Matt Barnes Suspended Four Games for Throwing at Machado

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 9: Pitcher Matt Barnes #68 of the Boston Red Sox looks out from the dugout at Comerica Park during a game against the Detroit Tigers on April 9, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

It’s a well-known fact that there’s no love lost between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. Those tensions reached the boiling point during the weekend series between the two teams, when reliever Matt Barnes of the Red Sox threw a fastball behind the head of Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in the eighth inning of Sunday night’s game. Barnes was ejected and, on Monday, Major League Baseball suspended Barnes for four games and fined him an undisclosed amount for intentionally throwing at Machado’s head. Barnes will appeal the suspension.

Matt Barnes Suspended Four Games

Barnes has been effective in an eighth inning role for Boston this season, and will be missed by the team if his suspension is upheld. Barnes targeted Machado in retaliation for another incident, which occurred Friday night. While running to second base, Machado appeared to slide late in an attempt to break up a double play. Machado’s legs stayed high during the slide, and his spikes connected with the left knee of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia was forced to leave the game, and has yet to return to action.

Pedroia stated after Friday’s game that he wasn’t upset about getting spiked. While it may have been intentional on Machado’s part, it did not appear so and it seems Pedroia doesn’t believe it was. Machado, who has a history of creating confrontation, was first to try to help Pedroia up, and seemed genuine in his contrition after the game.

Nevertheless, retaliation has always been a part of baseball, and the Red Sox weren’t going to let an injury to their leader slide. It seemed inevitable that Machado would eventually get plunked. However, throwing at a player’s head should neither be tolerated nor accepted. A four-game suspension for an act that could have seriously injured, or even killed, Machado seems far from sufficient. Yet, that is the usual punishment for throwing at a player’s head. While the game, overall, does a fairly good job of policing itself, the league would do well to eliminate this particular form of retaliation by punishing it more severely.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Up front disclosure: I’ve been a Red Sox long enough to remember Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Lonborg.

    I do not condone Matt Barnes’ actions. I do not condone any pitcher throwing at a batter’s head. Indeed, the commentary of the official MLB rules state: “To pitch at a batter’s head is unsportsmanlike and highly dangerous. It should be — and is — condemned by everybody” (http://mlb.mlb.com/documents/0/4/0/224919040/2017_Official_Baseball_Rules_dbt69t59.pdf). In fact, I have misgivings about a pitcher intentionally trying to hit a batter at all. However, I disagree with the opinion that a four-game suspension for Barnes in insufficient.

    I believe Barnes was attempting payback for Manny Machado’s takeout slide of Dustin Pedroia. While I find the postgame explanations of both Barnes and Red Sox manager John Farrell disingenuous, I’m not convinced he was throwing a Machado’s head. Pedroia has been more credible throughout the incident and, despite his frustration at his teammate’s action, stated explicitly that it was not Barnes’ intent (http://www.masslive.com/redsox/index.ssf/2017/04/dustin_pedroia_angry_with_matt.html).

    Matt Barnes is a young player who erred badly, but has no reputation as an aggressive, or even consistently effective, pitcher (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/barnema01.shtml). His action, however, was malicious and deserving of the suspension and monetary fine.

    What the article fails to explain is that a suspended player remains on the 25-man active roster. Hence, another player cannot replace him. Therefore, the bench (or bullpen) is deficient for the duration of the suspension which, in effect, penalizes the entire team. Barnes is responsible; not Pedroia, Betts, Benintendi, and other teammates. If Farrell is judged to be complicit in the incident, suspend and fine him as well. The implication that the entire team should suffer further is callous and unfair.

    This issue begs focus on the current culture of baseball. The “old school” era and its infamous “unwritten rules” is not gone. Today’s players feel the forces of tradition and evolution. Any analysis of such actions cannot omit of this fact and the conflict that results – one which I suspect influenced Barnes. I do not excuse him or overlook his action; neither do I dismiss the pervasive effect simplistically.

    • I’m aware of the unwritten rules and old school tradition. I don’t think Barnes is a bad person. But I do think he was aiming at or near the head. A big league pitcher can mostly put the ball where he wants. If Barnes didn’t want it near Machado’s head, it wouldn’t have been. Yes, retaliation has been and will be a part of the game. But we don’t have to accept that pitchers will throw at batters’ head just because it’s always happened. It can and must be eliminated as a practice. It’s just too dangerous. Clearly, a four-game suspension isn’t enough to deter the practice, as it still happens. Stiffer penalties are needed.

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