A hundred years ago, on Aug. 16, 1920, Ray Chapman was killed by a pitch.
There hasn’t been another death on the field in the majors since then (it’s a good thing the Trumpers weren’t in baseball then, demanding freedom from batting helmets) but there was Tony Conigliaro, whose face and promising career were shattered by a Jack Hamilton fastball. Dickie Thon was the hottest rising star in baseball when a Mike Torrez pitch hit him in the eye.
Yes, a baseball is a deadly weapon when thrown hard at someone’s head. No one throws harder than another Chapman, Aroldis, who likes throwing at people’s heads, as he did on Tuesday night when he just missed Tampa Bay’s Mike Brousseau with a 101-mph pitch.
Baseball gave Chapman a three-game suspension for this, and also suspended the managers involved, Kevin Cash of Tampa Bay and Aaron Boone of the Yankees, one game each.
It’s time for the Yankees to cut bait and dump Chapman. It’s bad enough that they traded for him, traded him away, and then re-signed him, then gave him an extension last fall, despite the fact that he was accused of domestic abuse after his girlfriend claimed he choked her and fired a gun eight times. He was suspended for 30 games by MLB. At the time, Yankees GM Brian Cashman noted that the suspension and $2 million fine was a “serious” punishment, and acted like we should all forget about what he did off the field. But how serious is it, Brian, when you turn around and end up committing $100 million to him?
Cubs fans will recall how poorly Chapman handled his first press conference. Chapman also said he had grown tremendously from that time, and later apologized and said he accepted the suspension but also claimed he didn’t hurt his girlfriend, apologizing only for firing the shots.
Chapman also made this horrendous statement:
“It was just an argument with your partner that everyone has. I’ve even argued with my mother. When you are not in agreement with someone, we Latin people are loud when we argue.”
Which is dumb, and besides the point. When your partner hides in bushes and calls 911 on you, it’s not about being loud.
The Yankees should have never gotten involved with Chapman, but hey, second chances right? Second chances are like probation, if you mess up again that’s it. But no, Hal Steinbrenner said, “Look, he admitted he messed up. He paid the penalty. Sooner or later, we forget, right?”
No, this time it’s not the same offense. Throwing a baseball doesn’t compare to domestic abuse involving a gun, but it shows he clearly has no regard for other people’s safety and well-being. He’s a menace.
Chapman, now with another suspension from baseball, has worn out a welcome that should have never been offered.
There are a lot of stories out today talking about the greatness of Tom Seaver, who died on Monday. There are a lot of great tales that reveal how smart he was. He was exactly to pitching what Ted Williams was to hitting: He knew more about the art of power pitching, setting up and outthinking batters than anyone alive.
And you know what he didn’t do? He didn’t throw at people’s fucking heads. Because he didn’t have to.
Seaver, easily one of the top 10 pitchers who ever lived, hit a batter every 62.9 innings. Lefty Grove, the hardest thrower of his time and a famously nasty sumbitch, plunked a guy every 93.8 innings. Bob Feller, who probably threw harder than Grove and was wilder than a peach orchard boar, hit a batter once in 63.8 innings. Steve Carlton, fourth on the all-time strikeout list, hit one once every 98.4 batters.
Many of us grew up hearing the adage that brushing hitters back was a natural part of the game, and knocking them on their ass once in a while was the way pitchers made a living. But what about all those stories about Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson? It’s because Tim McCarver told stories about Bob Gibson on TV for 30-plus years, and it became ingrained in the consciousness of the sport that THIS IS HOW YOU HAVE TO PITCH. Except it’s not true, it wasn’t true for 70 years before Drysdale and Gibson, and it hasn’t been true in the 50 years since.
Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale were historical outliers, as noted above. Coincidentally or not, a few guys in the generation who grew up listening to McCarver, or had coaches and managers who did, ended up carrying on the tradition of Bob Gibson (see chart).
Aroldis Chapman has hit a batter once every 20.7 innings in his career, putting him up with the all-time headhunters.
MLB has never really dealt with the issue of headhunting from a disciplinary standpoint, chalking it up to the ol’ “unspoken rules” about how the game should be played, yada yada. But it’s a real player health and safety issue, and if we’ve learned anything about health and safety issues in 2020, it’s that once in a 100 years events can happen.