Heath Bell [all together now!] claims he was taken out of context

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Yesterday Heath Bell was on a radio show and ripped Ozzie Guillen.  It was pretty straight forward, yes?  Well, no, because like just about everyone else who didn’t realize that they said something controversial until after he said it, Bell has gone into damage control mode and now claims he didn’t mean what everyone heard him say.

He was on “Power Alley” with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio today — you can listen here — and he said he didn’t think he said anything wrong. When asked if he was misinterpreted, he said:

“I think it was.  I was never criticizing Ozzie.  I don’t think that’s what I was doing on the radio.  I was choosing my words kind of right …  I never said I don’t respect him as a manager or a person.

Wait, time out, Heath: this is what you said:  “It’s hard to respect a guy that doesn’t tell you the truth or doesn’t tell you face to face.”  And then you said Ozzie Guillen didn’t tell you the truth and didn’t tell you face to face.  Now I’m confused.  Let me think … I want to give you the benefit of the doubt here because I kinda like your style, so let me be your spin doctor …. thinking …

Got it!!  Though it is hard to respect such a man, you fought through that crap and did it anyway.  Really, Ozzie should be thanking you for your strength!  You’re one HELL Of a guy.

Bell went on:

It is interesting, I think, to play underneath a manager like Ozzie because he talks to the press and he does a lot of things and he’s loud.  But you know what?  You know, I’ve had good managers, I’ve had bad managers and I don’t think Ozzie’s the reason why we really stunk this year.  I think for me not performing to the next guy not performing.  And that’s the reason we didn’t win this year.  It’s not because of Ozzie.

Heath Bell pivots pretty quick for a big dude.  OK, Heath, Ozzie isn’t the problem. Who is?

Everybody’s trying to point at Ozzie or somebody in this organization … I just think everybody’s trying to point fingers why we didn’t win.

But not, you, right. You didn’t try to point a finger and say something you shouldn’t have, did you?

And, you know, did I say something I probably shouldn’t have?  Yes, I did.  I’m going to own up to it.

Good. Nice to see that humility. This is actually progress:

But you know what?  I’m not going to back down from anybody.

But … but … with the owning up and the … I’m so confused …

Apparently I just have to keep my mouth shut. Next year I’m not going to talk to anybody for the simple fact [that] it’s not doing me any good.

OK, we’re back to agreeing on something. Nice interview, Heath.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.