There have been suggestions that Major League Baseball needs to enact stiffer penalties for players who leave the dugout to participate in such brawls. For instance, the NBA and NHL issue automatic suspensions for players who leave the bench when a fight breaks out.
That works in those leagues because an equal number of players are on the court or ice. But MLB can't make a rule like that, because it doesn't allow for a fair situation. One team has nine players on the field -- six in the infield area -- while the batter at the plate is alone (except for the on-deck batter). If an altercation occurs, 6-on-2 isn't exactly fair.
No matter what rules are put in place, baseball players are taught to protect their teammates. It will always be that way.
If a hitter feels he's been thrown at, it's human nature to react in the heat of the moment. MLB can and should fine and suspend guilty players, but if people in the general public stopped to think more often when they got angry, there would be fewer people in prison. Baseball players are no different than any other human beings in this regard. In fact, their competitiveness might make them more prone to getting involved in a fight. Competition brings out the testosterone.
When a batter rushes the mound, I see it as more of a reaction than a thought process. A batter doesn't sit there and ponder, "Should I rush the pitcher?" When you're hit by a pitch or brushed back, it scares you -- and you react. If the pitch was close to your head, it compounds the fear.
If the pitch comes close but misses him, a hitter must make a snap judgment and determine if the pitcher intended to throw at him. If he thinks the answer is yes, he has to decide: Am I going to get back in the box and let him throw at me again? Or am I going to confront the pitcher?
The problem today is that so many hitters dive into the plate, and when they get hit, they react. Batters need to have more self control and not take exception at every inside pitch. But make no mistake, pitchers will throw at hitters on occasion. And it's impossible for the umpires to always be correct in determining a pitcher's intent.
Baseball brawls have been around for 100 years, and they'll probably be here for the next 100. If there were an easy way to solve this dilemma, MLB would have done so last century.
An analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan won back-to-back World Series and MVP awards with the Reds in 1975 and '76.