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.
Earlier today the Major League Baseball Umpire’s Association made multiple posts on social media registering its displeasure at what it feels was the league’s weak discipline of Manny Machado following his run-in with umpire Bill Welke. It was an unusual statement, as it’s not common for umpires, individual or via their union to comment on such matters.
This evening, in an official statement, the league called it inappropriate:
“Manny Machado was suspended by MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, who considered all the facts and circumstances of Machado’s conduct, including precedent, in determining the appropriate level of discipline. Mr. Machado is appealing his suspension and we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association, just as it would not be appropriate for the Players Association to comment on disciplinary decisions made with respect to umpires. We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”
That final bit, about workplace violence, is something that I didn’t really consider when I read the umps’ statements, but it’s a damn good point. In an age where people are literally shooting up workplaces, umpires making reference to that kind of thing in response to a player throwing a bat is pretty rich indeed. And in pretty poor taste.