Baseball, when you really think about it, is a pretty punitive game. It doesn’t have the non-stop combat of football or hockey or MMA, but if you violate the unwritten rules of baseball, it’s going to come back to bite you – and possibly in the form of a 100-mile-per-hour fastball to the face.
Why is that? Why does being excited about a home run warrant such punishment?
“Well, the game has a way to police itself,” World Series champion and MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “It’s been like that for many years. We get caught up a little bit in that whole (idea of) ‘Let’s try to make baseball fun’ or whatever that is. There’s a fine line: What’s fun and what’s showing up the opposing player? I mean, if you hit a major league home run, it’s okay to be excited. It’s okay to get into your home-run trot. That’s why they have the home-run trot. It’s okay to let everybody kind of know, ‘Hey, man, that’s a special moment.’
“But on the other side, there’s just that fine line,” Millar continued, “and players know it. However you want to walk that fine line, you know if I’m going to bat flip and do a 360 at home plate and do a cart wheel, there’s probably going to be repercussions at some point. If you like that feeling when you get in the box and you have a chance to be hit by a 100-mile-per-hour fastball, then act the way you want to act. If you know how to act and play hard and play the game right, probably nothing’s going to happen. That’s the way I look at it. Period. You know what you’re doing as a player.”
Millar, a career .274 hitter, played in the bigs for more than a decade and hit 170 home runs.
“(There were times when) I was like, ‘Uh-oh, I might have let that (celebration) go a little bit (too far),’” Millar said. “But on the other side, I know when I’ve hit a home run and put my head down and enjoyed it but enjoyed it in a way that you got to respect your other guys because this is one big family. I understand what you’re saying, but you got to be careful on how you flip.”
But isn’t a fastball still a harsh punishment, especially when there’s been so much of a focus on player safety across the broad in pro sports?
“Well yeah, that’s the thing, though,” Millar said. “American League pitchers, they throw at you like it’s no problem. Let them go hit. You won’t see it as much. That’s why I always respected Pedro Martinez. He played int he National League and he pitched the same way and he would take his punishment. American League pitchers that don’t have to hit and they can sit there and throw a 100-mile-per-hour fast ball, it’s a different game. You don’t see it happen in the National League (as much) because that pitcher has to hit – and that’s okay. If you hit somebody, then you know what? You’re going into the box and you’re going to get hit.”
Millar didn’t like Yordano Ventura going after Manny Machado last week and, if they were teammates, would have told Ventura that to his face.
“That’s where you got to stop it even on your own team,” Millar said. “You basically tell your pitcher, ‘If you hit somebody next, and it’s you and I in the back room – because I’m getting drilled, not you.’ So I think that also goes on behind the scenes.”