It’s not a good thing when pitchers intentionally try to hit batters with pitches. Throwing inside is part of the game; throwing at somebody is dangerous, classless, and if intentional, illegal. It’s not ‘part of the game’ any more than fistfights are part of a hockey game. It’s a tradition that has nothing to do with the rules of the game, and still exists because nobody is motivated to do anything about it.
“Unwritten rules” aren’t written, in order that players can make them up or modify them as the need arises.
Nobody ever went on the disabled list because a batter they faced admired a home run, or a pitcher they faced did a fist pump after a strikeout. To my knowledge, nobody’s baseball career has ever ended due to a terminally bruised ego.
In short, attempting to injure a player because your feelings are hurt is an entirely disproportional response to a temporary emotional distress.
With all those things in mind, how do you de-escalate the animosity between the Jays and the Orioles? Both teams feel like they’ve been wronged, and neither team is backing down. Of course, with Bautista out*, it is possible that the feud will be put on hold. Nonetheless, the right approach would be for the league office to send a message to the clubs, to the effect that suspensions will be handed out if more attempts to take retribution are made. Or failing that, the right approach would be for both teams to let the matter drop and get satisfaction from winning the next game.
Should Aaron Sanchez throw at Adam Jones, or Ryan Flaherty? I’d argue no. The Jays won the game, and J-Bau won the battle with Jason Garcia, the pitcher who threw behind him. If Sanchez throws at an Oriole, it’s bound to result in someone on the Jays getting thrown at, or an ejection for Sanchez.
But if someone on the O’s throws at Donaldson, or Reyes or EE or whoever, should Sanchez hit an Oriole batter? In the immortal words of Pat Tabler, “Shit, you have to”. By no means do I think the Blue Jays should escalate the situation, but if the Orioles decide to throw at Jays batters due to their feelings being hurt, and the pitcher doing the throwing isn’t immediately ejected, there has to be some kind of retaliation. Hitting batters is wrong, but I’d rather see an Oriole get plunked than let the Orioles think they can continue to throw at Blue Jay batters and get away with it, or for Jay hitters to start wondering if their pitchers have their collective backs.
Dumb? Sure. So are fistfights. But if a guy walks up to you and slugs you in the face, you hit him back. Right?
Shit, you have to.
* - Ironically, Bautista is out after aggravating a strained shoulder while attempting to throw out a runner at first, an “in-your-face, Orioles!” move that backfired.