June 15, 2013

BaseBRAWL Etiquette 101

By - Jaquan Murphy

It happens at least once every season. A bench-clearing brawl in baseball. We've already seen two in 2013, with the Los Angeles Dodgers being involved in both.

Photo by: Mark J. Terrill
What causes these melees, and what are the things that you can and can't do once they begin? Let's take a look.

It all starts with an event triggering the brawl. Generally, they are caused by one of several things; like a batter showing up a pitcher after a home run, frustration from a batter owning a pitcher or a team, or a player ripping a club in the media. The action a player does to make himself a target is seldom subtle.

However, there are times when a player is a target as a ripple effect from another action. For example, if one team's star player or key player gets hit, it's an unwritten rule that the opposition's top player will get pegged as a result. In a lot of cases, if a player shows up the pitcher after a homer, the next man up will be the victim.

Once the trigger is pulled and we all know someone is getting drilled, there are some "dos" and "don'ts" as far as hitting a batter goes.

The one resounding "don't," and perhaps the thing that ignites most fights is head-hunting. It is an unwritten rule that pitchers should never intentionally throw at a hitter's head. A 90 mph fastball aimed at a guy's dome is not only dangerous, it's stupid and reckless. It goes beyond the realm of one-upping an opponent and enters risking not only a player's career, but his life.

The other prominent "don't" is aiming at knees and ankles. Weird thought, isn't it? Well, if a player gets hit on a knee or an ankle and a bone is fractured, he is on the shelf for more than just a few games. The nature of bone healing is so unpredictable, that aiming there could alter a player's career.

So what are the "dos" when throwing at a batter? Mainly, aim for the back, right between the numbers. That is the area most likely to withstand the blow. If not the back, the upper leg works. It will sustain minimal damage if hit by a pitch.

Another glaring "don't" when hitting a batter is don't dare the player to react. Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke learned that the hard way. And if you do challenge the hitter to do something after plucking him, don't do it to a batter that is big enough or strong enough to be an NFL linebacker.

So after a batter is hit, what are some of the "dos" and "don'ts" to abide by once the actual brawl ensues?

For batters, don't charge the mound with bat in hand. Be smart, drop the stick, because that will be the cause of a record suspension. Also, don't swing at the catcher while he still has his mask on. I mean, just think about it. A catcher takes foul tips off his mask all the time and shakes it off. Why would a fist hurt?

For pitchers, don't throw your glove. It makes you look terrible. It screams, "Wait I wasn't ready! Can we talk about this?!" Plus, throwing your glove isn't going to stop the batter from charging at you. It's only going to land you a spot on SportsCenter's Not Top 10 Plays. One last pointer; do not lead with your throwing shoulder. That is your life right there. Hurt that and you might find yourself working at the local gas station.

So the benches have cleared and the war is on. What now?

If you're a pitcher, protect your throwing arm and hand. If you're a hitter, same rule applies. If you're a speed guy, make sure you don't step on someone (or something) and roll an ankle. A definite "don't" of a brawl; no kicking and/or stomping. Metal cleats and foot contact might draw blood. A suspension and even potential jail time could be coming with that. Believe it or not, spikes can be considered deadly weapons.

Also, if you're going to swing at someone, really swing at them. Some camera is going to catch it and you're going to get suspended anyway, so if that's the case, make it count. Do your best Floyd "Money" Mayweather impersonation and earn the suspension. Hit someone hard enough and you will get a reputation around the league, and other teams will be a lot more reluctant to mess with your club.

Once all benches are clear, keep it fair. Don't be the 6'4, 220 pound guy swinging on or manhandling the 5'10, 190 pound coach. Don't be a bully. Let coaches fight other coaches. If you're a big player, find the big guys on the other team. Make sure they're not out there beating up on one of your stars.

When the dust settles, tension is running high. As a pitcher, don't reignite another brawl. Remember, warnings will be issued, so anything that looks threatening will get you tossed. Hit another batter and you will be in the showers early and the benches will clear again. As a hitter, don't take exception to a pitch thrown close to you. Start a problem and you're getting ejected and possibly suspended. It's not really worth it. Everyone will have a heightened intensity level, so any little action could spark round two. Keep your emotions in check.

Baseball brawls can be exciting for the fans to watch, but have the potential to be sickening to witness as well. They make every manager and general manager's heart stop. But when done right, team brawls can come and go without players, teams, or the sport as a whole, losing integrity.


  1. You don't throw at a guy's back-thigh yes.

  2. Arguably if it hits a guy in his back, he's made no attempt to avoid the HBP and therefore shouldn't be awarded first base. Actually that happens a lot. People making no attempt to get out of the way... it's actually half the problem. There's taking one for the team, there's plunking a guy, and then there's deliberately not moving.