The most ardent supporters of the “baseball polices itself” doctrine, the group that is totally fine with pitchers throwing at batters in retaliation for being “shown up”, or for the opposing pitcher hitting one of their batters, or for just about any reason the pitcher sees fit, the most ardent supporters of that group still tend to balk at the idea of throwing at someone’s head.
They’ll even note that distinction; “I’m not saying you throw at someone’s head, of course, but…” is a common start to any beanball advocacy. But, thanks to MLB’s latest suspension, we know that the league itself doesn’t seem to much care about where the pitch is heading. And while that should be the case, in that any intentional HBP is inherently dangerous and absolutely dumb, they’ve actually gone in a more lenient direction.
Mike Fiers threw at Luis Valbuena because Valbuena flipped his bat:
This magnificent bat flip got Luis Valbuena thrown at the next time up. pic.twitter.com/Zz3TFQauXx
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) September 14, 2017
Luis Valbuena always flips his bat. It’s what he’s most known for, at this point of his career. He flips his bat on routine grounders. But Mike Fiers apparently felt disrespected:
Fiers admitted he did it on purpose, although that’s not exactly tough to figure out, and MLB came down with a five game suspension:
Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers has been suspended five games and fined an undisclosed amount for throwing a fastball over the head of Los Angeles Angels slugger Luis Valbuena.
The commissioner’s office issued the penalty Thursday.
Fiers is not appealing, so the penalty starts in Thursday night’s game between the AL West-leading Astros and playoff-contending Angels.
On Wednesday, Fiers unleashed a pitch at least 2 feet over Valbuena’s head that sailed to the backstop when Valbuena came up for the first time after hitting his 20th home run of the season and then adding an exclamation point with a big bat flip.
“I took it as disrespect,” Fiers said.
Of course, five games for a starting pitcher is really just one game, and as the Astros have everything wrapped up in the AL West, it’s not exactly a big punishment for them. And while the pitch wasn’t exactly close to Valbuena’s head, it was definitely in that direction. Frankly, Fiers should have had to miss at least two starts. Otherwise there’s not much deterrent.