Naturally, as Acuña stepped to the plate on Wednesday, fans raced back from the concession stands and got their gloves out, prepared for another long ball to head their way. However, instead of pitching around Acuña, José Ureña decided to come juuuust a bit inside on the first pitch of the inning (his only pitch of the game), and the benches cleared:
Part of the game of baseball, most would argue, is getting a hot hitter off the plate. Pitchers typically will throw inside to send a message. However, it’s a different story when a pitch — non-coincidentally Ureña’s fastest first pitch of the season — could possibly jeopardize a player’s career, especially a 21-year old like Acuña. That’s what every baseball fan thought as Acuña clutched his elbow for a long while, and was removed from the game the very next inning.
“To get hit like that when all he’s doing is playing the game, he’s not doing anything to show anybody up. He’s just playing the game. He’s a young, talented kid…What happens if they hit him there and it breaks his elbow and he’s done for the year? With what we’re trying to accomplish here and where we’re at, there’s no reason for that. I mean, this is a game.” — Brian Snitker
Naturally, former and current major leaguers and baseball fans reacted, immediately sounding off on Twitter, calling it bush league and everything else in between (except Keith Hernandez). Then, attention turned to the probable action from Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre and Major League Baseball officials, hoping for serious discipline against Ureña for his “despicable” actions. On Thursday, it was announced that he would be suspended for six games, which Ureña appealed.
To say that people were shocked would be an understatement, as most believe that missing one start (if the Marlins effectively use the rotation in the six games he’s suspended, he may not miss a beat) for intentionally beaning is not a serious enough punishment. People stated that MLB didn’t take enough action and that he should be suspended for five starts (25 games).
The truth is that six games and a fine are just about enough.
“If you watch Jose pitch, every first pitch of every game is pretty much there.” Mattingly said.https://t.co/sT56wycQIY
Here are Urena's first pitches for the season. pic.twitter.com/i93iHNcQkY
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2018
Now, I understand the frustration. Ureña went out of his way to stop Acuña from terrorizing his team’s pitching staff by pitching inside, and it hit him. Hitting one in the elbow means that the ball is inches away from a pinched nerve. No matter the circumstance — “it’s a part of baseball”, “you have to send a message, move him off the plate”, whatever other traditional baseball retaliation you want to throw in there — Showing no remorse for hitting him and exchanging words with Acuña and Snitker after he placed his shin guard on the mound makes it worse. Ureña should take any consequence MLB officials decide to impose, and baseball needs to fix its views on the tradition (more on that another time).
That said, let’s not act like this is any different than any punishment for past incidents in this decade. Remember in August 2013 when Ryan Dempster threw at Alex Rodriguez three times before he finally hit him on the elbow? Remember the two times in 2011 and 2013 when Carlos Carrasco allowed home runs and then came close to hitting the head of the very next hitter?
Ryan Dempster would be fined and suspended for five games, and wouldn’t miss a start (he would admit intent in 2016). Carlos Carrasco was suspended six games for hitting Butler, and eight games for hitting Youkillis (he was sent to Triple-A the next day).
It seems more unfair after benches clearing brawls, where pitchers automatically face less punishment than the position player. For example, when late Royals’ pitcher Yordano Ventura threw at and hit Manny Machado in 2016, enough to make Machado charge the mound, he was suspended for nine games — later reduced to eight — while Machado served the full four games handed to him.
If that all sounds unfair, I would agree. However, it’s not like MLB wants to give out short punishments. They’re trying to avoid any grievences with it’s players. The truth is that they can’t just start suspending starting pitchers for five to six starts, and the reason for that is because of the power of the MLB Players Association.
Don’t get me wrong, the strength of the Players Association works both ways. If not for the Players Association, Mike Trout is an Angel forever and we’re starting extra innings with runners on base. However, most of the decisions made with the MLBPA are based off of money for players, and suspensions are the same. When a player gets suspended without pay, that matters by the number of games; this does not change for starting pitchers, as they still get paid by team games, not his starts.
Let’s say Major League Baseball does suspend Jose Ureña for 20 to 25 games, which would be four or five starts. The MLBPA will appeal and fight for Ureña, and not because they think Ureña is right, but because they’re representing their player losing money. For the non-mathematically inclined, a player making the minimum like Ureña being suspended for 25 games is losing approximately $89,000. That is something that the MLBPA would not allow, even if the client’s actions were worse than Ureña’s.
So how do you fix this? MLB and the MLBPA were able to negotiate and complete a deal on the banned substances policy in 2015 and the domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy in 2016. Why not negotiate fixed suspensions when these incidents occur? For example, if a starter is deemed to have hit or thrown behind a batter intentionally, it’s an automatic 11 games. Any retaliation is six games. If the hitter charges the mound, it could be anywhere from three to five games for them.
Any sort of consequence along those lines would work, but asking for Major League Baseball to hand over five start suspensions is asking for trouble with its players. Based on the events over the past five years, we all know what happens when a sports league’s office has trouble with its players.
"Major League Baseball should have sent a message and suspended José Ureña for 40 games and took away his paycheck. Old-school, unwritten rules baseball guy is insanely dumb."
— FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) August 17, 2018
Jose Ureña hitting Ronald Acuña because he’s a hot hitter torching his team, is unacceptable, at least in this generation of baseball. I think everyone (minus Keith Hernandez) can agree on that. However, until you get these issues with fixing this belief that baseball tradition always needs to be followed, these long-term suspensions for starting pitchers that people continue to call for are not going to do anything but cause an uproar from the Players Association.
Instead, let’s wait for MLB and the MLBPA to come up with a permanent solution to fix this issue. Right now, six games and a fine is just about enough.
Featured Photo: SBNation/Bleed Cub Blue
Follow Payton Ellison on Twitter (@realpmelli14).