Two weeks after Joey Votto was hit on the knee by a pitch from Washington Nationals reliever Ryan Madson, the Cincinnati Reds All-Star was still feeling the effects on Friday. Enough so that Cincinnati pulled Votto off the field and placed him on the disabled list for the first time since 2014 to allow for rest and healing.
The Reds are understandably not thrilled with these developments. Manager Jim Riggleman was very clear about that before Friday’s game, noting that his clubhouse feels the pitch that plunked Votto was intentional. Riggleman then went a step further, expressing disappointment that Madson was not punished by the league and anger that the Reds wouldn’t be able to police the situation themselves during a future game.
“Madson could easily make a case, ‘I didn’t hit him on purpose.’ We know very well he did,” Riggleman said via MLB.com. “It infuriates me that he will never have to go to the plate be thrown at. He never will. He’ll be in relief. Probably doesn’t have an at-bat this year. Probably won’t get one next year, so one of his teammates will have to take it. That’s the way it is.”
Strong words from Riggleman. They’re also a little uncomfortable given the combativeness we’ve already seen this week around Major League Baseball.
Purpose pitches in particular have made headlines following the Jose Urena first-pitch 97-mph fastball that struck and shook up hot-hitting Braves rookie Ronald Acuña Jr. Wednesday night in Atlanta. That incident followed a bench-clearing brawl in Tuesday’s San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers game.
The Reds beef is another layer on top of two incidents, and it’s one the league should pay close attention to. It speaks to the mindset that baseball will continue looking to police itself with potentially dangerous consequences if the league doesn’t start doing a better job policing from its end.
Why the Reds are so angry
The pitch that’s caused Votto so much trouble was actually the second he was struck by on Aug. 4. Two Nationals players were also hit by pitches later in that game, including Bryce Harper. The pitch that hit Harper was an 82-mph curveball that knocked him out of the game. The Reds feel Votto’s second plunking was in retaliation for that pitch in particular, though Madson and the Nationals were quick to deny it.
The league did not issue any suspensions for the incident. That’s obviously stuck in Riggleman’s craw ever since. That Votto is now sidelined has brought his anger back to the forefront.
Why the league has to send a stronger message
As Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan so capably explained following the Urena-Acuña incident, MLB’s punishment for intentional hit-by-pitches is traditionally “anemic and inadequate.” The six-game suspension handed to Urena on Thursday only further backed that up. That punishment will not deter a pitcher from purposely throwing at a batter. The lack of severe punishment will however encourage more feelings like those expressed by Riggleman.
This isn’t to say Riggleman definitely would have ordered a pitcher to throw at Madson if the opportunity came up. His anger speaks volumes though, and the thought was clearly crossed his mind in part because the league didn’t step forward to reprimand Madson. Now it’s public record that such a possibility exists, which brings more hostility into the situation.
This also isn’t to say Madson did hit Votto on purpose. Even Riggleman admitted it was far more subtle than Urena’s purpose pitch. Regardless, if now isn’t the time for MLB to review how it wants to handle purpose-pitch punishments moving forward, then when will that time ever come?
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