Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New York Yankees: Carry-over or move on?

Since the question of whether the New York Yankees will reach the postseason has pretty much been resolved in the negative, the pressing item for Wednesday’s game in Tampa will be whether there is any carry-over from Tuesday night’s bench-clearing incident with the Rays.

After Derek Jeter took a fastball to the top of the wrist in the bottom of the eighth inning, both benches were immediately warned by home-plate umpire Rob Drake. It is uncertain as to why the quick jump to warn both benches. Typically, it takes a bit more than one hit batter to get that far. There is a chance that the umpires were told to be on their toes since Chase Headley took one on the chin last week courtesy of an errant Jake McGee 97-mph fastball.

Jeter’s HBP was the fifth one suffered by the Yankees in the last two series with the Rays and manager Joe Girardi, who was already ticked off because of an unreviewable tag-up play, unleashed on Drake about the instant warning. Then, Girardi showed even more frustration as he started to yell at Rays' reliever Steve Geltz.

Girardi was eventually tossed for arguing and in the bottom of the inning, David Phelps threw up and in around the chest area of Kevin Kiermaier. Phelps missed but was ejected and the benches and bullpens cleared. No punches were thrown but the Yankees for the first time in a long time seemed genuinely interested in baseball.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve supported the Yankees in the past for not be retaliatory when it comes to hit batsmen. I never saw the point of potentially hurting another player on purpose, not to mention the potential for a suspension. But last night for whatever reason, maybe seeing some fire in the Yankees for a change, I tweeted the following.
Now, spur of the moment it felt good. Within seconds I was called out by a Rays writer I respect and we chatted about it. I explained my reasoning for such a comment and in the end he might not have agreed, but respected where I was coming from. We of course were trolled by fans from both sides that had unnecessary responses to the incident.

As I was holding this conversation, I remembered that I earlier in the day was pretty upset about Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman not getting reprimanded by MLB for throwing at a hitter’s head and then smirking about it as he walked off the field. I felt it was ridiculous in light of Jonathan Papelbon’s seven-game suspension for grabbing his crotch in front of fans.

Do I think Phelps should get suspended or fined? Maybe. It could be what the game needs; a quick and decisive response which shows the league will not tolerate pitchers throwing at batters intentionally.

Here is the problem with intentionally hitting a batter, and something I should have re-considered prior to my tweet. The ball doesn’t always go exactly where pitchers want it to. Suggesting, as Girardi did in the postgame presser, Rays’ pitchers need to learn how to pitch inside, is easier said than done.

A pitcher on the hill thinking ‘I’ll plunk this guy in the butt and show I support my teammate,’ might have the best intentions in mind, but there are no guarantees the pitch does not ride up and the batter who also just happens to dive into every pitch gets cracked in the face.

Is ending someone's career, potentially causing irreparable damage or even death worth it?

The Yankees are a frustrated bunch for many reasons. They’ve underperformed all season and yes, of course it sucks to get hit often by members of the same team in such a short time span. Emotions run even higher when one of your teammates was recently hit in the face by that team and another pitch to the face incident with Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton (that same night as Headley) had far worse consequences.

I think the Yankees proved their point last night. They are “pissed” as Girardi said and it was evident by the retaliation from Phelps. In no way do I think that they need to press on this further. I’d venture to guess the umpires will warn the benches before the game and hopefully that will quell some of the desire (if any) for the Yankees to show they’re not going to take it any longer.

But if a pitch gets away from one side or the other in the final game of the series, I hope the player and team that is hit brushes it off and moves on. Sticking up for your teammate is one thing, but intentionally throwing at a batter, when the risk of hitting that person in the head exists, is another.

I’ll try to remember that in the future as well.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.