Common sense should guide inside pitch
Some of the unwritten rules of baseball etiquette have changed since I broke into the Majors back in 1986. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to address the topic after watching what took place between the Indians and Yankees last weekend.
Fausto Carmona had just given up a homer, with Mark Teixiera as the next batter up. Carmona drilled him in the back. Let me start by saying that any pitcher who hits a batter because the pitcher made a mistake and allowed a home run is placing the blame in the wrong place. Giving up a home run is the pitcher's fault -- plain and simple. To hit the following batter because you made a mistake is idiotic.
I have watched many games, and I can tell you when a guy is throwing at someone and when a ball simply gets away from him. Clearly, Carmona was throwing at Teixiera. Anyone who knows the game knows that you don't try to get Teixiera out with inside pitches, so Joe Girardi and the Yankees sent a message of their own. That should be the end of it.
When I came up to the Majors, there were only two reasons to buzz someone's tower: 1. The batter hit a home run and showed up the pitcher. 2. As the pitcher, you have to protect your players, even if it means it might affect your own numbers.
A perfect example of this came in 1987, when Greg Maddux was pitching for the Cubs against the Padres. It was the bottom of the fourth inning and Maddux -- a rookie with a 3-15 record at the time -- had a large lead.
Cubs slugger Andre Dawson was facing Eric Show, who hit Dawson in the face with a pitch. Maddux went to veteran staff ace Rick Sutcliffe and asked, "I have to go out and get one of their guys, right?"
Sut said: "Mad Dog, you are 3-15. You need to go out, pitch the top of the 5th, get this win then take care of it."
Maddux went out and hit the first batter in the top of the fifth inning, got ejected from the game and didn't get the win. For the rest of a Hall of Fame career, position players lined up behind Maddux, wanting to win for him. That's what protecting your players will do.
Over the course of my career, I hit 52 guys, and they weren't all by accident, although the majority of them were. In order for me to hit someone, it had to make sense. My teammates always knew I would protect them. If a player made a dirty slide or I knew the opposing pitcher had hit one of our guys on purpose, I had no problem doing what was supposed to be done. I never hit an opposing player on purpose because I had given up a home run to the previous hitter. That hitter was doing what he is supposed to do.
I am a firm believer that if you want to stay in this league very long, you better learn to pitch inside. By that I mean that you have to make a hitter move his feet every now and then. Umpires have to use common sense when they are determining a pitcher's intent. I have seen warnings issued in the first inning of games on pitches that didn't even hit anyone. Umpires are compelled to eject a pitcher if he feels the pitcher hit a batter on purpose. This calls for common sense. I hit a guy one night after a warning had been issued and I was not ejected because the umpire knew that I could get wild at times and I was not trying to hit the batter. ... Common sense.
Jason Marquis was suspended for five games last week for hitting a batter late in the game with a one-run lead. Common sense suggests you don't hit people when your team is clinging to a one-run lead. Pitchers have to be allowed to pitch inside on hitters. If they are not, someone is going to get hurt. A pitcher's only defense on the mound is the ability to put questions in the hitter's mind. Is this pitch going to hit me?
If a hitter goes to the plate and all he has to think about is hitting, he is going to hit. A pitcher is standing 60 feet, six inches away from a man holding a bat. I threw a pitch to Jeff King that was clocked at 97 mph out of my hand and 102 mph off his bat, I couldn't react to it, and it hit me in the head. I didn't have any hard feelings toward King. He was doing his job. Pitchers trying to pitch inside are going to hit batters on occasion. That doesn't mean the pitcher was trying to hit him. He was trying to get the ball in and he missed.
When a situation calls for retaliation and something has to be done, keep it from the knee up to the letters. It's just that simple. The intent is not to injure the player, but to give him a bruise to remind him that what he has done is unacceptable. As wild as I was, I never hit a batter in the head in the big leagues. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I hit someone and caused them permanent damage.
It all comes down to common sense. You don't hit one batter because another one took you deep. If as a pitcher, you are put in a position to have to protect your players, do it the right way -- above the knee, and below the shoulders. As a hitter, if you know that your pitcher hit someone on purpose, and you come up and the situation presents itself. You are probably going to wear one. If it is done correctly, go to first base.
We have a great game. The only time it gets ugly is when players and managers don't use common sense.
Mitch Williams is a studio analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.