The Rules of Basebrawl

by on April 3, 2012 · 10 comments

Image courtesy of 943 Max-FM

Baseball has rules, and the core rules of the game do not change much from Little League to the big leagues.  Basebrawl on the other hand represents an entirely different animal.  The rules that cover basebrawls are part of the unwritten rules that are loosely defined and yet still associated tightly with the game of baseball.  Before moving on to the allegedly unwritten rules, a definition of the word “basebrawl” deserves our attention.

Basebrawl (noun) – Relatively large scale conflict started on a baseball field involving 2 groups of grown adults dressed in nearly identical sets of pajamas.  Extended basebrawl events often involve collective efforts by relatively overweight men of questionable cardiovascular health running from places called “bullpens”.  Though the basebrawl sounds quite vicious, it usually consists a lot of slapping and air punching followed shortly by a tremendous exercise in gasping for air.

Now that almost everybody reading this understands the term (sorry Astros fans), the time to ramble on to the point is at hand.  Some guy who likes to wear white and purple pajamas named Troy Tulowitzki recently made some derogatory comments about a former teammate who now spends the baseball season wearing a different team’s pajamas.  That former teammate is Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ubaldo was apparently not happy with Troy’s comments.

As I understand the unwritten rules of baseball, Ubaldo was well within his right to do any of the following:

  • Challenge Tulowitzki to a lightsaber duel
  • Offer to go 3 rounds of fisticuffs with Tulo at a venue of Tulo’s choosing
  • Punch Tulo in the head using either his hand or the hand of a current teammate
  • Throw a fastball within the vicinity of Tulo’s groin
  • Plunk Troy with a warmup pitch while Troy is in the on-deck circle
  • Ignore the mouth ex-teammate in favor of learning to throw a baseball past hitters again

To be perfectly honest, the unwritten rules may be more like guidelines much like the Pirate’s Code, but you get the idea here.  Ubaldo had several options to choose from in dealing with the situation.  Predictably, Jimenez chose to hit Tulo in the ribs.  For that great deed of dishonor, Jimenez has been fined an undisclosed amount of coinage and suspended for 5 games.

Yes, it was horribly wrong of Jimenez to intentionally hit Tulo with a pitch.  Yes, he absolutely deserves to be punished for it.  Yes, Ubaldo has developed what appears to be a well-earned reputation for being immature.

Guess what?

So am I.  If you take the time to call me out in public and use some distasteful words in describing me, I would happily plunk you with a baseball as well.  The good news for all of you is that I top out around 73-75 mpg on a good day with a fast gun.  Ubaldo can rear back and crank it up to 95 or so, but that really isn’t the point.  The point is that Tulo knew darn well what he was potentially getting himself into by baiting Jimenez.  Why is there no suspension for Tulowitzki?  More importantly, why is Jimenez suspended for 5 games?

Johnny Cueto ended Jason LaRue‘s career and only served a 5 game suspension.  So, the concern becomes whether or not the length of suspensions depends on any of the following:

  1. The relative star power of the players involved
  2. The actual inferred intent as opposed to the end result
  3. The nature of the offending act (retaliatory or alleged self-defense)
  4. Reputation

I’m not necessarily arguing that Ubaldo deserved less than 5 games.  On the contrary, I have no real issue with the suspension, but it does cast a rather odd shadow on the Cueto/LaRue incident.  Why wasn’t Cueto suspended for something like 15 games or more?  Was it really because he didn’t “intend” to harm anyone?  That bitter pill just won’t be swallowed yet, folks.

“Officer, I didn’t intend to run through my neighbor’s garage at 2 am.  That means that I get by with just a warning, right?”

In basic Physics, students learn that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Apparently the same does not hold true in baseball, or at least an external force has an overbearing impact on the action and/or reaction.  The application of baseball justice with an uneven hand raises concerns about the integrity of the people who control that hand, and this is sadly not the first such concern raised.  Baseball needs to create a published matrix of fines/suspensions that will automatically be applied based on certain actions.  To refuse to do so simply lends more credence to the idea that baseball justice is not blind.

Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, because I may or may not have been in a Little League basebrawl!


Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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Lee April 3, 2012

Amen, my brother. Amen.

Dennis April 3, 2012

Very kind, Lee. Thanks.

Sir Sci April 3, 2012

The only thing is, I’m surprised that Jimenez was able to accurately hit him. I wouldn’t be at all shocked if he was actually aiming for the outside of the plate.

Dennis April 3, 2012

Haha. I had a similar thought last night and tweeted about it.

“Also, I’d like to point out that the beaning of Tulo was the first time Ubaldo has hit location in about 18 months.”

Great minds and stuff….

OtherScreen April 4, 2012

A friend and I talked about this at dinner last night and it seemed to us that the penalty system for headhunting pitchers in baseball is messed up. A 5 game suspension is a quasi missed turn in the rotation. So what?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to institute an innings cap on Jiminez over the next month? If he were constrained to no more than 20 innings in his next 30 days on the active roster, it’d be a much tougher penalty and a much stronger deterrent.

Dennis April 4, 2012

I couldn’t agree more about the system for penalizing starting pitchers. The real point of the 5 game suspension for a starting pitchers seems to be more of a financial disincentive than anything else. However, I imagine that the system does not currently allow for anything different, since it basically treats all players equally in a certain sense.

Rather than an artificial innings cap which would inevitably impact some pitchers more than others, I’d hope that someone can create something that can still be equally applied but with better results than the current system. Example:

If the pitched ball reached the standing batter at the shoulder or above, then the pitcher gets a 7 games suspension with a fine. This would prevent the pitcher’s team from simply throwing a 6th starter into the mix at the end of a rotation.

If the pitched ball reached the standing batter below the shoulder, then the pitcher gets a 5 game suspension with a fine. Yes, pitches to the ribs and other body parts can cause serious damage, but I’m getting to that.

There is a cumulative penalty throughout the season for hitting batters intentionally, or even for throwing at batters (possibly). With every additional incident, the penalty increases by about 50%.

A really interesting poison pill would be for pitchers to be suspended for as many games as the batter is on the disabled list, if the beaning directly causes injury. Just a thought.

OtterMatt April 4, 2012

Jimenez should get 5 games.
Tulo should be suspended for 15 innings, unless he offers an apology via the stadium video board at their next game.
Cueto should have been drawn and quartered; not for the fight, but just for being himself. The pieces should have been suspended 25 games for the kick.

Dennis April 4, 2012

Not sure that I want to see Tulo on a stadium video screen making reference to some of the words he used with regard to Ubaldo, but it’s an interesting idea.

As for Cueto, I’m probably a little too biased even to this day to recommend anything short of medieval punishment. However, I think it would be an interesting idea to consider making penalties for kicking approximately 3x what they would normally be for punching. The basic premise is that you can generate a lot more force using your leg to kick than you can to punch. Depending on the type of kick used and the body position of the kicker, the difference can be between 3-5x the force exerted by the same person throwing a punch. Under that guidelines, anybody who kicks another player would then be subject to something like a 15-25 game suspension.

E.E. RIPPER April 14, 2012

Hello Dennis,
Great job as usual. My only addition to this conversation is in the form of a question: What about the most revered pitcher in Cardinal history-Bob Gibson?
Is it a matter of time i.e. ‘well you know things were different back then..’?
Seems to me that 95 mph fastballs and rib cages are essentially unchanged.
Just seein’ what your thoughts on this might be..

Dennis April 15, 2012

Thank you very much. I am not a huge fan of that part of Gibson’s legacy, and the only thing I can say in his defense is that the rationale was a bit different back then. A lot of guys made a living pitching in/out, so crowding the plate changed the pitcher’s approach at times. Chin music was used to send a message. While I’m not a fan of it, the message was more consistent and had less ego behind it then. Not so much now.

The approach now is much different. Guys wear body armor, and many pitchers send the wrong message or react poorly to being goaded or baited. You knew what to expect with guys in Gibby’s era.

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