The pitchers mound is one of the few places where it is permissible to assault someone and, at worst, you get eight days of unpaid leave while missing a single start. Last night, when Yordano Ventura threw his hardest pitch of the night, a 99 mph fastball, into Manny Machado's mid-section, Ventura knew very little could happen to him. Manny though could miss eight games or maybe more if the pitch happened to break a rib or a wrist or maybe ride high and end a career.
It is easy to blame Ventura, but to some extent more blame should rest on the Royals organization for failing to reign him in or to act ethically and jettison him for his behavior. Ned Yost, the manager for the Royals, at best suggested that some of the players on the team might be annoyed with Ventura's behavior, but nothing more. Ventura has established a pattern and not much has been done.
To Orioles fans, this might seem familiar. In 1998, Armando Benitez drilled Tino Martinez in the back, which led to a crazy brawl. The Orioles, displaying incredible class, took responsibility for the incident. Manager Ray Miller personally apologized to the Yankees. Peter Angelos called up George Steinbrenner and expressed his sincere regrets. It was also noted that Angelos then instructed the front office to get rid of Benitez when it was first convenient. He was later traded in a one for one deal, netting the club Charles Johnson.
Of course, netting out the right punishment for a pitcher who assaults a batter is important as is an organization taking responsibility for the poor behavior of its employees. However, I would suggest that the larger issue is a sport that loosely condones hit batsmen as punishment for violating hazily understood unwritten rules and customs. It is difficult to take baseball seriously, including the players, when they harp about the danger of a 99 mph thrown at a player while also insisting on baseball being a periodically violent game.
In the end, the Orioles will suffer a bit with Manny being out for a week or so. They will benefit from him not breaking any bones. Articles like this will gnash teeth. The front office of MLB will condemn the behavior of both players and pretend that the suspensions placed upon them has a deterrent effect. In a game that sees the pointlessness of hard slides at home and second, it should also see the inherent disadvantages in supporting a player vigilante culture where bone-headed players like Ventura assume any negative imprint on his gentle disposition is grounds for assault.
Last year, I suggested an approach to treat hit by pitches as equal without intent. Click here to read that.