I try not to use this space to respond to other writers, but sometimes I can't resist. In this case, the instigator is a muddled column (or muddled columnist) from Tampa (h/t to Baseball Think Factory):
If I were Maddon, I'd have Matt Garza deliver the pitch heard 'round the Bronx, and felt in the general rib-cage area of Derek Cheater, eh, Jeter.
Darn straight. Monday night at Yankee Stadium, the start of the four-game rematch between two teams with another reason to amp up the dislike, I'm ordering Garza, the scheduled Rays' starter, to plunk the New York shortstop the first time he comes to the plate.
Nothing too injurious, certainly nothing around Jeter's head. But a fastball buried somewhere in his side, according to baseball's unwritten code, is in order.
Then, as Jeter shakes off the pain -- which I hope is considerable -- and trots to first, Garza, normally a fiery sort anyway, needs to shout something to the effect of "that base you deserve.''
Wouldn't that be fun?
Only for simplistic neanderthals. First, anyone advocating that a player be hit by a pitch is being spectacularly irresponsible. There is no safe way to hit a batter. What would have been a glancing blow to, say, Don Baylor might be another player's season-ending injury. Heck, even Baylor suffered a broken hand when hit by a pitch on opening day 1976. Not even Carl Mays thought he was going to kill Ray Chapman when he threw that pitch up and in on that fateful day in 1920, but that was what he ended up doing. I'm not suggesting that it's a realistic possibility that Jeter could be killed, but illustrating that there can be unintended consequences for this kind of action.
Second, as even this columnist acknowledged, this kind of gamesmanship has always been part of the game. Batters try to act their way to first base all the time. Once we hit him, we should also hit every outfielder who has trapped a ball and bounced up claiming he had made a clean catch, and every catcher who tries to frame a pitch out of the strike zone as being over the plate. Those whose notions of justice run to sadism will be giddy. The rest of us can find other things to do as the game of baseball grinds to a screeching halt.
As the author acknowledges, the real issue with Jeter's act is not that he tried it but that the umpires blew the call in a season in which they have blown far too many. Oddly, he is not suggesting that the next time this umpiring crew works a Rays game, that John Jaso get "crossed up" and let a high fastball go past him and hit the umpire. Why is that out of bounds (it has happened in baseball, just as payback pitches have) but putting a 95-mph spheroid in Derek Jeter's ribs isn't? They're both equally stupid, but in the latter you punish the enabled instead of the enabler.
The fact is, sometimes the umpires are fooled in ways that are often understandable and other times egregious. This one seems to fall under the category of egregious, but we accept that it's part of the game, and violence against the umpires as a legitimate part of baseball (for both players and fans) faded out somewhere before 1920. Somehow, that's unthinkable, but for at least one columnist, premeditated violence against a player is still A-OK.