The Retaliation Debate: Should Teams Retaliate to Protect Their Players?
The game of baseball has changed drastically over the past fifteen years or so in many ways. Years ago, if a player was hit by a pitch with suspicious intents, his team would almost definitely retaliate by hitting one of the other team's players.
An eye for an eye so to speak.
Now a days, that rule doesn't necessarily apply.
If a player is hit, it doesn't necessarily mean that his pitcher is going to go after a batter on the other team. Players are encouraged not to get into pegging contests with each other, and umpires usually issue warnings to both teams as soon as one player is hit, especially when the teams have a noted rivalry.
However, a lot of veteran players or players that have already hung up their cleats believe that if a guy gets hit, it is up to his pitcher to retaliate to send a message that they are protecting their player. When position players get hit and they feel like it is intentional, when their pitcher doesn't retaliate that can lead to tension within the clubhouse.
Retaliation can be compared to how men and women differ in the way they handle a disagreements.
If a guy says something offensive to another guy, they are likely to slug it out and the issue is buried. If a woman says something offensive to another woman, they are likely to argue and allow the issue to go on longer than it ever needed to be. Sometimes one punch can settle things real quick.
There are certain pitchers that are known to be head hunters. They will think nothing of pitching up and in on certain players, and have no qualms about hitting them. Guys like Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez were known for to put it mildly brushing players off the plate.
During one Yankees/Red Sox match-up, Pedro Martinez sent both Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter to the hospital after hitting them with his pitches. Some would say that there is no reason for a Yankee pitcher to retaliate, while others would raise hell that two of the Yankees' top players were sent to the hospital in the same game by the same pitcher.
So why is retaliation so frowned upon in this day and age?
It would seem that baseball is trying to keep a tighter lid on their players by issuing longer suspensions and higher fines for any kind of action that is deemed intentional. They also want to try and prevent as many injuries as possible. No owner wants an opposing pitcher taking firing practice at the heads of any of his guys.
I do not condone players getting hit. It can cause unnecessary injuries that can hurt a team beyond just that game. Derek Jeter gets hit often, and last year for example, he was hit in the hand by a pitch from Daniel Cabrera and it effected him for a good stretch of the season.
Of course there are plenty of times when a player gets hit and it is clearly an accident. Young pitchers who don't have the same kind of control as more established pitchers tend to hit more batters in the beginning, but when a guy gets hit anywhere above the chest, it becomes highly suspicious.
Most pitchers will say that "the ball got away" from them, and they didn't mean to hit the batter, but even the untrained eye can tell the difference between an intentional plunk and an accident.
The bigger problem is without retaliation, grudges seem to linger and boil over at the worst possible times. The tension doesn't simply exist between the opposing teams, but it exists in the clubhouse because the players feel like their teammates don't have their backs.
Baseball needs to take a lesson from the past and let the players deal with these issues themselves. If a batter is hit by a pitch, and it is considered to be intentional, then their pitcher should retaliate by plunking one of the other team's players. That does not mean that pitchers should have free range. Any pitch above the shoulder should be viewed as flagrant and disciplinary action should be taken.
Let the boys be boys and deal with the issues on the field, instead of letting things fester and being dealt with in the wrong places like the media.
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