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Thursday, April 15, 2010
Suspending A.J. Pierzynski

Alex Remington, responding to my post about A.J. Pierzynski (apparently) cheating the other night, leads with this: "As he so often does, Rob Neyer asks an interesting question — and then declines to give an answer."

Heh. Good one. I'll work on it.

As you might recall, Pierzynski -- if you believe the replay, anyway -- faked being hit on the foot by a pitch from Ricky Romero, and the next hitter broke up Romero's no-hitter with a home run. This offended my tender sensibilities. Alex wasn't quite so offended ...

Two points.

One, if Pierzynski wasn't hit, it's very clear that he did, indeed, lie. It's not as if the pitch was close to his foot, the umpire told him to take his base and he sort of shrugged, "OK, if you say so." He scampered out of the box, then hopped around like something was fractured.

And two, I wasn't suggesting that Pierzynski should have been, or should be, punished. I'm arguing that there should be a mechanism to punish players for doing what Pierzynski did. It would be tough for the umpires on the field to levy this punishment, because a player probably wouldn't lie unless he was 95-percent sure the umpires couldn't catch him. What I'm suggesting is a post facto punishment, in the form of a suspension.

Yes, this would require someone at Major League Baseball to watch the replay in super-slow motion, again and again, and determine not only exactly what happened on the field, but also the player's intent.

That's really hard!

And they do it all the time. Every few weeks, a pitcher is suspended for a few games because someone in New York determines the pitcher was trying to throw a pitch at a batter's head. Is it always fair? No. Sometimes the guy in New York gets it wrong. But the judgment's been made that an occasional injustice is a price worth paying if it means fewer hitters getting knocked into the hospital with cranial trauma.

I favor that tradeoff. And I would favor a similar tradeoff in cases like the Pierzynski Affair. It's worth some effort to preserve the health of the players. It's worth some effort to preserve the integrity of the game on the field.