Thursday, April 18, 2019

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, April 18, 2019 -- "Let the Kids Play"

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The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 11, No. 22
April 18, 2019

You’ve probably seen yesterday’s dustup in Chicago between the Royals and White Sox. Tim Anderson launched a home run off Brad Keller in the fourth inning, took a good look at it, threw his bat towards his dugout and gave the eye to catcher Martin Maldonado. In Anderson’s next at-bat, Keller intentionally hit him with a fastball in the hip. Let’s not get bogged down in an argument over the adverb; watch Maldonado, who immediately gets up and puts himself in front of Anderson. He knew what was happening. Anderson was rightly angered, and we ended up with the benches clearing and some light scuffling, with Keller and Anderson eventually being ejected.

This is the second one of these we’ve had in the season's early days. Chris Archer intentionally threw behind Derek Dietrich after Dietrich hit a long homer off him back on April 7. You’ve surely seen the memes generated by the ruckus that followed. MLB eventually suspended Archer, who committed the assault, for five games -- an immaterial suspension for a starting pitcher in 2019 -- and Yasiel Puig, who came to the defense of his teammate in the brawl, for two games.

These events are happening against a backdrop of MLB’s marketing arm clearly taking sides in the game’s culture war. “Let The Kids Play” started last fall, and continues into this season. It has a site, and a Twitter feed, dedicated to the youngerfreer, expressive way of playing the game, one heavily influenced by the way it’s played in countries other than the U.S. Even MLB’s official account comes down on the side of fun.

Now, you can, if you want, draw a very thin line here, say that what the marketing side does has to be different than what the league office does. Today is a day, of course, for drawing very thin lines around very sketchy behavior in an effort to separate truth and consequences. So maybe you don’t think MLB, the office, should be beholden to the positions taken by MLB, the salespeople.

That’s a nonsense position, though. MLB can’t, out of one side of its mouth, embrace and encourage a style of play in an effort to bring young people to the game, while out of the other side tacitly endorse violent retaliation against that very style.

MLB, Rob Manfred, Joe Torre, the entire power structure, has a chance today to take the stand it failed to take after the Archer incident. It can finally take a stand against the ugliest part of the modern game, when one player stands 60 feet away from another and throws a hard object at him, intentionally, at upwards of 90 mph, for no reason other than spite. If your kid did this at school, he’d be suspended for a week. If you did this in your office, you’d be fired. If you did it on 86th St., you’d be arrested. The act -- throwing something as hard as you can at someone else out of anger in an effort to exact revenge -- is something we teach four-year-olds not to do. It’s just as wrong, just as dangerous, just as ripe for punishment, when grown men in pajamas do it.

Take a stand, MLB. Take the position of Cut4, and your own Twitter account, and hundreds of your players, and millions of your fans. Take the position that intentional violence has no place in baseball, that expressions of joy are to be celebrated, that the game’s culture is changing, and that you want to lead that change. Suspend Brad Keller, not for five games or six games, but for 20. Suspend Ned Yost for ten. Take a stand today that you’re going to lead the game’s charge out of the past and into the future. Take a stand that throwing at batters intentionally is wrong, full stop, and you’re going to harshly punish any pitchers who do so.

The only way this is ever going to stop is if MLB makes it stop. Take a stand, MLB.