Tuesday, Major League Baseball issued a seven-game suspension to Reds reliever Amir Garrett for "inciting" a benches-clearing incident with the Cubs over this past weekend. Cubs shortstop Javier Baez was fined, but not suspended.
This was the third in a line of head-scratching suspension decisions from the league with benches-clearing incidents this season. Actually, check that. These decisions aren't head scratchers. They are just plain stupid and they lay the groundwork for more nonsensical suspensions.
We can start with Garrett. First up, let's note that he got eight games a few years ago when he charged the entire Pirates dugout. He got seven games here for yelling. That isn't the biggest issue, though. We'll get to that.
Let's start with the footage from Saturday's dust-up:
Now, I'll be pretty clear here on Garrett's actions: I thought he made a total fool of himself. I'm generally pro-celebration and emotion, but that was spoof-like over the top. Why was he screaming at Anthony Rizzo? Rizzo did nothing to him. The Reds were losing, too! It was bizarre. That also doesn't mean that Báez needs to come running onto the field yelling. A good rule of thumb in life is that when someone is making a fool of himself, you can just let him make a fool of himself without injecting yourself.
Instead, Báez escalated things and the benches cleared. I understand that Garrett has to be punished since he acted first, but nothing else happens if Báez doesn't run onto the field. How did Garrett get seven games and Baez zero? Shouldn't they be equal?
For those of us paying attention all season, this wasn't a surprise at all, though. It was par for the course. It all started in that same ballpark during the season's opening weekend.
Nick Castellanos of the Reds was hit by a pitch against the Cardinals. He reacted as if it were intentional, but nothing escalated -- at first. He ended up coming around to score on a wild pitch and did a little flex-and-scream action in the offending pitcher's face. Foolish? Yeah, you can make that argument. I would. It was pretty dumb and over the top, but hey, he was emotional. Then things escalated when Yadier Molina -- forever the enforcer for his team's hurt feelings -- rushed over and attempted to grab Castellanos, who was walking away.
Again, only one side was suspended. Castellanos was nailed for two games. He even went through the appeals process, but his appeal was denied. Molina wasn't suspended.
I just don't understand. Castellanos certainly "started" something by yelling and flexing, but then he walked away. If we're punishing him for instigating, how are we not at least equally punishing Molina for running toward him and escalating the situation?
One thing I cannot possibly accuse Major League Baseball of doing here is being inconsistent. They are totally consistent, at least when it comes to one-sided punishments. Take another example, from last week, with Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado, who shouted at the Mets:
Again, it merits a very clear statement on my part, regarding Alvarado yelling at the Mets like this: He made a fool of himself. Celebrate with your teammates all you want, but the yelling at the opponent like this is just stupid. And again I'll note that all the Mets had to do was ignore him or even just laugh at him. That's far and away the easiest way to deal with someone acting so outlandishly. Instead, Dominic Smith wants to fight (or at least pretend he wants to fight, a la Javy from earlier) and things escalate.
Alvarado was suspended for three games. The league, like it did with Garrett, said Alvarado "incited" the incident. Smith wasn't suspended.
It's just weird that this season they've decided that yelling at the other team is suspend-able while charging toward them as a reaction to said yelling is not worthy of a suspension. In each case, an opponent with a cooler head means the benches don't clear and there's nothing to sort out. If Báez doesn't run on the field, Garrett isn't suspended. If Molina doesn't charge toward Castellanos, Castellanos isn't suspended. If Smith doesn't react, Alvarado isn't suspended.
Here's why it could be a slippery slope.
It's been made pretty clear that a player can get an emotional opponent suspended without facing similar repercussions himself. Let's say someone like Bryce Harper hits a home run, watches it and then screams out in emotion. It seems pretty clear that all an opponent has to do is get angry and charge at Harper. The benches clear and then two days later, my inbox has a statement from Major League Baseball that Harper has been suspended for five games for "inciting a benches-clearing incident." The player(s) on the other team that charged Harper were "fined an undisclosed amount." That's it. No other suspensions.
If this scenario sounds stupid, that's because it is. And MLB could make it a reality before long.