Friday, July 30, 2010

Braves Pitcher Wins Appeal After Throwing at Prince Fielder

Baseball's system for appealing suspensions is pretty stupid. Players can keep playing for what can sometimes be weeks while Major League Baseball drags their feet on hearing an appeal. Rarely are suspensions revoked completely, though they often will reduce the time a player has to sit out.

In the case of Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Jonny Venters, it seemed like a pretty simple case. Venters was involved in an incident July 17 against the Milwaukee Brewers. I'd show you video, but Major League Baseball thinks it's still 1954, and they won't allow people to embed game video.

To sum it up, Venters apparently got confused, thinking that home plate doubled as Prince Fielder's backside. The first pitch went over his head, and the second one hit him in the back.

Did I mention that it was 6-3 at the time in favor of the Brewers, and they had been knocking the Braves around for a couple straight nights?

Baseball initially decided this was intentional, and they suspended Venters for four games. Upon further review, there was apparently nothing wrong with Venters' behavior.

In what could be one of the dumbest things MLB has done in years, Venters' suspension was revoked Friday.


Not reduced.


From four games to zero.


It’s common for suspensions to be reduced, but not thrown out entirely. The decision came from John McHale Jr., Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of administration. Manager Bobby Cox, who participated in Tuesday’s hearing, was thrilled with the ruling.

“It was not intentional,” he said of the incident with Fielder. “It was completely accidental.”

During the 90-minute hearing., Venters and several Braves officials spoke, including general manager Frank Wren, Cox and pitching coach Roger McDowell.

“I just kind of explained what happened,” Venters said, “that I understood why we were there, how it looked, but that I’m not that kind of player. Guys who know me know I’m not that kind of player.”

The team’s video coordinator showed other errant pitches Venters threw this season, in situations where there would clearly have been no intent to throw at batters. Cox said Venters had hit more than 30 batters in his pro career, all but one left-handed (Fielder bats left-handed).

“That’s just the way I miss, the way the ball [travels],” Venters said.

Venters and Cox were both ejected after Venters hit Fielder in the back with a sinking fastball in the eighth inning. The ejections came after the home-plate umpire issued a warning following the pitch before, a slider over Fielder’s head.

This should serve as a lesson for pitchers all over baseball.

If you want to get away with throwing at hitters, simply fling a few wild pitches here and there, then loop some video of them together when you get in trouble.

Baseball's brass actually believes Venters happened to miss high and tight with consecutive pitches ... and it happened to be against one of the opponent's best power hitters, who had happened to hit a bomb in his previous at-bat.

It's a joke.

We saluted Brewers manager Ken Macha for finally getting pissed off enough to say something last week, but this is one of those moments where we wish we still had Ned Yost to kick around. No way Ned allows his guys to be thrown at as much as Fielder and Rickie Weeks have been this season. It's ridiculous that they get plunked this much, but it's even worse that it took so long for Macha to finally take his frustration public.

What's even more ridiculous is that baseball continues to make mind-boggling decisions that fly against player safety.

Want to throw at hitters' heads? Go ahead, as long as you've been wild before, so your video guy can spend way too much time putting together a defense tape.

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