Red Sox

Hurley: Brandon Workman’s Suspension Is A Joke

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Dan Bellino ejects John Farrell at Fenway Park. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Dan Bellino ejects John Farrell at Fenway Park. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — The umpiring crew in Friday night’s Red Sox-Rays meeting did an abhorrent job of controlling the game, ejecting as many Red Sox as possible and failing to follow through on warnings. Apparently, the folks at Major League Baseball saw the work of that umpiring crew and decided to do them one better.

MLB announced Tuesday that Red Sox pitcher Brandon Workman has been suspended for six games and fined an undisclosed amount for throwing at Evan Longoria.

Yes, that is “throwing at,” not “hitting with a pitch,” because Workman did not actually hit Longoria. Instead, in a driving rainstorm, Workman’s pitched sailed high and wide behind Longoria.

While the suspension won’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things, it is nevertheless a joke from MLB.

A brief recap of the Friday night fiasco:

David Price plunked David Ortiz in the bottom of the first. Home plate umpire Dan Bellino immediately and emphatically issued warnings to both teams.

This was the first error of the night. MLB warned Jeff Kellogg’s umpiring crew in advance to be on the lookout for any leftover animosity from the benches-clearing “incident” that took place between the two teams just five days prior. So when Bellino saw Price hit Ortiz in the hip, he had the authority right then and there to eject the pitcher for intentionally hitting a batter. A warning is not a prerequisite for an ejection. Bellino whiffed on that opportunity to settle the game down right off the bat.

David Price plunked Mike Carp in the bottom of the fourth inning. After a long meeting of the umpires, the crew determined the pitch to be unintentional and therefore allowed Price to remain in the game.

This was just silly. Perhaps the pitch up and in to Carp was unintentional, but considering the circumstance (first base open, two outs), it was a convenient time for a master of control like Price to suddenly lose it. This was not the first time that a pitcher has been allowed to keep playing after hitting a batter post-warning, but typically the pitcher only gets the benefit of the doubt if he loses a curveball or slider. A fastball up and in to a lefty? That warranted an ejection. The umps blew it.

Brandon Workman threw a pitch behind the back of Evan Longoria in the top of the sixth inning. Bellino ejected Workman immediately.

Workman’s pitch had a purpose, no doubt, and in a vacuum, he deserved to be ejected. Yet it’s rather bizarre for Bellino to pick and choose what he determines to be intentional and unintentional. I don’t believe Workman should have remained in the game. The ejection was fair. At the same time, he hit zero batters with pitches and got ejected. Price hit two batters and was allowed to pitch seven innings.

In total, four Red Sox (manager John Farrell, bench coach Torey Lovullo, third base coach Brian Butterfield and Workman) were ejected, while zero Rays were tossed from the game. That’s despite Rays pitchers hitting three Red Sox batters (Ortiz, Carp and Jonny Gomes) and Red Sox pitchers hitting exactly zero Rays hitters.

The umpires screwed up — badly — and the Sox coaching staff let them know.

Now, MLB has taken an already bad situation and made it worse.

Consider that last year, Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez on purpose yet was issued just a five-game suspension. Workman merely threw “at” Longoria, and he was handed a lengthier suspension.

MLB, if they were to expand on the ruling, would tell you that the punishment was doled out because the pitch was too close to Longoria’s head, and pitches at heads cannot be tolerated. That is a true statement, too. Yet if Dempster earns a five-game suspension for plunking A-Rod in the elbow, why does a pitch that didn’t actually hit someone draw a bigger punishment?

(It’s also more accurate to say the pitch sailed behind Longoria’s back, no?)

Brandon Workman's buzzes behind Evan Longoria. (Screen shot from MLB.com)

Brandon Workman’s buzzes behind Evan Longoria. (Screen shot from MLB.com)

There’s also this: Price all but admitted he hit Ortiz on purpose. Price spoke on Saturday and expressed great regret for hitting Mike Carp, saying it was completely unintentional. All he said about Ortiz is that he acts like he is bigger than the game. At no point did Price deny hitting Ortiz on purpose.

Yet Price has been issued no discipline from the league for a pitch not at all dissimilar to Dempster’s pitch to A-Rod last year. The only difference is that A-Rod got hit in the elbow pad, while Price’s pitch to Ortiz caught all flesh.

Ultimately, it likely comes down to star treatment for Price. He’s a bona fide star in this league (though you’d never know it, looking at his 4.27 ERA this season) and he’s being treated like one. Workman, despite being a part of the World Series winner last season, is still a relatively unknown, younger player. So he’ll sit out and get fined (he makes $518,00, compared to Price’s $14 million salary), while Price skates free.

In all fairness, Workman deserved to be ejected and suspended. But so did Price. If Price got nothing for hitting two people — one clearly on purpose, the other likely on purpose — then Workman shouldn’t have been given so much punishment for not hitting someone. Price was given all the benefit of the doubt in the world, yet Workman wasn’t even given a shred.

In the end, the suspension won’t mean all that much to the Red Sox. They’ll shuffle their rotation, figure out a spot start, and resume business as usual when Workman is available to pitch again. Or perhaps he’ll appeal the suspension, make a start, and then drop the appeal. This is not the end of the world. Far from it.

Still, Major League Baseball had a chance to right a wrong from Friday night and, with the benefit of hindsight and some time to think, make a fair decision that made more sense than the lousy work of Kellogg, Bellino and Co. Instead, the league tried its hand at offering up some comedy. The joke is just not very funny.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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