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Ballparks are adding spaces for players to let out their anger

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Remember that time David Ortiz destroyed the bullpen phone in the dugout at Camden Yards? It was an understated dangerous moment for everyone else in the Red Sox dugout. An angry 6’3, 230-pound man was furiously repeatedly swinging a bat within feet of his teammates against the phone, causing the bat to break into shards.

What if there were a designated space for players to let out their anger? Let’s say, a safe space? Some ballparks are doing just that, as James Wagner of the New York Times reports.

Miller Park has installed an Everlast heavy bag in the bathroom of the visitor’s dugout. Mets second baseman Neil Walker said, “I’ve beaten that bag up a few times,” referring to some frustrating moments against the Brewers as a member of the Pirates.

Turner Field, too, has a punching bag, installed in the visitor’s dugout tunnel. Wagner spoke to clubhouse manager John Holland, who said, “We’re trying to minimize the damage.”

Wagner notes that players have other methods of dealing with frustration. Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur prefers to throw his bat at a wall. Cubs starter John Lackey not only yells at himself, but has taken his anger out on tables and chairs for which he’s had to pay clubhouse assistants.

Other players, like Yoenis Cespedes, are more zen. “I go sit down and think about what I did wrong so that the next time I can do better,” Cespedes said.

Athletes taking their anger out in violent, unhealthy ways is nothing new, so it’s great that some steps are being taken to reactively deal with it. However, my other response to Wagner’s article is: why are men so angry? It’s not just athletes. Men overwhelmingly commit the majority of violent crimes. That may be, in part, because we teach boys not to show weakness, and to respond to perceived slights by violence. Why do you think it’s embedded in baseball’s unwritten rules that if a batter shows up a pitcher, that pitcher should retaliate by throwing a 95 MPH fastball at the offender’s ribs?

What if, instead, we taught boys that it’s okay to feel sad or embarrassed or angry, and that it’s okay to talk about it? To that point, we have also socially demonized seeking help for mental health. What if we taught them that violence, no matter what — whether it’s directed at a person or an inanimate object — is an unhealthy response?

Maybe ballparks wouldn’t need to install punching bags in bathrooms to that angry players don’t put their teammates’ safety at risk, the way Ortiz did.

No, the Astros aren’t being targeted for HBPs in spring training

Alex Bregman
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On Wednesday, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman was hit by Cardinals pitcher Ramon Santos. It marked the seventh time an Astros batter had been hit in spring training exhibition games thus far, the highest total among all teams. As expected, teams are exacting revenge for the Astros’ cheating ways!

Well, not quite. The pitch Santos hit Bregman with was a 3-2 breaking ball that got away. Usually, if a pitcher is going to hit a batter as an act of revenge, he’ll attempt to do it with a first-pitch fastball.

José Altuve was also hit by a pitch against the Tigers on Sunday. The pitch, which looks to be the off-speed variety, appeared to graze his uniform as opposed to hitting him flush, so it was likely unintentional on the part of pitcher Nick Ramirez.

Other Astros to have been hit in spring training thus far: Alex De Goti, Aledmys Díaz, Osvaldo Duarte, Dustin Garneau, and Jake Meyers. Not exactly a who’s-who list of Code Breaker operatives.

Will some pitchers intentionally throw at the Astros this year? Almost certainly, despite commissioner Rob Manfred’s warning. Have they been doing it from the moment exhibition games began earlier this month? Certainly not.