Ian Kennedy Better Learn How to Duck
My last post mentioned the beanball war in yesterday’s Giants-Pirates game (four batters got hit with pitches resulting in a three-game suspension for pitcher George Kontos after he plunked Andrew McCutchen in the back for the last one and a one-game suspension for Giants manager Bruce Bochy). Well, that was nothing compared to Ian Kennedy‘s true head-hunting in yesterday’s Diamondbacks-Dodgers game.
In the top of the 5th inning, Dodger starter Zack Greinke, who has something of a reputation for throwing at hitters — ask Carlos Quentin — although he doesn’t actually hit that many batters (nine ouchies in 428 IP over the last two-plus seasons), plunked Cody Ross to lead off the frame. The next batter Jason Kubel then hit a two-run homer to stake the D’Backs to 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the 6th inning, Kennedy hit hot young Dodgers hitter Yasiel Puig in the face with a pitch. That’s right — in the face. Fortunately for Puig, it was a glancing blow, but he came out later in the game and isn’t playing tonight. The next batter Andre Ethier responded with a two-run jack of his own to tie the game.
Naturally enough, Dodger starter Zack Greinke drilled the first batter in the next half-inning, Miguel Montero, squarely in the center of the upper back. That hurts like hell, but isn’t likely to seriously injure the batter. However, Greinke apparently threw at Montero on a previous pitch before he successfully hit him.
In the bottom half of the seventh, Greinke came up to bat and Kennedy threw one straight at Greinke’s head. Mostly through dumb luck, Greinke was able to duck, and the ball glanced off of the top of his left shoulder, rather than hitting him in the head. Here is the video, so you can see for yourself. The benches then cleared for a pretty good fracas, at least by baseball standards.
Ian Kennedy doesn’t lack command. Over the last two-plus seasons, he’s walked 2.4 batters per nine innings while striking out 8.0 batters per nine. Yet Kennedy has led the NL with hit batters last year with 14 and is leading the league this young season with eight, a year in which his ERA is currently 5.49.
O.K., under the unwritten, overly macho rules of professional baseball, Kennedy may have had a reason to throw at Puig and Greinke. But you don’t throw at the batter’s head under any circumstances, and twice in one game is no accident. In short, Kennedy is a head-hunting piece of s#$%.
Selig and Co. were quick to dish out suspensions to George Kontos and Bruce Bochy, but as of yet no suspensions or fines have been announced regarding either Kennedy or Greinke. If it were up to me, I’d suspend Greinke for five games (he hit two batters and deserves to be punished) and Kennedy for 30.
You can’t allow pitchers to throw at batters’ heads any more than you can allow a batter to hit the catcher over the head with the bat. [Actually, Marichal only got suspended for nine games after hitting catcher John Roseboro over the head with his bat in 1965, which was way too short, but he was also hit with a fine that was about 3% of his 1965 salary. In terms of what Kennedy is paid this year ($4.265 million), an equivalent fine would be about $125,000, although that still doesn’t seem like much in light of Kennedy’s overall salary.]
The Dodgers have already gone on record with not very veiled threats about their desire to face off against Kennedy again. It may be wrong for me to say so, but if I were a Dodger pitcher, I’d be aiming some at Kennedy’s noggin with malign intent. If I were one of the Dodgers’ burlier hitters, I’d be bunting down for the first base line for the first time in years. You just can’t throw at guys’ heads and not get some pay back when the opportunity arises.