Three outs into Thursday’s Marlins-Nationals game, the home team was already without its bench coach. After Bryce Harper smashed a three-run home run off Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez in the first inning, Ian Desmond was smoked by the right-handed starter with a 3-0 pitch to the left shoulder. Desmond brushed off the plunking, but the Nationals bench wasn’t pleased, specifically Knorr.
He shouted at home plate umpire Tim Welke. Knorr was angry that Welke decided to issue both benches warnings because he believed that Alvarez had hit Desmond on purpose. In Knorr’s mind, if Welke felt compelled enough to issue a warning because he felt the plunking was intentional, why not just eject Alvarez from the game?
Ideally, Knorr thinks, the umpires should have let players handle the situation themselves
“If we decide to do something about it, we decide to do something about it,” said Knorr, who watched the rest of the game from the clubhouse. “Let us make the decision if we thought it was intentional or not. It puts everybody in a bad spot. We can’t throw inside. Then they have to question if we did it on purpose or not. Then if the other team does it, you can put your warnings out.”
In other words, Knorr thinks the warnings after the first plunking ruin the game. If the Nationals want to retaliate, they can’t for fear of having the pitcher and the manager automatically ejected because of the warning. If the Nationals wanted to throw inside to batters and happen to miss a couple of times, the umpire would issue ejections. And if there was any tension between the teams, any potential retaliation would be pushed to the next game.
In the past, Knorr said, baseball operated differently. Players would handle their distaste of each other and their behavior on the field without umpires.
“I don’t think it’s the umpires’ fault,” said Knorr, who was ejected for the first time in two years. “I think it’s Major League Baseball. Because I think the umpires know they have to get out of the way, too. I truly understand [the umpires’] position but doesn’t mean I’m not going to be pissed off about it.”
Added Manager Davey Johnson: “I like the old way. Don’t give warnings. Let it play out. … You can hit a guy in the butt he’s liable to charge the mound now. Used to be only when you head hunted and hit a guy in the coconut.”
League officials are concerned with cutting down on the brawls during games, both Johnson and Knorr said.
“I know that MLB because of, I think, the [Zack] Greinke situation that went on out there [against the Padres] is that any time anybody gets hit it’s an automatic warning,” Johnson said. “If somebody is intentionally throwing at a guy, in my books it’s adios.”
Knorr also doesn’t like the rash of Nationals players being hit with 3-0 pitches this season. Jayson Werth was hit by New York’s Frank Francisco on Sept. 12. Bryce Harper was hit by Chicago’s Michael Bowden with a 3-0 pitch on Aug. 22. And now Desmond.
“I don’t like guys taking liberties at my players,” Knorr said. He added later: “In my mind, and maybe I’m off, but when a pitcher chooses to hit a hitter, they’re putting his career in his hands.”
Knorr said he will deliver the lineup card to the umpires before Friday’s game without any hard feelings toward the umpiring crew. No preemptive warnings have been issued, Johnson said.
Plunkings are “part of the game,” Knorr said. “It happens. I know the umpires don’t want to do it. They know what the right thing to do. They have to do what they were told. Somebody writes their checks but doesn’t mean I have to like it.”