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Headhunting has no Place in Baseball

Protect your players, but don’t go headhunting

The recent scuffle between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox came to a conclusion (for now) with the suspension of Boston pitcher Brandon Workman and fine for Tampa Bay pitcher David Price. Price avoided a suspension himself despite hitting both David Ortiz and Mike Carp.  It’s likely because he wasn’t headhunting like his Boston counterpart ended up doing.

Ortiz had a problem both on the field and off during the fiasco. Obviously, he was upset that a pitch hit him to begin with. It supposedly came as retaliation for the Red Sox instigating a brawl in Tampa on May 28th when Yunel Escobar stole third base in the seventh inning when his team was up five runs.

Five runs aren’t that big of a cushion, and the fact that Escobar was taking an extra base shouldn’t have resulted in such an outburst from David Ross from the Boston dugout. Once that brawl erupted and was drawn out, Escobar, Johnny Gomes, and Sean Rodriguez were all ejected. To me, that was Ross conceding defeat early in the game.

Fast forward to the game in Boston with Ortiz getting hit by Price. David hit David. Warnings are issued. Players and coaches are aware of the situation brewing between the bitter division rivals. A few innings later, Price hits Carp, which ignited the Boston dugout since they wanted Price ejected. The umpires ruled the pitch to Carp unintentional, and Price remained in the game.

Next walks up the face of the Rays, Evan Longoria. He takes a pitch that goes behind him and at head level. This is the reason that Workman was ejected and suspended.  It was more than likely he was headhunting.  You can retaliate all you want and protect your players as much as you want, but when you do so by putting a pitch near an opponents’ helmet, you crossed the line.

Unless there is a convicted murderer on death row in the batter’s box, there should never be a pitch aimed at a hitter’s helmet. It is dangerous enough being 60 feet and six inches away throwing a 90 to 100+ MPH fastball. When all that separates a hitter’s skull from that baseball is a plastic batting helmet, no emotion should allow a pitcher to purposefully aim for the helmet.

Ortiz to blame?

What really bugs me is who decided that the pitch to Longoria should be in the upper half of the body. Usually the decision to throw at a batter is well known, but 99% of the time the pitcher will just plunk a hitter in his ribs. Who gave the go-ahead to put one near Longoria’s ear? Was it Red Sox manager John Farrell? Did Big Papi go up to Workman and tell him he better send a good enough message? Could Workman have decided to throw the high heat himself? Nobody has asked the question about why that pitch was thrown at Longoria’s head and not his body.Headhunting

The fact that the ball did end up behind Longoria’s helmet is plenty of reason to have ejected Workman.  Headhunting is a big no-no.  Whether the ball really did “slip” out of his hand or not, that simply can’t happen. Workman is lucky he didn’t get charged by the entire Tampa Bay dugout. The Rays probably knew someone was going to get hit, and unfortunately for Longoria, he has the biggest target on his back. The fact that he didn’t actually get hit is why the players stayed in the dugout. Either way, the pitch was enough in itself no matter who was pitching or who was hitting. It was the location that was the problem.

I am all for protecting your teammates. If someone shows up a pitcher or gets into a scuffle and deserves to be put in his place, I have no grudges with doing it the right way. When you make the retaliation a deadly force and threaten the career or life of another player, that cannot and should not be tolerated.  Ribs and body shots are one thing, but headhunting is not an acceptable way to send a message.

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