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First of all, let's offer up (very) belated congratulations to the White Sox for not over-reacting a week ago after Minnesota Twins reliever Trevor May hit Jose Abreu with a fastball. I suppose by some standard it is inappropriate to just flat out say May did it on purpose, but anyone who saw that pitch knows May just flat out did it on purpose.
Then again, given the big brouhaha in baseball Sunday, we may be jumping the gun a bit in handing out kudos. The gutless Toronto Blue Jays waited until the second-to-last inning of their last game of this regular season against the Texas Rangers to intentionally hit slugger Jose Bautista. The most rational explanation for that move was that the Blue Jays were still pissed about a Bautista bat flip - from last year's playoffs!
So maybe the White Sox have a plan to exact retribution from the Twins considerably further down the line. Or maybe rationality has a at least a little to do with how the White Sox operate and they have no such plan.
In case the Blue Jays' assault on Bautista (the fastball was traveling at an estimated 98 miles per hour when it hit him square in the torso - that is an assault, people) wasn't pathetic enough, infielder Rougned Odor then compounded the situation when Bautista slid hard into second on an ensuing ground ball. The two players squared off and then Odor landed about as impressive a straight right to Bautista's jaw as you are going to see in that sort of context.
It seems clear that Odor, Rangers pitcher Matt Bush and Rangers manager Jeff Bannister all deserve significant suspensions. Perhaps new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred will take this as an opportunity to start to dial up standard punishments in these sorts of situations.
Because the best thing that could happen here would be for Manfred to make a statement that a new era has begun regarding pitchers throwing at hitters. He could crank up the penalties (which would then almost certainly be reduced on appeal, but still . . . ) and help teams start to understand that the previous wink-and-nod approach to these sorts of situations will no longer be in effect.
In other words, pitchers and their managers would face serious penalties when they took hard ball in hand and did their best to hit foes with fastballs. You would think it would be simple - do that sort of thing and pay a severe price - but no. Get to work, commish.
As for the White Sox, well, they were smartest not to retaliate by having one of their pitchers hit a Twins hitter because if they had done so, they would have conveyed at least a little legitimacy to their foes' initial weak move. (Editor's Note: Didn't the White Sox hit Byung-Ho Park first?)
Plus, Minnesota has been terrible enough this season that they already appear to be sleepwalking through many of their games. Not surprisingly, they are not terribly difficult to defeat when that is happening (as the Sox did three times to sweep the series) and there is no reason to do anything to wake them up.
After Abreu was hit, Robin Ventura did a great job of forcing the umpires to face at least a little bit of accountability for their dim-witted decision not to toss May out of the game when we all knew he had hit Abreu on purpose. Ventura engaged in one of the longest verbal harangues of umpires that Sox fans have seen from him during his tenure as manager and was himself ejected from the game.
In so doing, Ventura burned off some of the negative energy that would have remained for the White Sox had there not been at least some sort of action taken to protest May not facing consequences. And the White Sox moved on.
Baseball has always had a culture where pitchers are expected to "protect their teammates" by hitting an opposing player if one of their guys gets hit. But that culture is especially lame in the American League, where pitchers don't bat. Let's conclude by once more urging Manfred to do the right thing: Make the penalties for hitting hitters with pitches on purpose so severe that teams wouldn't just think twice before they do it, they would think a half dozen times.
The game doesn't need this garbage.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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