The verdict is in. Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was suspended five games by Major League Baseball for, among other things, throwing a bat toward the Oakland Athletics' fielders as part of a weekend-long temper tantrum. Oakland's Fernando Abad was fined, but not suspended, for throwing two pitches at Machado (but not hitting him).
The bat throw was the Machado's main offense, but the reality is that he instigated two benches-clearing incidents in three days, knocked one Oakland Athletic out of a game with an injury scare, and could have done more damage with his projectile bat. Add it all up, and the length of this suspension is rather disappointing.
Of course, Machado issued an apology on Monday. Well, to be specific, someone in the Orioles organization wrote out an apology and Machado read it in front of cameras. Public apologies rarely sound sincere, and this one was no exception. Given his utter lack of remorse at any point during the weekend, it's difficult to look at his statement 24 hours later as anything more than lip service with the intention of lowering his impending punishment. Sort of like when you're in the principal's office and you tell him you're sorry and you'll never do it again, even though all you really want is to go back to the playground. Machado's apology, via Susan Slusser:
"I want to apologize to all my teammates, my coaching staff, the Orioles organization and Oakland, and the fans also, for the way I acted and overreacted on that," Machado said. "It was a frustrating weekend, and I just let my emotions get the best of me."
There was other stuff, but it doesn't matter. If you watched the proceedings, it's difficult to take Machado seriously just yet. Josh Donaldson sure doesn't:
Donaldson was asked how Machado's apology registered w/him. "It doesn't. ... Words are words." #Athletics— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) June 9, 2014
Donaldson still miffed over whole Machado thing. Thinks if he didn't like tag bc of knee injury, if knee that bad, he shouldn't be playing.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) June 9, 2014
Tough to argue with Donnie there. If you were really sorry, Manny, then you would have said something to Norris on the field. Or you would have realized that you were wrong Friday night after the game was over and you saw the replays. And as to Donnie's second point, I couldn't agree more. When you step on that field, you are agreeing that you are physically ready to play and you can't expect anyone to take it easy on you. See how far that attitude will get you in the NFL, where players openly target injured opponents as a competitive advantage (think Kyle Williams in the NFC Championship Game). OK, thanks for checking in, Donnie. Now go clear your head, move past it, and go back to being the AL MVP. Since homering to lead off Friday's game, Donaldson is 0-for-15 with seven strikeouts; 14 of those outs came after the initial Machado tag play. He also made three throwing errors in Monday's game alone.
And, of course, if you were at all considering accepting Machado's apology, there is also the fact that he is planning to appeal the suspension. You can have it one of two ways. You can disagree with the punishment, claim you did nothing wrong, and appeal it to shorten the punishment. Or, you can apologize, admit that you were wrong, and take your medicine. You don't get to apologize and fight the consequences, because that is another way of saying that you don't think you were wrong. Actions speak louder than words, and Machado's actions state that his words were empty, that he isn't the least bit sorry and doesn't think he did anything wrong.
Now, there is a precedent for this suspension. Like, exactly one precedent, since Delmon Young's toss doesn't count (he threw it at an umpire, not a player, and he connected very solidly) and Campy's heave was over 40 years ago. However, in 2002, Trot Nixon received four games for this:
You might look and say, "Hey, that was way worse than Machado's toss and he got a smaller punishment." Well, my first point of rebuttal would be that it only looked worse because Nixon had better aim. I don't think the result is as important here as the intent, and the two situations appear equal in that regard. Second, I don't see a bench-clearing brawl anywhere; I'd like to think you get some extra punishment for fully disrupting a game like that. Third, Nixon hadn't spent the entire weekend causing a scene and injuring other players. And, finally, that was 12 years ago. I'd like to think that we've come a bit further than a 25 percent improvement in the areas of player safety and sportsmanship. Since Nixon's incident, we've banned PED's, banned home-plate collisions, taken steps toward beefing up helmets and catcher's gear (and even pitcher's hats) to avoid concussions, and taken a harder stance on beanballs. And yet, throwing a bat is still no worse today than it was a dozen years ago. That seems like a missed opportunity by MLB. I really think 10 games was the minimum acceptable decision here, especially since it would have been appealed down to seven or eight; as it is, I'm assuming his five games will be cut down to four, since I generally don't have faith in baseball's appeals process.
If Machado was strike one on MLB's discipline system, then consider Wei-Yin Chen strike two. Abad received a fine for throwing two pitches toward Machado's lower body, but Chen got nothing at all for throwing two pitches at Donaldson's head and connecting with his arm on the second one. Granted, the incident happened on Friday, and Chen wasn't ejected from the game (for reasons that I simply don't understand, since the intention behind the HBP was blatantly obvious coming from a pitcher who hadn't walked a batter all night and hadn't hit a batter all year), but we have things like replay and the internet now. We can look back two days to get the full picture of a larger incident even if we missed it the first time. Slusser offered this explanation:
For those asking why no fine for Chen hitting Donaldson, Chen not ejected. Very rare for player to be fined after incident w/ no ejection.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) June 10, 2014
The rebuttal, from AN user "Athletix Man," who found a story from alllllllllllllllllll the way back in 2013, 10 whole months ago, via David Brown of Yahoo! Sports:
"... suspended pitcher Rick Porcello of the Tigers in July for six games for doing the same thing to Ben Zobrist of the Rays. As was the case with Dempster, Porcello was not ejected from the game by an umpire."
First off, I mean absolutely no disrespect to SuSlu. My intention is not to throw this response in her face; after all, she's just doing her best to explain the inner-workings of an incompetent machine that she has no control over. Rather, look at this as a plea for a better explanation from MLB. Baseball claims to be concerned with this kind of thing, and yet the only person who didn't get punished in this whole affair was the only person who actually hit a batter with a pitch. Further criticism, from Buster Olney:
The 5-game suspension for Machado sends a message that it's less of a crime throwing a bat at someone than a ball. Which makes no sense.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 10, 2014
With all that said, at least MLB got one thing right by deciding not to suspend Abad. You know, since he didn't hit anybody or actually do anything wrong; pitching inside to a hitter is decidedly not against the rules, written or unwritten. And if the argument in favor of punishment is Abad's intent to hit/buzz Machado, then why not get Chen? There is recent precedent for suspending a guy even though he wasn't ejected from the game, and intent is clearly the most important thing given the Abad fine, so I just don't understand why Chen is getting off Scot-free. All that said, though, a fine for Abad doesn't concern me because it doesn't cost my team on the field, and in exchange for that payout he will certainly receive the unending appreciation of Donaldson and the rest of the clubhouse. Fair trade.
So, MLB just barely avoided fully striking out on this situation overall, finishing with two strikes on three offerings for a 1-2 count. Careful though fellas; with your failure to discourage such behavior, that next pitch could come right at your ribs.
P.S. -- Hey, at least it's better than $18 million man Dwyane Wade getting a whopping $5,000 fine for egregiously flopping to draw a foul on opposing star Manu Ginobili in an NBA Finals game that Wade's Heat ultimately won by two points. Way to go, Commissioner Adam Silver, I'm sure that loss of pocket change will deter Wade from cheating for a competitive advantage on the world's biggest stage. Or, maybe he'll just assume it fell in between the couch cushions and move along with his day. In Wade's defense, though, if there was a Mount Rushmore of NBA flopping then Ginobili would be on the short list for enshrinement, so let's not feel too bad for Manu.