We accept violence in football and hockey, of course, and we have become conditioned to anticipate it in basketball, thanks in part to the endlessly replayed compound fractures of the legs of players like Kevin Ware and Paul George. Baseball’s injuries, though, tend to be more hidden – a strained oblique muscle, a frayed elbow ligament – and so it comes as a visceral shock when something graphic and horrifying happens on the diamond, a reminder that standing sixty feet away from someone throwing a hard projectile carries its own risk.
With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Brewers starter Mike Fiers released an 88 mile-an-hour fastball at Stanton. The pitch looked like trouble from the start. It was headed up and in, and kept tailing further in that direction until it connected with Stanton’s left cheekbone, before he had even begun to react. You can, if you so desire, watch it here, with the appropriate warning about graphic content:
Stanton immediately hit the dirt, and blood began to pour from his face. He was down on his left side for nearly 10 minutes, during which he barely moved, though he is said to have never lost consciousness. Medical personnel eventually loaded him on to a gurney and drove him off the field on an ambulance cart. According to the Marlins, he suffered lacerations requiring stitches, fractures in his face and other damage.
Before the game could recommence, the Miller Park groundscrew had to mop Stanton’s blood off home plate and scrape it out of the batter’s box, but the evening’s ugliness didn’t end there.
A shaken Fiers hit Stanton’s replacement, Reed Johnson, on the hand – although Johnson, like Stanton, was ruled by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg to have been in the act of swinging – and then both benches cleared after the Marlins, led by on-deck batter Casey McGehee, took offense.
Kellogg, who seemed to be on the verge of losing control of the game, ejected McGehee and Marlins manager Mike Redmond, and issued warnings to both sides after the inning was over. In the sixth inning, Marlins reliever Anthony DeSclafani hit Carlos Gomez on the left elbow, resulting in his own ejection as well as that of Redmond’s replacement, bench coach Rob Leary.
"He hit a guy in the mouth and then another guy in the hand, what kind of reaction are you thinking we give you?" Redmond said after the game.
Pulses were raised and intent was debated (neither of Fiers’ pitches seemed to have been premeditated; DeSclafani’s might not have been), but what really mattered was the status of Stanton. The team announced Stanton would be done for the season which means he'll finish with a .288 batting average, 37 home runs and 105 RBI. He might still emerge from 2014 with the NL MVP award, but it can only be hoped that he will do so with his long-term health, physical and mental.
He, too, was undergoing X-rays. Thursday night reminded us that even in baseball, violence can strike anyone at any time.