HBP, or hit by pitch, is a baseball term used to describe what happens when an umpire determines that a batter has been struck by a ball thrown by a pitcher during an at bat. Batters getting hit by pitches is one of my least favorite things about baseball. The following is a rule change that I would like to see employed at every level of baseball. Any pitcher that hits a batter would be immediately removed from the game and not allowed to return. I like this because it gives a pitcher who unintentionally hits a batter time to regain composure and deal with the natural remorse that should stem from a ball that got away. It also gives pitchers who have thrown at a batter on purpose a chance to sit back and think about what they have done to intentionally use their skills in an unbecoming and harmful manner. The other day I read an article that discussed the most recent HBP involving Alex Rios. The particular pitch that hit him broke a small bone in his hand and it's estimated that the Kansas City Royals will be playing without him for at least a month. Hitting a batter with a pitch, whether the action was intentional, or unplanned, can have serious long term consequences. While my understanding is that people who play assume this risk as an occupational hazard, I would like to see my proposal implemented because it addresses the emotional aspects of HBP.
It can be challenging to determine whether a batter was hit intentionally. You can also know damn well that a pitcher planned to bean a batter and have to listen to someone claiming that the ball accidentally hit someone. We can't prove intent so in my opinion we should remove intent from the equation and proactively send a pitcher to the bench after a batter is struck. You may be tempted to argue that some pitchers accidentally hit batters and it's clear to both sides that no harm was intended, however I would like you to travel back in time to the September 2014 game where a Milwaukee Brewers pitcher by the name of Mike Fiers unintentionally hit the Miami Marlins batter Giancarlo Stanton. That Stanton was not killed was fortuitous. That Reed Johnson was hit on the hand by the very next pitch could have been avoided had my proposed rule been in place. I contend that Fiers should have been pulled after hitting Giancarlo who collapsed at the plate and was later removed for emergency medical treatment at a local hospital.
While I doubt that a rule like this will ever become official, if I was a GM I would run this past my team, and probably implement it even if there was dissent. Undoubtedly there are pitchers who can accidentally drill a batter and move along as if the unfortunate incident had not occurred. Those pitchers are a casualty in my new world order, but life has never been fair and I'm okay with putting the mental health of a pitcher who has hit a batter and the physical health of a second batter ahead of a pitcher who is removed to the bench after an unintentional hit by pitch occurs. I've heard that there can be a perceived burden placed upon a pitcher whose team has sent a player to the dish and been hit by an offering. I know that there are players who aren't sorry they hit particular batters and would do it again given the chance. I can't do anything about those people, but this insures that there isn't a second casualty to accompany the first. Suppose a pitcher intentionally hits the first batter and then unintentionally hits the second? This is just one example of how messy and complicated baseball can be. I believe that we can do better. Managers can bring in relief pitchers and I can already hear complaints about the best pitcher on the staff being replaced by a statistically less qualified pitcher. To those people I say that's life and if anyone can handle the adversities that arise from this, it's them.
Possibly you think I am too passionate about what feels like an all too common occurrence this season. You can postulate that a rule of this nature will not decrease the number of batters who get hit by pitches and I won't disagree. Ideally a rule change like this would lead to a subsequent decrease in the number of hit batters. I don't have statistical data to support a claim that hit by pitch is on the rise, reading the Alex Rios commentary brought to mind the night that Mike Fiers hit Giancarlo Stanton in the face and the unrest that followed when Reed Johnson was hit after play resumed. My father taught me how to play baseball and later softball. We spent a lot of quality time out in the backyard playing catch and those are memories I'm glad I have. When I was in the eighth grade there was a family fight that revolved around what I was going to wear to the upcoming Christmas services at church. My father had purchased a dress I hated, I let him know how I felt about it, and he shoved me into a bookcase that we had in our living room. By the time I was a teenager boomboxes had ceased to be fashionable, but my dad kept his on the top shelf because it still worked and there was no reason to get rid of it. After it fell he threw it at me. I ran outside and found that I had nowhere to go that dark December night. I didn't have a winter coat with me and fury can only keep a skinny kid warm for so long. My father was a gifted athlete before Parkinson's robbed what ability he had. Karma isn't a concept that I often embrace, and there are lifestyle and genetic factors that likely play a role in disease development, but on days like this when I'm sitting here thinking about premeditated violence, and how tempers on both sides of a disagreement can get out of hand, I wonder...