I really detest the Unwritten Rules of Baseball. It’s beyond annoying to see players like Brian McCann try to police the fun out of baseball or enforce amorphous “codes” nobody quite agrees on (no bunting for base hits during a shift!).
I don’t ordinarily believe in policing-by-beaning. A player “showboats” after hitting a home run? Get him out next time. Hitter breaks up a no-hitter with a bunt? Too bad. Player steals a base when his team is leading by 10? Why do you care?
But I draw the line somewhere, and that’s when another team recklessly puts your own players at the risk of physical harm. Earlier this season, the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons slid way too late into the 3rd base, with his spikes up and right into Yunel Escobar. It was a reckless and dangerous play, and Escobar left the game with an injury. Thankfully it wasn’t a serious injury, but it could have been worse.
Was Simmons trying to hurt Escobar? Maybe, but probably not. He was probably trying to do a “hard” slide to knock the ball away from the fielder (it worked). Either way, I had no problem when the Nats retaliated later in the game, beaning Simmons his next time up. Simply put, the Nats can’t let other teams physically intimidate them. The Nats shouldn’t ever start a beanball war, but they shouldn’t be afraid to fight back if another team starts one.
Fast forward to last night. Tony Cingrani intentionally hit Bryce Harper. Is there a chance the pitch just slipped? Sure, but it’s not likely. The Reds were leading by 2. There was a runner on second. First base was open and best hitter in the league stood in the batters box. It’s a classic intentional walk or pitch-around situation. Cingrani did neither. He hit Bryce in the back with the first pitch. Some pitchers, after hitting the batter, apologize to the hitter, to let them know it wasn’t intentional. Cingrani turned his back and walked back to the mound.
The Nationals can’t let this become a trend. If teams are too chicken shit to pitch to Bryce Harper, that’s fine. But they can’t let teams throw at him. That’s dangerous, and frankly there’s too much as stake.
Gio Gonzalez: put one right in the middle of Joey Votto’s back, and let’s hope both teams are content to leave at that.