On Wednesday night, SNY New York Mets’ analyst Keith Hernandez managed to provoke a whole lot of outrage with his comments on Miami Marlins’ pitcher Jose Ureña drilling Atlanta Braves’ star outfielder Ronald Acuña with the very first pitch of that game. Hernandez argued that “you got to hit him, knock him down” and “you hit three home runs, I’m sorry, you’re going to go down.” And despite all that backlash, and despite MLB suspending Ureña for six games Thursday, Hernandez doubled down Thursday afternoon in a new SNY video, even blaming the victim. (Acuña left that game with an elbow injury, but will be back in the lineup Thursday night.)
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) August 16, 2018
“I only needed to see it once, and that’s all I have seen it. My opinions haven’t changed. I don’t think the pitch was that bad, to be honest with you. It wasn’t anywhere near the head. I was very clear in the booth that I draw the line at anything from the neck above, headhunting, and also that a pitcher with an intent to hurt. Sometimes you have to brush people back. This is an incredible streak that Acuña is on now, and a home run streak to boot.”
“The pitch that I saw, it started off on the inner half, a little bit on the inside corner, and ran inside. It was around waist level. Acuña could have turned his back, who knows, it’s split-second, but he did drop his elbow to deflect the ball, and unfortunately he got hit in the elbow, and that’s one place you don’t want to get hit. If he hadn’t gotten his elbow there, he’d have gotten hit in the side by the waistline, or in the small of his back, and everything would have been fine. So I stand firmly by what I said, and I don’t think the pitch was that terrible.”
We get that Hernandez played in a different era, but as Joe Posnanski wrote in February (and reemphasized Thursday), “old-time baseball” actually didn’t involve that many hit batters:
But the numbers are stark — pitchers hit many more batters now than they did in the 1950s and ’60s, the supposed heyday of head-hunting. In the ’50s, teams hit roughly .19 hitters per game — so that would mean they hit one batter every five games.
In the 1960s, it jumped up to .22 hitters per game — meaning pitchers hit one better every four or five games.
This decade, pitchers are hitting .33 batters per game — one every three games.
And while whether intentionally hitting batters is ever appropriate is a whole different subject of debate, even some who are okay with that in limited circumstances are ticked off about the Acuña incident, given that this was an apparent punishment for him merely excelling at his job. But MLB’s six-game suspension (despite many calls for something much firmer) suggests they’re not all that concerned here, and neither is Hernandez, who’s even blaming the victim for getting hit the wrong way. That’s certainly not going to appease those already upset at him.
[SNY on Twitter]