Saturday, August 25, 2012

The ethics of throwing at hitters

Scott Diamond's reaction aside, he
really shouldn't have been surprised
that he was ejected Thursday night.
Scott Diamond was suspended Friday for six games for throwing Thursday at Texas star Josh Hamilton. Roy Oswalt, who started the whole rumpus by nailing Joe Mauer in the back, got nothing.

(I was away from any broadcast; my knowledge of the events is based on Twitter feeds and published reports.)

I am sure that both pitchers threw at their targets. Diamond and Oswalt are notable for their command. If Sam Deduno hits a batter, there's a pretty good chance it was an accident; if Diamond or Oswalt hit a man, odds are they hit their target.

Oswalt's explanation for hitting Mauer — that he was trying to get Mauer to bite at a pitch in off the strike zone on 3-0 — is an insult to the intelligence of his audience. Everybody in the league knows Mauer isn't swinging at a pitch out of the zone on 3-0. He only rarely swings at anything 3-0. (In his entire career, Mauer has had four official at-bats end at 3-0.)

On a 3-1 count, or 3-2, yeah, a pitcher might try that against Mauer. On 3-0, it's silly. Oswalt isn't that dumb. He's simply that disingenuous.

Diamond is getting suspended less for retaliating for the Mauer plunking as for how he retaliated — with a pitch somewhere in the noggin area. (I've seen it described as over Hamilton's head and behind his head.)

Odds are that, had Diamond drilled Hamilton in the rib cage, umpire Wally Bell would have then told both benches OK, you've had your shots, now end it. Bell almost certainly didn't warn the benches after Mauer was hit specifically to give the Twins a chance to retaliate. Diamond drew the ump's ire, and the suspension, for throwing above Hamilton's shoulders.

This wasn't particularly smart on Diamond's part, because his ejection forced the Twins to go into their bullpen early and hard, and that had ramifications for following games.

The suspension itself is relatively meaningless. Diamond immediately appealed the suspension, and I assume he will drop the appeal when the timing is right — as in when an off-day in the schedule means he'd have five days of rest anyhow. The Twins have said they want to limit Diamond's innings, so missing a start wouldn't be all that terrible a development anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Oswalt's throw looked stupid, like he just wanted to get rid of Mauer by hitting him with the pitch. He could have hit him with the first pitch instead of wasting the first three, or he could have intentionally walked him. Diamond's throw, OTOH, was pure message. He threw in the direction of Hamilton's head, but clearly not intending to actually hit him. What frustrates me at this point, is that the Twins got their pitcher thrown out, and their manager, plus a fine and a suspension, while the Rangers, who started the whole thing, didn't even get a slap on the wrist.