After Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez asked the umpire staff to check out Will Smith's arm in Thursday night's game, it seemed like one question came up in a variety of places: Will the Brewers do something to retaliate over the next three games of the series? More specifically, will the Brewers intentionally throw at a Braves batter?
Here's my thoughts on that:
Don't. Please don't, Brewers.
Smith was ejected after umpires looked at his arm and saw the very obvious smear of rosin and sun screen. That's clearly against the rules. But the Brewers were upset after the game because it's really more "against the rules" than against the rules. Most pitchers do use substances to get a better grip, many players admit. And batters (like Atlanta's Freddie Freeman) prefer pitchers can grip a ball. The issue, for Gonzalez, came in how blatant Smith was about it. And the Brewers were upset because, well, the Braves pitching staff surely does the same thing.
Asked about any potential retaliation against the Braves, this is what manager Craig Counsell offered:
Asked about possible retaliation, Craig Counsell said, "We’re going to try to beat them the next three days. That’s the best retaliation."— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015
Which is exactly what he should say and try to do. I bolded that 'and' because the doing remains to be seen. It would be very dumb for him to say "Yes, we are going to throw at the Braves in the first inning of tomorrow's ballgame". That'd get him into pretty big trouble if the Brewers were to throw at a Braves batter. But I really hope that Counsell sticks to that.
Intentionally hurling very hard objects at somebody else's body at 90+ miles per hour is a very dumb, jerk thing to do. It's the kind of classic machismo that just, frankly, is incredibly frustrating and awful. Unfortunately, it's also a thing that happens way too often in baseball. Whether it's for going against one of the billion 'unwritten rules' in baseball, or as a 'you hit my guy, I hit your guy' thing, it's dumb. If you're throwing a baseball at someone, you're looking to hurt them, and trying to hurt somebody intentionally is an awful thing to do, unless you're a professional prize fighter.
The Brewers should know that well. They weren't intentional, but three times have Brewers players been hit in the head by a pitch this year; two of those happened to Jean Segura and one to Carlos Gomez. Getting hit by pitches is not a joke. Intentionally hitting a batter is despicable.
It doesn't matter if you're aiming at their head, their ribs, or their legs. Batters have bones that could break anywhere. And if someone vouches for intentional plunkings that are slow pitches with no risk of hurting a player, then what's the point at all? You might even get (another) suspension out of it. If you're softly tossing at somebody to intentionally put them on base as retaliation, then not only do you look like an ass, but you look like a stupid ass. Don't be either of those things.
It's a no-win proposition. And it's silly. The whole thing about intentionally plunking players is silly. It shouldn't happen, but it does. I get some of the elements of 'protecting your players', but potentially hurting someone isn't the way to do that. And strategically, It's such a weird thing in baseball to intentionally let a player reach base in that manner.
In recent years, the Brewers haven't been the kind of team to have a retaliatory plunking just to get back at the opposing team for a perceived slight. I hope Milwaukee continues to stick with that philosophy. Counsell has it right, the best retaliation is to go back out and win a few games.