This past weekend, when the Jays were hosting the Tampa Bay Rays, Joe Biagini hit Steven Souza Jr. in the back of the hand with a pitch in the 7th inning of the game on Saturday. Souza left the game immediately; he didn’t play Sunday either. Souza has had altercations with Jays players in the past, particularly Troy Tulowitzki, who wasn’t even playing because he’s currently on the DL. Their most recent dustup was on April 9th when Tulowitzki took exception to the way Souza slid into him at second base, and Souza objected to Tulowitzki taking exception.
I won’t pretend to know what was in Biagini’s head at the time, but speaking as someone who really wanted them to win that game, putting a man on base with only one out – and the pesky Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria hitting behind him – doesn’t seem like the best course of action, no matter how much you may dislike him. We’d all seen the night before how much a lead can quickly unravel against that Rays lineup, and the Jays were only ahead by three. Biagini, to his credit, did look completely shocked and concerned after hitting Souza. If you don’t want to take my word for that, here:
#BlueJays have had their issues with Souza but anybody paying attention knows that wasn’t intentional. Biagini showed lots of remorse.
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) April 29, 2017
Then, in the first inning of Sunday’s game, suddenly a fastball gets away from Chris Archer and ends up behind Jose Bautista’s back. Jose responds with one of his trademark glares, and home plate umpire Jim Wolf warns both benches. Nobody – not Archer, not the Rays’ manager Kevin Cash – argues with the warning.
The fact that Wolf felt the need to issue a warning was interesting to me – though Wolf also presided over the infamous Jays-Royals beanball game in August 2015, the one which resulted in Aaron Sanchez being suspended. Bad judgement call or no, Wolf clearly thought there was intent behind the pitch, and didn’t want to see things escalate further. Once upon a time, you could count on Bautista to crush the very next pitch and send it flying into the left-field seats, but this is 2017 Jose Bautista, he of the .163 batting average headed into this game, and he flew out. He did get two hits though (one off Archer), and eventually drove in the tying run and scored the go-ahead run.
Postgame, Archer had this to say about the pitch to Bautista:
Archer on Bautista: “I was just trying to go inside. The ball got away from me a little bit.” #BlueJays
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) April 30, 2017
Now, I don’t want to speculate about intent, but Chris Archer is an intelligent man and must have known how that would sound. Saying he missed ‘a little’ is the understatement of the year, considering an entire human being fit between his target and the eventual location of the ball. I also didn’t see any quotes where he sounded apologetic or addressed the context of the situation, though he no doubt understood how the near-miss would come across to Jays players and fans.
This Sportsnet article includes a pitch map illustrating the location of all Archer’s pitches from his 7.1 innings on Sunday. He was locating quite well all game. The only pitch anywhere near as far inside was one in the 8th inning which narrowly missed hitting Kevin Pillar in the elbow. By that late in the game, sure, maybe Archer was starting to lose command somewhat. But it still ended up about a foot closer to the plate than the pitch to Bautista did. If Archer did merely lose command for that one brief second, it’s a pretty interesting coincidence for him to suddenly lose command in the first inning, on the first pitch, to the guy that people always throw at.
John Gibbons (in uncharacteristically harsh words) suggested that Archer should be suspended if MLB thought his pitch was intentional.
It’s an interesting take, and one I agree with, because I do hope MLB will be cracking down on guys trying to throw at each other – plus Bautista was in no way involved in the Souza HBP, which makes this particular form of ‘vengeance’ even more idiotic. Matt Barnes of the Red Sox was suspended recently for four games (and fined) for intentionally throwing at Manny Machado’s head in a game against the Orioles – Barnes and his teammates were angry with Machado for sliding hard into Dustin Pedroia a few games before.
I have no patience for the argument (from certain Sportsnet personalities, for example) that intentionally hurting people is ‘the way things should be dealt with’. It’s petty, it’s subjective, and people can get seriously hurt. What reason would the Rays believe Biagini had for throwing at Souza? If Biagini’s pitch to Souza was, in fact, accidental, why the pathological need to seek revenge for it? Why punish a mistake (when an automatic baserunner is already punishment enough)? Furthermore, why seek revenge against a man who had nothing to do with the original incident? Constant ‘eye-for-an-eye’-style justice can only result in one thing – an entire team comprised of minor leaguers, because the whole roster is either on the DL or suspended.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Chris Archer the person – and even Chris Archer the pitcher, when he’s facing any team other than the Jays. Throwing at guys seems out of character for him. I hate the idea of trying to hurt someone on purpose just for ‘revenge’, and I certainly hope it wasn’t intentional. But if the Boston-Baltimore mess last week has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes cooler heads don’t prevail. At least Bautista got the chance for a little RBI-style revenge.
Follow me on Twitter: @JaysGirlEmily
If you like us here, like us on Facebook!
The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Visit the Handbook page for more information!
Now is a great time to subscribe to the Blue Jays from Away Premium Content Section!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2017) and may not be used without permission.