Orioles shortstop Manny Machado's decision to charge the mound after Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura hit him with a 99-mph fastball Tuesday was one that galvanized the baseball community around the on-field justice system.
National baseball writers offered their takes on Manny's forthcoming suspension and the ever-growing distaste for pitchers plunking hitters.
Here's what they're saying about the issue that played out Tuesday at Camden Yards:
>> Sports Illustrated's Cliff Corcoran believes that the negative attention being heaped on Ventura shouldn't obscure the fact that Machado is among the best players in baseball and the Orioles are in what will assuredly be a tight division race.
"Still, Machado is so important to the Orioles that losing him even for that brief span could significantly impact their season. Not only is he one of the best hitters in the majors, ranking seventh with a 157 OPS+ entering Tuesday's game, but he's also one of the game's best fielders and has been filling in at shortstop for the injured J.J. Hardy for the last month. Hardy, out with a fractured left foot, isn't expected back until the end of the month, if then. Losing Machado would thus leave the left side of the Baltimore infield completely in the hands of replacement-level bench players such as Paul Janish, who replaced Machado after his ejection in Tuesday night's game, and Ryan Flaherty, who started the game at third base. Flaherty did homer off Ventura Tuesday night, but even with that, the two have hit a combined .198/.299/.257 in 117 major league plate appearances this season.
If the Orioles fall a game or two shy of the Red Sox for the division title or, worse, a game or two shy of a wild-card berth come October, Machado's inability to take the high road against Ventura could well have made the difference. Just because Ventura was the aggressor in this situation doesn't excuse Machado from taking the bait and lowering himself to Ventura's level."
>> On his ESPN Insider blog, Buster Olney rails against the practice of pitchers throwing at players and defends Machado's actions as all he could have been expected to do.
"When Machado charged the mound, Ventura dropped his hat and glove and squared his body, hands up. That Machado would be suspended for going to the mound in this instance -- after a pitcher apparently targeted him -- would be like suspending Ventura for preparing to defend himself against the onrushing Machado.
What, exactly, does anyone expect Machado to do or any other hitter to do in response to an attack with a baseball? Would they expect a catcher to stand like a crash-test dummy and let himself get run over? Would a natural human response for a middle infielder be to allow a baserunner to barrel roll into his legs?"
>> His colleague at ESPN, Christina Kahrl, noted that Ventura's frequency of hitting batters is typically made worse by the circumstances.
"The weird thing is, as much as Ventura seems to be in this situation again and again, he's tied for just 17th in the majors in hit batsmen from 2014 to 2016 with 17, including Tuesday's pelting of Machado. He's hitting 0.96 percent of all big league batters faced, and while that is more than the league average (just under nine-tenths of a percent), it's also much less often than, say, Chris Sale (1.4 percent) or Alfredo Simon (1.5). The crew on Baseball Tonight noted that Johnny Cueto was supposed to have a calming influence on Ventura, but Cueto has hit guys at a 1.2 percent clip in that same stretch. This year, 40.6 percent of Ventura's pitches have been on the inner half of the plate, against the MLB average of 40.5 percent.
So the problem isn't about numbers. It isn't about frequency, nor is it as situational as, say, the Pirates' year-long, staff-wide use of the inside pitch. It's about emotion and people. Ventura hit Machado in a game last September, threw inside on Machado earlier on Tuesday and apparently took umbrage to Machado's barking at him to cut it out. Ventura doesn't just cook with gas, he gets set off by circumstance."
>> Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports wrote that incidents like this have totally soured the Royals on Ventura, and speculated Machado wouldn't have done what he did against another pitcher.
"Yordano Ventura, petulant child, roared back to life Tuesday night, when after missing Manny Machado twice with brushback pitches during his second at-bat he planted a 99-mph fastball in Machado's ribs in the third. Were this some other pitcher, maybe any other, Machado would've shaken off the pain and hobbled to first base. That it happened to be someone who in three consecutive starts last season incited benches to clear provided the tinder, kindling and logs for a Machado spark that otherwise would've idly died.
And so there Machado was, perhaps the American League MVP favorite, limping toward Ventura, then summoning the strength to throw an overhand right, then DDTing the right-hander into the mound on which he wastes such natural ability. There is a reason why his catcher didn't sprint to stop the lurching Machado, why his manager admitted after the game that the Royals have grown weary of him, why, according to executives from two teams, the Royals within the past month have offered Ventura up in trade talks: For an act this tired, the performance must validate it, and the chasm between Ventura's performance and potential is grand."