Nothing infuriates me more during a baseball game than a beanball. Ok, ok, maybe bunting. I’ve never understood why so many fans cheer for a bean. It’s not the sportsmanlike behavior fans expect of the men that we pay a lot of money to watch play a game we love. These men are paid quite handsomely and are idols to many in their communities, and then in an instant they can turn to this childish attempt at “revenge”. What happened to being the bigger man? What happened to playing the game with grace? What happened to ethics?
The bean has been happening in baseball nearly as long as the game has been played in our country. For those unfamiliar with the term, a beanball is a pitch thrown at a batter’s head. Some definitions include the word intentionally, some don’t. I don’t think it much matters. Whether the pitch is intentional or not, it can cause serious damage, one bean even killed a player, Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians back in 1920. Nowadays a death is much less likely to happen, given the use of helmets and advances in medicine, but injuries caused by the bean happen every single season, with some doing enough harm to end careers.
Probably one of the most popular stories surrounding the bean is that of Adam Greenberg and the 2005 Cubs. In his first MLB plate appearance, and on the first pitch he received, he was struck in the back of the head by a pitch from Valerio de los Santos. Greenberg was taken out of the game and placed on the DL for the rest of the season. He has spoken in many interviews about the concussion he suffered and the various residual effects he has had to deal with including headaches and vertigo. He spent most of the next seven years playing on various minor league teams, with varying levels of success all while dealing with the side effects of his injury. In 2012 he was given a one-day contract to play with the Marlins through the PR efforts of a Cubs fan and an online petition. He struck out during his only plate appearance in the game.
Most people I know are, like me, outraged by the bean and think it has no place in baseball. Unfortunately a few weeks ago, I watched as people I know and respect “asked” their teams pitcher to throw a bean. They wanted him to exact revenge against one of the other teams players for what they suspected was an intentional beaning of one of our players the inning before. I don’t know if that bean was intentional or not, but I was horrified that they would want one of our pitchers to then do the same to one of the opposing teams players. I understand being upset that one of your favorite players was hurt, but does that mean we should go out and do the same to the other team? Some say yes: an eye for an eye.
I think a better “punishment” for a bean is stronger discipline from the league. Immediate game ejections are standard now along with 4-8 game suspensions and fines. For most pitchers, a 4-8 game suspension doesn’t do much to punish them, honestly. Major league teams have so much depth on their pitching rosters that being suspended for a few games merely pushes them back in the rotation or perhaps causes them to miss one game. I think suspensions should take into account position, in this case, a 20 game suspension would “hurt” a pitcher and their team a lot more than a 6 game suspension, for example. That, to me, is a real punishment, and the only way to perhaps curb these ridiculous beanball fueled feuds.
I’d like to see the bean banned in baseball, but I’m sure that is a very unlikely thing to happen. So, as far as I can see, the next best approach to ridding the league of this scourge is to make it hurt their pocketbooks. Turn up the fines, institute a mandatory 10 or 12 game suspension as the starting point for delivering a bean, eject the pitcher and the pitching coach. Make it hurt, like a beanball does. Or perhaps more managers could look to the late, great Earl Weaver, Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame Manager on why the bean is a bad idea:
“It might lead to a fight. And if there’s a fight, our guys and their guys are going to get ejected, and our guys are better than their guys, so we’re going to lose on that exchange. So, don’t hit them!”
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