Though Manny Machado received full support from his manager and teammates, his decision to charge the mound Tuesday night -- starting a bench-clearing brawl in the fifth inning of a 9-1 win over the Kansas City Royals -- will likely lead to a suspension that will force the Orioles to play without the All-Star for a significant amount of time.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the team is bracing for whatever the punishment might be.
“You hope it’s nothing. But, I understand that most of those things are predicated on what’s the word? Precedence," he said. "... I’ll leave it in [the league office's] hands, and hopefully they do the fair and right thing, and if I don’t feel they have, I’ll address it.”
The discipline process is a meticulous one. The umpiring crew calling the game has one day to file a report with the league office, with each umpire describing his perspective on that transpired. Joe Garagiola Jr., Major League Baseball’s discipline czar, is the point person for reviewing all footage of the incident. Garagiola will also consider similar infractions when determining penalties, also focusing on what started the incident and what escalated it.
A decision on a suspension is usually made within two business days. Occasionally, rulings can come down sooner than that. The decision to suspend Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus one game last month for arguing balls and strikes and then removing his sweatshirt and putting it over home plate took just one day. But decisions aren’t made before going over the umpires' report and talking to them about the incident.
After suspensions are issued, a player can either immediately begin serving his discipline or inform the league office, through the players' union, of his intent to appeal. Players can play while awaiting their appeal hearing, but must begin serving any disciplinary action after the appeal process is complete. Players can also drop their appeals or make a settlement.
John McHale Jr., the special assistant to the commissioner, hears a player’s appeal and decides whether the suspension should be amended – if it should be reduced or rescinded – and he usually makes his ruling within two days of the hearing.
Throwing punches and other aggressive actions that intend to hurt a player are considered serious violations.
Earlier this season, Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor was suspended eight games for throwing a punch at Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, who slid hard into second base. The suspension came two days following his offense. Odor appealed, and two days after his hearing the league reduced his suspension by one game.
Since 2000, the longest suspension handed out for inciting a brawl is 10 games, a penalty handed out five times. Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks received that penalty for prompting a brawl against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. In 2006, Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett took a 10-game suspension after punching Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who bowled him over in a collision at home plate. In 2001, the Royals’ Mike Sweeney received 10 games after charging the mound and punching Tigers pitcher Jeff Weaver. The other two players who received 10-game suspensions were Arizona's Miguel Batista (2003) and Kansas City's Runelvys Hernandez (2005).
But most suspensions for charging the mound since 2000 have fallen within the range of three to eight games.
The longest suspension since 2000 handed out to an Orioles player because of a fight was the seven games pitcher Willis Roberts received for his part in a brawl with the Boston Red Sox in 2002. Roberts was one of 14 players and coaches who received suspensions or fines for that incident, which was prompted by Derek Lowe throwing at Gary Matthews Jr.
Right-hander Daniel Cabrera was suspended six games on two different occasions – for throwing at Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and at Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees in 2008. Reliever Kevin Gregg received a three-game suspension for his part in a Fenway Park brawl against the Red Sox in 2011.
Machado, among the early front runners for American League MVP, has played in all 58 games this season. He was the only major leaguer to play in all 162 games last season and he holds the majors’ longest active games played streak at 220.
The Orioles are already without Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy – on the disabled list with a fractured bone in his left foot – and Machado has shifted from third base to shortstop in Hardy’s absence. But the possibility of being without both of their starting infielders on the left side is troubling.
“We’ll deal with it,” Showalter said, “just like we’re dealing with [Darren] O’Day and dealing with Hardy and dealing with [Yovani] Gallardo. Who am I missing? ... Caleb [Joseph].”
If a player has a previous history of transgressions – and that’s not limited to infractions that prompt suspensions or fines – that is taken into account when deciding on punishment. If the league office has notified a player about particular incidents or behavior that continue to be an issue, it can be factored into the disciplinary process.
Two years ago, Machado was suspended five games for throwing a bat onto the field of play after tensions rose in a game against the Oakland Athletics. His suspension was issued two days after the incident and Machado appealed the suspension, a process that took about three weeks before the suspension was upheld.
Royals starter Yordano Ventura, who hit Machado on Tuesday, was issued a seven-game suspension last season following a string of events during three straight starts in April.
Tuesday’s incident wasn’t the first time Machado was a target of a beaning. Last September, Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon was suspended three games for “intentionally throwing a pitch in the head area” of Machado.
In 2014, Toronto pitcher Marcus Stroman was suspended six games for throwing at the head of Joseph.
Ventura hit both Machado and first baseman Chris Davis with pitches during a Sept. 12, 2015 game at Camden Yards.