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The Ethics of Throwing Inside

It's hard to tell when an inside pitch just got away from the guy tossing it out there, and when it really was lobbed with the intent of sending a message. In fact, it may be so hard that the only way to tell is when a pitcher, or one of his managers/coaches, says that's why it was heading there. When that's the case, it's just not kosher for a pitcher to be aiming at taking out another prominent player, right?

Right?

Well, don't go telling that to White Sox closer Bobby Jenks or Boston pitching coach John Farrell, one of whom openly admitted that he threw high and tight to send a message, while the other alluded to doing so in the near future.

The first of the two incidents came last week during the always tense Red Sox-Yankees series, with Joba Chamberlain re-focusing into cruise control after a rocky start. That rocky start was largely the responsibility of Jason Bay, whose first-inning homer gave Boston a lead it never fully relinquished. Chamberlain has hit Kevin Youkilis multiple times the past two seasons since being elevated from the minor leagues, so his relationship with the rest of the Red Sox has already frayed far beyond the typical contentiousness that characterizes the rivalry.

That's when Bay came to the plate in the fifth inning ... and was promptly drilled in the middle of the back on Chamerlain's first pitch. It was an obvious drilling -- Chamberlain struck out 12 hitters in the game, so it's hard to argue that he was consistently struggling with control -- and the Red Sox were none too pleased about it, particularly the team's pitching coach.

Here's what Farrell said the next day in an interview last week.

"Typically, we let the game play out itself because I think our guys have each others backs and they are certainly going to be supportive if a situation like that were to arise. Speaking specifically about last night, he strikes out 12 guys, doesn't seem to have too many command issues, and if there was a purpose or intent to throw up and in you can disguise it a little bit more than making it very obvious with the first pitch in the middle of the back to Jason Bay. Those things aren't forgotten. We know there is a history there between the pitcher in New York and our guys here and not to say that he was specifically out to do that but I think history speaks for itself and we've got a number of games left with these guys."

Given the fact that Boston ace Josh Beckett hardly needs extra incentive to throw at Yankees, it seems like Farrell is almost chalking up a bean ball sent in on Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter or, mostly likely, a Robinson Cano (young, no real injury concerns, just like Bay) character on June 9-11 at Fenway Park, the next time the two rivals meet.

As for the White Sox, there's little doubt about what Bobby Jenks meant to do when he threw far behind the back of Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler on Saturday. After all, Jenks is openly admitting that he was sending a message to push Kinsler off the plate and keep the Rangers from throwing at his teammates.

Here are the full controversial comments Jenks proffered up to the Chicago Tribune, sentiments which now -- in conjunction with the pitch itself -- could land him a tidy little suspension from Chicago's bullpen.

"No, I meant to. To send a message. Basically I was saying, 'I'm sick of seeing our guys get hit and hurt and almost get taken out of the game.' I threw it with intention. ... I'm not going to put a guy on in that situation," he said, according to the Tribune. "I was not going to hit him. I made my point with that pitch and it came across the way I wanted it to. I'm not going to go dirty. I was going to keep it low and behind him."

Does throwing a pitch entirely behind a batter actually show some sense of valor on Jenks' part? Is it better to drill a batter in retribution with a proper, prior warning, as Farrell delivered to the Yankees? Or are both actions equally despicable. You make the call folks.

By Cameron Smith  |  May 12, 2009; 12:02 PM ET
Categories:  Rangers , Red Sox , White Sox , Yankees  
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Comments

There was a good discussion about this last night on Baseball Tonight with Winfield and Kruk. Kruk made a good point that you're almost better served as a team to throw a high and tight one early in the game to get the warning issued and then your hitters know they can't be touched.

Baseball needs to realize that throwing inside is an integral part of the game and that when you throw inside, you're going to hit people sometimes. I don't agree with beaning people just because they get a home run off you, but I do agree with throwing inside to get them off the plate.

Throwing a pitch behind the batter is just weird. It seems like a cheap way out of it to me. It's like your pitcher is willing to stand up for you, kind of.

Posted by: adampschroeder | May 12, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

There was a similar discussion with Goose Gossage on the MLB Network the other day.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 12, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Krukie would know. Mitch, L.A., and those guys would throw at a hitter for just looking at them funny. Its part of the game. These guys like Bonds, Sheffield, and others go up there with armor on their elbows and shins, daring the pitcher to throw inside. It takes away part of the game and gives an unfair advantage to the hitter. Without the possibility of being hit (or hurt) by a pitch, guys will dive over the plate and crush the ball. Batting armor should be outlawed. Throw inside all day and if people get hit, they get hit. The only rule is to throw below the shoulders.

This is why the NL is a better game and the DH should be banned. A pitcher won't be reckless when throwing at guys, knowing he has to bat the next inning.

I think there is something to be said about hitting the mascot, like in Bull Durham. That sends a great message.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | May 12, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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