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The best argument AGAINST stopping beanball wars

Jun 20, 2013, 10:34 AM EDT

Trammell Mattingly

Over at Sports on Earth Jed Lund takes a look at the pros and cons of cracking down on beanball wars like we saw between the Dbacks and Dodgers last week. Even though I’m in the “throwing at heads is bad and they really need to stop” camp, Lund makes some good points about how difficult it is to really police that sort of thing.

But his best argument is that we probably shouldn’t even try to stop them because the ensuing fights are hilarious:

The Diamondbacks-Dodgers “melee” might as well serve as the Ur-text for these explosions of … not much, really. It not only featured every unintentionally comic aspect of baseball fights, but it executed every one of them with transcendent hilarity. There were the punches that sort of went at, like, I dunno, air? — like two guys ineptly trying to high-five each other with closed fists. There were men yelling and trying very hard not to break free from their teammates who were “holding them back” in that put-upon, here-we-go-again bit of restraint theater.

He has a point. And I think he perfectly captures the dialogue the players seem to be having as they prepare to not-fight. Check it out.

  1. cur68 - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Kyle Farnsworth could teach these guys how to do it.

  2. goskinsvt - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    This is basically 99% of bench-clearing ‘fights’ these days

    • chacochicken - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      Grown men having fun playing a game. Amazing.

    • heyblueyoustink - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      My work blocks all thing youtube, but i’m hoping this is something from the Benny Hill variety.

  3. yahmule - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    I’ll bet Jed Lund wouldn’t sport such a cavalier attitude if Reggie Smith was walking his way with a purpose.

  4. heyblueyoustink - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    First rule about Faux Fight Club, never throw a punch with true intention in Faux Fight Club.

    Although to be honest, if someone hit me in the face with a pitch, and I had any inkling it was intentional, I personally could not guarantee the pitcher’s safety with a baseball bat in my hands.

    • yahmule - Jun 20, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      My girlfriend’s cousin is Lerrin Lagrow. When he nailed Bert Campaneris on the ankle in the 1972 AL Playoffs, Campy whipped the bat right back at him and Lagrow just barely ducked out of the way. This was right about the time I started watching baseball and that was probably the most shocking thing I had ever seen.

      Amazingly, Campaneris drew only a seven game suspension and MLB allowed him to serve it during the regular season in 1973, making him available for the World Series against the Reds. In retrospect, this is really incredible when you consider how much Bowie Kuhn hated Charlie Finley.

      Lagrow was about the last guy in the world who anybody would have expected to be involved in something like this. Tiger manager Billy Martin had previously called Lagrow every slur for homosexual known to man because of Lerrin’s reluctance to intentionally hit anybody.

    • jackrabbit56 - Jun 20, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      Actually, the first rule of Faux Fight Club is you do not talk about Faux Fight Club. And the second rule of Faux Fight Club is you DO NOT talk about Faux Fight Club.

      • paperlions - Jun 20, 2013 at 2:37 PM

        I am pretty sure that is backwards. In Faux Fight Club, all you do is TALK about Faux Fight Club.

      • yahmule - Jun 20, 2013 at 4:41 PM

        That’s for sure.

  5. cohnjusack - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Yeah, that wasn’t much of a baseball fight.
    Back in the 1980s though….

    Enjoy watching Ozzie Smith throw punches.

    • skids003 - Jun 20, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      That looked like Usher vs. Jeff Foxworthy!!!

    • ghostfishhunter - Jun 21, 2013 at 12:52 AM

      Love Candys flying tackle

  6. albertmn - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    I am still waiting for a batter, after getting hit, to just walk to the mound calming and simply ask the pitcher why he hit him. I think if a batter did that, and then just asked the pitcher not to hit him again and calmly walked to first, it would make a bunch of “old time ballplayers” fall over.

  7. proudlycanadian - Jun 20, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    These guys just do not know how to fight. In the WBC we had a real fight when a bunch of Canadians who had experience with hockey fights went to war.

    • skids003 - Jun 20, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      I have some friends who served with some Canadians in Afghanistan. They had nothing but high praise for our Northern neighbors.

      • skids003 - Jun 20, 2013 at 1:22 PM

        Who would thumbs down this? proudlycanadian, it looks like not all share my sentiments.

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 20, 2013 at 2:25 PM

        Thank you.

  8. historiophiliac - Jun 20, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    They are pretty funny exchanges most of the time. That’s part of why I’m not completely anti-beanball. I draw the line at headhunting — that’s NOT cool, but legs and backs don’t bother me terribly. And, I do like me a good Nolan Noogie. It’s always funny to watch dudes puff their chests. he he

  9. brewcrewfan54 - Jun 20, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    I love a good tickle fight.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 20, 2013 at 2:42 PM

      /tickle tickle

  10. stabonerichard - Jun 20, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Similar to fighting in hockey, the beanball is a part of the game (at the pro level) that helps maintain a code of conduct on the diamond. When Matt Holliday goes clumsily barreling into a middle infielder with a late slide, it’s a violation of the code of conduct and puts a player’s health at risk. This is just one of many potential situations where the MLB suits aren’t going to do a damn thing about it, so it’s on the players to police themselves.

    So when the timing is right, a fastball to the midsection sends a clear message that it’s not going to be tolerated. More important than the payback element is the carry-forward effect — it acts as a reminder that sticks in players’ minds that if they step out of line–whether by accident or with malicious intent–there will be consequences, where they’re putting themselves or their teammates at risk (which brings in the individual/team accountability element as well). The Holliday-Scutaro incident was handled in the type of professional manner it should be… Holliday knew he screwed up, and you can bet he was a little less comfortable in the box afterwards. Hell, eventually getting plunked was probably a relief. But again, the transgression was dealt with and the message sent. That’s how it should work.

    Unfortunately, we see way too often where pitchers don’t properly execute the beanball. Whether they’re intentionally trying to throw at/above shoulder-level, too amped to be able to execute, or simply lack the control, this is where MLB needs to bring down the hammer. In the latest episode that got everybody riled up, there is absolutely no question that a) Ian Kennedy was throwing at Zack Greinke, and b) Kennedy hit him with a pitch in the shoulder/head area. And when the dust settles Kennedy will have missed a single start.

    How is a 90+ mph fastball at a guy’s head different than a hockey player taking a swipe at a guy’s head with a stick? Now compare the reaction and punishment to each of those. That, to me, is the biggest reason why things spiral out of control in MLB way more often than they should.

    • stabonerichard - Jun 20, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Oh, and I think the mostly spineless MLB powers that be should be bold enough to not feel handcuffed by *precedent*. So in the past guys have been suspended X games for certain transgressions. Well, how about something like, “Gee, we’ve learned a lot more in recent years about the devastating long-term (or immediate) effects of head injuries, so maybe we should re-think our punishment for headhunting.”

      When it’s known beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kennedy was throwing at Greinke, and the pitch ends up directly towards his head, it is an absolute joke that Ian Kennedy will miss a single start. Another player will eventually suffer a severe injury as a result of this type of situation, it’s just a matter of when, and it’s really a shame MLB chooses not to do more to prevent it.

      • yahmule - Jun 20, 2013 at 4:57 PM

        I think for a period of time, the National League was considered the league that played the rougher brand of baseball. Pivot men on double play balls were considered fair game. I guess there was some culture shock in the AL when Frank Robinson went to Baltimore and started knocking middle infielders silly and encouraging strapping young lads like Don Baylor to do the same. Don Drysdale could have told anybody how well knocking Frank down discouraged him from doing anything. The Reds seemed to be determined to spread the NL style of play to the Junior Circuit as they also shipped serial second baseman destroyer Hal McRae to the Royals where he got George Brett into the act.

  11. junglerat524 - Jun 20, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Reds & Pirates have had a running beanball war dating back to last year. This year its 10-10 so far after last nights two plunkings. It might come to a head this afternoon if someone gets hit high.

    • Marty McKee - Jun 20, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      Not exactly. The Pirates have been throwing at the Reds. The Reds have not been throwing at the Pirates.

      • hasbeen5 - Jun 20, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        That thing is not one sided. Chapman has hit at least 1 guy with triple digits square in the back. That was no accident. I just saw the replays of these yesterday, and I think the Reds went up high twice, don’t remember if any of the Pirates threw up there.

    • Marty McKee - Jun 20, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      Chapman has 1 HBP all season. Some headhunter. And that was Matt Carpenter with 2 outs and a runner on 2B in the 9th inning of a 4-2 game. Do you really believe Chapman put the tying run on base on purpose?

      • yahmule - Jun 20, 2013 at 5:42 PM–0mlqzY

        McCutchen said he didn’t think this was intentional.

    • junglerat524 - Jun 20, 2013 at 6:34 PM

      They both have been throwing at each other. I get it. Late 08-10 the Cards puffed out their chests as the dominant team & there was nothing the Reds & their fans could do because they had every reason to puff. They were that good. Not anymore though. Yet I’m not sure they expected the Pirates to be nipping at their heels this soon considering their previous managements. How did that happen?

  12. micklethepickle - Jun 20, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Absolutely hilarious, and true. Thanks to the commenters for providing evidence that at some point in history, baseball players used to actually have balls. Guess the ‘roids have changed the game in more ways than one, eh? I feel like 1 fourth-liner from any NHL team could beat both of those teams to a bloody pulp – at the same time. MLB is more akin to professional bowling than any other ‘sport’

    • hasbeen5 - Jun 20, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      At least they’re still several rungs on the ladder higher than NBA fights.

      • yahmule - Jun 20, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        NBA fights were better in the 70s and 80s, too.

        The Portland/Philly tilt from 1977 remains a classic. Troublemakers ducking haymakers that went on to land square in the back of peacemaker’s heads. Who doesn’t love that?

        Things seemed to get a little out of hand when Kermit Washington relocated Rudy Tomjanovich’s face a couple inches deeper into his skull.

        Next thing you know, Danny Ainge is biting Tree Rollins on the finger. Damned shame.

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