In some ways, Major League Baseball is the most progressive, exciting sport in America, but one archaic trend that’s holding the league back is a cringe-worthy element of baseball’s pastime that’s still inexplicably prevalent. And that is the propensity that pitchers have to intentionally pluck opposing batters because of hurt egos.
Yesterday’s example of this, in which San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland very obviously intentionally hit Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper, thus sparking a fight on the mound between the two, was an embarrassment not only to Strickland and the Giants but to the entire game of baseball. And if the powers that be in MLB want to prevent this sad practice from continuing to occur, they should seriously crack down on offenders.
The dumbest unwritten rule in all of sports is that a hitter in baseball isn’t safe to gloat after a home run without facing some type of retaliation from an opposing pitcher. At one time, maybe it made a littler more sense. But with the animated theatrics constantly put on display by many of today’s pitchers, it’s unfair that they’re allowed to showboat while a hitter isn’t allowed to toss his bat after hitting a monstrous long ball. Therefore, as the game progresses, intentionally hitting batters to make a statement should become a thing of the past.
Pitchers have always thrown at batters in order to send a message, thus sparking mound charges and bench-clearing brawls. While the fights themselves have always brought negative attention and bad publicity to professional baseball, the pitches that incited them were the truly disgraceful acts. Nothing in sports is more cowardly and pathetic than a pitcher intentionally throwing a 95-mile per hour fastball at a batter who has no way of seeing it coming. Sure, sometimes the pitches are thrown behind the hitters’ heads like warning shots. And sometimes, they hit them in fairly innocuous places, such as yesterday’s example, in which Harper was hit in the thigh. Other times, though, they hit them in dangerous places, risking serious injury for the batters.
Therefore, baseball should curtail the practice before someone gets seriously hurt from it because it isn’t worth taking a chance on. In addition, MLB should crack down on it because it does nothing but hurt the integrity of baseball. Any sport that condones intentionally attempting to injure players can’t be considered wholly respectable, especially when it involves premeditated attempts like throwing at someone.
Major League Baseball needs to make a major statement with yesterday’s incident by suspending Strickland for 10 games and even more games than that if he intentionally hits someone else in the future. Hefty fines should be levied. Teams should potentially lose draft picks if the victim of one of their pitchers’ intentional hits is forced to miss significant time due to injury. There needs to be a record of all past offenders of pitchers who have intentionally hit players in order to prorate future suspensions more appropriately. MLB needs to do everything that it can to prevent this egregious issue from carrying forward. Because if the pitchers themselves aren’t willing to recognize that they’re a disgrace to the game of baseball by intentionally pitching at someone, then maybe hefty fines and suspensions will help them recognize that.