With the Cubs leading 9-0 in the 8th inning of Saturday’s win over Milwaukee, righty Keegan Thompson plunked designated hitter Andrew McCutchen with a fastball. The veteran was none too pleased by Thompson’s temerity and the Brewers, having forgotten that they’d already hit three Cubs in the game, poured onto the field in the kind of hollow show of force we’re all used to seeing from manager Craig Counsell’s teams.
Never mind that Ian Happ had been knocked out of the game when he was hit on the knee the previous inning or that Willson Contreras had worn one for the second time in as many games. That was the 10th time Conteeras has been hit by Brewers pitching since 2020, nearly a third of the Cubs’ total of 27 HBPs in that time. And yes, that is the most any team has been hit by any other over the last two-plus seasons.
— MBDChicago (@MBDChicago) April 10, 2022
But since Counsell and Milwaukee have largely been able to plead poor control, they keep getting away with it. That isn’t the case for Keegan Thompson or David Ross, both of whom have been suspended for hitting McCutchen.
Ross got a one-game penalty and will sit out Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh, but Thompson will serve three games pending appeal. That would allow him to return Friday, at which point he could return to sort of a piggyback role or serve as the Cubs’ fifth starter. Drew Smyly will start Tuesday’s series opener against the Pirates, but the rainout on Thursday and the scheduled break Monday allows the team to roll with just four starters the first time through.
This is little more than a hiccup for the Cubs, but the bigger issue here is how MLB routinely fails to properly police these situations. While there may have been more intent on Thompson’s part, the Brewers actually knocked a player out of at least the last few innings of the game (Happ sat Sunday, but he’s being given more rest due to his surgically-repaired elbow). What’s more, they’ve exhibited a pattern of throwing inside and hitting Cubs batters.
I don’t want to take the inside pitch away from pitchers, but it becomes a health risk when those pitchers either can’t or don’t want to control their offerings. If MLB wants to curb beanballs in the interest of player safety, suspensions like the ones filed out to Ross and Thompson are hardly the answer. What about punishing the pitchers and manager of the team who already hit three batters? This is like getting away with slugging someone only to see them punished for shoving you in response.
There are plenty of times when a hit by pitch is completely unintentional, and perhaps even one or two of those 27 by the Brewers fall in there. But trying to judge intent and using that subjective assessment as the basis for punitive measures seems pretty silly. I really don’t know what the answer is, I just know MLB is getting it wrong.
I’d take this beef straight to Rob Manfred, but he wouldn’t be able to hear me over the jams in his new Beats headphones.