Dear professional pitchers of baseball,
First of all, I'd like to say that I'm very happy for you that your ability to throw a ball really fast and accurately has led to gainful employment. In these troubled times, with so many jobs being made obsolete by machines and so many businesses relocating from the US to other countries, being able to draw a steady paycheck is something to be proud of. Not to mention the fact that if you are in the majors you're probably one of the top 300 baseball-throwers in the world. So congrats!
Now, obviously no one hires you to just throw the ball really fast and curvy for no reason. There's a guy trying to hit the ball, and I totally understand that you don't really like most of the guys who hit the ball. I don't blame you! And, hey, you're holding this hard five-ounce ball in your undeniably talented hands, the batter is standing 60 feet from you glaring and looking all tough—sometimes, you must be like, Why don't I just throw this ball at this fucker?
Please do not do this, for the following reasons:
Sometimes you will hit a dude by accident, because with all the curving and speeding your pitches do they'll occasionally miss the tiny space you're expected to squeeze that ball into. This is fine. Well, not fine, but it is sorta unavoidable when you're playing a game in which you're supposed to throw a ball super fast and super close to a human. So while everyone is sorry that Arizona Diamondbacks star Paul Goldschmidt is out for the rest of this season because of an errant pitch from a Pittsburgh Pirate reliever, no one thinks that it was anyone's fault.
OK, now comes the tricky part: When one of your teammates gets hurt from an accidental pitch—as in, everyone agrees that it was just a dumb if really unfortunate mistake, as in the case of Goldschmidt—this does not mean you get to hit someone on the opposing team as payback. This is not Qo'noS, the Klingon homeworld, where certain acts demand retaliation because a complex code of honor governs every interaction. On Earth, when someone drops a glass when he's at your house, you don't go over to his place and upend a coffee table. Accidents happen. Please remember that.
People will tell you that because Goldschmidt is the Diamondbacks' best player the team had to retaliate by hitting Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates best player, with a ball, which they did in the ninth inning of Saturday's game. What? This is crazy. Maybe if someone hits your teammate on purpose and laughs about it a bunch you could respond by throwing the ball at the asshole next time up—wait, actually, never mind because if someone did that he would get fined and suspended by the league and thrown out of the game by the umpire, whose job it literally is to make sure the rules of the game are enforced, and one of those rules is "Do not throw the ball at someone." (It's probably worded a little bit differently, but that's the gist.)
Occasionally you'll hear from old-timey baseball people that you have to throw the ball at someone to "protect" your teammates, as if the other pitchers are just waiting to throw the ball at your guys and if you don't hit someone with a ball that could potentially seriously injure him those evil other pitchers will be knocking your guys down left and right. This is just a fundamentally weird way to look at the world. Unless they're Craig Biggio, batters don't get hit all that often, and when they do it's almost always by accident, and, again, hitting dudes on purpose is bad strategy. This is not one of those new wrinkles thought up by the nerds who love fancy numbers. As Richard Justice of MLB.com has noted, legendary manager Earl Weaver didn't play the retaliation game.
When McCutchen got hit by a fastball in the back, it was going about 95 miles an hour. That's really fast, and it looked like it hurt a LOT. The Pirates outfielder went down in pain, then spiked his bat into the ground when he got up. He was angry, and for good reason. You'd be angry if someone punched you in the face, and being hit by a baseball thrown by a professional hurts a lot more than that.
The pitcher, Randall Delgado, was immediately thrown out of the game and might get suspended or fined. Again, it's against the rules and also super uncool. McCutchen left the game the next day with an injury that's probably minor and may or may be related to his getting hit with that ball. Basically, nothing good came of the incident, because nothing good ever comes of acting like an asshole. Don't throw the ball at anyone.
Harry Cheadle can't throw a ball hard enough to hurt anyone. Follow him on Twitter.