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.
Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.
Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.
Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.
As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.