Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale will not face a suspension for throwing a pitch behind Baltimore’s Manny Machado, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on Friday.
Sale threw behind Machado’s legs in the first inning of Tuesday’s game at Fenway Park, which added more fuel to a feud that has dominated baseball headlines over the last two weeks. After the game, Machado unleashed a profanity-laced rant in response to Sale’s pitch, stating that he no longer has any respect for anyone in the Boston organization.
While the timing was beyond questionable, the league has clearly determined Sale’s pitch lacked malice. At least in comparison to the pitch Boston’s Matt Barnes threw that sailed behind Machado’s head one week prior in Baltimore. Barnes was levied a four-game suspension, which he’d served by the time the teams met again in Boston on Monday.
Commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly held a conference call with both team’s managers and general managers prior to Wednesday’s game, requesting the bad blood to cease immediately. There were no further heated exchanges during the series, though Orioles starter Kevin Gausman was ejected from Wednesday’s game in a questionable decision after hitting Xander Bogaerts with a 77-mph slider.
Speaking to the media at Target Field in Minnesota on Friday, where ironically the Red Sox were visiting the Twins, Manfred explained why he decided to intervene in the Orioles-Red Sox feud.
“I felt it was different than the normal I-hit-your-guy, you-hit-my-guy,” Manfred told ESPN Friday. “As a matter of fact, it persisted so long it was hard to trace back who had hit who when and whose turn it was.
“There was at least one pitch that was of grave concern to us, a second one that was of serious concern. We just didn’t want to see it go any further.”
Barnes’ pitch was obviously the one of grave concern. We would have to assume the pitch of serious concern was Sale’s, though he was never specifically mentioned during the media session.
Of course, there will be some who question the league’s consistency on such matters. But it seems pretty clear here that a pitch determined to be on purpose that is at or near the head will almost certainly draw a suspension, while a pitch at or below the ribs will have a little more leeway.
Either way, the Orioles and Red Sox should have gotten the league’s message loud and clear. If the feud persists when they meet again, then there’s no telling how far the league will go to end it.
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