1. As predicted, Major League Baseball announced that Twins reliever Tyler Duffey has been suspended for three games and fined an undisclosed amount for “intentionally throwing a pitch behind Yermín Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox during the top of the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game at Target Field.” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli was suspended for one game and fined for the incident. This all came out of the weird “unwritten rules” incident I wrote about here. Throwing at or near a player who breached an “unwritten rule” was how such rules were once enforced, and umpires allowed it. Now throwing at players deliberately is treated as the dangerous practice it always was, as the game was reminded of this week when Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar (above) was hit in the face by a fastball. Beanballs were once considered part of the game, and in fact an essential tool of the successful pitcher, and long before batters wore helmets.
2. Still more on the Mercedes incident: White Sox manager Tony LaRussa, who has been generally ridiculed for his insistence that his player should not have hit a home run on a softball league pitch when his team was ahead by 11 runs, keeps insisting that he is right and everyone else is wrong. “If you’re going to tell me that sportsmanship and respect for the game of baseball and respect for your opponent is not an important priority, then I can’t disagree with you more . . . Do you think you need more [runs] to win, you keep pushing. If you think you have enough, respect the game and opposition. Sportsmanship,” he told reporters. Well, in baseball, you never know how much you need to win. Eleven is pretty tough, but the Boston Red Sox scored 17 runs in one inning against the Detroit Tigers on June 18, 1953. You never know. It’s also sportsmanship not to cheat the fans by trying to pitch or hit as well as possible, every time, all the time. That means bad sportsmanship includes a team letting a position player pitch, which is the equivalent of a white flag. That’s how this whole thing started.
3. On the stupid “tomahawk chop”...At Atlanta Braves games, the sound system blares drumbeats to stir up the crowd as fans “chop” foam tomahawks and sing a a stereotypical “Indian war chant.” In October 2019, just before Game 5 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and the Braves, Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley, unlike Senator Warren a real member of the Cherokee Nation, said he found the tradition offensive. In the old days, that would have, and maybe should have, signaled to the fans that they should chop like never before if Helsey entered the game, to rattle him. But some kind soul with the Atlanta management made the decision not to distribute the foam tomahawks for that game. Since there were no fans in the stands to chop last season, some assumed that the chop was dead. Nope! Fans are back in the stands, and the drumbeats, chopping and chanting is back too.
I think the tradition is embarrassingly silly, but calling it racist, as the same people who made the Redskins and the Cleveland Indians change their names claim, is contrived. However, once the Braves endorsed the idea that the hackneyed Indian stuff was legitimately offensive by stopping it when a real Native American was on the field, they can’t ethically resume it now.
4. Something is amiss when this can happen. Chris Davis, the Baltimore Orioles slugger who would have been forcibly retired years ago if he wasn’t being paid over 23 million dollars a year, is officially out for the season with a hip injury, and the Orioles are thrilled. Now they can put someone in the line-up who can still play baseball: Davis has hit like Leo Durocher’s grandmother for four years and 90,000,000 dollars worth, making the team worse than if he couldn’t play at all. Davis will be paid his salary this season and next too, so that’s another nearly $50 million he gets to stink. Again: if he had any integrity, he would have retired once he realized that he couldn’t play. This guy did it, and the stats say he’s been nearly twice as valuable as Davis over his career.
5. Proof that MLB was pandering: In 2021, somehow there is no mention of Black Lives Matter to be seen anywhere in Major League ball parks. The new hotness: digitally inserted product ads on the physical field. In Red Sox broadcasts, the words “Metcalf’s Chevrolet” are likely to appear on the pitcher’s mound one inning, and “Legal Seafood” the next. Ads on fences, walls and scoreboards are as old as the game itself, but allowing them on the field itself, even just for the eyes of TV viewers, is greedy and crass.