Somewhere in the unwritten rules of baseball, there is a chapter on etiquette when it comes to a pitcher hitting a batter. Nowhere in that book, which regularly seems like it is being re-written on the fly, does it say anything about throwing a baseball at a player's head.
Yet for Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, that is exactly the tactic he took not once but twice on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has now been suspended for 10 games, MLB announced on Friday.
Kennedy started things by hitting Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig with a fastball high and tight on an 0-2 count, so we can debate whether or not he was really trying to put a runner on base just to send a message in that situation.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke retaliated, as he is wont to do, by throwing two pitches inside against Miguel Montero before finally hitting the Arizona catcher in the back with his third offering. Kennedy, going right after the source, hit Greinke with another fastball high and tight in the bottom half of the seventh inning.
All hell broke loose after that, with a number of brawls breaking out on the field and six people (players, coaches and managers) being ejected.
Say what you want about Kennedy hitting Puig and that possibly being an accident, at least based on the situation and spot in the game. But there is no doubt whatsoever about what he was trying to do with Greinke.
The whole idea of retaliation in baseball is quite sophomoric, but to throw a ball over 90 mph at someone's head is downright idiotic and should be harshly punished. Who knows what would have happened to Greinke had the ball hit him square in the helmet?
All things considered, for Major League Baseball to take a rather passive approach to this whole ordeal, especially Kennedy, it speaks volumes about just how little they thought of what happened.
Everyone who got suspended deserved it, as there really should be no reason to empty the benches in a baseball game. I know fights can be fun—Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura is still hilarious to this day—but they really serve no purpose other than to make the players feel big.
What Kennedy gets with this soft suspension equates to nothing more than a cheap slap on the wrist. He will miss, what—maybe one or two starts? Hardly enough, considering the egregiousness of his actions.
For an organization that is hell-bent on handing out suspensions to anyone it even thinks had an association with Anthony Bosch, Major League Baseball sure doesn't know how to police itself when it comes to potentially dangerous on-field situations.
Anyone watching what Kennedy was doing knew he had one purpose when Greinke came up to bat: to hit him where it counts. He tried to play it off after the game by essentially playing dumb.
"I honestly had no idea that it was that high until I saw the replay," he told reporters (via ESPN.com).
There are certain moments where a pitcher can get away with saying something like that, but this definitely isn't one of those times. Not with everything that came before it. Not with the obvious bad blood between these two franchises.
That is no way for a professional baseball player to act, especially when he is in complete control of a weapon that has the potential to do serious damage under the right circumstances.
I am not saying that Kennedy should be sidelined for the rest of the year, or even much longer than the 10 games that he received. But I do think this was an opportunity to show the world that this garbage can't be tolerated.
Make it so Kennedy and the Diamondbacks feel his absence. Instead of just a slap on the wrist, make it so he is forced to miss two or three starts. That is roughly 10 percent of the starts a pitcher will make in a season, which seems fair in this case.
Kennedy not only got to play dumb after the incident, but his act worked so well that it probably convinced Major League Baseball that he was more in the right than he obviously was. Yet another fine mess that the Commissioner's Office has made of a situation it had a chance to send a strong message.