The pitcher is always the offense. He has the ball in his hand while the batter waits defensively for the pitch to be delivered. And that’s the key factor in the Manny Machado incident the other night (if you haven’t seen the video, watch it here because it’s telling).
It’s telling because you’ll notice that on Machado’s previous at bat Yordano Ventura throws three consecutive pitches inside and off the plate – and each one is closer to Machado than the previous one. On the fourth pitch, Machado gets under one and flies out but he can be seen jawing with Ventura on his way back to the dugout. And that pitch was probably the only one that Ventura “missed on” in the whole at bat. Clearly, things are heated……..
Enter into the drama home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez who has been working at this level since 2010. After the third pitch inside to Machado, he had a choice to make. Do I do what the players always ask for……..let us police ourselves? Or, issue a warning to both benches putting a stranglehold on all pitchers “pitching” from that point on? He chose the former when there was a middle ground he could have taken…..
Of course this is all hindsight, but what he could have done was whisper to Sal Perez, the Royals’s catcher, “Hey, you better get out there and tell him to cut this shit out and get hold of himself. Or, I’ll take control and he’s not gonna like it when I do”. Simple and direct. Message received. A silent warning that doesn’t screw up the game.
Later Ned Yost, the Royals manager, will insist that their “game plan” was to pitch Machado inside and Ventura was just doing what he was told to do. Except for one thing…….he’s supposed to throw inside strikes – not balls and certainly not that far off the plate.
Managers always do that – they protect their players. And why shouldn’t they? But again, after the game (and we’ll never know if this happened but it should have), Yost should have called Ventura aside…..”Listen son, we are the defending World Champions and we play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. You’ve got great stuff but you need to grow up if you want to play at this level.”
Hall of Famer and legendary brushback artist Bob Gibson hit only 102 batters in his entire career. He had pinpoint control for a power pitcher and you knew ahead of time he wanted to own the inside edge of the plate. On the other hand, Ventura has already assembled a number of similar incidents in his brief career and MLB needs to “throw the book at him” before someone really gets hurt.
In the end though, both players are wrong and they’ll pay for it with significant suspensions. “BASEBRAWL” is part of our game and always has been. But usually it’s a head shot that triggers the ensuing charge of the mound. Understandable especially if a 99mph fast ball is coming at you from 60ft away.
But that wasn’t the case here. A lot of things went wrong and no one including Perez, the umpires, managers, and team leaders were on point……..and they should have been……
Footnote: Suspensions were handed out yesterday by MLB. Machado received four games and a modest $2,500 fine which teammate Adam Jones says he will pay. Ventura gets nine games which is only two starts. Doesn’t seem fair…….suspensions for pitchers should be for starts and not games, but that’s a whole other story…….