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The stupidity of purposefully hitting batters

Nobody here knows what is going on.
Nobody here knows what is going on.

As most of you know by now, with one out and Alex Rios on second base, Rays pitcher Alex Cobb hit A.J. Pierzynski with a pitch on an 0-0 count. The intent was pretty obvious and the reason was that Pierzynski slid hard into Ben Zobrist yesterday.

The next batter, Dayan Viciedo, singled home Rios and got Pierzynski to third. Score was now 2-1 White Sox.

The following batter was Alexei Ramirez. He hit a flyball to right fielder Zobrist and Pierzynski tagged and scored. 3-1 White Sox.

The White Sox would add a run in 5th and the Rays would score two in the 6th. And the score remained 4-3 when Addison Reed recorded the last out.

So, was it worth it Alex Cobb? Putting Pierzynski on increased the run expectancy of the White Sox in that inning by about 0.25 runs. Obviously, in reality, he scored one run. And the margin of victory was one run.

Now, we can't draw a straight line between Pierzynski's run and the final score. There were a whole lot of intervening events. One of those, the ejection of Jose Quintana, was basically a direct effect of the Pierzynski beaning. And getting a starting pitcher out of a game early is a good thing and probably increases the opposing team's win expectancy more than putting on a runner with an HBP.

But it is quite delicious to see the margin of victory be one run.

I'm not a major league baseball player so I'm not going to lecture them on their traditions of game policing. If they think hitting a player, putting him on base and possibly injuring him is a fair exchange for whatever transgression they're policing - the crimes seem to range from the other team hitting your guy, your guy getting spiked, the other guy hitting a home run off of your guy, the other guy standing too close to the plate and the other guy being a 19 year old phenom; it must be exhausting to keep all these rules straight - it's going down the rabbit hole to try to refute it.

Who I will lecture is fans and the media. Because I can claim to be part of both. The shrill responses from these people is what is stupid. Here's a sample from the other guys' blog:

The most interesting, and ridiculous, part of the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning when White Sox starter Jose Quintana threw behind Ben Zobrist. This happened because A.J. Pierzynski was hit between the shoulder blades by Alex Cobb an inning prior. Of course, that only happened because Pierzynski spiked Ben Zobrist while "sliding" into second base last night. There was absolutely no reason for Quintana to throw at Zobrist, who immediately started laughing. Hitting Pierzynski should have been the end of it, and it's this kind of behavior that gets players injured. I don't get the logic of throwing at Zobrist anyway. Pierzynski spikes Zobrist...and gets thrown at as well? I doubt Quintana took matters into his own hands there, so whoever ordered the hit, be it Robin Ventura or Don Cooper, can go to hell.

The logic of this paragraph is the same that you read all the time. Their guy spiked our guy = bad. Our guy hits their guy = good. Their guy throws behind our guy = bad. Nevermind that guys don't get injured when the ball is thrown behind them but they can get injured when the ball is thrown at them. And whoever "ordered" Cobb to throw at Pierzynski (there always has to be a conspiracy) is going straight to heaven. If the situation had been reversed, the fans' logic - support my guys - would have been the same.

And we've all probably seen/heard the coronary Hawk Harrelson had when Quintana got tossed. First of all, this whole "warning" thing is silly. If you're going to let guys throw at one another sometimes because "it's part of the game", there's always going to be a problem with where the line is. Hawk, on the other hand, is apparently for just letting guys throw at one another basically with impunity because eventually the players will sort it out themselves. If both the benches had been warned after the Pierzynski HBP, we would have heard a different, though perhaps less voluminous, screed from Hawk about how warnings take away the inside corner from pitchers because they can't throw inside. Like the fans, he's going to find a way to whine about it if there's a warning or not, whether it's a good guy or a bad guy that gets hit, whatever.

And then we've got umpires trying to divine intent when deciding to toss guys. I guess these are the judgment calls that are inherent in basically any game but what did the umpire think Quintana was doing? Did he actually think he was intending to hit Zobrist? I'm not a soothsayer, either, but it sure look liked Quintana was intending to do exactly what he did - throw behind Zobrist. But who knows for sure. Certainly not an umpire. Cole Hamels copped to deliberately hitting Bryce Harper for...whatever. Was he tossed? No. Because how the heck was the umpire to know what was going through Hamels' head.

Since I don't have a solution for these clusterfucks (and I'm guilty of the whining, too, because I'm whining about the whining), this is a long way of saying that I like it best when teams are punished where it really hurts: in the standings. I loved it when Harper stole home on Hamels. I loved it when Pierzynski scored today. At the end of the season, no one is going to remember this episode. But that "W" will be with the White Sox and that "L" will be with the Rays.