WILKES-BARRE, PA – Miss me!?
So I was going to write about how the New York Yankees are one of the best teams in baseball, and even that they’ve surprised me. How the Boston Celtics are, and have always been, over rated. And, how Lavar Ball might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to basketball.
Who sells shoes for $495? And flipflops for over $200? It’s just insane.
Anyway, I wanted to go another way.
As some of you might know, I cover the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (the Yankees Triple-A affiliate) for the Times Leader newspaper in Wilkes-Barre. Every Sunday I have a “RailRiders Page” in the paper, which includes a feature story, notebook and a couple of other small things.
My point to this is that this past Sunday, my feature was on baseball’s unwritten rule about intentionally hitting a batter.
It sparked from the whole Manny Machado-Boston Red Sox saga that started when the Baltimore Orioles phenom accidentally slid into Dustin Pedroia with his spikes up. The slide cost Pedroia to miss a few games and resulted in Machado getting thrown at in three different at-bats spanning over two series between the teams.
So naturally I asked some RailRiders for their thoughts on the topic. And I had some good talent to choose from. Former Los Angeles Angeles closer Ernesto Frieri, fringe New York Yankees utility man Rob Refsnyder and veteran catcher Eddy Rodriguez are all on the team.
While Frieri and Refsnyder understood that this play is part of the game, and Frieri, from a pitcher’s standpoint, said he would be doing it as a team player, Rodriguez had a whole different take. He discussed the play from an entirely wider scope.
“What normally happens in my experience as a catcher is, ‘Hey, we’re going to plunk this guy,’” Eddy Rodriguez said. “You go plunk this guy and you know what? There’s so many variables. A ball could hit this guy in the head. Guys have kids, kids have families and it’d be an extremely sad story for somebody to lose a life over a rule in this game, or an unwritten rule.”
He immediately brought up an incident from 2015, as did Refsnyder. In a game against the Rochester Red Wings, catcher Austin Romine was due up fifth in the first inning, but the RailRiders tattooed the opposing pitcher for three runs already. Out of frustration, the pitcher threw a fastball that hit Romine in the crown of the head and the catcher dropped to the ground in pain.
“Romine has two kiddos. All I can think about when he was laying on the ground — his toes kicking on the ground — all I thought about was, what (Lester Oliveros) gained versus what (Romine) could have lost,” Eddy Rodriguez said. “That to me is ridiculous because human beings are way bigger than this game no matter how much money we make, no matter how macho you are.
“It does not matter because at the end of the day, you know what? If that guy is on the streets somewhere, is he going to go after Romine without a baseball in his hand? My guess is no because Romine’s as hard-nosed of guy a I’ve ever been around.”
While I think we can all admit that the MLB is never going to outlaw this play, Rodriguez brings up a good point. The hitter in these situations can lose so much compared to what the pitcher can gain.
There’s a way to go about these plays, and if you even look at last week’s incident between Machado and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale. Sale threw behind Machado’s head. Why? What if his finger slipped or the ball came out wrong and moved in a couple of inches.
There’s a better way to go about these plays. Throw under the belt. You’re professional pitchers. If you’re going to throw at a guy, do it where it’s not going to cause a career-threatening or life-threatening injury. The same message will still get across.
It’s not worth it.