We watched the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles play a game of tag with 95-mph fastballs a couple weeks ago, and when Major League Baseball had a chance to learn from what happened and prevent something similar from happening again, they failed.
The talk of baseball on Thursday was about the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista and how the Atlanta Braves would strike revenge on him for flipping his bat in a blowout and on the Blue Jays for breaking Freddie Freeman’s wrist. Freeman was one of seven batters hit by a pitch in three days. Peter Gammons quoted a Braves player saying that there would be a fight. Maybe there should’ve been after the first inning.
Atlanta’s starting pitcher Julio Teheran threw his first pitch inside, but missed Bautista. His second pitch connected, hitting Bautista on the leg. The Braves got their “revenge” and the Blue Jays ended up putting 3 runs on the board.
Let’s backtrack for a minute.
Revenge for what, exactly?
If it was revenge for Freeman, it was already done. Whether intentional or not — and at times it’s hard to tell with him — Mike Foltynewicz hit Devon Travis. Travis took first. It’s over. If you’re trying to get revenge for seven batters in three days, someone will get hurt in a game of dodgeball disguised as baseball.
If it’s revenge for Bautista, why? He hit a home run and flipped his bat in a blowout. He stared at Eric O’Flaherty, ran past a barking Jace Peterson at first and appeared sympathetic at home plate, where he met Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki after his trot. The appropriate response would’ve been to laugh and point at the scoreboard showing both the score and Bautista’s batting average. Give your one-liners to local reporters and move on.
The Braves couldn’t, and MLB didn’t do anything top stop them.
Kelsey Wingert of FOX Sports South spoke to Michael Teevan, MLB VP of Communication, before the game regarding how the umpire crew would handle events on Thursday night.
Teevan told Wingert that the umpires were “fully aware of what has transpired” between the two teams, but would not be giving out warnings before the game.
“We now give the umpires more discretion to decide whether he deemed it intentional or unintentional,” he told her.
That’s good, because sometimes a curveball slips, like it did for Kevin Gausman of the Orioles when he was tossed for hitting a batter with an errant off-speed pitch.
It doesn’t get more intentional than what Teheran did.
MLB executive Joe Torre told Ken Rosenthal that throwing behind players wasn’t something MLB would tolerate, using Chris Sale as the example. He added, again speaking of Boston and Baltimore:
“Sitting in an impartial seat, you look at it and realize enough is enough. I know if you wear a uniform, you’re always feeling that you’re on the short end of it. I understand that feeling. But the commissioner made his point, without going into specifics, just about getting down to baseball. If this stuff continues, there will be some discipline.”
There should be discipline here.
Punishing Teheran would normally be preferred, but he was enabled on Thursday. A warning should’ve been given after his first miss. His punishment should’ve been to be ejected with 26 outs to go. His punishment might’ve been staying in the game to allow 6 runs before rain showed up as the only thing to stop the Blue Jays offense.
Umpire Paul Emmel is the one who should be disciplined now for his lack of control behind home plate. He turned Bautista into a sitting duck without consequence. As silly as it seems, Bautista was exposed to injury at no risk to Teheran and the Braves. There are no safe places, as shown in 2014 when Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen was placed on the DL after the Arizona Diamondbacks retaliated with a fastball to his back.
If it’s Emmel’s job to use discretion, he didn’t. When people don’t do their job, there are consequences.
Major League Baseball missed its chance to punish Teheran on Thursday. Like Teheran, they have a second chance and should connect by hitting Emmel with a suspension. The step toward writing actual rules might help give commissioner Rob Manfred’s words some meaning.