Last night, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks had themselves a good ‘ol basebrawl at Chavez Ravine, one of those classic macho pissing contests that ended with rarely-used bullpen pitchers and catchers with shin pads sprinting in from the outfield to take part in the grabbing and serious look-making at each other.
Brawls in baseball are ridiculous. And there needs to be a change.
In case you missed it, here’s what happened last night.
Five hit-by-pitches fueled two bench-clearing “brawls,” the second one resulting in six ejections. Suspensions and fines are sure to follow.
Cody Ross was hit by a pitch in the top of the 5th inning. Following that, Dodgers Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig was hit in the face by a pitch in the bottom of the 6th. The pitch grazed Puig’s shoulder and deflected off his nose. Thankfully, he was not seriously injured.
Then, things got REALLY macho.
The following inning, Zack Greinke hit Miguel Montero with a pitch in the back. Both benches cleared and the bullpens emptied, but there were no serious altercations and both sides were given warnings, but no ejections.
Everyone thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t.
In the bottom of the inning, Ian Kennedy hit Greinke with a pitch near his head. This time, the testosterone was really flowing, as the pushing and shoving and mean glaring and curse-saying actually turned a little bit violent.
After the game, nasty and hurtful words were said. Feelings were made sad. People alternately claimed they weren’t throwing at each other, then in the next breath admitted they were.
And that’s all fine. Pitchers have been throwing at hitters since the days of Ty Cobb spiking people on the basepaths. That’s never going to change. It’s a part of the game and will go on forever. Baseball can’t stop it.
What CAN change, however, is Major League Baseball’s rules about participating in brawls.
In the NBA, the rules are strict. If you leave the bench during a brawl on the court, you are suspended and fined. There is no gray area. If you take more than one step out onto the court to join a fracas, you’re going to go away for a while.
The brawl at Auburn Palace in Detroit a few years ago rightfully scared the crap out of NBA Commissioner David Stern. It’s the main reason why the NBA’s brawl policy is so strict and effective.
It is flat-out ridiculous for pitchers and catchers in bullpens, most of which are located on the opposite side of the outfield wall, to sprint hundreds of feet to the infield to participate in brawls they have nothing to do with.
Not only that, some players on the DL for Dodgers actually participated in the brawl, which is a definite no-no in MLB.
How can baseball allow this to continue? What good does it do to add more bodies, dozens of them, to a fight that already has at least 18 people participating?
And why does baseball allow people to sprint off the bench to participate in these brawls? Are the nine players on each side not enough?
Each team has a 25-man roster at its disposal for every game. That’s 50 players. That doesn’t count coaches and bullpen catchers. Which means last night, there were about 65-70 people participating in a fight on the field.
Happily, baseball has not had an incident like the one in Detroit back in 2004, although fans have gotten in the middle of baseball brawls in the past. But there is something inherently dangerous about the way baseball fights are conducted. There are too many participants. There are too many bodies engaged in anger and retaliation.
Commissioner Bud Selig should stop the practice of benches emptying and bullpens clearing during situations like Tuesday night’s Arizona-Los Angeles debacle. Major League Baseball can stagger the suspensions or force teams to go with a short bullpen or bench.
There are ways to make the penalties harsh enough to stop players from feeling like they have to run at the top of their lungs hundreds of feet just so that they can grab onto the waist of a player from the other team or pretend to look tough while allowing seven or eight guys to stand between them and the opposing team.
There’s just no need for this anymore.