Originally published at Steve Silva's www.bostondirtdogs.com
“It’s pretty funny until the rabbit gets the shotgun.” – John Salley
A baseball thrown at a major league hitter at ninety miles per hour allows him about 0.4 seconds to analyze and react. Prior to today’s action, there had been 99 batters hit by pitchers in the National League and 101 in the American League, not a significant difference. Judging by today’s action between the Red Sox and the Devil Rays one wouldn’t know that.
The feud between the Red Sox and the Devil Rays goes back literally years, although like many conflicts, few remember the origins. However, each year it seems that the quid pro quo expands, unchecked by changes in management, managers, and players. This weekend a series of hit batsmen again erupted in gang warfare, culminating in an attempted drive-by hit on David Ortiz by Lance Carter after Carter had brushed back Manny Ramirez who promptly responded by hammering the next Carter fastball into the bleachers. Ortiz then nearly became the victim of the purpose pitch, the purpose “being to separate the head from the shoulders.”
During the Red Sox pennant quest of August 1967, Angel righthander Jack Hamilton beaned budding superstar right fielder Tony Conigliaro, causing severe eye injuries, beginning the downward spiral of Conigliaro’s career. Neither Carter nor Ortiz were born then, and perhaps neither is aware of Conigliaro’s significance to Red Sox history. However, all those of us who remember that nightmare never wish to recall it or see another Boston or opposing player in similar circumstances.
Although the designated hitter rule has become the focus for the problem of beanball wars, it’s not so simple. Pitchers need to use both sides of the plate against today’s bigger, stronger hitters and hitters diving in on the plate need to understand that every inside pitch is not a ‘purpose pitch’. On the other hand, when intent is clear and contempt not control becomes the issue, major league baseball needs to act with clarity and immediacy.
The pitchers involved, management, and managers should be severely reprimanded, suspended and fined. There should be no warning and no appeals. The umpiring crew involved should be suspended for one series without pay for failing to control the game. Both the Red Sox and the Tampa management should be fined a minimum of $250,000 dollars, both managers and pitchers suspended for a minimum of ten days, and Bud Selig should contact every team and assure them that this is the end, not the beginning of the zero tolerance policy to a baseball tradition that must end now.
Will that happen? Of course not, because the “labor unions” will prevent harsh treatment of their coddled members. The idiocy will continue and baseball machismo will manufacture more manure, while the action serves up post-game highlights and ESPN moments. Maybe NESN can have a ‘beanballs and birdbrains’ segment.