Baseball Fighting Rules
Fights, or brawls, are no stranger to professional sports. With so much adrenaline and testosterone at play, this comes as no surprise. They usually stem from some sort of "dirty" play that goes uncalled by referees, turning into a complete spectacle with hands thrown on both sides. Whether it be professional baseball, basketball, football, or hockey, each sport has a different stance on fighting. In basketball, it is not uncommon to see a cheap shot on what seems to be a disaster-free layup turn into a massive fight resulting in a few players getting ejected from the game. On the other hand, hockey allows fights to a certain extent, as referees will watch as opposing players take off helmets and gloves and begin to throw punches at each other like prizefighters. Baseball, however, has a noticeably different view on fighting.
Fights in baseball occur when members of the opposing team begin physically attacking each other during the game. They usually are started by one or two players, then quickly involve many members from both teams until quelled by an umpire. The majority of these fights stem from a player unexpectedly being pegged by a ball or a dirty slide into a base that deals damage to the defending player. Since there are often many people participating in the fight, the umpire will not usually punish every single member. Usually, the player(s) who initiated the fight will be penalized, and it is up to the umpire to decide what the penalty is. The penalty can be ejection from the game, and it can also include fines and/or multi-game suspension.
The MLB's stance on fighting is a bit unique in comparison to other leagues. Most fights in baseball turn into what is known as a bench-clearing brawl. This is when an entire team's bench, sometimes even the managers, clear their respective dugouts to join in on the quarrel. Most professional leagues have rules set up to prevent additional players not involved in the initial dispute from joining in on the action. For example, in the NBA if a fight breaks out on the court, all players that leave their sideline benches will be subject to some pretty hefty fines. The MLB does not feel like it can afford to put this rule into place and that is because of the way the game is structured. In baseball, when there is a fight between an offensive player and a defensive player, the offense is always going to be outnumbered. That is because unless there are offensive players on base, it will always be one against nine; which seems just a bit unfair. That is why you usually see the benches clear to stand behind their teammate.
A good example of this is a scenario where a runner is making a mad dash for second base. If he aggressively slides into second in a way that could potentially injure the awaiting second basemen, it could anger the baseman enough for a fight to break out. Now the offensive player is standing on the field surrounded by a swarm of defensive players with bad intentions. If the offensive dugout sees this their only option is to either watch their teammate get in a fight he is destined to lose or charge the opposing team's dugout in a theatrical gladiator like fashion. The MLB recognizes these types of brawls as part of its game and up until this point have not decided to reform it. It definitely adds to the excitement of the game, but many will argue that it is unsafe and a bad look for the league. Only time will tell if the league will put rules into place to bar these types of fights from happening. Until then, may the best nine win.