Milwaukee Brewers Manager Ken Macha is really angry. Finally. And Major League Baseball did something about it Monday afternoon.
After Braves’ Jonny Venters threw a breaking ball over Prince Fielder’s head Saturday, he drilled Prince in the back, hard. Fielder had hit a game-tying homer in his previous at-bat. That puts the Prince at 14 plunks this season, third in all of baseball and two behind teammate Rickie Weeks, who leads all of baseball with 17.
Manager Ken Macha could be angry about a number of things going on with his Milwaukee Brewers. Regardless, Ken Macha is putting his foot down on Major League Baseball for failing to police pitchers for intentionally drilling hitters. Major League Baseball responded by suspending Venters for four games and fining him an undisclosed amount and suspending Braves’ Manager Bobby Cox for one game.
By: Melissa S. Wollering
“I don’t know what’s going on there,” said Macha, in regards to MLB’s involvement in intentional plunking. “Bob Watson ought to take a look at it. Braun hits a home run, they drill [Fielder]. He hits a home run, his next at-bat they drill him. That’s evidence enough for me for some guys to get suspended for quite a bit.
Bob Watson, MLB’s Vice President of Rules and On-Field Operations, is the man Macha is calling out. It started on Friday, after Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer off Braves’ Tommy Hanson. Coincidentally, Braun had also homered twice off Hanson in 2009. So “coincidentally,” Hanson drilled Fielder in the leg.
On Saturday, Venters’ wild pitches could have hurt Fielder’s head and certainly bestowed a welt upon his back. In retaliation or not, Manny Parra hit Jason Heyward, even though that one appeared unintentional. David Riske later hit hit Troy Glaus, too.
After Saturday’s game, Macha called for Major League Baseball to look at the situation and either suspend or fine Venters. On Monday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced it was suspending Venters for four games over the incident and suspending Manager Bobby Cox for Tuesday’s game. It appears Venters can appeal the decision, while Cox cannot.
Macha says he can’t read pitchers’ intentions; but he can look at the overwhelming evidence.
“We’ve got two guys who have been hit an inordinate amount of times,” said Macha. “That’s a basic fact. I try to play the game the right way and hopefully appropriate action is taken and if not, we’ll have to make an adjustment.”
Macha also believes MLB should make a policing adjustment—holding players accountable in dangerous situations just like the National Football League does as part of its policies. In the NFL, officials review game tapes weekly to determine if punishment is appropriate on questionable plays, regardless of whether a penalty was called.
“The NFL is so many miles ahead of us as a sport, it’s unbelievable,” Macha said. “There might not even have been a [penalty] called, but you’re fined $20,000 for spearing. They take a look at the evidence and they say, ‘We gotta put a stop to this,’ then they fine these guys a bunch of money. The [MLB] Players’ Association should be on board with this because Kirby Puckett’s career ended because of this.”
Macha was so angry Saturday, he cut-off the postgame interview. When reporters turned to Fielder, the idea of career-ending pitches put the evening’s events in perspective. Just not for Fielder himself.
“I can’t worry about that,” Fielder said. “My kids are here. I’m tired of being the one filmed. If that’s what they gotta do, then whatever. I’m here to play baseball. They can do whatever they want.”
Fielder is clearly tired of being drilled and that may have been the reasoning behind his defeated comments. On the other hand, it may point to the reason why Macha is taking a stand on this issue. Perhaps his players have previously voiced their concerns that their Manager is not doing enough to protect them at the plate. If Macha doesn’t fight for them now, perhaps no one will.
“You’ve got to get rid of this type of stuff,” said Macha. “Take a look at the film and hit the guy hard and then that stops; and I don’t have to worry about guys yelling at me because I’m protecting my players or not protecting my players. I want to protect my players. If we have a fight, I’m going to be right in the middle of it. That’s all there is to it.”
With Weeks’ and Fielder’s combined 31 plunks this season and the team’s total of 47, there is no time like the present to get fired up. Macha did put in a request to Bruce Froemming, assistant to the VP of MLB umpiring, to review footage of the two pitches where Rickie Weeks was hit during the last Pittsburgh Pirates’ series. Macha has yet to hear back on that request.
Collectively, the Pirates have hit seven Brewers in their last 11 games together. Pittsburgh gets another chance to do more damage this week, as the Brewers play them through Thursday.
“Now if they’re just wild, tell them to get the ball over the plate,” said Macha. “We’re respecting what’s going on…apparently they want to pitch Prince inside, but in the middle of the back? That’s a little more than inside.”