Miami Marlins: Josè Ureña and the Systemic Issues Within Baseball

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 15: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins walks off the field after being ejected during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on August 15, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 15: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins walks off the field after being ejected during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on August 15, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

As most everyone that is reading this article already knows, Marlins pitcher Josè Ureña has been under a fire storm of scrutiny after his one pitch outing on Wednesday night. While what Ureña did was wrong and embarrassing to the Miami Marlins as a whole, the issue is much deeper than one man and one team.

Many people have spoken out against the actions of Ureña after he plunked Braves rookie, Ronald Acuña Jr., with a first pitch fastball following his recent home run barrage against the Miami Marlins.

There is no question that the action was in fact intentional and the pitch registered one of the hardest fastballs that Ureña has thrown all year (in the 99th percentile).

While Ureña was clearly in the wrong in this instance, the main issue lies much deeper than one rogue pitcher. This issue dates back to the invention of baseball and it is cultivated through our youth who are passed down an unwritten honor code that baseball has.

Reasons to Physically Harm a Batter:

If your answer was none (like it should be), in the sport of baseball you are very wrong and have lots to learn.

For some reason, if a guy hits a home run off of you or your team and he in anyway offends you with that action, the unwritten rules tell the pitcher to hit that batter next time up with the hardest fastball they can possibly throw.

You can see this at the earliest levels of baseball where it is engrained in kids that if someone disrespects you while you are on the mound, you must hit them with a baseball because dad said so.

The key word in that sentence would be ‘disrespects’ and what constitutes disrespect on a baseball field? Every person is entitled to his or her own emotions, so with that comes different thresholds for disrespect.

In this case, Ureña and the people who back his actions believe that it is disrespectful for a player to plain and simply outplay his competition. The craziest part about this is the fact that Ureña was clearly very disrespected by home runs hit off of other pitchers on his staff. Some people may say he is the ultimate teammate, to me it looked like he intended to inflict pain.

While most people reading this article do not play baseball for a living and do in fact hold real jobs, let’s give everyone a real-life example to go off of.

Let’s say that you work for a sales company and there is another rival sales company nearby offering the same product. That rival sales company’s best salesman just won three accounts over you in a row. What you your next move be? Would you hit the rival salesman with a flying object? No, because that sounds absolutely ridiculous. Nobody in their right mind would do that.

Yet in our beautiful game of baseball, to Josè Ureña, Keith Hernandez and many other people with access to the internet believe that you should hit that guy with that object.

"I’m sorry. People are not going to like that. You gotta hit him, or at least knock him down. I mean seriously knock him down if you don’t hit him. You never throw at anybody’s head or neck. You hit him in the back or hit him in the fanny. – Hernandez, per Mark Townsend of Yahoo Sports"

Actual Disrespect:

I am not saying that as a pitcher you should roll over when somebody clearly disrespects you and the game.

Take this 2015 example against the Miami Marlins as a prime example. Junior Lake hits a long home run off of Dan Haren and then decides to walk out of the box and flip his bat high in the air towards the Cubs dugout. Then Lake, who keep in mind hit .200 in 2015 with that being his only home run, then decided to try and silence the Marlins crowd rounding third base.

This instance was blatantly disrespectful and the Miami Marlins took offense to it which led to a rather tame gathering at home plate between the two teams.

The only issue between what we just saw with Acuña and the 2015 incident with Lake is that Acuña did not partake in the extracurriculars that Lake did following any one of his three homeruns over the week. He may have thrown in a tiny bat flip, but a man that was on the tear that he was deserves to admire his work a bit. He was just plain and simply better than the Miami Marlins arms that week, that is it.

Is This Disrespectful?

For just about everything in life there are thresholds of what you can and can’t do. Lines you can cross and some that you can’t.

In football, you can celebrate a touchdown, but you cannot celebrate a touchdown by throwing the football at the cornerback’s head. In basketball, you can hang on the rim an extra second after a monstrous dunk, but you can’t hang all over someone. In baseball, you should be allowed to respectfully celebrate your accomplishments, but our unwritten rules frown upon showing and pride in what you just accomplished as it may hurt feelings and will result in you being hit by a baseball.

Now, what Ureña did actually was blatantly disrespectful to the Braves and to the game. While I may sound like I am contradicting my entire argument by saying this, if anyone is looking at getting one between the numbers that would be Ureña his next start against the Braves. While I am totally against violence and believe it doesn’t solve much, I would not bat an eye if that happened and I expect that to happen.

The Age Issue

For some reason, we had a pitcher get upset over the fact that a 20-year-old was that much better than his team in this given series. That leads into another odd caveat within our game, baseball’s love of service time and elder statesmanship.

Some people tend to believe that because Acuña is so young, that it is okay to hit him. “He has to pay his dues”, well, while that sounds like painful dues to be paying, Ureña would never even consider hitting someone with the stature of Albert Pujols if he was on a similar tear and that’s a fact.

This right here, is where a lot of issues within the game lie. Pride and especially the pride of our pitchers. If you do the littlest thing to show them up, you are looking at a 98 MPH fastball in your back the very next at-bat.

Because a guy was on an insane hot streak, one pitcher decided to take it into his own hands to hit him, nearly derailing his entire season. If that pitch would’ve hit Acuña on the wrist, he would be done for the season.

The Marketing Issue

Baseball has a major marketing issue and our unwritten rules are a big reason why. As a hitter, if you square one up and take a pitcher’s best pitch 450 feet over the fence you are expected to remain calm and stoic, if not next at bat, you will get hurt.

As a fan, we watch sports for insane displays of athleticism and raw emotion, not necessarily stoicism. Think of some of the most marketable athletes in the past decade. Usian Bolt, Brett Favre, LeBron James, Serena Williams these athletes don’t attract brands and national attention because they stand there stone-faced after they do something well in competition. They show emotion and that is what most fans are looking to see.

That is why March Madness is such a draw for viewership. The entire tournament is one and done and those collegiate athletes play their hearts out. While their pure athleticism may not match up with what they have at the NBA level, their emotion way exceeds what is shown on court in the NBA. Because of this, the NCAA rakes in advertisement money of off the tournament.

A recent report by Q Scores, which is a firm that measures the appeal of personalities, said that the best player in baseball, Mike Trout is as recognizable as the NBA’s Kenneth Faried. Yes, Kenneth Faried, the reserve of the Brooklyn Nets who averaged 5.9 points per game in 32 games with the Denver Nuggets last year is as recognizable as the 2 time MVP Mike Trout.

Obviously, many factors come into play with that ranking and to talk about them all would be taking a deep dive into personalities, the marketing efforts by both leagues and many other elements that would require lots of market research.

But, one fix that major league pitchers’ can make to help the branding of baseball is allowing a 20 year-old-phenom the chance to hit another homerun (while still making your best pitch) without an attempt to injure him.

Athletics are in theory, supposed to be fun. Right now, baseball is lacking fun and last night’s incident just made it evident again. Baseball is a great game that is supposed to be played the right way, but also with some emotion and excitement.

That is why October baseball is so captivating. The game is played the right way  with tons of raw emotion and no pitcher would dare let the leadoff runner on because of some personal gripe.

What happened Wednesday night was everything that is wrong with the sport of baseball. As a pitcher, if you are that prideful about you or your team giving up hits to a player who is just better than you right now, you should really begin to question your job throwing baseballs for a living.

The Good Ole Days

Now I understand that a lot of you reading this will fundamentally disagree with everything that I just wrote in the paragraphs above. That is okay, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The one thing I would have to say about that is if you think “baseball should go back to the way it used to be” or that it is “soft” for not hitting more batters, there is an issue behind that reasoning. For those who grew up in different eras of the game where they used to hit batters and you now want to return to that brand of baseball, think of what you want to return to.

Most likely, you have an emotional attachment to the beanball brand of baseball because of over embellished childhood memories. In my childhood eyes, Hanley Ramirez was the best ball player to ever walk this planet and deep down I am still a fan of his because of that.

With that being said I would not build a team around present day Hanley Ramirez, as that will not go over well most likely. Just like increasing the number of hits batsmen will not help the overall health of a game.

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You might like an older brand of baseball due to the legends, the historic venues, or uniforms, but I do not think many people went to the games in the past specifically to see a man get hit with a ball. Back in the “good ole days” of the game, things were not always good.

Players were hit because of their skin color, the way they were standing in the box, or just plain and simply because the pitcher wanted to.

For everyone who holds a normal job outside the game, the next time you want a player to get hit because he is on an absolute tear or because of a small flip of a bat, remember that you are messing with a guy’s career just because he outperformed your team on a single pitch.

If you had a good week at work and you walk in one day and your boss hits you with a projectile at 97 MPH, you might not take too kindly to that, but on the same flip of the coin you want that to happen to some young stud just because he wears a different uniform.

Next. Five Questions for the Miami Marlins. dark

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