Guessing Intent

Major League Baseball handed down a three game suspension on Thursday to the New York Mets’ Hansel Robles. Robles threw a pitch (video below) up near the head of Phillies batter Cameron Rupp. The pitch did not hit Rupp but did knock him to the ground. Robles was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Bob Davidson.

MLB’s official statement said Robles was suspended for "€œintentionally throwing"€ at Rupp. But how do they know what his intention was?

There is history here between Robles and the Phillies and that is probably why Davidson ejected Robles. There were also three hit by pitches in this game by that point and a fourth would come after Robles was gone.

It is certainly part of MLB’s responsibility to protect its players and if there is ever a true headhunting incident that player deserves to be severely punished. That was not the case here.

Robles was using one of his infamous quick pitches here. With no runners on base Robles does not have to come to the full set position. In an attempt to catch Rupp by surprise and throw off his timing Robles altered the tempo of his delivery and issued the quick pitch.

The danger in the quick pitch is that while you are changing your timing to affect the hitter you also run the risk of disrupting your own timing. Robles did not get on top of that fastball in time and it sailed up and away on him, nearly hitting Rupp. If you look at catcher Travis d’Arnaud’™s target he was set up down and away, Robles missed badly, all because of the attempted quick pitch.

The suspension is not without precedent. I was ejected from a game in 1999 for throwing a fastball up and in to Kenny Lofton, even though I didn’t hit him. Earlier in the game benches cleared after Jeff Weaver hit Manny Ramirez in the helmet with a curveball. Ramirez charged Weaver. I had no intent to hit Lofton. It was my first pitch coming out of the bullpen and it got away from me. Lofton’s reaction and the earlier incent got me ejected, suspended two games and fined.

I understand MLB’s intention here, but there was nothing intentional about the Robles pitch and the three game suspension is too much.