Kontos Takes Aim, MLB Response is Swift

McCutchen drilledIt’s almost as if the commissioner’s office was warming up for Dodgers-Diamondbacks fallout from Tuesday night’s throwdown at Chavez Ravine.

On Wednesday baseball suspended Giants reliever George Kontos for three games, and manager Bruce Bochy for one, following an incident in Pittsburgh on Tuesday in which Kontos hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch after benches had been warned.

With the Giants down 8-2 in the eighth inning, Kontos threw a ball behind Starling Marte. It was likely a response to an incident an inning earlier, when Marco Scutaro was knocked from the game (and, as was found out later, from the lineup for an extended period) by a Tony Watson pitch, and was enough to draw a warning from plate ump Wally Bell

The lack of contact may not have been enough to satisfy the pitcher, who drilled McCutchen in the backside two hitters later. With warnings in effect, Bell didn’t hesitate to toss him. (Watch it here.)

It was a reasonable response by the umpire. Then again, the pitch in question was a tailing sinker that drifted right, hardly a laser-guided bullet. From MLB.com:

The genesis of McCutchen’s plunking occurred one inning earlier, when he singled leading off against Kontos.

“First pitch of the seventh inning, he put a really good swing on it,” Kontos said, “and they were hacking early and out over the plate, so I was trying to pitch inside. A sinker got away from me a little bit.” 

(To add to Kontos’ woes, he was sent to Triple-A Fresno after the game; he’ll serve his suspension upon being recalled. Also, it was his 28th birthday. Still, wrote CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarlyit could have been worse: Kontos tore his elbow ligament while pitching on his birthday four years ago.)

It’s difficult to fault Bell for his decision, though it’s fair to ask whether Kontos’ actions were suspension-worthy. Ultimately, it’s irrelevant: Between this incident, the one in Los Angeles on Tuesday and Monday’s Red Sox-Rays dustup, MLB must be freaking out just a little bit, and responded accordingly.  

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2 Comments

Filed under Retaliation

2 responses to “Kontos Takes Aim, MLB Response is Swift

  1. I thought that both the Codes and common sense would dictate that an intentional HBP was on the first pitch, but not with a 2-0 count (unless the first two pitches were way in, too, and just missed their target – but if that was the case, he should have been ejected on ball one, right?) I think it’s not unreasonable to assume it just got away from him.

    It seems like nowadays, any HBP when there could be cause for retaliation is automatically considered intentional, even if there’s reasonable doubt.

    • Jason Turbow

      Actually, it’s pretty standard fare to disguise intent with preceding pitches. Ex-Red Sox pitcher/coach Al Nipper put it this way: “If you’re going to drill a guy and you don’t want to get kicked out immediately, you don’t want to make it look obvious. You have to throw a few pitches away and then miss. And that’s a mistake a lot of guys do. A guy comes up, the first pitch they drill him and then they’re out of the game. You can’t do that. You can’t send a flare up — you have to camouflage it. Because that hitter knows. He knows when he’s been shot.”

      When umpires (or, subsequently, the league office) are put in a position of determining intent, they face the impossible task of mind-reading. What they end up giving are judgement calls, so it’s hardly a stretch to think that recent activity at other ballparks played a part in coloring that judgement.

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