Jonathan India Beaned in the Head, Reds Warned
The baseball world ducked tragedy on Sunday, April 25, 2021, when the Cardinals hosted the Reds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Cardinals starter, Jack Flaherty was dotting the edges of the zone all day until he tossed a high hard one that struck Reds rookie infielder, Jonathan India, just above the left earflap. India went down and we held our breath.
It looked bad, real bad. But we all could breathe again when India arose from dust to stare down the Cardinals pitcher. Somehow, he stayed in the game. Naturally, chirping and yelling immediately came from the Reds dugout.
What happened next is what hit batters and MLB are all about in 2021.
The umpires convened a four-man meeting and decided to issue an official warning to both teams. All of the umpires agreed that it was not intentional, but the Reds and Cardinals have had their issues over the last few years. Most recently it was a bench clearing incident just a few weeks ago, when Nick Castellanos flexed his Miami Beach bouncer biceps while hovering over St. Louis reliever, Jake Woodford, after a play at home plate. The “flex” cost Castellanos two games and left most Reds fans wondering why Yadier Molina wasn’t also sent to the penalty box.
The umpires, led by crew chief, Joe West, had no choice. Major League Baseball has issued guidance to its umpires this year: the intentional hit by pitch will no longer be tolerated.
So, the first thing Joe West and company had to determine was intent. They witnessed Jack Flaherty’s reaction – bent at the waist, face in hand – and immediately concluded that it was not intentional. Good call to which we all agree.
If it was deemed intentional, the call to eject Flaherty would have been obvious. The umpires would have invoked OBR 6.02(c)(9):
(c) Pitching Prohibitions
The pitcher shall not:
(9) Intentionally Pitch at the Batter.
(1) If, in the umpire’s judgment, such a violation occurs, the umpire may elect either to:
(A) Expel the pitcher, or the manager and the pitcher, from the game, or
(B) may warn the pitcher and the manager of both teams that another such pitch will result in the immediate expulsion of that pitcher (or a replacement) and the manager. If, in the umpire’s judgment, circumstances warrant, both teams may be officially “warned” prior to the game or at any time during the game.
The 2021 Umpire’s Manual addresses the intentional pitch being thrown at a batter:
- WARNINGS AFTER IMMEDIATE EJECTION OF PITCHER Rule 6.02(c)(9):
If the first instance of an intentional pitch being thrown at a batter in a game results in a pitcher being immediately ejected, the umpire shall issue a warning to both managers that subsequent violations in that game will result in ejection of the pitcher and manager. Each subsequent pitcher should be warned as he enters the game.
But since the pitch was deemed not intentional, the umpires were not obligated to give an official warning to both teams. However, every umpire crew receives a “heads up” memo at the beginning of the series about teams and underlying issues between them. So, Joe West and crew knew all about the Reds Cards bad blood and their history of hit batters, brawls and bench clearing incidents. The umpire crew decided that there would be no opportunity for retaliation because that is the new guidance issued in the Umpire Manual: Rule 6.02(c) (9) does not give the umpires the discretion to allow the opposing pitcher an opportunity to retaliate in kind before the warning or ejection.
In the old days, no warning would have been given and sometime later in the game a Reds pitcher would have plunked Flaherty or another Cardinals hitter. But those days are gone for good and for the better.
The Ejection of David Bell
When David Bell went from simmer to rapid boil on his eight-step trek from dugout to Joe West, he was already violating a rule which carries the ejection penalty. No one may go onto the field to argue a warning. David Bell knows that. He also realizes his ballclub is on a week-long losing streak and the only thing they seem to be doing right is sticking up for each other.
OBR Rule 6.02(c)(9) Comment: Team personnel may not come onto the playing surface to argue or dispute a warning issued under Rule 6.02(c)(9). If a manager, coach or player leaves the dugout or his position to dispute a warning, he should be warned to stop. If he continues, he is subject to ejection.
So, Bell reached into his pocket and plucked out the same card that every manager keeps close in the event of Rule 6.02(c)(9): You’re picking on us because now we don’t have a chance for payback. Joe West gives Bell the thumb and his players rally in support. Bell loses the argument but wins respect from his team. There is really something to that, especially when the team is scuffling. So, we’re all good here.
Baseball doesn’t need more beanball wars; it needs more action with balls and bats. The umpires were right when they gave a warning to both benches. They had no choice but to follow the rules set forth by MLB.
MLB Umpire Manual
STANDARDS FOR REMOVAL FROM THE GAME
If in the judgment of the umpires, the pitcher has intentionally thrown a pitch at a batter, the umpire must either warn or eject. In this respect, umpires should confer on the field any time there has been a pitch that may have been intended to hit the batter before making a decision on the appropriate action to be taken prior to the resumption of play. Rule 6.02(c) (9) does not give the umpires the discretion to allow the opposing pitcher an opportunity to retaliate in kind before the warning or ejection. Nor does the Rule mandate, even in an instance where a pitcher has intentionally thrown at the head of a hitter, that the pitcher must be ejected. Which of the two options is elected by the umpires under Rule 6.02(c)(9) is at the discretion of the umpires, but the elected option will be based on all the surrounding circumstances. In assessing those circumstances, the umpires will take into account the Rule 6.02(c)(9) Comment, which states that pitching at a batter’s head is unsportsmanlike, highly dangerous and condemned within the sport.
CONDUCT AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF UMPIRES
Any pitcher who the umpire deems to have thrown intentionally at a batter after a warning has been issued earlier in the game will be immediately ejected from the game. In addition, the manager of the offending pitcher’s team will also be ejected from the game. If a pitcher is so disqualified, the substitute pitcher shall have time for a full warm-up similar to the time allowed when an injured pitcher is removed from the game.