The Dodger-Diamondback Brawl: Do Unwritten Rules Still Apply?

“That scrap between the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers on Tuesday night was all about baseball’s unwritten rules,” said Buster Olney on ESPN. Then Jayson Stark clarified: “The two teams involved clearly had two different copies of those unwritten rules.” In fact, it’s a case study in just how increasingly ridiculous these rules are, while underscoring just how dangerous their continued enforcement has become.

The battle isn’t over, either. It has continued by proxy in the press, as the team’s managers seek to exonerate themselves and their players while darkly casting blame at the opposing side. “If you really want to get technical about it,” Don Mattingly said, “in baseball terms, it really shouldn’t be over.”

Okay, so what happened? And what are the conflicting sets of unwritten rules? There are two branching sets of unwritten rules here, so I will attempt to annotate the course of events, with appropriate quotations from Jason Turbow, author of “The Baseball Codes,” who maintains a blog about baseball’s unwritten rules. Interpretation 1. is likely the one favored by the Diamondbacks, while 2. is likely the one favored by the Dodgers.

First, Zack Greinke hit Cody Ross. It appears to have been unintentional.

  1. A player got hit, so that obliges his team to protect that player by throwing at a player on the opposite team.
  2. Turbow: “Retaliation for an incidental drilling—especially one so incidental that it required umpire intervention to confirm that it even happened—is simply not necessary.”

Second, Ian Kennedy hit Yasiel Puig. It was clearly intentional: Puig got hit in the face and stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes, appearing dazed.

  1. Retaliation has been satisfied, so the teams are even.
  2. First of all, retaliation was unnecessary, but second, and even more importantly, Kennedy “ignored the tenet mandating that one never drill a batter intentionally above shoulder level.” This was egregious.

Third, Zack Greinke hit catcher Miguel Montero in the back.

  1. Greinke attempted to drill Montero on four straight pitches. That was seen by many players as just too much. “You get one shot,” Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler told Jayson Stark. It would have been fine had Greinke hit Montero with his first fastball, but throwing at him with the next three was egregious.
  2. Since Kennedy had put one of Greinke’s players on the ground and nearly taken him out of the game, Greinke responded by hitting the catcher in the back. Turbow writes, “Usually, when catchers are hit in a retaliatory fashion, it is because they called for the pitch that made the retaliation necessary in the first place.” So this might make the teams square. As Stark writes, “The Diamondbacks expected that” Greinke would try to hit a Diamondback that inning.

Fourth, Ian Kennedy hit Zack Greinke. The pitch essentially followed the same trajectory as the one that hit Puig, but Greinke was able to duck and throw up his shoulder at the last moment, so he didn’t get hit in the head.

  1. As Turbow writes, “Usually, benches clear when an aggrieved hitter—somebody who has just been hit or knocked down—takes issue with the pitcher.” So the Dodger bench would have followed Greinke’s lead, and would not have cleared unless he took a step toward the pitcher. Greinke didn’t take a step toward the pitcher, so it should have ended there.
  2. But the Dodgers had seen enough of Kennedy throwing at their teammates’ heads. Greinke remained at home plate, lightly restrained by catcher Miguel Montero, while the benches cleared around him.

There is something Talmudic in the intricacies of the disputed unwritten rules. But it’s relatively easy to untangle this particular Gordian knot: get rid of them. All of the the unwritten beanball rules are really, really stupid, and they should be out of baseball forever. Retaliatory beanballs often escalate the situation rather than resolving it, as teams often disagree on when they’ve been satisfied, “if you want to get really technical about it,” as Mattingly said.

All you have to do is remember a couple of months ago, when Zack Greinke hit Carlos Quentin — almost certainly unintentionally — and Quentin bum rushed the mound, broke Greinke’s collarbone, and put Zack on the DL for a month. As Mike Petriello writes at Mike Scoscia’s Tragic Illness, a Dodger blog:

We have Puig & Clayton Kershaw, basically the two most important men on this team right now, both potentially throwing punches. (Eric & Chad have your full wrap-up and GIF-fest already taken care of.) They’re risking suspension; worse, they’re risking injury.

Sure, it may have been fun to see some “heart” & “life”. No, no one wants their team to simply roll over and die, and like I said, Kennedy’s actions demanded a response. But for the small amount of respect that may have been earned, what’s left of an entire season — careers, maybe — got risked. The math simply doesn’t add up there, does it?

Or, as Wendy Thurm argued last year:

Ballplayers shouldn’t be permitted to do on a baseball field what could get them arrested if done on the street outside the ballpark. Throwing a baseball at someone at high speed with the intent to harm them is, at a minimum, assault and battery. It doesn’t matter if the person hit by the ball did something to anger the person who threw the ball, other than to provide a motive.

Moreover, it makes no sense for baseball to put their most expensive assets at risk. With utility guys making millions and superstars making hundreds of millions — all in guaranteed contracts — teams should be doing more to protect the health and safety of their players.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks are turning into a version of the Hatfields and McCoys. Greinke became a part of a feud that’s been going on for two years, before he ever joined the team. “Two years ago, Gerardo Parra was drilled by Clayton Kershaw after Parra had — in Kershaw’s estimation — showed up Dodgers pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo,” writes Arizona Republic beat writer Nick Piecoro. “The next season, Kennedy attempted to drill Kershaw but twice missed with fastballs.”

Ian Kennedy also appears to have done everything he possibly could to escalate the situation. “Even more pertinent is the fact that he seems to enjoy this kind of thing,” writes Turbow. “Last year he led the National League with 14 hit batters, even with otherwise good control—he walked only 55 over more than 200 innings.”

Kennedy is sure to receive a long suspension from Major League Baseball, and the length of his suspension will send a message, whether it is long or short. As I have argued before, retaliation needs to stop. Baseball is no longer in the era of Classic F___ing Brawls. MLB has instituted a concussion DL, and people across all sports recognize that head injuries stay with players for a lifetime. There is no place in baseball for headhunting, or for long-standing feuds that fester into recurring violence. Kennedy should be banned for at least 15-20 games, so that teams will actively prevent their pitchers from retaliating by throwing at players on the opposing team. Retaliatory beanballs need to end. Immediately.




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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.

127 Responses to “The Dodger-Diamondback Brawl: Do Unwritten Rules Still Apply?”

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  1. Sparkles Peterson says:

    MLB should take pity on the Dodgers and suspend Greinke for the next six and a half years.

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    • Steve holt says:

      I also think that this conversation should involve a discussion on John Lackey’s actions. The Red Sox get involved in this kind of thing all the time – albeit not as dramatic as this incident – and never get called on it. Steve Holt!!

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  2. Jonathan says:

    I’m pretty anti-Dodger, but seriously Kennedy, you don’t aim above the shoulders unless you’re Pedro Martinez.

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  3. Synovia says:

    I’m all for assault charges, and lawsuits for lost wages. You hit a guy, he misses time, and gets a small deal next year? You’re liable.

    Tell the umpires to eject a pitcher if he hits someone and the ump thinks its intentional. Eject batters if they hang over the plate.

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    • Visitor says:

      Assumption of the risk.

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      • Jose Lind says:

        Technically it’s implicit consent, not assumption of the risk.

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        • Visitor says:

          It’s technically implied assumption of the risk. See Avila v. Citrus Community College District. (I don’t have a citation for it in front of me, so it may take some digging, sorry.)

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      • Synovia says:

        There’s a difference between the implied risk of being hit by a pitch, and the risk of the pitcher deliberately assaulting you. Or the batter assaulting the pitcher. None of these things are implicit parts of the game.

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    • Peter2 says:

      Yes, only when we get lawyers involved with we achieve perfect justice. Are you high?

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  4. MikeS says:

    How did the umpires allow this to get so far? Were no warnings issued? After Kennedy hit Puig warnings should have been given at the very least and Kennedy and Gibson could have been ejected without warnings right there. Even if they were just warned, Greinke and Mattingly could have been ejected after any of the four pitches Greinke threw at Montero. After a warning, a pitcher and manager can be ejected just for throwing inside. In fact, both can be ejected without a warning if the umpire feels the pitcher is throwing at somebody intentionally, at any time.

    I’m not saying the players are blameless or that there is anything useful in the “unwritten rules,” I’m just saying that the umpires could have stopped this long before a brawl broke out. They seem to have had many opportunities to let the teams now that this was unacceptable and needed to stop. This is what happens when you “let the players police themselves.”

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    • Jason says:

      A warning after the Puig pitch would have just postponed the retaliation to a subsequent game.

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      • MikeS says:

        When, not living in a vacuum and aware of the history, the umpires would have immediately issued more warnings or just immediately ejected people. Stopping this chain of events before four people were hit and at least a half dozen “purpose pitches” were thrown. MLB could then hand down big suspensions as a message that this is not part of baseball. Players can appeal those, but managers and coaches can not since they are not a part of the union.

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      • Aaron says:

        Up until Montero getting hit we could say incidental contact. At the point where Grienke needs more than 2 attempts to hit Montero the it befalls to the umpire to remove Grienke from the game and issue warnings for blatantly obvious intent. Once the inning is over and Donnie Baseball can see that Grienke is coming to the plate he made a decision to leave him to take what he had coming for being as obvious as he was about the bean ball. So, in order of blame 1)Umpire for not stepping in when Grienke mangled his attempt at payback, 2)Mattingly for not pulling Grienke for screwing up the retaliation then 3)Kennedy for throwing high at Grienke. In essence I think this was a brilliant move on Donnie’s part, remembering he has little to lose, he gets a pretty public brew ha ha to “rally” his boys against their division leaders and if he’s lucky he might rattle the D-Backs in some way or another to slow them down. He would have made a great military strategist.

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        • I have no dog in this fight, so to speak, but I’m pretty sure hitting a guy above the shoulders is not “incidental contact.”

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        • Baltar says:

          Congratulations, you’re the first in this comments section to spell Greinke’s name wrong. I didn’t think it would take this long.

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        • Aaron says:

          Wow, I have been spelling it Greinke wrong since I learned that i comes before e except after c… so probably 30 years now. My bad. My point to the hitting Puig in the head was that what makes great professional baseball pitchers so great is that they can produce the exact delivery motion required for not only a specific pitch but also usually location; however, sometimes even the greats mess up. Randy Johnson was a strike out king but he also threw a ton of wild pitches. Maybe Kennedy has a hard time throwing the inside pitch. Maybe when you got two strikes on a batter (and only one ball) you dont exactly mean to throw one at their boogers. ie incidental contact. If the Dodgers had a problem with it they shoulda charged the field then but everybody in the stadium saw that for what it was, incidental. As for Greinke (see i got it right twice in a row yipee) he failed at the retribution pitch. Yes warnings were in order but at that point everybody knew that was exactly what he was trying to do and the umpire would have been completely justified awarding Montero his base, ejecting Greinke for the overwhelming obvious (and deserved because Montero did call for the inside pitch to Puig and we catchers are used to blocking baseballs with our stout and often ultra muscular selves)plunking and providing warning for any future beanings. The code would have been satisfied but when the blue failed to step in Don was allowed to set up the brawl. If Kennedy intended to throw high on Greinke (I’m on a roll) then he’s a deuche but I think it comes back to throwing the inside pitch and even though he intended to hit Greinke he didnt mean to take it high, then again Greinke had thrown almost half a dozen at his catcher so who knows.

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    • JamesDaBear says:

      There were warnings after Montero got hit. This is why Gibson was ejected after Kennedy hit Greinke.

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    • brendan says:

      doesn’t the umpire have the authority to immediately eject kennedy for hitting puig in the head? seems like giving a warning at this point is too-late, and may lead to an ejection later for a non-intentional HBP.

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  5. Pastiche says:

    I don’t know where the Puig hbp became clearly intentional. It was a 1-2 count, and Kennedy had been working him inside all game. It was an unfortunate pitch, and too high for my comfort in any event. But to vilify Kennedy over that ab is just plain inaccurate.

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    • Jason says:

      I think the likelihood of Kennedy’s culpability increases considering the same conduct was repeated with Grienke. If Grienke is hit in the ass we would all be more likely to assume Kennedy had nothing but the best of intentions for Puig.

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      • randplaty says:

        He needs to say that then. All he said was “clearly intentional” when it is not clear to many people. I don’t know why he says clearly intentional when he knows that a lot of people do not think it was intentional.

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        • The Foils says:

          I would wager that if he took it for granted, it’s because it appeared that way to fans not invested in either team.

          I wouldn’t know, of course, because eff the Dbags.

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    • lewish says:

      One to the head of Puig maybe maybe not, one to the what looked like the head until slow motion of Greinke is villain…he was throwing at the head and I hope he gets a long time off to think about it. There was a whole lot of body to hit and pitch in towards that isn’t the head that still says many different things.

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    • Bryn says:

      People need to go back and look at the video. Kennedy was not trying to hit Puig, you can tell by the immediate frustration he shows. Grienke on the other hand… well the video tells that story clearly as well.

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      • Xeifrank says:

        ummm, wrong. You are very gullible.

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        • coninefan says:

          ummm, wrong. There’s now way of knowing unless you are Ian Kennedy. But nice work at the worthless, condescending post.

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        • Bryn says:

          Gullibility aside, what’s the justification for throwing at Puig under those circumstances? Why even get him into a 1-2 count? Was he attempting to lull him to sleep and the strike when Puig least expected it? Or are you Ian Kennedy?

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        • The Foils says:

          @Bryn I think the argument goes that rookies who hit HRs and have attitude problems often get hit on purpose.

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        • algionfriddo says:

          Didn’t look intentional to me either. Kennedy looked frustrated after the pitch to Puig. The head shot at Grienke was wrong and Kennedy should be suspended.

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    • coninefan says:

      Totally agree. Did not seem intentional to me. Don’t know why Remington is saying “clearly intentional”. The Greinke/Montero and Kennedy/Greinke ones fit the bill of “clearly intentional.”

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      • Zigs says:

        Thee throw at Greinke was clearly intentional. Montero stared him down when he came into the box, and they threw at his head. I am fine with payback, but it has to be in the back or bum.

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    • Perry says:

      Given Kennedy’s history of hitting guys, his otherwise good control, and the fact that the pitch was a fastball, it was intentional. He wanted to hit Puig, or at least come way inside. When you make a living throwing a ball 92 mph over a plate 12 inches wide, you possess a remarkable ability to control where the ball is going to go. This isn’t Carlos Marmol, it’s Ian Kennedy. Regardless of the intent to hit Puig in the face, or just up high, it was with intent that he threw the pitch at all. I blame Montero as much as Kennedy for getting Grienke. Did he not know that someone was gonna get it, and likely him b/c he’s calling for an inside pitch to Puig to begin with? Stop making excuses for these guys, they did the dirty, now it’s time to pay.

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      • coninefan says:

        Perry, you mean the same Ian Kennedy who ranks 86th out of 103rd in throwing pitches in the strike zone this season?

        I think Kennedy ought to be suspended for a long time for what he did to Greinke. I’m just disputing the notion that the Puig HBP was “clearly intentional”, which I think is lazy, lazy writing with absolutely no corroboration.

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        • Wes says:

          Pitching that far inside, there’s intent. Intent to hit someone in the face? Probably not exactly where he wanted it, citing your case for lack of some control, but come on. Montero sets up way inside, the ball goes way inside. That’s intent to throw at a guy, to either get him to move off the plate or hit him. Maybe it wasn’t clearly retaliation for Ross getting grazed earlier, but I’d be a little more inclined to agree with you if Montero is setting up middle-away. Maybe I’m splitting hairs about the “clearly intentional” part, in that it could be interpreted that Kennedy was specifically head hunting. He had no reason to try to injure Puig by hitting him in the f’ing face, but he certainly had the INTENTION to throw well inside, and this was the predictable result.

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        • EvilRoySlade says:

          Perry and Wes are absolutely correct here. In addition, it doesn’t matter whether or not Kennedy acted with malice. You don’t back a guy off the plate like that without assuming some risk. Kennedy was probably frustrated because he ended up hitting Puig in the head, not because the pitch didn’t go anywhere near where he wanted it.

          Consequently, the Dodgers have every right to retaliate to protect their player EVEN IF they felt, and everyone else at the ballpark felt, that the Kennedy-Puig beaning was UNINTENTIONAL. If it wasn’t intentional, at the very least it was careless and the Dodgers have a right to send a message saying, “if you’re careless around our guys’ heads you’re going to pay.”

          You guys really don’t understand actual baseballing if you can’t grasp something as elemental as this.

          Was Kennedy wrong to come back at Greinke in the manner that he did? Yep, and I’m sure he’s okay with that. In his mind, he’s taking one for the team if he faces a decent suspension, as he should. You see, guys? Things do work themselves out. Players have been policing this stuff for a long time and I think they probably know better than you.

          Besides, it was damn entertaining.

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      Agree. You have to look at the context. Besides the 1-2 count, Kennedy is second in the league in hit batters, so clearly a little issue coming into the game with control, and if you look at his Pitch F/X game chart, he had 10+ pitches that were way out of the zone.

      Was it meant to be a purpose pitch inside, yes. But I highly doubt there was any malice or intent for payback re:Ross. He likely wanted to give him a fastball high on Puig’s hands to see if he’d chase or change his eye-level to go low and away.

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  6. Jason says:

    Very idealistic, and good use of a strawman argument in support. Of course nobody is “for” headhunting or longstanding fueds. But before we dispense with the unwritten rules we should consider unintended consequences. Teams and players are currently comporting themselves with these rules without incident an overwhelming majority of the time. As ugly as intentional beaning is, it may have considerable deterent value that is unknowable to us.

    We can speculate that but for the unwritten rules, pitchers could pitch inside with near impunity. If someone were hit, it would fall to MLB to investigate the intent of the pitcher, or use an arbitrary punishment for the mere act. Neither alternative seems a more perfect form of justice than the current system.

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    • munchtime says:

      Intentional beanballs didn’t seem to deter Kennedy from throwing at Grienke.

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    • Bradsbeard says:

      It’s not that scrapping that the unwritten rules will result in perfect justice, its that replacing them with the threat of official discipline eliminates the risk of injury or death. That should be a no brainer.

      And why is MLB making a determination of intent (with the possibility of appeal) in any way less perfect than the players themselves making that call and responding with self-help (and no way for the second beaned batter to argue the first beaning was unintentional)?

      Tom Tango had a nice suggestion about using a yellow card system similar to soccer with incremental penalties for both pitchers who miss inside too often and batters who crowd the plate.
      http://tangotiger.com/index.php/site/article/solving-beanball-wars

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      • MLB Rainmaker says:

        I like the purist idea of letting guys play, but as an owner of Curtis Granderson in every fantasy league, I feel the pain. I’m not saying his beanings were intentional, but the guy was hit twice this year costing him now half the season. If you’re a pitcher, there is no downside like that for the beaning. You just give up a baserunner. Not equal at all.

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        • EvilRoySlade says:

          You must’ve missed something. The downside is obvious — your guys get hit too. Pitchers don’t go about these things of their own accord.

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  7. maguro says:

    OK, I don’t care for beanball wars either, but suspending Ian Kennedy for 20 certainly won’t end the practice of retaliatory beanballs. That’s ridiculously naive.

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  8. ttnorm says:

    I can agree part way. Bean balls show a disrespect for the game.

    OTOH,

    Retaliation is not really stupid if your team mate is the one getting plunked. Kind of like fighting in hockey. Seems stupid from the outside, but it is the main disincentive to guys using their sticks as weapons. Pedroia took one for his team and calmly trotted to first after Matt Joyce got plunked by Lackey.

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  9. randplaty says:

    Agree with the abI’ve comment. If you want to assign the blame to Kennedy at least provide some evidence that the Puig HBP was intentional. Just saying “it was clearly intentional” just doesn’t cut it when there ate so many people disagree. At least provide some clue as to why you think it was so clear.

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  10. PillsburyFlowboy says:

    Could the DBacks have built up their pitching depth because they knew somewhere along the lines Kennedy would get suspended for hitting someone? MARKET INEFFICIENCY!

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  11. Jason says:

    I’m percieving that some of the critisism of the unwritten rules stems from the fact that they are unwritten. Every society, company, family, team, ect has “unwritten” rules that members are supposed to comport too. You can’t legislate everything. If a dinner guest discusses politics at the dinner table, to the discomfort of everyone else, they face the consequence of not being invited back to dinner. In MLB, players can’t just be disinvited from attending the next game, so some other “unwritten” disciplinary tactic needs to be in place to enforce the proper conduct.

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    • Bradsbeard says:

      No, the criticism is that they encourage reckless self-help to deter and punish dirty play. The fact that they are unwritten (and thus subject to inconsistent interpretations and disproportionate application) only makes them more egregious.

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      • EvilRoySlade says:

        Wrong. You indeed cannot legislate everything and I don’t think you and others are properly thinking through the consequences of doing this.

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  12. Ken Shabby says:

    In addition to having umps in a (theoretical) replay booth, how about a couple of psychologists who would try to determine the intent of pitchers who (seem to) throw at opposing batters? Psychologists fully trained in reading body language, facial expressions, etcetera.

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    • coninefan says:

      There’s no one in the world who would be able to read intent from body language well enough to justify any punishment.

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    • Peter2 says:

      A cottage industry of “expert” witnesses, along with Hollywood, have created the illusion that particularly well-trained and talented individuals can read the body language, etc. of people and detect deception, etc. with great reliability. Turn on the news and they bring in special guests to read the body language and facial tics of suspects giving testimony, or politicians, or whoever else.

      This is one of the downfalls of justice, not its savior. The testimony is offered without empirical estimates of false positive and false negative rates, and delivered to an audience uninitiated in probabilistic reasoning. Even if this were not a problem, we have seen our justice system transformed from a process to determine who did what (in itself, a difficult problem to solve), to one in which we must look inside the soul of every perpetrator to determine “true” culpability—nearly an absurdity.

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  13. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Baseball needs to first ban bench players/Bullpens from charging the field. Most of the fighting in the Dodgers – Diamondbacks melee was from the bench. (and the coaches) Then ban the guy that throws the first punch, charges the mound or starts the fracas 30 games or so. Why do MLB players think it’s ok to do things that were banned in little league?? There are enough players permanently injured by an errant baseball to make this type of retaliation just crazy.

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  14. fenikz says:

    Puig didn’t get hit in the face :/

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  15. Neil says:

    I have a $100 standing offer to any on field police officer who arrests a player who goes head hunting or charges the mound. I’ll send a check if any of you are reading this. Would be willing to donate it to charity of your choice too.

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  16. Wahhmbulance says:

    What’s with all the overreaction? Are brawls THAT big of an issue? Are the players at THAT big of a risk?
    If they’re really that fragile they probably a) shouldn’t leave their house; and b) are named Franklin Gutierrez.

    The argument from the quoted article about baseball players not being able to do things on the field that would get them arrested off the field is hilarious also. What about assault by shaving cream pie to the face? We need to lock these criminals up!

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    • Bradsbeard says:

      Are workplace fist fights to settle employee disputes in your office that big of a deal? I mean, how often do they need to occur before your employer should take steps to eliminate them?

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      • Jason says:

        is it typical workplace violence or more like a boxing match … just part of the game. probably somewhere in between, but I think your analogy is a bit extreme (as I’m sure you intend)

        On the other hand, if there was actually an on field death as a result of the intentional act, it would probably compel criminal liability

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    • Kogoruhn says:

      I’m going to echo Wendy here – if you attack someone OFF the baseball field you are guilty of assault but if you do it ON the baseball field you are just “following the unwritten rules”.

      Doesn’t seem right to me.

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      • coninefan says:

        If I bump into someone purposely on the street, it’s battery. If I do it when guarding someone in basketball, it’s a foul. If I run up and tackle someone in the street, it’s a crime. In a football game, it’s not. The whole point is that it’s ON THE FIELD.

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        • Kogoruhn says:

          The events that you point out are outlined in the rules of their game. Throwing a punch is not outlined in the rules of baseball and thus needs to be treated differently than a tackle in football.

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        • coninefan says:

          My point is that simply saying “this behavior wouldn’t be appropriate off-the-field” is a silly argument, because there is a lot of behavior in sports — in the rules, and outside of the rules — that wouldn’t fly “off-the-field”. To legislate it as if it were real life and bring it police, etc. is ridiculous. Not saying you’re suggesting it but others are.

          A punch in baseball is treated differently — MLB will suspend / fine them.

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        • NS says:

          You want the FBI to crack down on hockey fights? What a ridiculous position.

          There are *no* players in the MLB that do not know this is part of the game. They voluntarily participate. And almost none of them complain about it.

          Only you bitches complain about it.

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    • Hank says:

      Uhh… yes. Yes, brawls are that big of an issue, and players are at that big of a risk. Zach Greinke BROKE HIS COLLARBONE in a brawl earlier this year after being thrown to the ground. He missed a month, or 1/6th of the season, good for $4 million from his $24 million/year contract. I’d say that’s a big deal. This isn’t about scraped knees or hurt feelings.

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  17. Kogoruhn says:

    You leave the bench/bullpen during an on the field indecent = automatic 5 game suspension with MLB having the authority to increase that based on your actions once on the field.

    I really don’t think teams will risk playing with their AAA team for 5 games to adhere to some unwritten rules.

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    • Bab says:

      Uhhh, hard to know what to make of this.

      So Gibson is being accused of planning the throw at Puig’s head?

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  18. Bab says:

    Is that Turbow book any good? Looks interesting

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  19. Ashman says:

    For whatever it’s worth (very little), Greinke threw at Montero twice – maybe three times – but not four. One of those four pitches was on the outside and was a swinging strike, and one was a breaking ball, albeit very far inside.

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    • O says:

      Hilariously, in my mind, I like to think that he was still trying to hit him and missed again, getting a swinging strike in the process. It’s either that, or he threw a pitch over the plate to make it not blatantly obvious he was trying to hit him. But he was being pretty blatant on the pitches before that…

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  20. Margus Hunter von Rindpest says:

    Men must be men. Stay out of our affairs and take your leeberal politics to some lesser nation.

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    • NS says:

      Violence must be avoided at all costs. Violence is unnatural and unclassy. These words really mean things and we are not just a huge bunch of self-righteous pussies.

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        Violence is unclassy and it should be avoided in general, but it is certainly not “unnatural”.

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        • NS says:

          Define class. Then define the garbage nonsense words you use to define it. Then figure out that it’s a useless term and all you’re saying is “me no likey” in the most pious ways possible.

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  21. Elliot says:

    I keep reading these articles saying Kennedy intended to hit greinkes head. He clearly meant to hit Greinke. But Kennedy can’t throw a strike this year if his life depended on it. How can anyone possibly tell whether he intended to throw at the head versus the back. The heads def not larger than the strike zone. Hard to believe the 2013 version of Kennedy could actually throw and hit someone’s head if he wanted. Tho this just makes the authors point, the system is dangerous if its that easy to accidentally hit the head aiming for the back.

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    • The Foils says:

      Whether you agree with the article’s take or not, it did include an explanation of sorts:

      “The pitch [to/at/into Greinke] essentially followed the same trajectory as the one that hit Puig”

      Could be a coinkydink, author seems not to have thought so.

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  22. pudieron89 says:

    Clearly the author and Wendy Thurm just don’t GET baseball. As a fan I want to see some retaliation if the situation calls for it (i.e., don’t hit a batter in a one-run game with 0 outs). They’re athletes, not children, they can handle getting hit and they can handle a light scrum. Injuries happen and you can’t coddle them. Next you’re going to tell me we should get rid of hockey fights.

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  23. Randy Bobandy says:

    I like fighting in sports. Seems like most fans do too as evident by the majority of them standing on their feet and cheering the fight on. Does it hurt assets? Of course but since sports is now a business, the only argument I can see against fighting is the economic impact of having to pay out millions to a player that got hurt in a fight and can’t play. Introudcing the law into dealing with on field actions is something we all don’t want to see happen. There will be lawsuits everywhere and sports will be ruined.

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    • NS says:

      There’s also the “all violence is bad, mmkay” crowd. Don’t ask them why. *They* are the ones that do the begging of the questions around here, dammit.

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  24. ernest reyes says:

    I’m confused. Aren’t “unwritten rules” synonymous with the idea of “Social Norms”; and if so, then they are nothing more then codes of conduct created over years (decades) of socialization within the game. To believe you can just whisk them away like they are nothing is a bit naive, don’t ya think?

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    • JoeElPaso says:

      Not to pick on you, but I am a social scientist and I study social norms. You are right that they cannot easily be whisked away. But norms often are bad (from some reasonable perspective), like violence against women used to be, and sometimes still is. Such norms should be changed. Yes, hard work and long time to change them, but we can’t give up just because they are norms.

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      • NS says:

        “from some reasonable perspective”

        lol hard-hitting analysis here! “from the correct view, this is correct”

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      • Exactly. One way to change norms is to change the incentives surrounding them. That’s why I’m saying that headhunting should be punished even more harshly than it is now.

        As a matter of fact, we have evidence that this works. Umpires give much harsher punishments for on-field brawls than they used to. And there are fewer brawls now than there used to be.

        Deterrent punishments can actually work.

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      • Synovia says:

        THe problem is, like social norms, often the participants have no idea what they actually are.

        This was a clear example, each team thought they were settling things, when the other team thought they were starting things up again.

        Unwritten rules always lead to poor understanding, which leads to communications break downs and escalation.

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  25. Silly says:

    Arguing for players to cease protecting themselves and their teammates shows an incredible ignorance for the game itself – it is just as ludicrous, if not more so, as an argument for players to cease fighting in hockey – and Wendy Thurm’s assertion of ‘at a minimum, assault and battery’ … well, that’s a lawyer for you – this is baseball people, and the self-policing is as much a part of the game as anything else. It’s not barbaric, it’s not criminal – it’s baseball … get over it.

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    • Empanada says:

      Yeah Thurm calling for assault + battery in beanballing is pretty draconian. Let’s not mention that baseball players anticipate having a ball thrown very hard toward them, whereas on the street this is never the case, and people generally don’t wear helmets while walking around town. In fact there are negative social consequences if you do precisely that.

      You simply cannot start drafting laws based on transferring ‘intent’ across unrelated contexts.

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  26. Tim says:

    In the future, you could maybe put a link to the highlight in the article? I missed this entirely, and watching talking heads on Baseball Tonight is not helping.

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  27. Sean says:

    The headhunting is the only part of this that really bothers me. Contrast it to Giants-Pirates the same day. Scutaro gets plunked, almost certainly unintentionally but enough to hurt him, the Giants come back hit McCutchen in his rear end. Bucs didn’t seem surprised, or bothered, really. The reliever failed to hit Marte earlier in the inning (seemed to be aiming for the mid-back), which is the only reason there were any ejections at all. When it was all over, nobody really said much about it. Beanball problem-solving worked out okay, there.

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    • Peter2 says:

      The umpire warned both benches after Montero was hit. Kennedy threw at Greinke intentionally, with full knowledge that he would be immediately ejected and receive a suspension, in line with precedent.

      When someone breaks a rule or commits a crime which incurs a particular penalty, it is a truism that this threatened penalty has not been enough to deter the act. So then people get upset and say, “See, these penalties aren’t stiff enough…if they were then people wouldn’t commit these acts!” And so we drift toward stiffer and stiffer penalties in the ridiculous hope of achieving 100% compliance. And everyone who had spewed all that cheap outrage time after time is happy…and then we look around one day and people are being given the lethal injection for jaywalking. Well, maybe we’re not there yet, but we don’t yet seem to have to have reached our upper limit for crucifying people who are caught driving with a BAC of .08, even though the current measures being taken are already extremely harsh, and extremely effective in deterring drunk driving—just not close enough to that 100% compliance craved by some.

      Anyhoo, if you’re going to increase the penalty for an act, it is not in the interest of justice to wait until one particular case hits the news cycle and then deliver an unprecedented penalty to make an example of the person. “Ian Kennedy, you’re the one millionth person to intentionally bean a guy in Major League Baseball! Enjoy your rest of season suspension!” (Which is what some people think is the right solution here.)

      When you mete out penalty, precedent is important—even better to have it in writing. And when you are determining (beforehand) what the appropriate penalty should be for an act, you should consider the fundamental limits of the domain. Those, for example, who would mandate daily steroid testing to all players, and a zero-tolerance lifetime ban for any failed test, fail to consider the consequences of this system if these tests have even a .0001% false positive rate…multiple players who have never done steroids would get banned for life. We cannot pretend that attempting to infer the intent of pitchers will come anywhere near this level of precision or reliability, and therefore the prescribed punishment (determined in advance) reflects this inherent uncertainty…

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      • Peter2 says:

        My bad, this wasn’t meant to be a reply to Sean, just a new post.

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      • I agree with you. The reason that I am calling for harsher penalties for headhunting is that I want teams to discourage their players from engaging in it. As I have written elsewhere, I believe that they only way to effect cultural change is for it to radiate outward from the clubhouses.

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        • Silly says:

          With all due respect to the author, your position on this subject is much more likely open to ridicule (and rightly so) within the clubhouses than anything else … it is a position that warrants serious consideration in places like Canada, where one can get arrested for cross-checking a hockey opponent – or killing a seagull with a flyball.

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  28. Patrick says:

    Anyone who has a problem with intentionally hitting someone either never played baseball, or was a second baseman. This is part of the game. There is absolutley nothing wrong with what happened in this game, minus the head hunting by Kennedy. That should get him suspended, but Greinke did nothing wrong.

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    • Clearly you’ve never had someone come in spikes high against you at second base. I’ve had it done at second and third, and believe me when I say retaliation is the second thing on your mind. The first is naturally the pain in your legs now. As a third baseman, I was spiked on a runner moving first to third on a single. The next time he was on second base, he attempted to steal third. I “swiped tagged” his helmet off. The opposing third base coach told the player to pick up his helmet because he had told him that someone was gonna retaliate if he kept sliding with high spikes. That was in a random high school game.

      If someone hit my player in the face with a MLB fastball, I’d throw at them too. The only things that were clearly inappropriate here were the high fastballs and the multiple attempts by Greinke. One shot to Montero’s derriere and it would’ve been over with. When Greinke threw at him multiple times, he should’ve been drilled himself.

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    • Getting hit in the head with a 90+ mile an hour fastball can cause a concussion, and even if it does not directly cause a concussion, sub-concussive blows can lead to brain damage, which will have a lingering affect for the rest of the athlete’s life. Brain injury is not a joke. It should not be treated as such.

      What Greinke did, hitting Montero in the back, was not nearly as dangerous as what Kennedy did, hitting Puig in the nose and nearly hitting Greinke in the head. But it would be best if there were no escalation whatsoever.

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      • Baltar says:

        I agree. All this retaliation stuff is so childish. Aren’t all MLB players at least 18? Then why act 8.

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  29. Cybo says:

    This thread is a great example of the pussification of America. They’ve had scrums in baseball for 140 years. Now all the sudden its some big deal? Gimme a break!

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  30. Jack says:

    You’ve got it, Patrick. Cobb, Maglie . . . And Leo Durocher would sure agree with Mattingly.

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  31. Clayton says:

    Am I the only one who likes to roll my eyes when I see thirty year old men fake fighting eachother?

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  32. PackBob says:

    A pitcher’s ability to put the ball exactly where he wants to at any given time is highly overrated. Add to that that pitchers often miss their targets by wide margins. Kennedy could have just as easily wanted to only come inside with Puig, and just missed.

    If the contention is that pitchers do have that much control, then obviously Grienke was not trying to hit Montero with the first three pitches, but just wanted to see him dance a little before he did hit him.

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  33. asdf says:

    “Second, Ian Kennedy hit Yasiel Puig. It was clearly intentional: Puig got hit in the face and stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes, appearing dazed.”

    I don’t know that hitting Puig was intentional. Look at the locations of the pitches in Puig’s previous at bat (the one where he got 4 strikes in the 4th inning).

    4 pitches not in the strikezone up and in, and yet Puig swings. It’s entirely possible he was going to same location and one got away from him.

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  34. Joe says:

    Author loses alot of credibility saying Kennedy hitting Puig was “clearly intentional”. CLEARLY you aren’t paying attention or have some sort of agenda. Nothing is clear about Kennedy’s intentions related to the Puig hit. Go write for faketeams.com.

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  35. Daniel says:

    Where’s the line?

    Its ok, to retaliate, but not ok to retaliate to the head? At least the head has a helmet unlike the ribs/kidneys which could be damaged by a 90mph ball.

    This whole thing reminds of a Gangster flick.. “They hit one of ours, we hit three of theirs.. They put one of ours in the hospital, we put theirs in the morgue..”

    I grew up playing baseball as a kid until Jr. Highschool (when girls became more fun..); We were taught the basics of the game. Play, have fun, steal third, swing away.. don’t spike and try NOT to intentionally hit someone.

    Now we’re teaching our kids “Hey, if they hit one of ours.. hit one of theirs back!” And yet people wonder why we have a more violent society?

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    • NS says:

      A more violent society than what?

      I think we need to take not only physical pain out of the game, but all emotional pain too. Anything that might potentially lead to someone being unhappy is just not classy and not acceptable in this day and age. What are we, barbarians!

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  36. Pastiche says:

    If this is all about the safety of players, then Kennedy is only one of several culprits. Greinke (even though he “did it right”) could easily have injured Montero. Howell and Belisario raging onto the field with arms swinging, and escalating the entire event, are just as culpable in a possible injury as Carlos Quentin was to Greinke’s broken collarbone.

    There is no accurate way to separate these events from their probability to “end someone’s career”. Either you punish everyone who made a menacing move toward another player, or you let them play.

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  37. Bab says:

    For those of you who haven’t read the book etc., the link below has a good collection of quotes/situations of ‘hidden rules’ in baseball.

    http://bfc.sfsu.edu/cgi-bin/unwritten.pl?Unwritten_Rules_of_Baseball

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  38. Joel says:

    If MLB were serious, they’d treat headhunting the same way they treat (alleged) steroid abuse.

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  39. adohaj says:

    I enjoy retaliation, bench clearing brawls, and blown calls. I hope they never leave the game.

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