Last week Pirates starter Joe Musgrove plunked Chris Owings of the Diamondbacks intentionally. He did it in retaliation for his teammate, Josh Harrison, being hit with a pitch the previous half-inning. Musgrove admitted it was retaliation, in fact, saying that he did it to “protect” his teammate because “that’s how [he] was raised to play the game.”
Yesterday Major League Baseball disciplined Musgrove for that, paying him $1,000. Musgrove happily accepted the fine and said it was an acceptable price to pay for his ability to police the plunking situation.
The ridiculousness of this is that the only reason Musgrove got fined was because he admitted that it was a purpose pitch. If he had used the old saw about it “getting away from him” MLB likely would not have fined him at all. At the same time, as our Matthew Pouliot noted this morning, if Owings had charged the mound and started a fight over it, Musgrove probably would’ve been suspended for six games for setting that off. As if Musgrove is less culpable for a bad act simply because Chris Owings was better able to keep his head than some other player might’ve.
All of which is to say: Major League Baseball doesn’t care if a pitcher intentionally throws at a hitter. It’s merely concerned with how it all plays out publicly after he does so. A bad quote gets you $1,000. A bad optic in the form of a fight video gets you six games.