CINCINNATI — Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig and manager David Bell, as well as Pirates pitcher Chris Archer, have been suspended after a "bench-clearing incident" during Sunday's game, MLB announced Tuesday.
Archer was given a five-game suspension for intentionally throwing a pitch at Reds batter Derek Dietrich, the league said in the announcement. Puig was given a two-game suspension "for his aggressive actions." Bell was given a one-game suspension, also "for his aggressive actions." The league also issued undisclosed fines to all three.
Bell and Puig will miss Tueday's game against the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park.
Archer can appeal his suspension. If he does, the discipline will be held until the appeals process is complete.
It’s a scenario that has played out countless times during major league baseball’s history.
A batter launches a long home run — typically one that everyone in the ballpark, including the pitcher, knows is gone as soon as contact is made — and he pauses at home plate to admire his work as the ball sails into the stands.
However, baseball’s unwritten rules, the universally understood protocols of the game that have existed for decades, call for the batter to politely drop the bat then round the bases while keeping his emotions in check.
After Derek Dietrich’s blast off Pirates’ starter Chris Archer in the third inning on Sunday sailed an estimated 436 feet into the Allegheny River, making him the 32nd player to reach the water at PNC Park, the Reds’ second infielder stood at home plate to watch his majestic shot.
When Dietrich came up again in the fourth, Archer threw a pitch behind his back, the benches cleared, warnings were issued. Things escalated further when Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig got involved. No punches were thrown, but five players were ejected.
“It’s just completely unacceptable for anyone to try to intentionally hurt one of our players,” Reds manager David Bell told reporters. “It’s that simple. And it was obvious.”
Sunday’s drama did little to help the Reds who lost 7-5 to extend their losing streak to eight.
In the past decade, few teams have hit more batters than the Pittsburgh Pirates, and few teams have been plunked more times by them than the Reds, including last April when Jameson Taillon broke Eugenio Suarez’s right thumb with a pitch. Part of that is the philosophy of manager Clint Hurdle who wants his pitchers to establish the inner half of the plate.
The question is whether unwritten rules asking players to “respect the game” still has a place in baseball in this era where spontaneous emotion is such a significant aspect of the entertainment value in professional sports.
Former Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo once said a batter could dance at home plate after hitting a home run off him and his best form of retaliation was to get him out. But not everyone feels this way.
That is part of the issue, says former major league pitcher and Reds broadcaster Chris Welsh, who believes baseball needs some parameters set on what conduct is and is not acceptable.
“How high can you flip the bat without somebody saying enough is enough, how much showboating is OK?” said Welsh, who pitched for five years in the majors. “I wish there was some type of a gauge where baseball players know what’s OK and what’s not OK. That’s where the confusion is.”
Some have argued that baseball is doing itself a disservice by limiting the amount of emotion players can show on the field. According to Nielsen research from 2016-17, only 23 percent of fans age 18 to 20 were “very” or “somewhat” interested in baseball, while the NBA was gaining ground in this demographic.
“You make the argument that pitchers are celebrating strikeouts, linebackers are celebrating sacks, basketball players are celebrating dunks,” Welsh said. “People are compelled to watch the TV when two teams are brawling. It’s not a good thing, but it happens.”
Bell wanted Archer ejected immediately after brushing back Dietrich, although it is customary for the umpire to first issue warnings then eject players for further incident.
How Bell, Hurdle, Archer and Dietrich view what transpired on Sunday is different. The way Bell would police a similar situation is different that the way Hurdle or Joe Maddon might. Archer has been known to leap off the mound and pump his fists following a strikeout, but there’s nothing in the unwritten rules that says those actions disrespect the game.
Among the major professional sports, this is somewhat unique to baseball whose unwritten protocols often are compared to golf. NFL receivers are permitted extended and even orchestrated celebrations following touchdowns. NBA players can flex their muscles following dunks.
Following the game, Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez told reporters that an established veteran like Joey Votto would be permitted to watch a home run in such a fashion, but Dietrich isn’t.
Rather than leave things up for interpretation with unwritten rules, perhaps it’s time to put them on paper. Welsh believes there needs to be some consistency.
“The game is changing,” he said. “The fan base is changing. And the unwritten rules are changing too, we just don’t know how much. I wish they would address these unwritten rules, so some players don’t feel like they’re governed by what happened two generations ago. There need to be some guidelines. Pitchers, here’s what you can do to celebrate. Hitters, here are the parameters. Then move on from there.”