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Should Yankees pitchers get ejected for throwing at Rays hitters?

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A DRaysBay Roundtable

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MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
Apr 11, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Austin Meadows (17) gets hit by pitch during the fifth inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. 
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend, the Rays nearly swept the Yankees, coming strike calls away from getting out of a 10th inning jam that got away from Colin McHugh, and continuing a trend from the 2020 season: the Rays have the Yankees number, and they don’t like it. To show their displeasure, the Yankees are headhunting.

New York’s puerile behavior is what birthed The 98ers. After Aroldis Chapman attempted to hit Mike Brosseau in the head with a fastball in 2020, the Yankees pressed the visitor’s dugout, without the Rays players reciprocating. (Q: What do you call it when only one bench clears in baseball? A: Sad.)

Mike Brosseau got his revenge, the Rays advanced to become the American League Champions, and the Yankees are still being petty, attempting or succeeding in beaning Rays hitters, with the worst offenses coming from LHP Jordan Montgomery, who hit Austin Meadows not once...

... but twice.

Should this have resulted in an ejection? The masthead discusses:

Adam Sanford

Yankee pitchers have now hit Rays batters in 6 straight games dating back to last season... Poor Joey and Austin.

John Ford

To be fair, Adam, the Rays hit two Yankees yesterday!

And I think I’m in favor of, “if you throw at or near a guy’s head, you are automatically ejected.” Intent doesn’t matter in almost every other sport. If you commit the penalty, you do the time, regardless of what you “meant” to do.

Austin Reimann

You can’t automatically eject someone for a ball near a head, the only thing harder than throwing strikes is hitting strikes. It’s so easy to mechanically screw up one time and let one go near a guys head... Two of the hardest things to do in sports: pitching and hitting.

I’m not even crazy about some targeting calls in the NFL, you got 250 pound men running at 100 mph and if they happen to go in for a tackle the wrong way they are gone, I get it is about safety for both parties but controlling your body at that speed is hard just as trying to control where your 95 mph fastball ends up.

Brett Rutherford

Yeah I agree with you, Austin, but I do think that with Montgomery, whether it was intentional or not, it really didn’t matter. There was another fastball up and in just the day before, and these teams have a history.

Mister Lizzie

It could be that a rule, like Homin [Lee] says they have in Korea, where any ball to the head is an ejection could be difficult — BUT I truly thought that warning teams meant the next pitcher who hits a batter is gone. I was surprised that this was not the case, whether Montgomery’s second HBP was intentional or not.

Austin Reimann

My bigger issue which I mentioned yesterday is not fastballs up and in, it’s the fact that the Yankees can’t do it effectively. The Rays can, the Dodgers can, etc. The Yankees can’t and are reckless with it.

Like Meadows said, the Rays have to stop them from doing it and if there aren’t going to be suspensions, then you retaliate until their pitchers move away from it. It might get ugly but there has to be consequences other than just beating them because if they just lose, they will keep doing it.

I know it’s unpopular and it’s just the old fashioned baseball player in me, but at this point, the Rays don’t have many other options left because MLB won’t do anything

Brett Rutherford

Yeah I think we had this discussion last year. I’m not the first to argue for retaliation, but at some point you can’t let them push you around anymore.

Mister Lizzie

Clearly there is no perfect system; MLB can err on the side of occasionally ejecting an “innocent” pitcher, or err on the side of stopping these fastballs to the head before someone gets badly hurt. I vote for the latter.

Austin Reimann

If MLB doesn’t step in, this series will get quite ugly very fast.

Mister Lizzie

I don’t like throwing at people for retaliation, but it’s not even just because I don’t want people to get hurt. I’d like to see any evidence that it helps.

If you throw at the Yankees heads, will they stop? No

Austin Reimann

Same type of concept, if you go in spikes high at second or third base and spike my guy, the next time I face you, I’m hitting you. Chances are you won’t go in spikes high again...

The idea is that if the Rays retaliate and hit their guys, the Yankees pitchers will back off eventually because they don’t want to out their guys in the line of fire. I also just really love bench clearing brawls and the Rays haven’t had one in a bit, so I kind of want one...

John Ford

I understand that pitching is difficult. At the same time, if you can’t control your fastball so that it doesn’t hit people in the head area, maybe you should be pitching in the majors. And I’m a guy who used to be in favor of hockey fights. I thought it helped police the game. But I think now that that just isn’t true.

Danny Russell

(Well, the Yankees already have pitchers who shouldn’t be pitching in the majors...)

Austin Reimann

The best pitchers in baseball can lose feel for a pitch or two. It is as simple as their hip leading to early and rushing down the mound... next thing you know your arm is lagging through the zone, and by the time you release the ball it is tailing up and in.

Mister Lizzie

Austin that is where I disagree. Each team always thinks they need to respond to the last provocation. It never stops. You give the other team a free base, you risk injury AND it is a myth that you’ve shut this behavior down.

Austin Reimann

I get that, which is why the best outcome is MLB stepping in, I just don’t see that coming.

Mister Lizzie

Rays and Yankees have been throwing at each other since 2018.

Austin Reimann

Very true.

Mister Lizzie

Yankee fans TODAY are yelling about Kittredge several years ago. There is no point where they say “ok, we’re good now.”

Austin Reimann

MLB has completely botched this situation as Cash has said, so here we are. Thanks CC Sabathia LOL!

Brett Rutherford

Yeah I think the Yankees have been throwing at the Rays since 2018. Kittredge did it and I think that was it for the most part.

CC plunking Jesus Sucre with his 89 mph fastball. LMAO that was funny.

Darby Robinson

Here’s a super cut of the most recent headhunting...

Austin Reimann

I don’t think it is a complete myth though that behavior is altered, Rays haven’t truly retaliated and the Yankees behind has continued...

Like I hate throwing at a guy for bat flips, I think that is ridiculous, but when your guys are consistently hit up and in it’s a different story

Mister Lizzie

Well Austin I doubt we could find data to answer the question of whether hitting the other team’s batters is a deterrent. I suspect that in some cases there is a kind of formulaic quality to it. They throw at us, we throw at them, now we can agree it’s over.

But in cases like this, I don’t think that is happening and I have pretty strong confidence that if Tyler Glasnow comes out tonight and drills Brett Gardner in the ribs, the Yankees response will NOT be “ooh better not hit them again, they have shown us!”

Austin Reimann

Ya it’s hard to quantify and this situation is a bit out of hand... but yes, Gardner would be the best choice.

Ian Malinowski

Yeah, I honestly don’t believe that hitting a Yankees batter will stop them from throwing up and in because they’re afraid of getting hit. I think what obvious retaliation does most is point the finger, establish a record, and sort of take the feud public, which there might be some value in.

John Ford

Hitting Gardner would be like hitting Joey Wendle. If you wanna corresponding plunk for Meadows or Randy, that’s probably Judge/Stanton.

Ian Malinowski

I’d be totally okay with automatic ejections for hit batters up and in. It would definitely end up ejecting some totally innocent pitchers who just lost one grip on one pitch, and I think that’s okay.

It would probably change where pitchers pitch a bit, and I’m not sure what the second order effects would be.

John Ford

But really, I would be fine with auto-ejections for fastballs that hit in the head area. Don’t need to judge intent, just toss ‘em regardless.

And like Ian said, you’d get some “innocent” guys. But I don’t really care about that.

Ian Malinowski

Nothing that bad happens to the NFL players who get ejected for non-purposeful targeting calls. For the team it’s next man up, and for the guy, he’s unhappy for a week.

JT Morgan

This is truly a great quote.

Danny Russell

So is this one!

Homin Lee

At first, I thought auto ejection for HBP aimed at the head in the KBO is a very stupid rule, because there were going to be many innocent victims. But there’s a message in it that says, “You’re a player, not a warrior.” If you are an ancient warrior and want to hurt your opponent badly, you can hit their head with a stone; however, you are not a warrior. This is just a game.

Koreans tried to make baseball a sport that even children can watch. They wanted to turn a rated R movie into a movie that can be seen by any age. There are still ridiculous ejections. Recently a batter lowered his head on a slow curve that fell out of pitcher’s hand, and the ball hit his head. But this was a strong message that no more barbarism could exist in the sport we all watch.

And how many times a year does a batter get hit on the head? And how many of them are mistakes? I think this hypothetical may be less frequent than a real bean-ball. Like John, I believe the message is bigger than the side effects of this.

The second reason I hated about the strict ejections for HBP in the KBO was that I would see the pitcher apologize after the HBP. I have played baseball as a hobby, but I did not apologize in the past. I more thought, “You won’t die because of a HBP. It’s what baseball is supposed to be like. Come on, just get to first base. It’s a free base. If you’re a hitter, you must be ready for that.”

Let’s say you accidentally hurt someone in your daily life. If you pretend you have no feelings for it and don’t apologize, you’ll be treated as a psychopath.

In addition, I have seen pitchers want to make sure if a runner is OK when they bump into them while fielding on defense. Is that something wrong, too? Why is it only exceptional when you throw a pitch? Because hitting is supposed to be a fight against fear? Maybe. Pitchers will try to feel superior about this, but what about a bat-flip? Why do pitchers hate it when that doesn’t hurt anyone? Korean baseball players seem to have different ideas.

In KBO, this is usually the reaction of hitters when pitchers apologize after a HBP. “Forget it, it’s just a game. just do your job. We compete with each other. But we are colleagues at the same time. We are not warriors, we are baseball players.”

I will never see this in MLB in my life, and I don’t intend to impose this on other cultures; however, even though I thought it was stupid at first, it’s clear that automatic ejections didn’t do as much harm as I thought it would.