I couldn’t tell you whether or not Chris Archer intentionally threw at José Bautista on Sunday. I couldn’t even tell you whether I think he did.
He proooooobably did. But maybe not.
It certainly wasn’t as clear-cut as shit-bag Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes’ sickening fastball at Manny Machado’s head last week, but the distinction really isn’t important. At least as far as I’m concerned.
In fact, if you want to stop the kind of trash Barnes pulled, you have to stop letting pitchers get away with what Archer may or may not have pulled.
But does MLB actually want to stop this stuff?
They’ll posture like they do:
But the four game suspension handed down to Barnes, whatever Archer may or may not get (if anything), and the six games given to Marcus Stroman after he equally disgustingly threw at Caleb Joseph’s head in September of 2014, suggests that they really don’t. That they’re really more of this mind:
TANGENT: Uh… so you don’t think the “snowflake” here is the piss-soaked man-child who feels he has the right to react to any perceived slight, to any teammate, intentional or not, by attempting to brain someone with a fastball? OK, tough guy.
Joe Torre, who as MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer oversees on-field discipline, made his big league debut during the fucking Eisenhower administration, so asking him to suddenly swing progressive on such things is probably a bit much. But even if the “maybe don’t be half-brained dumbfucks” and “just because some players like it that way doesn’t make it not stupid as shit” argument doesn’t work, it’s dumbfounding that nobody else has managed to step in an make an economic argument to curb this shit — losing Machado or Bautista for an extended period would be worse for business than losing Barnes or even Archer for long enough pitchers start to actually think twice about their actions — or anything else that might convince the league to stop slapping these guys on the goddamn wrist.
What’s especially galling is that one of the most basic ideas in baseball provides an example of how this stuff ought to be considered. If a batter gets hit by a pitch, he or she is awarded first base. It doesn’t matter if it was completely unintentional, it doesn’t matter if nobody was injured, it doesn’t matter if these things sometimes can’t be helped. The onus is on the pitcher to control their shit.
Nobody thinks it’s unfair if a run is scored or a game is lost because of a hit batsman. When this happens to, say, Aaron fucking Loup all the goddamn time, it’s Loup who eats all the fans’ shit because it’s Loup who ought to have had better control. There’s no sympathy because hitting the batter wasn’t what he was trying to do.
Nor would there be if the punishment was greater — which it should be, both for hitting a batter unintentionally, and for every single one of these incidents — nor should there be for Archer in this instance. Or Barnes. Or anybody who throws behind a player’s head and then tries to claim he slipped. Control your shit. Don’t want to get a high sticking penalty? Control your shit (or, y’know, be Wayne Gretzky when Kerry Fraser’s refereeing).
This will surely be a bridge too far for traditionalists, but here in the PITCHf/x era, we wouldn’t even necessarily have to rely on interpretation to determine if a pitch was suspension-worthy. That is, depending on how sensitive the system can be made for pitches outside the zone.
Gameday’s strike zone plots aren’t necessarily the most accurate — I’d prefer to use the ones at Brooks Baseball for this, but neither the Barnes-Machado nor the Bautista-Archer at-bats seem to have registered (maybe the system has trouble detecting chickenshit) — but I’d be very OK with handing out automatic suspensions for any pitch of a certain height, velocity (or percentage of a pitcher’s average velocity), and a particularly egregious distance inside. Like, say, this one:
Using this technology to automatically suspend pitchers would invariably lead to some false positives (which I suppose we could let pitchers appeal), but the thing about that is: fuck you, control your shit.
And would it lead to pitchers being afraid to come too far inside, and thus leaving more pitches out over the plate? Good! Maybe we’d get fewer three true outcome games. Maybe the strikeout rate would end up inching back downwards again.
What it would certainly do, though, is immediately curb this kind of bullshit — intentional or not (control your shit) — and do so before someone genuinely has their career ended by entirely preventable dumbfuckery.
Hey, or we could just all be complete fucking assholes and tell the next guy who takes a fastball to the face — or his fucking widow — that it was just part of the game, and to suck it up and quit being a “snowflake.” Like, seriously, how are we still debating this?