Joe Torre is major league baseball’s Lord of the Law, the enforcer and the man who doles out punishment.
He is an honorable man, a baseball lifer, but his most recent ruling leaves people scratching their heads under their baseball caps.
Following Sunday’s on-the-field scrum in Pittsburgh, Torre made these rulings:
—Pittsburgh pitcher Chris Archer is fined and suspended five days.
—Cincinnati outfielder Yasiel Puig is fined and suspended two days.
—Cincinnati manager David Bell is fined and suspended one day.
What makes this so convoluted is that Archer was not even thrown out of the game after he threw a pitch behind Derek Dietrich after Dietrich hit a home run and posed long enough at home plate to have LeRoy Neiman paint his portrait.
Bell said his sole purpose in running onto the field was to get Archer ejected. And what Dietrich did is not against the rules.
“Dietrich clearly didn’t do anything wrong because he wasn’t ejected or suspended,” said Bell. “If MLB has a problem with what Derek did then there needs to be a rule against what he did. Until that happens, he needs to be protected. He goes up there with no defense, knowing he is going to get hit.”
Bell made clear what his intention was when he rushed home plate after umpire Jeff Kellogg merely issued a warning to both benches and did not eject Archer.
“I was ejected and suspended for coming out on the field, which is what escalated things and that was unfortunate,” said Bell. “I had one intention and that was to defend our team and to defend our hitter and to get Archer ejected.
“I felt my only course of action was to get their pitcher ejected for intentionally trying to hurt our player,” Bell added. “If it happens again and our guys are not protected, I’ll do the same thing.”
If Archer is suspended five days, why wasn’t he ejected by home plate umpire by Kellogg, who merely issued a warning?
And the punishment? Five days for a starting pitcher means only one missed start and the Pirates can move him back one day in the rotation and he really won’t miss a start.
Meanwhile Puig, who deserved what he got for inciting fight conditions on the field, has to miss two games. To make the punishment commensurate, Archer should have received 10 to 12 days so that he, too, misses two games.
Bell’s suspension stems from his enraged discussion with Kellogg after he merely warned Archer and both benches.
Amazingly, Bell said he was told that if Archer had thrown at Dietrich’s head he would have been ejected. But since the pitch was below the waist he was not thrown out of the game.
Is that in the rules? No, it is not. And a player can get hurt on any part of his body if he is hit by a baseball. Joey Votto was hit on the knee by a pitch thrown by Ryan Madson last year and missed three weeks.
“To me, that’s a dangerous approach,” said Bell of the assumption you can hit a guy on the knee and get away with it and just don’t throw at heads.
Bell said he isn’t disturbed about the length of Archer’s so-called suspension and said, “At least it confirms what we all knew, that the pitch was intentionally an attempt to injure our player. We can’t let our hitters stand up there unprotected when we knew they are going to be thrown at with a 100 miles an hour fastball and everybody be OK with that.
“Whether they throw at their heads or their backs or their legs, it is all the same to me,” said Bell. “For that to be OK, or even somewhat acceptable that it wasn’t at his head, to me that is a very dangerous approach.”
Throwing at hitters who pose at home plate after hitting a home run is one of those unwritten rules of baseball. Don’t show up the pitcher or face the consequences. Never mind that Chris Archer shows up hitters by pumping his fist and doing a Saturday Night Fever dance on the mound after strikeouts.
“That’s beside the point because I don’t know what those rules are,” said Bell. “All I know is this is pretty simple — our hitter hit a home run and didn’t do anything against major league rules or the umpire’s rule or anybody’s else’s rules. But everybody in the ball park knew he was going to have to stand up there and possibly get hit with a fastball, maybe hit in the head and done damage. And that’s OK because supposedly it wasn’t aimed at his head?
And there is another facet to all of this. Afterward, Bell told the media he was angry because Archer threw at (behind) Dietrich and could have caused serious injury.
Question: Does this mean that Reds pitchers will never throw at the other team, never send a message? If they do Bell becomes a hypocrite.
The ‘warning’ rule is absolutely absurd. If a pitcher throws at a hitter and the umpire issues a warning, that means the next time a pitcher from either team throws at a hitter that pitcher and his manager is ejected.
It also means that the aggrieved team, the one that was initially thrown at, can not retaliate because it will lose its pitcher and its manager.
So will the Reds retaliate over any real or imagined indiscretion by the other team?
“My focus right now is that this needs to be taken out of the hands of the players trying to police it because that’s a dangerous approach,” said Bell.
Meanwhile, Bell watched Tuesday’s game from a private booth on press box row and replacement manager Freddie Benavides operated without Puig and only three extra position players on the bench.