At Some Point, Everybody Wants Theirs

As a concept, eye-for-an-eye hasn’t ruled baseball’s landscape for a number of years, laid victim to the evolution of the sport’s unwritten rules, which has seen them become significantly more lenient. Thursday, however, we saw just how prevalent the notion actually remains, as a response both for the severity of an act, and for the frequency. It’s out there—all it needs is a trigger.

The incident that got the most play, of course, was Giancarlo Stanton taking a Mike Fiers fastball off his face. The impact was severe, both literally and symbolically, as one of the game’s best hitters suffered extensive damage that will sideline him indefinitely. Adding to Miami’s, it was ruled that he swung at the pitch (negating the HBP), just as it was ruled moments later that Stanton’s mid-at-bat replacement, Reed Johnson, finished the sequence by striking out swinging at a pitch that ended up hitting him, too.

Never mind that Fiers seemed genuinely anguished over the incident, both in the clubhouse and on Twitter. (We’ve now come to the age of the virtual hospital visit.) Miami responded an inning later, reliever Anthony DeSclafani hitting Carlos Gomez in his left elbow.

In Arlington, Mike Trout was hit twice by the Rangers, and three times over a two-game span. All were likely accidental, but at some point response becomes mandatory. When the victim is one of the game’s best players, response time increases.

Angels reliever Joe Smith opened the ninth by hitting rookie Rangers catcher Tomas Telis in the waist.

There is no question that modern hair triggers are less hairy than ever, and that the game is a softer, gentler place than it ever has been, but even the most mild-mannered ballplayer or manager has a line someplace. Intentions can be irrelevant. Hit a star player too hard or too often, and you’re bound to find out exactly where it is.


3 thoughts on “At Some Point, Everybody Wants Theirs

  1. Retaliation in baseball is like fighting in hockey. Outdated and holds back each sport. The players and owners have the power to penalize both out of existance and they should. In baseballs case it is an anomoly in an otherwise non violent sport. A yellow card like system on all hit batters for a teams pitching staff and a severe “red card” penalty will keep teams from aiming at players and keep the pitcher with lousy control in the minors till they figure out how to pitch.

    1. It’s a fine notion, and would in many ways alleviate the need for retaliation in baseball. If the league itself is going to automatically come down hard on miscreants, there’d be little need for opposing players to do so themselves. The problem with the idea is that pitchers hit batters unintentionally far more frequently than they do on purpose. Even good pitchers, with good control. Balls slip. It happens. To implement a yellow card/red card system would essentially remove pitchers’ ability to control the inner half of the plate, as everybody would be stick to pitching away. (Miss inside by three inches on a pitch over the outer half, and all you’ve done is split the plate; miss by three inches inside and you’ve just earned yourself a red card.) If you thought the offensive explosion of the steroid era was something, you should see what would happen if every batter could look for nothing but outside pitches.

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