By:  Holly Horning

I remember hearing a story decades old from an opposing player opining about brawls between two teams. He said that if a fight was about to break out, the opponents should be able to have the choice of fighting the entire Tigers squad or Willie Horton – but not both.

But maybe Willie should be sitting in the Tigers’ dugout more often given that the number of teams picking fights with Detroit has been on the rise over the past 3 years. Most of them within the AL Central with multiple incidences of “errant” pitches – and not initially started by the Tigers. Several of them going back a couple years and finding renewed life each season.

The latest obviously was this past weekend’s incident that saw JaCoby Jones go on the DL. But its roots can be traced back to a mere week ago and also last year.

The most significant brawl was last year in which Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer “lost control” and plunked 3 Tiger stars, including beaning Ian Kinsler. And if you’re waiting for a pitcher to admit he hit a player as “payback”, you’ll be waiting an awful long time. Even Justin Verlander talked about how a pitch of his “got away” from him last season.

Whether or not you believe in purpose pitches, sending messages, protecting your teammates or delivering “an eye for an eye”, there are 3 more important issues at stake.

1. Why are teams picking on the Tigers more? Do other teams see a less-aggressive (or passionate) team? Do other teams find them to be “easier pickings”?

a. Does the manager’s calm demeanor factor into any of this? Was Jim Leyland’s fiery response to seeing his players hit more intimidating?

2. Why aren’t the umpires proactive instead of reactive? They come into these games and appear surprised when brawls break out. Even those that just happened a week ago.

a. Why don’t they have records about teams and issues to observe when they come into a park to umpire? How hard could it be to know that certain teams have a history of bad blood?

b. When the Indians return at the beginning of May, will the umpires remember what happened last September and this month? Wouldn’t it be a better idea for them to warn each side before the first pitch is even thrown instead of waiting for both benches to clear?

3. Will the umpires association make changes in how they address questionable HBPs before something tragic happens? Throughout baseball over the entire weekend, there were multiple incidences of players being hit on purpose with a handful ending up on the DL as a result.

a. Can the Tigers afford to stay quiet about the risks posed to their players by the Indians, Twins, Rangers and others who have hit their players? Can they afford to lose any more guys to the DL?

More importantly, can they risk losing or jeopardizing the health of any of their players in what is expected to be their last viable year for October baseball?

13 thoughts on “AN EYE FOR AN EYE

  1. Hi Holly. Great question. History proves it helps to be intimidating and express dominance. Put fear into yore opponent. As a pitcher I was famous for ‘a lack of control’. But it put fear into my opponent s mind. Tigers obviously lack this. Causes other teams aggressiveness to tigers timidity. Causes more conflict than otherwise would happen.


  2. Major League Baseball has always had pitchers throwing at opposing batters. It’s part of the game. They all do it, including the Tigers. Let’s don’t get carried away (no pun intended).


  3. The Tigers are thrown at more often than most other teams because they are generally “gutless”. They apparently don’t believe in paybacks, especially since Ausmus arrived. Also, Detroit pitchers rarely work inside, which would tend to keep the other team honest. Boyd showed me more than any veteran on this team.


  4. Most here won’t like this, but I always wondered, if a guy gets hit in the face, what happens if the next batter mysteriously loses his grip on the bat and takes out the offending pitcher’s knee or shin? Bet the next guy wouldn’t get hit.


  5. Not sure why the Tigers seem to get picked on more often. A way for the AL to fix the problem league- wide would be to do away with the DH, which, IMO, really has no place in baseball. Old guys who can hit but can’t run; no direct retaliation for HBP, are just a few of the results of the DH.


  6. Since the umpires seem to be oblivious to other teams throwing at Tiger players, maybe it would be helpful if the Tigers threw the first “purpose” pitch. Umpires react quickly when Tiger pitchers have a pitch “get away from them”. This way the warnings come out before Tiger batters are sent to the DL.


  7. Nice quote about Willie the Wonder, but he had a lot of company. McAuliffe, Freehan and The Gator were all pretty rough customers. Do the Tigers get picked on more? It sure seems like it to us, but I would love to see some data.


  8. I recall a technique used a while back when a hitter, who wanted to make a statement to the pitcher, would bunt down the first base line. As the pitcher would go over to field the ball, he’d end up on the wrong side of a battering ram courtesy of the batter.

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  9. I honestly do not see where the Tigers, or other teams are really targeted, baseball is a lot tamer today than in past decades. So many players were plunked back then, pitchers pitched inside with full purpose and intent. You did not dig in. I saw many ‘star players’ hit as well, a number of them in the head area.


  10. Ray Chapman was killed in 1920 after being hit in the head by a pitch…..I remember Tony Colignario getting hit in the head (want to say it was 1967) and he was never the sane afterwards and I think retired shortly thereafter


  11. The Tony Conigliaro incident was terrible and it was in 1967. His face was smashed and his vision permanently damaged in his left eye. He played on but was never the same.


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