If you’re anything like me, you’re already sick of hearing about Zack Greinke and Carlos Quentin. All day Friday, the only thing anyone wanted to know was, “Who’s fault was the brawl?” Well, the brawl was Quentin’s fault, and Greinke’s injury was his own, but quite frankly that’s pretty irrelevant right now. So, too, is whether or not Quentin’s eight game suspension is fair (it’s not, should be 10-12) and what the Dodgers will do in place of their $147 million pitcher (they have about nine capable starting pitchers and about nine billion dollars to spend if they want to go get one, they’ll be fine). The real question hasn’t been asked by anyone, at all, because our society doesn’t really want to ask the tough questions. But, that’s why you come here – for things you won’t get anywhere else. So put on your thinking caps and try this one on for size…
How does Major League Baseball put an end to bench-clearing brawls?
One quick caveat here while you’re pondering my deep, probing question. I, personally, don’t want baseball to remove the bench-clearing brawls. Today’s politically correct, image-conscious culture dictates that people don’t want to see fighting in baseball and therefore it must be removed. It seems strange, however, that the same mainstream media that’s pushing that stance is also the same media that showed replays of the plunking and subsequent mound-charging – over, and over, and over again. A common phrase used in radio and television is, “Play the hits,” meaning that even if some people are sick of hearing about a certain topic (think Tim Tebow), if people’s television sets or radio dials are more likely to be tuned to a station that’s airing footage or having a debate about that particular topic, then that plays. Seems simple and straightforward, but that means playing the brawl on repeat actually increased viewers – the same viewers that “supposedly” don’t like brawls in baseball. What a dilemma that is!
But now, to the answer. Increasing suspensions, while seemingly the obvious answer if MLB is looking to curtail the practice of charging the mound, is not really going to run through the head of a hitter that thinks he just got intentionally beaned with a 98-mph fastball. Likewise, preventing a pitcher from throwing inside is also not the answer. Players like Quentin and Chase Utley, who seem to get hit just about once a game, start drooling when pitchers become afraid to pitch inside. They crown the plate – which doesn’t move or change in size in any way – and suddenly what used to be “outside” is now “down the middle,” and what used to be “inside” is now a thud in the back and a free trip to first base. So what, per se, can be done if baseball really wants to eliminate the type of thing that happened Thursday night at Dodger Stadium?
Move the umpire.
Again, I don’t want this to happen. I like the game exactly the way it is and I wish all of the people lamenting Greinke’s injury, Quentin’s suspension, and a bunch of bored relief pitchers with jackets on sprinting 300 feet from left and right-center to the pitcher’s mound would just dry up and blow away. I’m a Mets fan and I remember Roger Clemens throwing a bat head at Mike Piazza, and to this day the only thing about that whole episode that I don’t like is that Piazza didn’t rush out there and rip off Roger’s head (side bonus: we wouldn’t have had to listen to Suzyn Waldman saying this). But moving the umpire behind the pitcher – and forcing him to be in the same physical shape as an NHL linesman – would solve all of the issues of someone charging the mound. The umpire would simply step in front of any raging hitter charging at the pitcher and wrangle him to the ground like an alligator fight. Imagine Quentin getting thrown to the grass by Jim Joyce or C.B. Buckner, while Greinke stands behind the ump laughing hysterically? You’d get all the radio and television play without anyone leaving the dugouts or bullpens. So what if the balls and strikes will be totally inaccurate and some pitchers may actually turn around a deck an umpire for a missed call? This is baseball – we just fix problems as they come, and then deal with any new problems later.
You know, kind of like the way they handled expansion from 28 to 30 teams (odd number of teams in each league) and an All-Star game that ended in a tie (don’t let them lie to you, the game still doesn’t matter). This is just the next step in the wonderfully progressive world of Major League Baseball.
On second thought, maybe those jacket-clad pitchers sprinting in from the outfield isn’t so bad after all.
Three series to watch this week…
Three series to watch this weekend…
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