Today, during the Red Sox-Orioles matchup, Matt Barnes elevated a pitch towards Manny Machado, which bounced off the bat, and was eventually ruled a foul ball. The at-bat continued, and Machado would end up driving in a run.
There are multiple factors to consider, when you are looking at a situation where a pitch happens to be located above the chest, and one of those factors is obviously intent. Intent to throw at a player’s head is among the worst crimes you can commit as a pitcher in baseball, and for good reason: it can not only end a player’s career, but have a lasting effect in their life beyond the game.
Matt Barnes throws at Manny Machado for spiking Pedroia on Friday pic.twitter.com/X70Fb3KvgD— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) April 23, 2017
I don’t know if Barnes intended to throw it there. His command is suspect at times, and from everything we know, Barnes doesn’t have a history of trying to plunk guys in the head. All we have to go off is the history between Machado and the Red Sox. Manny Machado, earlier in the week, slid into second base hard and spiked Dustin Pedroia’s legs, which resulted in Pedroia having to leave the game. He’s missed the last two games.
¿El slide de Manny Machado fue sucio? Dustin Pedroia salió lastimado después de está jugada. pic.twitter.com/dp0xzxhklI— #DoYourJob (@renucho) April 22, 2017
Retaliation would not be had in that game, or even the next. For a time, it looked like things would blow over, at least for the time being. Eduardo Rodriguez would throw inside, and for many, this was seen as the retaliation. Not hitting the guy, but making it clear that they were going to remind him of what was going on, and that they were still upset about the perceived slight to the team.
In either case, Matt Barnes would be the player to finally break the ice that had been cracking all series, and it broke in a big way. Machado would walk to first, having believed to be hit. Barnes would get ejected. John Farrell would come out and argue that the ball hit the bat, and replay would confirm this. Machado would come back, and bring in a run. It was a hectic scene of events that involved a lot of banter, bickering, and flat-out arguing, mainly focusing on the jawing between Machado and Pedroia. Pedroia would be seen clearly saying “It wasn’t me. I know that, and you know that.” One thing was clear about the whole ugly event, and that was that Dustin Pedroia didn’t want this, and neither did Manny Machado. OK, two things, don’t let a pitcher with questionable control be the one to be making a statement, either.
Fascinating exchange captured by MASN between Machado and Pedroia. Dustin clearly saying "It wasn't me. I know that and you know that." pic.twitter.com/oqdt827ER9— Dave Tucker (@TestudoDave) April 23, 2017
While we can’t be clear as to the intent of Matt Barnes, John Farrell, or anyone else, we can dive into history, to remind people why headhunting needs to be punished, and why we should expect a suspension for Matt Barnes. While throwing inside is a part of the game, there are some no-nos that no one should ever commit. Not all pitches up by the head are clear cases of headhunting, but all of them are dangerous.
It’s been a long time, but Red Sox fans should remember Tony Conigliaro, a talented young player that was robbed of a potentially great career. Conigliaro was hit by a pitch on August 18th, 1967. This pitch hit him in the left cheekbone. Back then, the helmet he was wearing didn’t contain the ear-flaps that are now standard issue. The injury would be listed as a linear fracture of the same cheekbone, and a dislocated jaw. Eventually, this would also come to effect his eye, as there was severe damage to his left retina.
Prior to this injury, Conigliaro had a .276/.339/.510 triple slash, with 104 home runs in 494 games. Afterwards, he would miss 1968, and hit .248/.311/.431, with 62 home runs in 382 games. He would continue to live a fulfilling life after baseball, albeit a short one, as he would pass at the age of 45, after spending 8 years in a vegetative state following a stroke-induced coma.
Baseball was robbed of a brilliant career by an errant throw, and that much we should all understand is wrong and bad for baseball. It’s these brilliant careers that help spread the influence of baseball to more homes, and helped grow the greatest game on the face of the Earth.
Today, as mentioned earlier, Barnes elevated a pitch that almost struck Manny Machado in the head. Intentional or not, this is the type of play baseball doesn’t need. Love him or hate him, Machado is a national treasure in baseball, a supremely talented young player, who draws comparisons to a young Alex Rodriguez, and losing him from the game would truly be a loss. We already lost the career of Tony C. Let’s not lose anymore careers unnecessarily.