For all the attention being paid to concussions and headhunting in the NFL — or, more specifically, to the fact that not nearly enough is being done about them — last night's game between the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins proved baseball may be in need of better policing as well.
In the top of the fifth inning, Braves pitcher Julio Teheran, who'd just squandered a 4-1 lead, brushed back Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. In the top of the sixth inning, Teheran hit Marlins third-baseman Martin Prado. In the bottom of that inning, with two outs and nobody on base, Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez hit the Braves' Nick Markakis, who'd hit a home run in the second and flirted with another in the third. Worth noting, too, that Fernandez hit him square in the small of the back — right where baseball code says you're supposed to when you're trying to send a message.
At this point, it should have been pretty clear to anyone who's ever watched baseball what was going on. And it should have been especially clear to home plate umpire Marvin Hudson, who immediately should have issued warnings to both teams. But instead he did nothing.
Cut to the bottom of the seventh, with Fernandez at bat and squaring to bunt. Braves reliever Jose Ramirez threw a fastball behind Fernandez's head. Benches cleared, nothing really happened. Ramirez was ejected.
Now, I do not actually believe umpire-issued warnings are a particularly effective deterrent against pitchers throwing at hitters. For the most part, I believe players are going to do what they're going to do and will simply accept the consequences. But, Jesus Christ, the umpires still have a responsibility to use the one tool they have at their disposal to at least try protecting hitters from asshole, bush-league pitchers who are too stupid to recognize just how dangerous it is to throw at someone's head.
Talking to reporters after the game, Fernandez said, "I don't mind getting hit. That's part of the game. But you don't throw at [my] head, because I have a family." He may have found himself making this statement regardless of how Marvin Hudson handled the situation, but, man, Hudson should thank his lucky stars Fernandez was able to say anything at all after the game, and that he wasn't off in the hospital staring down a concussion, loss of eyesight, or much worse.