By Larry GLicken

Everyone has fallen short of identifying the true cause of all the bench clearing brawls and suspensions: namely the a priori assumption on the part of almost everyone who covers this sport that pitching high and tight is “just part of the game”—like missed signs and blown calls. Human nature being what it is, the problem is that giving pitchers that much latitude engenders a (false) sense of entitlement—one that very obviously leads to ugly skirmishes between teams from time to time—and to career altering injuries or extended time on the DL for some players to the detriment of their teams.

 

It’s as if someone in the dim past decided that throwing inside should be an unquestioned right reserved for pitchers and that fans, opposing batters and critics may as well sit on their hands and accept it because, well, that’s just the way it is and the practice is beyond reproach. Besides, like high speed crashes on race tracks it spices things up and puts fans in the seats. Well, throwing at batters as a payback, or because a pitcher feels he’s been shown up, or because a batter swung too hard at a pitch (a Bob Gibson’s no-no) may be a part of baseball, but I contend that it’s an illegitimate part of our sport. When you’re talking about an object that can maim—or even kill—someone (see Ray Chapman), discretion ought to be the better part of valor, n’est’ce pas?

 

But as long as sportswriters encourage the misplaced machismo of allowing pitchers to extract revenge for perceived slights and injustices in this manner—and as long as baseball allows its players to police themselves—we’ll continue to see what we witnessed early last week between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. People in the minority like myself will continue to get shouted down even though nothing like a logical explanation has ever been offered to justify pitchers throwing up and in whenever it suits them while hitters can only retaliate by getting a hit off of that pitcher the next time around.

 

You never hear an announcer encourage a pitcher who just surrendered a homer to a hitter to get him back “the right way” by striking him out in the following at-bat, do you? Now why do you suppose that is? If you know the answer to that one please feel free to let me know. Maybe someday a journalist will say something that makes sense about a practice that never should have been allowed in the first place.

 

Clifford

Santa Monica

 

 

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