Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/10/14

The feud between Ubaldo Jimenez and Troy Tulowitzki reached a tipping point this past weekend. After an off-season in which the two took shots at each other through the media, Jimenez hit Tulowitzki with a fastball during a Spring Training game and nearly caused a brawl. While no one was ejected during the game, Bud Selig — who was there — took matters into his own hands. After Selig reviewed the incident, he suspended Jimenez for five days. While Major League Baseball may be trying to curb violence in the game, it’s unclear whether this was the right decision.

The decision to suspend Jimenez is a strange one considering the circumstances. MLB often goes to great lengths to protect its umpires. Home plate umpire Clint Fagan came to the conclusion that the incident didn’t warrant an ejection. While Fagan didn’t have the advantage of replay, his decision seemed to indicate that he didn’t see the situation progressing to something more extreme. In situations where the umpire does not issue any ejections, MLB rarely gets involved.

That’s why it’s so surprising that MLB jumped in and suspended Jimenez. By choosing to punish the pitcher for his actions, MLB is also saying that Fagan might not have made the right decision. If that’s the case, Selig must have seen or heard something that convinced him that Jimenez intentionally threw at Tulowitzki.

It would be pretty tough for MLB to definitively prove Jimenez intentionally threw at Tulowitzki. There were certainly reasons to think Jimenez may have done it intentionally, but there’s almost no way to prove it. It’s certainly suspicious considering there was bad blood between the two players. And it’s highly questionable that the ball slipped out of Jimenez’s hand when Tulowitzki was at the plate. At the same time, throwing a 90 mph pitch at an exact location isn’t easy. Pitchers miss their targets and hit batters. Jimenez said as much in his post-game comments, explaining that he was trying to pitch inside on Tulo and that the ball just got away from him. While this is exactly what Jimenez should have said — especially because it would be incredibly stupid to admit you threw at a guy — there’s no way to prove whether he intended to hit Tulowitzki or merely brush him back.

Selig, however, had the advantage of being able to watch video of the incident. Here’s where things get tricky.

If you watch the video, you’ll notice that immediately after the pitch hits Tulowitzki, both players throw aside their bat/glove and start provoking each another. While you can’t prove that Jimenez’s pitch was on purpose, you can prove that both players attempted to escalate the situation. For that reason, it’s not a surprise Selig decided to suspend Jimenez. He not only hit Tulowitzki, but he also provoked him afterwards.

It is strange, though, that Tulo escaped from this incident unscathed. He instigated the near-brawl just as much as Jimenez after he was hit. If MLB decided Jimenez’s actions were bad enough to warrant a suspension, they should have given Tulowitzki a similar suspension for the same reasons.

Bud Selig has spoken. While we don’t have all of the facts, it seems nearly impossible to prove that Jimenez intended to hit Tulowitzki. The situation is incredibly fishy, but we have to accept that accidents can happen, no matter how easy it is to blame Jimenez. The way both players reacted following the pitch was unacceptable. If this is the reason MLB suspended Jimenez, then it’s entirely justified. If that’s the case, though, Tulowitzki is lucky to have come away from this fiasco with just a sore elbow.


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