Just about any young boy — or girl — who grows up playing sandlot baseball or baseball in the backyard or in the park or on the street plays out the hit-by-pitch scenario.
It could be Wiffle Ball … doesn’t matter.
Get hit by a pitch, which usually doesn’t hurt, but gosh darn it, they do it in the big leagues … it’s time to rush the mound.
Get in a few soft whacks of the pitcher and hopefully not get caught in a Nolan Ryan-like headlock of “noogies” like Robin Ventura once did.
When all was said and done, everyone was laughing after the fake brawling.
But there’s a problem with today’s major leaguers.
They’re ruining those childhood fantasies.
No one rushes the mound anymore.
Seems like the last famous one was last April when San Diego’s Carlos Quentin took a 3-2 fastball in the upper arm from Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke. Quentin, who had been hit by Greinke twice before, charged the mound for the first time in his career.
Greinke, who was 40 pounds lighter, tried to absorb the force by lowering his shoulder. Here’s Vin Scully’s take:
Quentin was suspended eight games by Major League Baseball. Greinke broke his collarbone and missed one month.
And guess what?
Nobody has charged the mound since. It’s been 3,300-plus games. Sure, there might have been some confrontations of batters barking at pitchers or vice versa, but nothing to the point where the batter charged the mound.
It’s a rather curious disappearance of a part of the game that has produced the occasional serious consequence but usually lives on in impact only on the blooper videos that play in the middle of the third inning at your local ballpark. That or it’s a fluke, like any streak can be, but it’s getting to be a little long.
It’s not as if pitchers stopped throwing at batters. Just two weeks after Quentin charged the mound, Jonathan Sanchez of the Pittsburgh Pirates became the next player to be suspended for one of these incidents.
Just this past week, the Diamondbacks were the latest to play beanball. With first base open, Arizona reliever Evan Marshall plunked Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun. Marshall was immediately tossed.
But Braun didn’t charge the mound.
Sure, there are still bench-clearing fights. In late May, the Rays and Red Sox threw at each other all night, prompting this incident:
Even the most violent game of the last 14 months, last June between the Dodgers and D-backs — one that had every opportunity to have a charge of the mound — didn’t see one materialize.
LA’s Yasiel Puig trotted calmly to first after getting up from his nasal rearrangement. Arizona’s Miguel Montero looked like he wanted to fight, but made no attempt to get around Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz as the benches cleared just for moral support. When things finally escalated with Ian Kennedy’s beaning of Greinke, the ensuing fight was 100 percent spurred on by the benches rather than anything the pitchers did after the hit-by-pitch.
Other plays since last April that featured ejections, supplemental discipline or an emptying of the benches have also failed to produce the classic images of batter-pitcher immediate conflict. There are some menacing actions once in a while, but usually it’s just for show.
June 1, 2013: Baltimore’s Jason Hammel is tossed for hitting Detroit’s Matt Tuiasosopo. Nothing happens. (Watch video)
July 11: Detroit’s Luke Putkonen throws behind Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexi Ramirez. Ramirez has a clear path to the mound for several seconds but points and waits for the catcher to arrive and hold him back. (Watch video)
August 17: Washington’s Stephen Strasburg throws behind Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmonsand other than being ejected in the middle of a live play, nothing happens. (Watch video)
August 18: Boston’s Ryan Dempster hits New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguezon a fourth try. Dempster would be suspended, but nothing happens. (Watch video)
August 18: Atlanta’s Julio Teheran hits Washington’s Bryce Harper. Harper and Braves catcher Brian McCann yell at each other on Harper’s way down the first-base line. Benches empty. Nationals announcer Bob Carpenter calls Atlanta fans “blood-thirsty.” (Watch video)
September 3: St. Louis’ John Axford hits Pittsburgh’s Tony Sanchez after a warning. Nothing happens. (Watch video)
April 18, 2014: The Yankees’ Cesar Cabral plunks the Rays’ Logan Forsythe for his third HBP of the inning. Nothing happens. (Watch video)
May 12: Baltimore’s Bud Norris hits Detroit’s Torii Hunter, Norris and Hunter yell at each other on Hunter’s way down the line with a catcher trying to play peacemaker, and the benches empty. (Watch video)
June 12: Atlanta’s David Carpenter hits Colorado’s Corey Dickerson, who had just taken out Braves catcher Gerald Laird with a swing. Dickerson stands there and waits for the umpire to hold him back. He wasn’t going anywhere. (Watch video)
Yes, catchers and umpires have been somewhat proactive about trying to facilitate peace in these matters, but if these videos show anything, it’s that they aren’t really preventing hitters from charging the mound. The hitters just aren’t interested.
It’s hard to say that it’s a result of players being scared off by what happened in the Greinke/Quentin situation. Charging the mound had been a declining art form since before that evening. From 2008-11, there were eight instances of charging the mound. In the last 2½ seasons, it’s been only two, and the second — Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki’s spring-training-level effort in the preseason to get to Cleveland’s Ubaldo Jimenez, who ended up doing most of the work — was iffy to begin with.
Maybe there’s only been the one in the last 6,000 games plus pre- and postseason.
Where have you gone, Nyjer Morgan? And for that matter, Gaby Sanchez’s flying clothesline?