Late on Friday afternoon, MLB announced that Nolan Arenado had been given a five-game suspension while Gerardo Parra had received a four-game suspension. Both players, as well as Germán Márquez, were fined undisclosed amounts. Arenado and Parra appealed the decision, presumably in an attempt to reduce the penalty, and played in the second game against the Washington Nationals.
Shortly before Saturday’s game, we learned that Arenado had withdrawn his appeal and would begin his suspension immediately. (Since two players can’t be suspended at the same time, Parra played on Saturday, and his appeal is pending. He will sit out his suspension when Arenado’s has ended.)
Arenado’s decisions came as a surprise.
Nolan Arenado will not continue his appeal. So he will miss five games. Kinda surprised tbh. Bryce Harper appealed his from four to three last season after charging Hunter Strickland...— Nick Groke (@nickgroke) April 14, 2018
It was widely assumed that Arenado would get a reduced suspension on appeal, and the rationale was MLB’s treatment of Bryce Harper, who was thrown at, rushed the mound, “trad[ed] punches to the head with Strickland,” and received a suspension.
Here’s how the Nationals made their case, according to the Washington Post:
Everyone with the Nationals made a case against the suspension, which they did not feel appropriately considered the relative culpability of the parties involved. Had Harper not charged the mound, the argument went, Strickland would have gotten away with firing a 98 mph projectile at one of the game’s best players — though, of course, a less-talented target would not make the act any less troublesome.
When Harper appealed, his four-game suspension was reduced to three.
Nolan Arenado, a gifted player in a similar situation, has taken a different approach.
Strategically speaking, it makes sense. Arenado will miss five road games (two against the Nationals and three against the Pirates) and be ready to play when the Rockies meet the Cubs in Denver next week. Arenado has said he will leave the team and go to the Rockies’ facilities in Salt River to stay in game shape. That’s the first reason he probably dropped his appeal.
Some of my colleagues on the Purple Row Slack feed suggested that perhaps he needed to rest the knee that had been sore earlier in the season.
I agree, and I’d like to suggest an additional (and admittedly subjective) reason: Nolan is taking responsibility for his actions.
This week, I (unexpectedly) spent a lot of time thinking and writing about the brawl. Among other things, I wrote that Nolan took responsibility for his actions, starting in the post-game locker room interview. I would argue that in deciding not to appeal, he is continuing to do that. Even though Luis Perdomo threw at him, Arenado recognizes that he broke the rules: He rushed the mound, he tried to hit Perdomo, and his actions led to the benches being cleared.
Nolan on today's incident in the 3rd inning. pic.twitter.com/IBw0FkiUTs— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) April 11, 2018
“It is what it is.”
That’s the ultimate Buddhist mantra of acceptance and the line Arenado keeps repeating, which leads us to the second reason Arenado may have given up the appeal. In choosing not to appeal, he's accepting his punishment. The MLB politics of suspensions are beyond the scope of this article, but Nolan Arenado has decided to take his medicine.
Moreover, the whole “base-brawl” media circus has to be a terrible distraction for a guy who just wants to play baseball. In one article, UFC lightweight contender Kevin Lee offers a critique of Arenado’s fighting form. (And I write that as someone who devoted considerable space to discussing his hair, something I enjoyed doing but now see as making light of a serious subject.)
If Nolan Arenado wants to get back to playing baseball, then his best strategy is not to draw out the process through an appeal but rather to leave for five days, let this blow over, find some emotional space for himself, and then come back to the work at hand.
Rockies fans love Nolan Arenado for lots of reasons – the clutch hitting, the fielding that seems to defy the laws of physics (and that we will miss for five long games), and the enduring determination, no matter the score. But he is, at the end of the day, a serious baseball player, and his decision reminds us of that.