I had been contemplating how to explain my reaction to the Offerman bat attack when Jeff Passan came out with his excellent article today in Yahoo! Sports “Accidental Villain” about the 1967 accidental beaning of Tony Conigliaro by Jack Hamilton. The catastrophic effects of this beaning and other beanings are being completely ignored in the aftermath of the Offerman mess.
A major league pitcher, the vast majority of which are capable of throwing a baseball at 90+ Mph, who throws at a batter is guilty of nothing less than assault with a deadly weapon and/or attempted murder. Baseball writers and fans have been so conditioned to accept the act of a pitcher throwing at a batter as an acceptable part of the game that they have been completely sanitized to what that really means. The writers of the website “The Baseball Page” know exactly what that means. They have a page called “The Unofficial History of the Beanball” that lists several major league deaths and skull fractures resulting from intentional beanballs
Despite this, there is this immense self righteous outcry resulting from how Jose Offerman reacted to a pitcher who tried to bean him. In case you are hearing this for the first time, in an Atlantic League game on Tuesday August 14th, Offerman reacted by charging the mound, bat in hand, and hit the pitcher with a bat. In the course of doing so, he hit the catcher in the head unintentionally with his backswing. The catcher sustained a concussion and the pitcher a broken finger. Both are expected to completely recover. Offerman was arrested and taken from the scene in handcuffs.
If we are going to react this way to Offerman, shouldn’t we react similarly to pitchers who throw at batters? Parents have been reacting to the Offerman incident saying that this might influence kids to charge the mound with bats. Where have parents been with regards to the beanball? There are dozens of cases of pitchers in little league throwing at other kids. To cite one, this article refers to an incident where a coach had a child throw at another child twice to keep the child out of a future game.
People are calling for Offerman to be banned from baseball for life. Before we even consider banning someone for reacting to a beaning or an attempted beaning, shouldn’t we ban those pitchers who throw at batters? It is hard for me to be overly upset to a batter’s reaction to an act that could cost them their lives. The pitcher in question said he couldn’t understand the reaction given that he threw at Offerman’s thigh and not his head. I don’t think that is a good excuse.The act that should be garnering the universal condemnation is the beaning that ignited this whole episode. Most bench clearing brawls in baseball are caused by one or more beanings. There are a long list of players who have had horrible injuries and their careers shortened by a beaning. Offerman should be given a one week suspension and baseball should enact rules that call for a minimum of a one year suspension to any pitcher who throws at a batter and the rule should provide for a permanent expulsion if the incident is particularly egregious.