It's dangerous business, but sadly beanballs are probably here to stay
The batter's box is where hitters are supposed to go to come alive, not where they go to die. But on Aug. 16, 1920, a pitch from
That day, the
Speaker's words had the desired effect, temporarily at least. When the Yankees and Indians resumed their series two days after Chapman's beaning, not a single Yankees batter was hit by a pitch. The restraint didn't last. Soon enough, the game was back to the all-but-lawless ways that have governed similar encounters with an eye-for-an-eye vengeance that is, just as potentially devastating and ultimately pointless back then as it is now.
No major league player since Chapman has been killed by a pitch, but hundreds have suffered everything from concussions and broken bones to severe bruising and emotional trauma. Baseball may not be deadly, but it is still dangerous, and nothing in the game is more dangerous than the beanball. Amid a recent rise in beanball wars, the game is coming across as dangerously unregulated.
This past week marked the 89th anniversary of Chapman's death, and it came as two new twists made beanballs an especially hot topic. The first was the announcement that Rawlings was on the verge of releasing a batting helmet that can reportedly withstand the force of a 100 mph fastball, a significant upgrade from current models. The second was the beaning of Mets All-Star third baseman
The new helmet arrived too late to help Wright, but it could be just in time to help prevent similar experiences. He isn't the first player to be hit in the head this year (
With Wright writhing in pain, it was uncertain what kind of damage had been done to the Mets' franchise player, but it was certain that the Mets would retaliate. And
Santana made no effort to hide the fact that he was deliberately targeting the Giants best hitters. "I feel like I have to protect my teammates," he said with a shrug after the game. "If you have been around the game long enough and know how it is, then I don't have to explain. All I do is protect my teammates the right way. That's it."
That is all a part of baseball's "code." On Friday, Mets pitcher
Purpose pitches are virtually never warranted, but they also aren't going away. Shamefully, neither is the self-policing mentality adopted by players, managers and coaches to mete out justice according to their own rules. Players can live by their code, but that doesn't mean major league baseball ought to accept such vigilante justice as appropriate. The only thing more disturbing than the dramatic overreaction by pitchers to "protect" their teammates is the dramatic under-reaction by the game's powers that fail to effectively prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place. In the place of scattered logic and inconsistent rulings, there ought to be legitimate sanctions and genuine disincentive.
This is especially true in the face of an alarming rise in pitchers who publicly admit throwing deliberately at hitters, with little or no consequence. In May, White Sox closer
The Mets-Giants incident was actually the second beanball chapter of last week. The first came in Boston, where the Tigers'
Unfortunately, that really
Such weak punishment suggests that the crimes committed were weak, but that is not the case. Yankees owner
In response to being thrown at, hitters often take matters into their own hands, which can lead to fights that cause further suspensions or risk of injury. The Brewers'
It's refreshing to hear such accountability, even if it came after the fact, but that's certainly not the norm in today's overly aggressive game. And beanballs may be too ingrained to ever be fully eradicated. "It's not something you can prevent," Giants manager
Bochy was speaking to the futility of trying to stop tit-for-tat exchanges, but in a darker sense, his words sound an ominous note. If nothing more is done to prevent beanballs from happening, then it is a virtual certainty that something terrible is gonna happen.
That does not mean that another on-field death is imminent. But you know what is? Injuries that affect the health of the player and of the game as idols act like idiots.
For now, Ray Chapman remains a horrifying aberration, the only player killed in a major league game. The truly horrifying part is that his manager's words were not heeded longer, and that the dangerous practice of beanballs was not buried the same day Chapman was.