Cliff Lee’s Suspension Is Just Too Much

Major League Baseball has been preoccupied with cleaning up the game, instituting harsh penalties for fighting, intentional beaning, and even attempted beaning. The tough disciplinary regime has been set in place over the past decade by Frank Robinson, who served as MLB’s Director of Discipline before returning to the manager’s chair in 2002, and Bob Watson, who replaced Robinson and has been the rules guru ever since. They were both all-star hitters during their playing careers, and don’t seem to mind too much that their actions have served to narrow the inside corner — a fact that has been brought up endlessly as the penalties have gotten ever more severe for pitchers with the temerity to plunk, to graze, even to brush back.

Now Cliff Lee has been suspended for five regular-season games for throwing two pitches at Brandon Chris Snyder in a spring training game on Monday, without hitting him. (First Lee threw near him, and then he threw behind him.) Lee was steamed because Snyder had knocked him over in a play at the plate two innings earlier. Lee felt that the punishment was lopsided and overly harsh, particularly because after the second pitch, Snyder started walking out towards the mound. As Lee described it: “I was trying to go inside, a couple got away from me, and the guy hitting got mad and came towards the mound and I got thrown out of the game in the process. That’s it in a nutshell.”

Lee was being disingenuous: he was clearly going after Snyder. MLB.com analyst Harold Reynolds argues, “The suspension comes because of what Cliff said afterwards.” Still, a five-game suspension for not hitting a guy in a game that doesn’t count is absurd. What does this punishment serve? Is it meant to deter spring training beanings? Meant to punish Lee for lying about his intent with the pitches? Or is it meant to send a message that a pitcher may not ever brush a hitter back? Snyder nonetheless took steps toward the pitcher, so if baseball truly wants to prevent fighting, they should at least have fined him. If anything, Lee restrained himself: he certainly could have hit Snyder if he wanted to. How many regular-season games would Lee have been suspended if he did so? Seven? Ten? And what purpose would that have served?

Whatever the intent, Major League Baseball went too far with the punishment. Cliff is a headstrong guy, and if he’s pissed, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll refrain from giving a guy a close shave, so I can’t imagine that this will serve as an effective deterrent to his future behavior. Moreover, if the punishment for throwing behind a guy is as harsh as that for plunking him, there’s no real reason for a pissed-off hurler to refrain from beaning a guy, further decreasing the deterrent. At the same time, punishing a man for comments made in a postgame press conference seems anathema, especially when the game is an exhibition. For some reason, MLB felt that this punishment was warranted. I thoroughly disagree.

(Note: in an earlier version of this blog post, I stupidly wrote “Brandon Snyder” instead of “Chris Snyder.” Thanks to reader CSJ for pointing it out.)




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


107 Responses to “Cliff Lee’s Suspension Is Just Too Much”

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  1. neuter_your_dogma says:

    I disagree that the suspension was too much. For the second pitch a 5-day suspension wasn’t enough (one start missed).

    I don’t think MLB does enough to stop this kind of conduct. A baseball in the hands of someone like Lee is a very dangerous weapon – especially when thrown at the head.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Exactly, a 5 day suspension is the minimum that should be given to a starting pitcher. If Lee was suspended 4 games, he doesn’t miss a start.

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    • Jon says:

      Throwing at the batter’s head is never okay. Hitting a batter in the ass is another matter IMO, but I respect your opinion if you disagree on that one. But just buzzing his tower? We all know that Lee was going after Snyder. We also know that Lee was only looking to intimidate, not injure (would a Cy Young winner miss a full grown man twice? If you gave ME two pitches to hit a guy from 60 feet, I could do it nine times out of ten).

      This punishment is too harsh because there’s no incentive for pitchers to not hit someone. If they’re pissed at someone (and in sports, you get pissed at your opponents all the time) there’s only two options: ignore it, or say “damn the torpedoes” and try to hurt the batter. Punishing intimidation removes the middle ground where a message is sent while nobody gets hurt.

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      • Steve says:

        Isn’t the middle ground hitting someone in the ass?

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      • Tim In Missouri says:

        Jon is right. Pitchers shoul never let one get above the shoulders but brush backs have been a part of baseball for almost 130 hundred years! Frank Robinson used to dive into the dirt with every other pitch from some guys(Bob Gibson) because he stood Right. On. The. Plate. I believe the slider has gained prominence due specifically to the fact that a good one dives away from a hitter who is already close to the plate. Chris Duncan(I’m a Cards fan) used to hit balls 3 to 5 inches off the outside of theplate[he shouldn’t have swung but that’s not the point]. The only reason he was able to swing the bat so far out was because he wasn’t afraid to stand right on the dish. What’s a pitcher supposed to do? Really. What is a pitcher supposed to do if they can’t make a batter back up a little?

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    • Greg Foley says:

      I completely agree with Neuter. A baseball to the head can kill a person or at least have serious long-term consequences like concussions. Tony Conigliaro was the Justin Upton of his day hitting 84 homers before his age 22 season, but his career was derailed by a beaning in his age 21 season. Wouldn’t it have been better had we been able to see how Conigliaro’s career progressed? There is no place in the game for dangerous, macho behavior. The pitcher’s job is to try to get the batter out. Nothing more.

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  2. ryan says:

    Brandon Snyder?
    Arizona backup C Chris Snyder

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    • CSJ says:

      This is the 2nd Alex Remington post in a row on FG where he has put something blatantly false.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        You mean made a mistake? You make it seem as if he is out to purposefully trick people into thinking that is was Brandon Snyder in some kind of insidious plot.

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      • CSJ says:

        well of course, i don’t mean that. but i am implying that he should maybe check his articles more closely before publishing them.

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      • Byron says:

        It’s hard to proofread your own stuff, and not everyone has someone else to do it. Don’t you ever write out a comment, read it, post it, and immediately see some horrendous spelling or grammatical or factual error?

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      • CSJ says:

        Yes, it has happened to me before, but I am posting worthless comments and not a full-fledged article on a respectable baseball website. The Brandon Snyder/Chris Snyder thing isn’t honestly that big of a deal to me, because he obviously just mixed up the first names of two not very prominent players. I was simply noticing a trend (sure it’s just two data points, but it is 33% of what he has written on FG) in his articles. The previous mistake that he made was a little bit larger of a mistake in my opinion, because it showed that he did not check his facts before posting the article. He stated that the 1993 Giants played a one game playoff and that the 1993 Phillies won the World Series, both of which are not true.

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      • CSJ, I appreciate your holding me accountable. I don’t like making mistakes when I write posts, and I appreciate it when you bring my errors to my attention. I hate getting things wrong — it damages my argument and my credibility. Thanks for reading closely.

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      • CSJ says:

        No problem, Alex. Finding trends and reporting them is literally my job.

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      • CSJ says:

        Well, not trends, but anomalies, maybe?

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  3. JoelQ says:

    I think the punishment should be worse because the games don’t count.

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  4. Paqs says:

    I don’t get it.

    I know most of you like the Mariners, but throwing at someone’s head has no place in the game.

    This wasn’t a brushing back or establishing the inner part of the plate, this was a punkish retaliation for what happened an inning earlier.

    And if it’s unlikely “to serve as an effective deterrent to his future behavior”, well then I have to say that the suspension is too short.

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    • The A Team says:

      As I posted below, are you sure Lee was throwing at his head? I know a lot of pitchers including myself use the tactic of throwing above or behind a guy without ever having any intention to actually hit him. I’ve heard Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan allude to such behavior in interviews (which is where I learned the strategy).

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      • Tom B says:

        It’s spring training.

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      • The A Team says:

        And he didn’t hit him.

        None of us can know whether or not Lee meant to hit him or warn him. As long as he doesn’t hit the guy shouldn’t we assume that a command and control pitcher like Lee didn’t miss a large man like Snider by accident?

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      • Tom B says:

        None of us knew? Oh come on already. Clearly YOU didn’t know, everyone else watching did.

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      • The A Team says:

        It’s foolish not to have any doubt at all. For a pitcher like Cliff Lee, he missed Snyder by a pretty considerable distance with both pitches. Perhaps 2-4 inches is small by our standards, but how often does Lee miss his spot with the fastball by that much? Maybe 20% of the time. So there would be a 4% chance he missed Snyder twice if he meant to hit him. Or if you think we should dock accuracy for rage, Snyder’s nimbleness, and working outside of his normal zone, then you can double the odds of missing by that much. That’s a 16% chance to miss twice. You can play with those numbers however you like, the point is the likelihood of Lee accidentally missing Snyder twice is small enough that you have to at least consider the possibility that he missed by accident.

        From our perspective as a fan, there’s certainly a significant chance that Lee meant to throw near Snyder without hitting him.

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      • Tom B says:

        Whether he meant to throw it near, under, on him, or over the backstop, it doesn’t change the intent of the pitch.

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      • The A Team says:

        Yes, the intent of the pitches were to give him a big ol ‘f— you’. But if he didn’t hit him and we accept the possibility that he intended NOT to hit him, than the meaning of the pitches is very much different and should be treated as such.

        An ejection seems proper due to the possibility that he WAS trying to hit him. Penalizing Lee beyond that is simply moral shenanigans. After all, Lee doesn’t have a history of doing this, there’s no “we’ve seen this before” to reference. Eject him, warn him that the next time penalties will be severe, and it becomes a non-issue.

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      • Jon says:

        You’re right. The ejection was fully warranted. Any possibility of an intent to injure during a game must be dealt with then and there. Suspensions are handed out later so the actions can be reviewed. I find it hard to believe that MLB analyzed the footage and came to the conclusion that Chris Snyder was in any real danger. Lee is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Missing a spot 2 feet wide and 6 feet tall twice is hugely unlikely if he was trying to hit him. Unless MLB is trying to force world class athletes to be world class zen masters as well, punishing the one way a pitcher can display anger without actually hurting anyone is stupid. As a pitcher I would think “If I’m going to get punished anyway, I might as well go all out.” MLBs decision to punish chin music may lead to more broken chins.

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    • Omar says:

      They should rename the article, ITT: Mariners fans bitching about the Lee suspension.

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  5. james213 says:

    you are an idoit neuter. the sport of baseball is one where pitchers have to be able to pitch inside and be able to brush people back. running over a catcher is just as dangerous and is completely legal. if you dont want any danger in anything then don’t watch sports.

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    • Tom B says:

      wrong, they aren’t playing baseball yet… they are not pitching inside or establishing anything. there is no place for this in spring training. zito should have received the same, if not worse.

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  6. james213 says:

    im and idiot or spelling that wrong

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  7. don says:

    Why do you headhunt in spring training? It’s sort of retarded. Brushing a guy back to keep the guy from cheating in is one thing. Cliff Lee isn’t exactly Nuke Laloosh out there; his hallmark is terrific control and he’s not going to *accidentally* throw the ball at someone’s head. Both of those balls would have hit Snyder if he hadn’t moved, so this isn’t really a case of “he could have hit him if he wanted to”. He clearly wanted to.

    It’s a one start suspension, which is the smallest punishment they can give that’s in any way meaningful. I disagree completely that it’s too much.

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  8. The A Team says:

    As a pitcher with a bit of a temper, I’ve fired a lot of warning shots at hitters. I’ll throw at them because they hit me hard in a previous at-bat, they’re a known douchebag, they take too much time getting in the box, they have the temerity to work a 3-0 count, etc. Basically I’ll throw at a guy whenever I feel like it.

    There are two ways to throw at a guy. One is to lay a burner in the ass-to-shoulder region. This is a rather benign “f— you” to the batter and in my opinion, I’m penalized enough by now having a baserunner. I’ve probably hit 100 batters in this way (over 14 seasons of pitching) without anything worse than a bruise. And I probably hit the guy I aimed at 90-95% of the time.

    The other way is to intentionally miss the batter. I do this more often because I hate having baserunners. I usually aim to put a ball a foot and a half above or behind the hitter’s head. This generally raises more eyebrows than actually hitting the guy. I can only remember maybe 2 instances where the player was hurt by a beanball to the point of being removed from the game and both were unintentional.

    My point is that if Cliff Lee wanted to hit Snider, he probably would have. Pitchers often will intentionally miss a guy because it achieves the same end as hitting him without the penalty of an added baserunner.

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    • People in Glass Houses says:

      they’re a known douchebag

      Watch where you throw those stones.

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      • The A Team says:

        So you’re suggesting I’m a dbag because of a pitching strategy I use that I find optimizes my performance?

        For me it’s important to have batters worried about getting plunked. My entire success depends on that inside corner since I rely almost solely on a hard cutter and a 2 seamer. Against righties I start the cutter right at the batters hip and let it catch the plate and I start the 2 seamer (mine doesn’t move much horizontally) right on the inside black and hope it’s swung at. It’s pitching strategy, not douchebaggery. It’s like bluffing a hand of poker, I want the batter to have no friggin clue what I’m going to do next.

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      • Tom B says:

        Your “baseball experience” story is very entertaining, at least.

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      • The A Team says:

        I’m just trying to put it out there that not every apparent ‘beanball’ is intended to hitter the batter. Many are not.

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      • People in Glass Houses says:

        I’ll throw at them because they hit me hard in a previous at-bat

        This is a douchey reason to throw at someone, sorry.

        You threw a pitch, the batter beat you. Unless he showboated or did something else to deserve a plunking, this is not a very good reason.

        Everything else you said later is fine. Living on the inside corner is perfectly acceptable. As is throwing inside to move the batter back.

        But that’s not what you said the first time. You said you throw AT THEM on purpose because they hit you previously.

        You also said you’ll hit someone if they work the count to 3-0. Since when is that acceptable?

        Sorry, you sound like a douche.

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      • Jason B says:

        A-team, pitching inside and/or plunking someone is *not* an effective deterrent in slow-pitch softball…

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      • Jason B says:

        (Trust me, I’ve tried and Granny STILL manages to leg out a double her next trip up.)

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      • The A Team says:

        Glass,

        I suppose without explaining the thought processes behind everything I can see why that would come across as douchy. In order for hitters to think I’m wild and dangerous, I have to show this behavior of throwing at or near batters at some point. There are some ideal times to do this. Hitters that hit me well in a previous at bat are typically the hitters that will hit me well in a future at bat because I’m so reliant on my plus cutter. If a hitter can recognize and handle that cutter then I’m kind of up a creek. These are the guys I most often throw ‘near’ since it might unsettle them and let me get some value out of my shitty changeup when they start taking wild hacks of vengeance. Hitting guys on 3-0 is not an unheard of strategy, a lot of college pitchers do it at the D-III level (At least in the MIAC they do, I can’t speak for the other levels or conferences). If the hitter I’m facing is the type that I’m not confident I can come back on, then plunking him is a good time to tell everyone in the other dugout that I might up and hit you at any moment.

        Jason, if you land the ball right on top of their head they get dizzier for the rest of the game. Or you can go really wild and take out their beer supply…that makes them really feisty.

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      • People in Glass Houses says:

        Yes, I think your follow up post explained it much better.

        You just came on a little strong in your first paragraph. Basically, it sounded like you were saying you throw at people all the time for no good reason.

        I get it, and I can accept that there is more nuance there and you were just trying to make a point with very strong language.

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      • Tom B says:

        Hitting guys on 3-0 is bush league, and there’s no “explaining” your way around that. It’s no surprise that your story is now teetering on the “bullshit” line.

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      • dskirsa says:

        So if you strike a guy out, can he walk to the mound and take a swing at you in the ass-to-shoulder area as a big f-? If he hits you hard and you feel you’re allowed to throw at or near him to scare him, then he should do the same. After all, fair is fair. They might not actually hit you, but you never know. I suppose it would keep you scared on the mound and make you think twice about throwing that that plus cutter.

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      • John Maynard Keynes says:

        Well, he is pitching in a bush league, right? So bush league behavior would only be fitting.

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      • Tom B says:

        yeah, i just noticed that. he’s talking about pitching experiences in a community college level program. basically, his experience is irrelevant.

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    • Raf says:

      I prefer to move the ball in and out and change speeds.

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  9. Steve says:

    So you are effectively arguing that Lee should get no suspension for throwing at Snyder twice in what was an obviously intentional spot?

    That seems a little bit of a stretch considering MLB has been pretty consistent on this issue.

    Well, except for when Matt Garza admitted to throwing at a batter last season and recieved no suspension.

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    • I’m not saying he should get no punishment, and I understand that suspending him for four games or less means that he doesn’t miss a start — but he still would stand to miss the opening series of the season.

      I would have preferred a fine. He already got thrown out of the game, after all.

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      • Omar says:

        You realize that saying “he already got thrown out of the game” is pretty much moot in Spring Training right? Same for suggesting a fine. Suspending him for a start sends a message, this stuff shouldn’t be tolerated. You can’t just throw baseballs in the low 90s at people that anger you, especially near the head, there’s something known as professionalism. I hope he appeals and gets 10 games.

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  10. dutchbrowncoat says:

    i am perfectly ok with throwing at people, it is part of the game. i think that umpires should give out warnings to keep control of the game, but i think that the ejections and punishments these days are getting out of hand.

    with that being said though, i think that there is no excuse for throwing at someone’s head. you can send a message well enough by plunking a guy in the back, anything near the head is dangerous and unnecessary.

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  11. AndrewH says:

    Don’t forget when Barry Zito intentionally hit Prince Fielder a few weeks ago. The SF press wrote articles for days beforehand basically announcing that it was a conscious decision from the team’s leadership.

    The reasons seem a little different – the Giants were upset about the Brewers’ celebration last fall while Lee seems to think his health was needlessly jeopardized by Snyder in a meaningless game – but that seems to say that Zito’s plunking was more egregious, not the reverse.

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    • Steve says:

      This is a good point actually. MLB has made is consistently clear that anything deemed intentional will beget a suspension.

      While I happen to think the whole Fielder/Zito situation was fine on both sides, Fielder celebrated excessively and took his pitch to the ribs without complaining, MLB has set a precedent and under that precedent Zito should have been suspended.

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  12. Jim says:

    @don > “It’s a one start suspension, which is the smallest punishment they can give that’s in any way meaningful.”

    Normally 5 games = 1 for a starting pitcher, but IF he ends up having to serve it during the first 5 games of the season then it’s actually a 4 gamer, right?

    That’s assuming he was going to throw the 2nd game — so day 1 of the suspension wouldn’t matter, but now he’s sitting for the 2,3,4,5 games <– all 4 of which he would have started if available.

    … I actually don't have much of opinion on whether it's deserved or not (haven't seen the footage or read much other than this), but that's how I'm looking at the day-count.

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    • Steve says:

      huh? he’d have started 4 games in row if he wasn’t suspended?

      it’s one start anyway you cut it.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      No starting opportunities don’t equal starts. He would have only started one of those games.

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      • Jim says:

        cmon guys… obviously he’s only going to be sitting out 1 game that he would have otherwise started.

        I’m just saying that they aren’t delaying his start by 1 game – they’re delaying it by 4.

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  13. poodski says:

    You said, “Still, a five-game suspension for not hitting a guy in a game that doesn’t count is absurd.”

    Here is my question for you.

    Had the ball actually hit him in the head would there have been a guarantee of no brain damage to Snyder, since you know the game doesn’t count?

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Apparently, Spring Training is so completely meaningless that nothing that happens there counts–including head trauma!

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    • It’s a fair point. Here are several answers for you.

      1) If he had hit Snyder, I would be advocating a harsher punishment. But if you’re only able to work in 5-game increments, it’s hard to go much further — would you advocate a 10-game suspension for a successful beaning? 15?

      2) As others have pointed out, Lee’s hallmark is his control. Therefore, if you are punishing him for the intent of throwing at Snyder, you have to give him credit for the intent of not hitting him.

      3) The reason that pitchers throw at a guy’s head to brush him back is that’s where his eyes are: he picks up the ball early and hits the deck. Very few guys get hit in the head, because when a ball is thrown at your head you see it earlier than any other pitch location. So, once again, if you’re punishing Lee for intending to throw at Snyder, you have to reward him for intending not to hit him.

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      • poodski says:

        Here is where we differ. I do not think it matters whether the player was hit or wasn’t hit. I think all that matters is intent.

        I think the difference here is whether or not we believe there was intent. He obviously Lee has great control, and with that control I do not think there is any reason to not think he was aiming for the head. You are right players “most” of the time can get out of the way, but its not perfect. Was Lee’s intent to harm Snyder? Probably not, but it doesn’t mean he should be throwing for the head.

        This isn’t mid season. I am sure Lee’s control isn’t as good right now as it usually is mid season. Just like I am sure that Snyder’s reaction time is isn’t as good now as it would be mid season. These guys have been away from the game for some time, and I doubt they are in mid-season form.

        Had it been mid back, I would be on the side of no punishment necessary. Just like I am with Zito/Fielder. When we start talking about above the shoulders I think we go in to a completely different scenario. I think throwing the ball on purpose at or near someones head should be an automatic 1-game suspension. I don’t care whether its in March or in October. I think the pitcher should miss one start.

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  14. Mekias says:

    Brushing a hitter back and hitting batters are very effective pitching tools. I can’t determine whether he intended to hit Snyder or not without the video. MLB clearly thought he did.

    I have no problem with a fine or suspension as long as everyone can agree that he was doing it on purpose with the intent of causing damage. If his intent was simply a warning, a fine might be warranted but no suspension.

    I just want rules like this to be fair and impartial. Lots of people get hit and we can be fairly sure in some cases (Zito/Fielder) that they were on purpose. Why does one deserve 5 games and a fine and the other gets nothing?

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    • The A Team says:

      I agree that a hefty fine ($10,000?) would seem more appropriate that penalizing the team when intent is less than 95% certain.

      Penalizing pitchers at the major league level is essential because the actions of minor leaguers, amateur players, and even little leaguers often mimic what they see at the highest level. By strongly condemning intentional HBPs, the MLB is advertising to youth and lower level players that it’s not the right thing to do. That could in turn prevent some injuries.

      My personal prescription is to make more liberal usage of fines while severely increasing the burden of proof needed to justify a suspension.

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    • don says:

      The video is in the second link in the story, unless your IT weenies have forbidden mlb.com. The pitches are about 15 seconds in. The perspective is a bit high so it may be hard to tell where the pitches are vertically, but it looks like the first one isn’t that out of the ordinary and the second one almost hits him in the back of the head.

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    • Mike K. says:

      Because Watson is completely arbitrary with his decisions.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      He wasn’t trying to brush the hitter back or anything related to ‘effective pitching.’ He was retaliating against Snyder.

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  15. CJ says:

    If a suspension is warranted at all, it has to be 5 games for a starting pitcher–or it will be the same as no suspension. I don’t think this suspension is aimed at deterring Lee, specifically, in the future. The suspension is aimed at sending a message to all pitchers. I think that MLB concluded that Lee’s actions were intentional and resulted from personal anger over previous events in the spring “series;” Those are circumstances in which the pitcher’s action is likely to lead to an escalation by both sides. MLB has taken this position repeatedly, and it should be no surprise to Lee. In the “old days” the players took care of these issues on the field. Maybe that was a good idea, I don’t know (I should note that on-field melees were common then,,,so maybe not). But that ship has sailed.

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  16. Stephan says:

    Not to say that Cliff Lee was in the right, I also didn’t see the way the events played out, but didn’t Snyder unnecessarily run over Lee at the plate? Is that not also a potential injury situation in a meaningless game?

    If those that retaliate are the only ones who will ever get into trouble then that gives free shots for whoever is willing to strike first, whether it be intentional or not, there needs to be a more equitable system of dealing out punishment, I think.

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    • Steve says:

      Well, the precedent for this has also been set.

      Elliot Johnson bowled over Francisco Cervelli and broke his wrist in ST 2 years ago. Shelley Duncan took exception and went in spikes high at 2B.

      Duncan was suspended.

      The difference is that there is no rule against how hard you can go into home plate.

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  17. Everett says:

    For me the biggest problem is a lack of consistency. Hit someone when everyone in the world knows you’re going to do it? No problem. Miss someone when its somewhat likely you were trying to do it? 5-game suspension. I just don’t see the consistency here.

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  18. Matt says:

    Not to make this all too simplistic, but isn’t the penalty for plunking a batter (giving him first base) already built into the game?

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  19. Matt says:

    Totally agree with the author. His suspension was totally unwarranted. Not only did he not cause injury to Snyder, he didn’t even hit him! Also, when Snyder approached the mound Lee didn’t run at him, toss him in a headlock and give him a beating. He restrained himself. If anyone here should be penalized it should be Snyder for approaching the mound.

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    • Steve says:

      Totally agree with the author. His suspension was totally unwarranted. Not only did he not cause injury to Snyder, he didn’t even hit him!

      While this is true, it has nothing to do with reality I’m afraid. There is a clear precedent for dealing with these situations, and whether or not the pitch hits the batter is not germane.

      For instance, did you know that Joba Chamberlain has NEVER actually hit Kevin Youkilis with a pitch? But I doubt there are too many Boston fans who’d agree that he should never have been suspended.

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      • TCQ says:

        Right, because the last thing that has to do with reality is…reality. As in, the reality that he was not hit with a baseball. I get that you punish the intent, but would you really want MLB to hand out the same thing if he had hit him? That’s not worse?

        Unless your answer is really no, that it isn’t worse, it IS germane.

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      • Steve says:

        You completely missed the point. I am simply arguing that THE REALITY of the situation, based on the very clear precedent that MLB has set, is that whether or not the ball actually hits the batter is irrelevant in the decision to suspend or not suspend.

        Just off the top of my head, without even thinking, I can come up with several examples just over the last few seasons where a pitcher has been suspended without actually hitting the batter:

        AJ Burnett was suspended for not hitting Nelson Cruz
        Joba was suspended for not hitting Youkilis
        Beckett was suspended for not hitting Abreu
        Scott Proctor was suspended for not hitting Yuniesky Betancourt
        Randy Johnson was suspended for not hitting Eduardo Perez
        Kyle Farnsworth was suspended for not hitting Manny Ramirez

        The argument I was addressing was that NO punishment was deserved because he didn’t hit the batter. I was saying that in REAL LIFE, Bob Watson and MLB have shown that over and over that this doesn’t matter.

        That is what I was saying, and I don’t really see how it’s debatable.

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    • Stephan says:

      Right, with what Steve said, it shouldn’t matter that he didn’t hit him, just because he did not could be chalked up to chance, intention is really the only thing that matters.

      And if your rebuddle happens to be he aimed to not hit him, then what happens if that slightly gets away and does hit him? Do we let that offense go simply because his intention was to just “intimidate” him or do we punish him simply on result?

      Attempted murder is a crime, you know, because of intention not because anyone actually died.

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  20. JT says:

    Here’s a strategy:

    The next time a pitcher hits a batter on our team, we will head-hunt every batter on their team. Not all the pitches will be at the head though. We’ll pitch high-and-inside to every batter. Some will be strikes, some will be brushbacks, and some will sail towards the head. That way, we can claim that we’re trying to pitch, but some just got away.

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  21. adohaj says:

    This punishment is ridiculous. In my opinion throwing behind/brushing back hitters is good for the game. It creates rivalry, competition, and excitement. At the end of the day baseball is about entertainment and rich history. Intentionally throwing at batters helps baseball in both ways.

    He didn’t even hit him. Snyder walked towards the mound and he gets nothing!? They should at least be consistent.

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  22. Llewdor says:

    Lee clearly wasn’t throwing at Snyder. Lee was throwing NEAR Snyder, which is pretty much the definition of his job.

    Was it aggressive? Yes. Was he trying to get Snyder’s attention and maybe frighten him? Yes. Was he trying to hit Snyder or hurt him? No.

    No punishment is warranted.

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  23. Phillies Red says:

    I suspect the suspension has more to do with the fact that this was rather clearly a retaliatory measure by Lee, not simply an inside pitch or even a brush back. To make things worse, he did it twice, making it clear to everyone that this was an issue of revenge/retaliation. He wasn’t suspended because he lied, but because he escalated, and that seems like it is a punishable offense, especially given the risk (head injury) and the stakes (it’s a meaningless Spring training game).

    I think you could make a valid argument that Snyder escalated too, but ultimately he didn’t charge the mound or even throw fake punches at Lee. Lee threw real pitches at Snyder, one at his head. He clearly intended to throw at him in retaliation; why does it matter if he actually intended to hit him or not?

    Finally, whatever our opinions on intend and severity, one thing seems pretty clear to me: what Lee did was incredibly idiotic. And I’m not talking about hurting Snyder. As an essential cog in the team’s machine, it’s inexcusable to get yourself into this situation in Spring training.

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  24. DL80 says:

    He got suspended because his retaliation was for a stupid reason. I haven’t seen the play, but every media report of the initial play at home plate that led to Lee’s anger was that they “got tangled up.” No intention, no one was hurt, Snyder didn’t try to hit, hurt, or trip Lee (again, based only on everything I’ve read). Lee’s reason was a bush league one. That’s like a wide receiver and cornerback getting their feet tangled on one play, and the receiver then taking a shot at the CB’s head on the next. Dumb, dangerous, and uncalled for. That’s why he got suspended.

    I’d actually have no problem with no suspension if a) Snyder had done something bush league or if the Dbacks had hit several M’s on purpose and b) it only took Lee one pitch to get his message across (even if it hit Snyder below the neck).

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  25. misc says:

    Snyder didn’t run over him at the plate. Snyder was in the on deck circle. He left the on deck circle to sneak up behind Lee and get down on his belly, which was the sign for the runner to slide. He laid down on the ground right behind Lee who was covering the plate, and Lee tripped over him. It was interference plain and simple. Lee probably though it was intentional. I’m inclined to agree.

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  26. CaR says:

    Pitches thrown at or near the head aren’t designed to hit a player. If you want to hit a guy, you throw at his ass. That said, its bush of Lee to go real hard after the guy in spring training. He was however, obligated to show his new teammates that he is committed to their team. That sort of stuff happens and though the Saber community generally has a scornful response to any action implying ‘chemistry’, its definitely a part of the game, unspoken or not.

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    • Steve says:

      Sure, but he could have made the same gesture to his teammates by doing what you said, and hit Snyder in the ass.

      Had he done that, this wouldn’t even be a story, and there’d be no suspension.

      Players don’t really get upset when they get drilled in the backside. But they get real ornery when someone throws near their head. Pretty simple really.

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      • CaR says:

        Its not really that simple. If he hits him, the other teams’ pitcher is obliged to retaliate. If he throws a pitch over the guys head, the intent is clear but the old ‘got away from me’ defense is in play. Then the retaliatory strike is less definite from the opposing team. There’s a bit of an art form as to when and how to plunk guys. The pitcher does have to have concern for his teammates safety as well.

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  27. Observer says:

    I was at the game, just a few rows behind home plate, and there was no doubt that Lee threw the ball at Snyder’s head. It would have hit Snyder in the earhole had he not moved his head. Also, Lee had a pretty smug smile on his face as he was heading down the tunnel.

    Alex… you said:

    3) The reason that pitchers throw at a guy’s head to brush him back is that’s where his eyes are: he picks up the ball early and hits the deck. Very few guys get hit in the head, because when a ball is thrown at your head you see it earlier than any other pitch location. So, once again, if you’re punishing Lee for intending to throw at Snyder, you have to reward him for intending not to hit him.

    This is very dangerous reasoning… “I’ll intentionally fire a projectile at his head at ~90 MPH, but don’t worry, he’ll get out of the way.” Throw at his waist/back, not at his head. 5 games should be the minimum – I think they got this one right.

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    • David says:

      agreed. if you want to “intentionally miss” a player, you don’t do it by aiming at their head; you do it by aiming a foot behind their back. when’s the last time you heard of a batter being seriously injured by a pitch thrown behind them (as opposed to near their head)?

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    • Choo says:

      “Also, Lee had a pretty smug smile on his face as he was heading down the tunnel.”

      In Lee’s defense, the smug smile is a permanent feature of his face. It’s forever present, regardless of whether he’s smiling, frowning, talking, screaming, eating, yawning, drinking a milkshake, blowing bubbles or rocking a French horn. In fact, so powerful is the smug, it illuminates darkness and can be observed with the naked eye from up to 30 miles away.

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  28. subterranean says:

    This whole argument about Spring training is interesting – that somehow because this is spring training the games are meaningless and therefore, the punishment should be even greater, or that Lee should not have “retaliated” because it is spring training… Spring training statistics may be meaningless, but the games are not. Lee could have been injured in a play at the plate, that’s not meaningless. These games still send messages and set a tone for the regular season. For people who are the most ultra competitive people in the world these games are still about competition. Maybe it isn’t as intense as the regular season, but in all my time playing basketball I never felt that it was ok to roll over or back down just because it was the pre-season. In fact those games (and even the altercations), set the tone for our regular season. You can still “get into someones head” in the spring. So basically, while I agree that there should be some punishment, I don’t think spring has anything to do with it.

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  29. jdbkaput says:

    Each time I hear about pitchers who have “pinpoint control,” I remember Jim Bouton’s definition of his own pinpoint control: consistently delivering a pitch within a box about 12 inches square.

    Cliff Lee might have what passes as pinpoint control, but it remains within the realm of possibility that he could cause serious injury by sending a message near the batter’s head. A five-game suspension should be the bare minimum for headhunting, and I wouldn’t mind seeing the league offices give two or three times that.

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  30. Rob in CT says:

    Lee did something stupid and potentially dangerous.

    That said, he didn’t actually hit the batter. Nobody got hurt.

    Given that, I think punishment is appropriate, but fairly minor punishment. Now, decide what “fairly minor” is. A 5-gamer for a starting pitcher is what, 1/33 of his season? 3%… roughly equivalent to a position player losing 5 games, actually. The problem is that there isn’t really any way to give a starter a lesser suspension, is there? It’s 5 games, or a fine.

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  31. PhD Brian says:

    May may not agree, but I think brush backs should get no penalties since they make the game more fun to watch. On the other hand, actual hitting above the shoulders should get severe pre-established penalties. “You hit anyone above the shoulders then that is 50 games regardless of intent.” A pitcher would only hit a guy by mistake and very rarely.

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  32. Paul Thomas says:

    There is no excuse in sports for deliberately attempting to injure someone with a baseball. It is far too dangerous to take a chance on. Intent is almost always obvious from the context and actions of the players.

    I completely endorse this suspension.

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  33. Larry says:

    Folks are missing one very basic thing… he did it twice! Had he done it once, he’s still pitching in the game, he’s not even fined, it doesn’t even make the news, and he gets whatever point he was trying to make across.

    What does the 2nd pitch at his head do? What message does it send that the first pitch didn’t?

    This “got away” garbage or he wasn’t trying to hit him would be believable it is was a one time deal… but this was the first 2 pitches of the AB. I think also a lefty is more likely to miss down (or middle) in to a righty if it’s mechanics or one getting away as your arm will drag through if you are releasing late or throwing across your body. If it was a lefty batter, up and in would be more believable as it could be him opening up early (although you still have the he did it twice problem).

    A brushback pitch should get no penalty…. and it didn’t. A second brushback pitch on consecutive pitches? If he was not thrown out does throw at him a 3rd time to *really* get his point across? Out of curiosity, if people believe e didn’t hit him or intend to hit him (just brish him back), would folks be OK if he threw 4 straight at his head so long as he didn’t hit him? Where’s the line? (I think it’s after the first one)

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