Professional Baseball should become the kind of game that most people envision when the mere mention of its name conjures up childhood “backyard” or “sand-lot” memories of fast moving excitement, when the pitcher threw the ball, the batter hit the ball, and the fielders chased down and caught the ball, and threw the ball to any one of the four bases, to tag the slow or quick moving runner. There was no such thing as a walk! Baseball had a rapid pace to it.
We shouldn’t try to recapture the amateurish, ill-refined aspects of under-developed skills, but rather reinstate the true essence of unbridled enthusiasm, exemplified by both players and spectators alike. Let’s make “IT” fun again, for everyone. Let’s not give the “non-competitor” an easy way out. Don’t let an incompetent pitcher pitch around a hitter! Don’t let a pitcher disable a player or team, by punishing a batter by hitting him in the elbow, knee, shoulder, wrist, or head, and adulterate the integrity and purity of a game that truly embodies a national pride and spirit.
The real beauty of Baseball is its Innocence! Kids and older fans appreciate the immense skill of making a running or diving catch, the “cat-like” reflexes to hit a speeding fastball, and the courage to stay in front of a hard hit grounder. They find it hard to fathom that anyone (like a pitcher) would deliberately throw that hard and dangerous baseball at another individual. Parents teach their kids that acts of deliberate violence are not accepted nor tolerated by a civil society.
All it takes is a little ingenuity to reinstate the Game of Baseball to its former status of untainted Glory (as we kids played it). These rules will help:
1. Constructively speed up the pace.
2. Two strikes, and you’re out.
3. Three balls, and you walk to first, unless consecutively, then to second base.
4. A squarely hit bats-man with a “fastball” receives two bases.
5. Make the D.H. universally accepted in both leagues (who wants to see the pitcher bat—nowadays, he can’t even bunt properly, and he could hurt himself – e.g. Kevin Brown, A.J. Burnett, and countless others.
6. If all these seem too revolutionary, then at least consider the possibility of enforcing a rule that would encourage a pitcher to at least apologize to the batter he hits – as a sign of good-sportsmanship and common concern for his “fellow-man”. Love, not hate should be embroidered into the fabric of America’s National Pastime.
In the June 11, 2013 game between the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers, it was obvious to this viewer that Arizona Pitcher, Ian Kennedy was simply pitching inside to the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, whose only apparent weakness seemed to be high inside fastballs. The pitch seemed to get away from Kennedy and hit Puig in the face. Kennedy’s initial reaction was one of “professional-disappointment” for his lack of control. Though his standing posture gave the impression of concern for the writhing body which lay 50 feet away, his otherwise stoic demeanor was dealing with two psychological emotions: first, his concern for a fellow human being whom he had no desire to harm; and secondly the “macho-image” of a ballplayer not wanting to seem overly-sensitive and weak in face of an adversary. Deep down, he probably wanted to say, “I’m sorry”! But “tradition”, and the false impression of a dignified, “competitive-spirit”, prevented his “ego” from succumbing to that unconventional urge to violate one of Baseball’s unwritten “archaic” and “dehumanizing” laws.
The debacle that followed created a spectacle to excite and incite some rowdy fans, but nothing to bring out the essence of Baseball’s purity. Then, how ridiculous was it for Greinke to hit any one beside Kennedy if “they” wanted to make a legitimate point for retaliation. The final straw was to intentionally hit Greinke almost in the face. The only solution is for MLB to enforce an “absolute” no tolerance rule, before someone gets killed, like Ray Chapman (1920s), or has his career affected like that of Tony Conigliaro.
That “unwritten” rule stems back to the dinosaur-age of Baseball, and should become as extinct as its namesake. “Road-Rage” is always initiated by an individual’s apparent lack of concern for another’s well-being. How flagrant is the disregard for another’s well-being when a pitcher deliberately throws a “hard, round projectile” at a speed close to 100 MPH, at the body or head of an opposing player! Is there enough cause here to consider a little remembered epitaph to those insensitive souls wandering the foothills of the “Land of Nod”: “AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?”
It has been said, “When a pitcher has to bat, he can’t throw at hitters without knowing the favor can be returned.” If those words were true, then either Greinke is an idiot, or Kennedy wasn’t aware of the “unwritten rule”. I cannot stand that cavalier attitude that pitchers and managers have about hitting “the next guy up”. Have you ever been hit by a 90 to 100 MPH fastball? That is “Blunt Trauma”. And it is “not fair”, and has no place in what is known as America’s purist of “pastimes”. What do you think Ray Chapman and Tony C. would say about it now? And all the others whose careers were either stalled or discontinued because of the incapacitating effect of “insensitive” pitchers, and managers who justify their false sense and “indignity” of winning at all cost. I constantly hear commentators vilify those who seem to be the instigators and perpetrators of that “heinous” behavior, yet they ultimately endorse it when they say, “it’s part of the game”. Baloney! It is one of the things that should never have been part of the game; and it should quickly and emphatically become extinct from the GAME!
Come on, MLB, do something significant to change the mental climate and culture of a “society’s-barbaric code”. What better way to stop this nonsense than to enact a 2-base penalty that will most certainly change the mind-set of a team more concerned about winning the game than seeking revenge for a false sense of retribution? Plus – if I were a pitcher in the Big Leagues (or any league) I would never hesitate to say I was sorry for hitting someone unintentionally – It’s the only civilized thing to do!
(This piece authored by Paciorek originally appeared on Tom Hoffarth’s blog “Farther Off the Wall”, photo courtesy cnn.com)