steals second base while leading, say, 7-2 in the seventh or eighth innings.

What – teams have never made up five to six-run deficits in late innings before?

Absurd. Keep playing and try to score until the last out is made.

The paying fan deserves it. It’s bad enough that beer sales are cut off at the end of the seventh; they don’t also need to suffer through a team going on autopilot for the final two innings.

What’s next, the mercy rule?

As the Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson said last year: “If (you) do something well, or if somebody doesn’t like something that (you) do, it’s ‘oh, well I’m gonna throw at you’.”

What to do?

Stop it with heavy suspensions not just of players, but managers and coaches who condone the behavior.

Take away teams’ draft picks, if necessary.

Evolve the culture with spring training meetings and seminars so teams are on the same page with the league and umpires.

Just saying that’s how its always been done no longer holds any water. Pitchers throw a lot harder than they did in “the old days.”

Long-term health concerns and awareness have become a much larger part of professional sports just in the past decade.

Change it. Now.