Matt of Matt’s Bats: No place in baseball for intentional plunkings

The week did not end well for the Nationals. The team was just swept by the Cincinnati Reds, a team that is 10 games out of first place in their division. The loss snapped the Nationals’ streak of winning nine series in a row. Now, the Nationals come home to take on the highest run-scoring team in baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays.

The worst thing that happened this weekend took place in Game 1 of the Reds series, when Tony Cingrani, a former starter and now middle a reliever, hit Bryce Harper right between numbers 3 and 4 on the back of his jersey. It’s hard to tell if this was intentional. It was the eighth inning of a 4-2 game with a runner on second, so it wouldn’t seem like they did it on purpose. But Harper has been fighting Reds third baseman Todd Frazier as the National League home run leader, so maybe that was a motivation.

But assuming this was intentional, this is the fifth time Harper has been intentionally plunked in his career. After he got hit, Harper was visibly hurt and took his time to get to first base. Reds first baseman Joey Votto didn’t seem to like how long Harper was taking to get to first base, and he let Harper know it. It’s true that Harper took about 42 seconds to walk to first base. But the fact is that Cingrani hit him right in the center of his spine with a 93 mph fastball, and that definitely has to hurt a lot. It makes sense that he’d need less than a minute to shake it off and get over to first base. After the game, Cingrani told reporters, “What are you going to do? He should’ve jogged. Be a baseball player. Sorry I hit you. Run.” Even though he said the word “sorry,” that doesn’t sound like an apology, which makes a lot of people wonder if he is truly sorry.

After Friday night’s incident, the Nationals did not retaliate on Saturday, but Tanner Roark did hit Votto intentionally with a 92 mph two-seamer right in the lower back or hip area on Sunday to the delight of some Nationals fans. This was bad, too. I know about the unwritten rules of baseball, but the game should be about having fun and not purposefully hurting each other.

Let’s not forget that a 90 mph fastball is a dangerous weapon, and taking one, even on accident, really, really hurts. As a result of Cingrani’s missile, Harper ended up sitting out the Saturday game. It’s unfortunate that the Nationals didn’t have him for the 8-5 loss on Saturday, where he could have made a difference. However, Harper’s sore muscle is pretty mild injury. Look at what happened to Giancarlo Stanton last year, where a fastball to the face left him with a broken jaw. That, thankfully, was not the end of Stanton’s career, but it did end his MVP-caliber season early. Being hit by a pitch can also ruin a promising career. Look at what happened to Tony Conigliaro in 1967. His retina broke after getting hit in the cheek. And in 1920, Ray Chapman was beaned in the head by Yankees pitcher Carl Mays, and he died!

Bottom line: Hitting a batter- especially on purpose - is a terrible thing to do. It can land a player on the disabled list or ruin the career he worked so hard for. It is bad sportsmanship for the players to do it, bad sportsmanship for writers and broadcasters to encourage it, and bad sportsmanship for the fan to cheer for it. The next time that the Nats play the Reds is in early July. This will give the teams some time, hopefully, to chill out and forget what happened, and just play baseball fair and square.

Ten-year-old Matt blogs about the Nationals at Matt’s Bats. Follow him on Twitter: @MattsBats. He shares his views weekly as part of MASNsports.com’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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