Bernstein: Ending Baseball's Joyless Battle

Firing punishment pitches for celebration in baseball needs to end.

Dan Bernstein
April 18, 2019 - 2:02 pm

(670 The Score) The secret code of proper baseball behavior is one maintained in large part by old and fearful Americans, and wielded to suppress the agency of players raised in any different culture, whether it be geographical, generational, or some combination thereof.

Joy in the game is an insult to these people, particularly when expressed at the assumed expense of someone who simply didn't do his job well enough.  When that happens, it's still considered proper to fire a 95-mile-per-hour missile at him in response to hurt feelings and shame.

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson is the latest to experience this, having to be hit in the hip by a fastball from Royals pitcher Brad Keller as proper punishment for celebrating a two-run homer in his previous at bat.

To get this straight -- making a pitcher unhappy about a bad pitch is supposed to be counterbalanced by assaulting the offender with a weapon.  This does not work oppositely, however.  A batter similarly victimized by a pitcher finishing off a strikeout with a spin move or series of fist pumps is not allowed (or expected) to smack the pitcher with his bat the next time up.  Such is baseball, where only the pitcher is afforded this opportunity for senseless violence.

Related: Tim Anderson Has White Sox's Backing

It all has to stop as soon as possible, obviously, and it will take work on two fronts.  First, MLB and the players' union must agree to drastic increases in fines and suspensions in response to actions that endanger players and lead to the embarrassing spectacle of on-field fights.  Just as the NBA simply decided that leaving the bench during an on-court conflict was an automatic one-game rip, baseball could do the same for anyone leaving the dugout or bullpen.  Send the pitcher away for longer than the regular five-game ban that costs a mere single start, and punish the manager as well.  

As Rob Manfred should take such steps as commissioner to eradicate this danger for the good of the game, players themselves need to speak out against the retaliatory practice both internally and externally.  It remains tolerated when those possessing a modicum of common sense feel unempowered to call out useless violence for what it is, no matter its long history in the game. 

Players also must work to understand that exuberance is a good and fun thing in baseball, and not get so bent out of shape or emotionally wounded when they allow a home run.  There is no other place in sports or life where it's okay to respond with potentially deadly force just because somebody is happy they succeeded against you.  

How about we get the opinion of an old-timer, too, none other than two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy.  I have not agreed with those making his case for the Hall of Fame, but might change my mind after seeing his tweet Thursday.

"Apparently today’s generation of @MLB players didn’t get my memo that declared ‘acts of celebration and happiness’ have been given the green light," Murphy tweeted. "Both by the hitter and the pitcher. Please post in all clubhouses. Dale Murphy—Commissioner, Past Generation MLB."

It's overdue for this to be just another relic of dumber times.​

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​