Yasiel Puig got two games for punching Nick Hundley in the mask. Jose Ureña got six games for throwing at Ronald Acuña’. Nobody is happy on any side.
And that, ladies and jellyspoons, is baseball justice, now and forever.
But it is also sports justice, which is typically very flexible when it comes to precedent anyway, save for drug suspensions, which are covered under the collective bargaining agreement.
Puig got his two as part of his ongoing feud with the San Francisco Giants, and theirs with him. Hundley chastised Puig for being unhappy with a pitch he missed, and Puig, remembering all the cheery times he has had against the Giants, responded in more than kind. As a result of the brawl he helped inflame, he will have to go to the trouble of losing his appeal of a two-game suspension while Hundley was merely fined for acting like everyone’s dean of students. And you know the dean of students at your school was so beloved.
By now, though, it is clear that Puig and the Giants have issues, and there seems no impetus on any side to make them go away. In other words, the punishments may or may not have fit the crime, but it is clearly not meant as a deterrent. It certainly won’t be one for Hundley or the Giants, who have made Puig a long-running personal cause.
Me, I'd give Hundley two games along with Puig, and fine both teams $10 million and tell them, "Make this nonsense stop." Then again, commissioners don't get to take big money to teams without paying a price down the road, which is why I would have to be named imperial emperor to have that kind of pull.
In other words, this will happen again.
As for Ureña, his six games (or one start) will be regarded as a gift from MLB for what looked to all the world like a purposeful beanball attempt. The length of the suspension is probably mitigated further by the fact that Acuña played Thursday against Colorado.
But the more interesting notion is that MLB decided not to guess on Ureña’s intent, because intent can’t be proven, and if baseball wanted to go down that particular rabbit hole, it would be in court in no time having to defend breaking precedent so violently for something that must be negotiated as part of the collective bargaining agreement with the players.
That is not yet a fight the owners seem to want to have – not when there are so many others to employ between now and the time negotiations begin before the 2021 deadline.
In addition, baseball does not throw large suspensions around as a general rule. If you take out the drug-related suspensions (either recreational or performance-based), the longest suspensions on record for a player are Roberto Osuna’s 75 games for domestic violence (which he has denied while accepting the suspension for the thing he said he didn’t do, if that makes sense to you), and Lenny Randle’s 30 days for punching out Texas manager Pat Corrales in 1977, when Randle was a Ranger himself.
But the Ureña/Acuña case is about player safety (as opposed to the usually tedious old school/new school arguments that remind us that we make generations hate each other as part of the gross national product), which one would think the union would be interested in enhancing and defending.
Player safety should matter, of course, but the distrust between the sides runs so deep that any introduction of language that allows the MLB mall cops to judge someone’s intent as binding evidence would become a war in its own right. The sides would rather play negotiation chicken and hope no players get maimed or worse playing “Name That Unwritten Rule.”
Which is why Ureña only misses one start, even though it seems about three starts too light. As for Puig and the Giants, well, September 28 in San Francisco, no later than the fifth inning. If baseball can’t get into the world of intent, it has no chance with a hatred that never seems to die.