No matter how long a player has been in the league or how much money he makes, changing teams always brings with it a bit of trepidation and anxiety, especially when the move happens in the middle of the season.
That's exactly the situation that Ricky Nolasco finds himself in, having been traded from the Miami Marlins to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a trio of minor league pitchers this past weekend. Being the new guy in town is never easy, and as childish as it may sound, the new guy wants to endear himself to the people around him as quickly as possible.
There's nothing worse than feeling like you are an outsider in your own office, or in this case, clubhouse.
Nolasco, who is set to make his Dodgers debut on Wednesday night, has been afforded a unique opportunity to quickly endear himself to his new teammates and fans by the baseball gods, as he'll be facing off against Ian Kennedy and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.
For those who forgot, this is what happened the last time Kennedy took the mound against the Dodgers.
That shameless exhibition of headhunting was met with a rather light 10-game suspension, especially when you consider how egregious the offense was. There's an unwritten rule in baseball that you don't throw at a player's head—period.
While Kennedy was disciplined by MLB, you can be sure that there's plenty of people in the Los Angeles clubhouse who are unsatisfied by the suspension and are looking for retribution.
That group includes Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell, who was none too pleased with MLB's decision as he told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times shortly after the suspension was handed down:
Nobody will be in a better position to deliver that retribution than Nolasco.
Which begs the question: Should Nolasco hit Kennedy when Arizona's former ace steps to the plate?
As unpopular an answer as it may be, the answer is a resounding no.
You can be sure that the umpires—and likely MLB itself—will warn both teams before the start of the game that anyone who hits a batter or is suspected of throwing at an opponent will be ejected from the game immediately.
While hitting Kennedy would draw a standing ovation from the fans in attendance, Nolasco getting tossed from his first game as a Dodger—and likely suspended afterwards—simply isn't worth it.
More to the point, the Dodgers cannot afford to have one of the team's biggest stars (Yasiel Puig, for example) go down with an injury in the bench-clearing scrum guaranteed to ensue should Kennedy get plunked.
The best revenge, in this case, is for the Dodgers to tattoo the outfield walls with Kennedy's pitches, something that the team already accomplished once this season, putting up six earned runs and 10 hits against Kennedy on April 14, running him from the game before the end of the sixth inning.
Don't get me wrong. Kennedy absolutely deserves to be hit by a member of the Dodgers pitching staff—ideally by Zack Greinke, the man whose head Kennedy tried to separate from the rest of his body.
But that last act of revenge needs to wait until next season, when the incident is firmly in the past and off of MLB's radar—but still fresh in the minds of those in the Dodgers clubhouse.
Ballplayers, like elephants, never forget.