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Baseball must finally get rid of the beanball

By: Will Pitts

On Monday, something out of the ordinary happened in baseball. Bryce Harper hilariously failed at throwing a helmet.

Or at least that’s what the sports media would have you believe is the full extent of the story.

The massive benches-clearing brawl that day between the Nationals and the Giants was far from the first such incident in baseball this year, and will most definitely not be the last. Every week, it seems a pitcher attempts to strike a batter in retaliation for something silly, the benches clear for a few minutes, then everything goes back to normal. Rinse and repeat.

Bryce Harper reacted to a bean ball with more than just fists. Before that, he threw his helmet.

There have been brawls in baseball since its inception – just ask any old-timer who will tell you about the “good old days” when players policed themselves and plate-blocking was legal – but the past few years have seen them explode at an alarming rate. Go back to the start of the regular season, and you’ll find that baseball has experienced more fistfights and shoving matches than the entirety of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unless one of the so-called “unwritten rules” of baseball is to have a shorter emotional fuse than a six-year-old child, there is something clearly wrong here.

And what is Major League Baseball doing about it? Next to nothing.

When Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale deliberately threw at the head of the Orioles’ Manny Machado, he got off with no suspension whatsoever. Even Hunter Strickland’s six-game suspension seems meager, seeing as how he’s a middle reliever who sees three innings of work per game at most in the games he does participate in.

Chris Sale’s pitch could have easily given Machado a concussion, or worse, had it hit its target. The lack of any sort of suspension to Sale reeks of not only a slap on the wrist, but implicit encouragement from the commissioner’s office to keep it up. After all, the numerous altercations during that Orioles-Red Sox series propelled it to the top of the sports news. ESPN and FOX quickly ate up the budding rivalry, adding future matchups to their schedules.

As far as baseball is concerned, there’s no such publicity as bad publicity.

It speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of baseball’s culture that this is allowed to happen. Players are not allowed to flip their bats or walk just a little bit too slowly during their home run trots — and it seems like any minority player gets even more criticism when they do — but unprovoked physical attacks on other players are brushed off as “policing”.

This is far beyond players needing to let out their emotions. It’s violence, and it needs to stop before someone gets seriously hurt.

Oh, wait. Someone did get hurt. Giants first baseman Michael Morse sustained a concussion in the brawl after colliding with teammate Jeff Samardzija.

But man, that helmet throw, huh? That was something else!

It’s time to ask how many more of these incidents it will take before Major League Baseball steps up the punishments. For now, pitchers feel no need to rein themselves in whenever they feel the need to act out a grudge with a baseball. After all, what’s stopping them? The threat of a six-game suspension when the normal rotation is five games anyway? A fine that they can easily pay?

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Will Pitts

After playing youth ice hockey for nine years and high school lacrosse for two years, William Pitts decided he would take the path of reporting on sports rather than playing them. In addition to writing for SoMuchSports, he also operates his own blog, the cleverly-named "Sports on TV" Blog, focusing on the business of televised sports. He hopes to one day become the next Al Michaels, but he'll gladly settle for becoming the next Joe Buck.

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