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Beanball Protocol

Hardly anyone admits to it, but hitting batters in retaliation is an unwritten rule in baseball

July 05, 2006|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Sparky Anderson taught batters not to be afraid of the ball by saying, "A baseball hurts, but it can't hurt you."

The Hall of Fame manager knew there were exceptions, though. And that's why anyone in his position cringes when one of his players is plunked -- there is a chance of severe injury.

It's also why many teams respond to a hit batsman by retaliating. Nobody wants to trade an eye for an eye, but a purple bruise on the biceps or shoulder blades is a fair reminder that beanings are not to be tolerated.

Payback often is necessary regardless of whether a team believes the initial hit by pitch was intentional. If a pitcher trying to throw inside misses his location enough to hit more than one batter, maybe he needs a reminder to improve his command.

"This isn't instructional league," said one Dodger still peeved a day after first baseman Nomar Garciaparra was hit three times by the Arizona Diamondbacks, tying a major league record.

"If a guy can't hit his spots better than that, he's probably going to get a message from us."

The Dodger didn't want his name used, and most players and coaches don't want to talk on the record about the relationship between bats, balls and bruises. Actions speak louder, anyway. An inning after Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent was hit in the head with a pitch in an April game against the San Francisco Giants, Barry Bonds was plunked by Tim Hamulack.

Bonds responded as if he expected to be hit, calmly unstrapping his elbow pad and trotting to first base without a word.

Even rookies figure out quickly that rules on the topic are unwritten for a reason.

"I don't want to get into that stuff," said Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who was hit Monday on his left wrist.

One man who will comment is Ozzie Guillen, mostly because he can't keep quiet about anything. The Chicago White Sox manager was embroiled in two beanball controversies in less than a week in June.

Guillen verbally blasted White Sox rookie pitcher Sean Tracey in the dugout for not hitting Hank Blalock with a pitch to begin the seventh inning of a game against Texas. White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski had been hit by two pitches in the game.

Guillen slammed a water bottle on the ground, pulled Tracey and yelled at the rookie until Tracey pulled the collar of his jersey over his head. Tracey was demoted to triple A two days later.

Guillen said he was yelling at his entire team because it was the third time this season he thought his pitchers didn't protect a hitter.

"They call me creep and murderer," Guillen said. "I couldn't care less. I'm going to run my ballclub the way it should be run."

A few days later, Guillen incurred the wrath of St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan. White Sox reliever David Riske hit Chris Duncan -- a Cardinals rookie and Dave's son -- in the back.

Riske and Guillen were immediately ejected because warnings had been issued after Cardinals reliever Sidney Ponson hit Brian Anderson and Pablo Ozuna the previous half-inning.

Guillen didn't deny ordering Riske to retaliate, and said he didn't realize Chris Duncan was Dave's son.

"If that call [to hit a batter] came from me, I guarantee you I'm not going to hit Duncan," Guillen said. "He's in triple A now. You think I will hit someone not important?"

Dave Duncan found the explanation telling.

"Ozzie said he didn't even know [Chris] was my son, which indicates he had some involvement -- instructing Riske to do something," Duncan said.

Usually, there is less chatter off the field, although players will yap at each other between the chalk lines. Occasionally a hitter will charge the mound rather than wait for his own pitcher to retaliate.

Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees and Jason Johnson of the Cleveland Indians exchanged words during a June game after Posada was hit near the elbow by a pitch. The umpire warned both benches, meaning that the next pitch close to a batter would result in an ejection.

"I don't know what he was yelling about," Johnson said. "I have no idea, and I don't even care."

Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson obviously did. The next inning he threw a pitch well inside to Eduardo Perez, who pointed his bat at the mound and took a few steps toward the pitcher.

Whether Randy Johnson adhered to the unwritten rules regarding beanings depended on the color of the uniform.

Said Perez: "I was taught how to play this game, and that's not the way you play the game -- unless someone changed the memo and didn't tell me."

Said Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi: "I think both teams handled themselves the way they should. Randy was just protecting his catcher. That's baseball."

The main reason a pitcher rarely admits throwing at a batter is that it would result in a fine and suspension.

"Everyone knows that rule," veteran Dodgers catcher Sandy Alomar said.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia recalled an instance when he was playing for the Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds left-hander Norm Charlton brazenly talked about hitting him.

"He got suspended for seven days," Scioscia said.

Scioscia said Charlton claimed he was stealing signs.

Was Scioscia stealing signs?

"On the record, no."

Scioscia said that as a player, no manager or pitching coach told him to make sure the pitcher threw at somebody. As a manager, he said, he would never order a pitcher to do so.

"Our philosophy is, we don't throw at batters," he said. "I don't think beanballs should be part of the game. There's no retaliation. It shouldn't be part of baseball. There's no reason to take the chance of hitting somebody in the head to send a message."

Once everyone cools off, most players agree with that sentiment, since nobody wants to end up in a hospital.

"It's part of the game you don't like to talk about too much," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "But guys have to take care of each other."

\o7Times staff writers Bill Shaikin and Michael Becker, and Times wires services contributed to this report.

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