The Unwritten Canon, Revealed

And they are two of the greatest pitchers of their generation, if not of all time. When one of pitcher Rick Sutcliffe's teammates was intentionally hit by a pitch or was taken out on a cheap-shot slide at second base -- or was subject to any act that demanded retaliation -- Sutcliffe would walk down the bench and ask that teammate, "Who do you want me to get?"

And yet, it's not clear sometimes who exactly should be "got." Should it be the player who committed the dirty, disrespectful act? Should it be the other team's pitcher? And if it should be the pitcher in an American League game, with the DH, exactly how do you "get" him? Should you wait to hit the best player on the other team, tit for tat? Should you only drill the guy who "Cadillac-ed" it around the bases? But what if he's out of the game, or is not going to bat again in that game or that series? Should you send the message immediately and just hit the next guy in the batting order?

This much is clear: They don't make many like Sutcliffe or Pedro or Randy Johnson or Stan Williams anymore. The game has changed. There aren't as many mean pitchers today as there were 30 years ago.

In the mid-1990s, Art Howe, an old-school guy in many ways, managed the Astros. In one game, his team was getting pounded. Opposing hitters were diving across the plate and crushing balls to the opposite field. So Howe went to one of his young pitchers.

"I need you to get the next hitter off the plate," he said.

"I can't do that," the young pitcher said.

"I'm not asking you to hit him. Just get him off the plate," Howe said.

"I can't," the young pitcher said. "He and I have the same agent."

Still, even with the softening of today's pitchers, there are still plenty who can be bent on revenge.

"[The Reds' Alfredo] Simon will hit you," says Reynolds.

So will the Dodgers' Zack Greinke. Last year, he hit the Padres' Carlos Quentin with a pitch, starting a brawl that ended in a broken collarbone for Greinke.

"CC will drill you," says the Orioles' Adam Jones, referring to the Yankees' CC Sabathia. "We're still pissed at the Yankees for hitting [Nick] Markakis [breaking his wrist]. We still haven't gotten them back. That was in 2012. It's 2014.

"And we haven't forgotten."

Some of today's pitchers forgive, but they never forget.

"If they keep throwing inside to [teammate] Paul Goldschmidt, then I'm coming after you," McCarthy says. "It's like little carrier pigeons taking notes back and forth on who is going to get hit next. But the line is blurred there, also, when it comes to retaliation. Is it instant retaliation? Do you do it now, or do you do it later? I've been furious at guys, and it's happened twice. But when someone admires a home run, I'm not so mad at him as I am at myself for giving up a homer."

Wilson says, "You will get drilled. Even if it takes a year, you get drilled, and you will know why. You'll say, 'OK, that's for pimping it that day' -- unless you are really ignorant, or depending what sort of medication you're on."

Today's pitchers may be softer, but they throw harder.

"No one is throwing 88 mph anymore," Dunn says. "You can only get hit by 95 so many times before you have to take action. Guys are throwing a lot harder, and with a lot more accuracy."

Coke says, "A well-placed 90 mph fastball hurts like a son of a bitch."

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