I wondered what was taking so long with Hunter Strickland’s suspension appeal, too. But now we know, thanks to the San Jose Mercury-News‘s Andrew Baggarly: Strickland’s appeal date won’t be until 13 June. And for those who think Bryce Harper got heard a little too swiftly and a little too favourably, there’s more than you think to it.
As Baggarly reports, baseball government—which too often behaves like government government when wisdom is called for—offered to cut Harper’s suspension if he dropped his appeal. Harper accepted the offer and got his suspension reduced to 27 innings. (Three games.)
Baggarly also says Strickland was offered no such deal. “[A]n indication,” he continues, “that MLB officials saw the pitcher as the clear instigator despite his rather questionable stance that the pitch wasn’t intentional.”
So Strickland, whose original sentence was a six-inning suspension (six games, bearing in mind he’s a relief pitcher), has only to wait eleven days to determine whether he’ll be reduced to, perhaps, four innings’ suspension (four games, in relief pitching terms today). But baseball government sees Strickland as having been the instigator in the Memorial Day scrum that brought the suspensions about in the first place.
That’s like attacking Pearl Harbour and being penalised nothing but the loss of four to six battleships while the United States is stripped of its entire naval force for the first three months of World War II. The Giants without Strickland for four to six innings aren’t even a third as vulnerable as the Nationals without Harper for 27 innings.
“If that’s baseball’s idea of justice, or deterrence,” writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, while otherwise saying yes, the Nats and their star “could have handled” Strickland’s instigation better, “maybe the game deserves to get one stuck in its ear.”
There isn’t anyone in baseball with a functioning brain who isn’t paying attention to the finer print. And, yes, if Harper had merely jerked his batting helmet off and dropped it, rather than flinging it (awkwardly, if he was aiming at Strickland), he probably would have gotten only one game off. That would still have gotten him a more undeservedly harsh punishment than Strickland.
When a pitcher gets a measly six innings off for throwing at an outfielder over thousand-day-old-plus home runs, and the outfielder gets 27 innings off for blowing his stack, flinging his helmet in disgust, and charging to thank the pitcher for such a fine remembrance with a shot in the mouth (or anyplace he could land one), other pitchers who believe in answering insults actual or alleged must think they’re now the next best thing to licensed executioners.
Imagine what they think about a guy who stood at the plate after hitting the second of those ancient launches. Will they stop to think that maybe, as was true in Harper’s case, they weren’t pausing to admire their ballistics but to be dead last certain the ball was going to fly fair past the foul pole?
Incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial, will be their objection the next time one of them decides a hitter standing to be absolutely certain that ICBM is flying out fair deserves one in the ribs, if not the skull, during their next meeting.
Four to six innings off versus 27 innings off gives the headhunters actual and situational more license. Flip your bat celebrating a moonshot, whether or not it’s a three-run homer that handed your team their tickets to the next postseason round? Be prepared for a duster or a cone shot. Even if it takes seven months. Injustice delayed is injustice denied.
Slide hard into an infielder and accidentally spike him, as Manny Machado did to Dustin Pedroia in April? Never mind that Machado almost at once moved to help Pedroia back to his feet and texted him a personal apology right after the game. You can be thrown at up to four times, including one upside your head, two days later. (Nyah, nyah: Matt Barnes, who threw the head shot, got four innings off. He’s a relief pitcher, too.)
And just wait until we meet again in your playpen over a week later. If you even think about taking your normal local when you hit one out in the first game of the set, we’ll kneecap you if we bloody well feel like it.
Bomb the living daylights out of me, will you? Now I can throw behind your heads a couple of times. Just like once-upon-a-time Mariners pitcher Chris Bosio did to the Orioles, in June 1993, after they’d hit a pair off him earlier in the game, triggering second-year Oriole pitcher Mike Mussina to hit the Mariners’ Bill Haselman with a pitch in the seventh.
The brawl that followed almost knocked Cal Ripken, Jr.’s consecutive-game streak into oblivion before he’d get the chance to finish it and Lou Gehrig’s record. Ripken ran out to defend Mussina until he was body-blocked by a Mariner, waking up the next morning with his knee so swollen he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the next day. He did, though, after enough prodding including from his wife. (“Can you pinch-hit?” Mrs. Ripken asked.)
Small wonder the late Earl Weaver, long gone by then as the Orioles’ manager, instituted a no-throwing-war policy when he skippered the club. “His take,” Boswell writes, calling it a rough paraphrase:
If we get in a beanball war or have a fight, then somebody is going to get hurt or suspended. That means we’re going to lose a Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken, or Eddie Murray. We are going to lose a Hall of Famer or an All-Star. They are going to lose some humpty-dumpty. We are trying to win the World Series at the end of the season, and we don’t need those injuries.
Weaver would back his players up if they ever did get into a fight, “but made it clear that was not his way or the Orioles way.”
The Nats lost an All-Star who might be a future Hall of Famer and to whom 27 innings lost might make the critical difference in a home run, RBI, or Triple Crown chase. The Giants lost a humpty-dumpty relief pitcher and, when Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse collided on their way to join the Memorial Day fun, an aging spare part, when Morse went down and onto the special seven-day disabled list for concussions.
Weaver finished defending his no-beanball-no-fight policy by saying, “We can’t trade our thoroughbreds for their donkeys.” Baseball government traded a Nats thoroughbred for one Giants donkey while letting the jackass who started the whole thing mostly off the hook no matter the result of his appeal.
With that kind of trading acumen, it’s a good thing Joe Torre—who announced the original suspensions—is only baseball government’s chief enforcer. As that, he’s only of inconsistent competence. As a general manager, he’d be a weapon of mass destruction.