In this job you are not really supposed to “root” for teams.
Though you may have grown up following them, you are supposed to become an impartial spectator who can simply write the facts without being jaded (or blinded) by previous loyalties.
Sadly, even if I wanted to root for the Arizona Diamondbacks, they are making it very difficult to do so.
Friday night, as the D-backs were in the process of losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Paul Goldschmidt got hit with a pitch in his hand, breaking it and ending his 2014 season. Upset over the fact that the Pirates had the audacity to try to get their star out with a five-run lead in the ninth inning, on the following night, Arizona righty Randall Delgado, with his team down four runs in the ninth, hit Pirates star and reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen square in the back with a fastball.
Of course, the D-backs had to do that because they had to protect their best player from…uhhh…what exactly are they protecting him from? Inside pitches? Because if anyone thinks that’s going to stop, well, they’re going to be in for a surprise.
The best way to get a hitter of Goldschmidt’s caliber out is to pitch him inside. Now, assuming the first baseman was up at the plate with the intention of getting a hit, then Ernesto Frieri had every right to try to get him out. It’s sad the pitch sailed a bit too far in and hit Goldschmidt on the hand and hurt him, but unfortunately the only way to guarantee a player will not get hurt is to leave him in the dugout.
Getting hit by a pitch is part of the game.
Throwing at someone intentionally because of an accident should not happen, even in the name of “protection.”
What if Delgado had missed his spot with the 95 mph fastball much in the same way Frieri did with his? What if the pitch sailed a bit high and drilled McCutchen in the helmet? Would that have been OK? If he suffered an injury that kept him out the rest of the season due to the pitch, would that have been fine because the Pirates cost the D-backs’ best player the rest of his season?
Where is the line drawn, and is it the intent or the result that matters most?
Somehow people have become convinced that the D-backs must respond every time one of their players is perceived to have been wronged. Never mind whether or not they actually were. The mere idea that someone may have to be defended is enough to get some kind of reaction.
Nick Ahmed was accidentally hit in the arm with a throw Sunday. Do the D-backs now have have to exact vengeance for that?
It appears there are finally enough pitchers to execute the style of play GM Kevin Towers yearned for, and now it’s turned the D-backs into a national target for criticism.
If what Arizona is doing is the same thing that has been done in baseball for years, why are they being called the dirtiest team in baseball by some? Why, if all the D-backs did was stand up for their star as has been done for generations, are they being chided for it?
Maybe they’re doing it wrong.
Though he was not Arizona’s favorite player during his season-plus in the desert, a look at some of the tweets Brandon McCarthy “favorited” following the plunking of McCutchen gives you a bit of insight into how at least one player thinks. Maybe he’s bitter over how things went with the D-backs, or perhaps his perspective comes from having suffered his own devastating injury. Whatever the reasons, McCarthy CLEARLY was not a fan of what his former team did.
If anyone would understand the “unwritten rules” of baseball, wouldn’t it be a nine-year vet who has been on enough teams to see how they all operate?
The funny thing is a team does not have to protect its guys to win. Entering play Monday, the Milwaukee Brewers have been hit with 50 pitches while hitting opponents with just 28. They’re pacing the NL Central, by the way.
Though a team is probably best served to stick up for itself by winning games, not hitting batters, it can be argued that there is a place for a little policing. For instance, if Goldschmidt got hit an at-bat after crushing a monster home run, then it would have been understandable for Arizona to do something. After all, no team should allow any of its players to be intentionally put at risk just because he did his job earlier in the game.
But that’s not what happened here.
All Goldschmidt did to get plunked was be a great hitter who stepped into the batter’s box. The only intent behind the pitch that hit him was to get him out and avoid what could have started a rally. Though it was a five-run game, the D-backs have a reputation for fighting until the very last out, and the last thing a struggling hurler like Frieri can afford is to allow a comeback in a contest his team was in position to win. The Pirates, after all, are fighting for a playoff spot.
The Diamondbacks apparently couldn’t see that, and thus were willing to intentionally endanger someone on the other team the following day, all in the name of retribution and/or protection. Amazingly — and disappointingly — a lot of fans seem to be perfectly fine with it.
An eye for an eye has left Arizona blind.