That’s changed today as umpires now have the leeway to warn opposing pitchers and managers after a brushback pitch that a repeat will send the offenders to the showers. Without opportunity for payback, there are far more bench clearing brawls today, not to mention that the practice gives umpires far too much power to affect the outcome of games.
One wonders now that if the Saints are being punished for trying to injure opposing players, if the well accepted practice of “working” an opponent with an injury will also be penalized. Every game week, from Wednesday through Saturday, teams are forced to issue an injury report that lists players and their ailments as well as their status for playing on Sunday. Teams are well aware of who is playing hurt and include those facts in their game planning. If a running back has bruised ribs, is the defensive lineman going to ignore that? Or is he going to make sure those ribs receive a thorough pounding throughout the game? And hey! If you ding the guy up good enough and he has to sit out a few series, you’ve done your job.
How about a quarterback with a bad shoulder? Are pass rushers going to go easy on him when they slam him to the ground? Or an offensive lineman with a gimpy knee — does the defensive lineman not try to put pressure on the player that may worsen the injury? The defensive player won’t drop and drive his helmet directly into the lineman’s knee — probably. But short of that, anything is fair game.
All the Saints did was formalize what is normally an ad hoc practice by all NFL teams. Obviously, the optics for the league are horrible. And it doesn’t help that nearly 600 NFL players have been arrested since 2000, contributing to the image of thuggery. But the fiction for the fans must be maintained that the game features sportsmanship and fair play rather than cutthroat competition and doing anything to gain an edge.
And if everyone would remember that, there’d be a lot less hypocritical wailing and gnashing of teeth and a more realistic look at the true nature of the game that so many of us love.