Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Avenge Me: Unwritten Rules of the Beanball


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Image courtesy of Getty Images
Baseball is all about unwritten rules: you should never swing at the first pitch with a big lead, don't  cross the pitcher's mound, never make the third or first out at third base, and you can bet that if your player gets drilled, somebody is going to repay the favour.

So if we follow baseball code, that means a Baltimore Oriole will likely be receiving a fastball between the numbers at some point tonight. Whether it's from Ricky Romero or somebody from the bullpen, I wouldn't be shocked to see a member of the Blue Jays brethren unleash some chin music tonight.

I've never really understood the "he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue" mentality in baseball. If you think about it, it's the antithesis of how we teach children to deal with conflict today.

I recall my parents telling me when I was younger: "if somebody hits you, you hit them right back". Unfortunately, that strategy was never employed as any tussle that happened in the schoolyard usually involved a kid who was a foot taller and had 50 pounds on me.

Things have now changed drastically as parents urge their children to walk away from confrontation rather than deal with it directly by retaliating. So what message do baseball players send when they do the exact opposite of what parents tell their kids?

Another strange thing about the "eye for an eye" rule is the second stage almost never involves the player who was involved in the first place. For example, Jose Bautista got beaned in the head last night but it will likely be a pitcher that will avenge him.

If it's going to lead to a bench-clearing brawl anyway, why not just take the original parties involved and have them duke it out on the field mano-a-mano and get it over with rather than contract out a beanball like a hitman.

Don't get me wrong, I think a baseball brawl (or a "basebrawl" for short) is entertaining as hell from a fan's perspective. However, if any one of us were to do the same in our occupation, it would likely lead to a swift dismissal.

I can understand how tensions would boil over in hockey or football because they are predominantly contact sports, but baseball is a gentleman's game. Very rarely is contact ever made on the diamond, only occasionally at second base and home plate ... that's it.

In retrospect, it's easy for me to judge from afar and say that baseball players shouldn't let their emotions get the best of them on the field. If somebody tried to take a swing at one of my friends, I'd be pissed too. So I can't blame the Blue Jays for being upset at Jake Arrieta, whether that beanball was intentional or not.

In my opinion, the best way for Jose Bautista to respond is with his bat. He did it to the Yankees when Ivan Nova buzzed him with a fastball, and I don't doubt that he'll retaliate with his bat rather than his fists.

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