Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Reds and Aroldis Chapman Go Headhunting. Again.

My high school principal, the great Sr. Regina Claire, used to say, 'if wishes were horses, we'd all be riders.' I'm not quite sure what that meant, but to that I would add, if baseball were hockey, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman would be a cheap-shotting, head-hunting dirtbag. He is a goon in a ballcap. Plain and simple. It seems that every time I turn on a Reds game, Chapman, who has nasty, wicked stuff and frequently hits 100 mph on the radar gun, is throwing at somebody and usually right at their heads. Here he is throwing at Nick Swisher's head. And here he is drilling Andrew McCutchen in the shoulder. I could do this all day, by the way.

The problem isn't merely Chapman (although he's the most egregious of the bunch), but the entire Reds pitching staff. And it's been going on for some time. A couple of weeks ago, Reds starter Johnny Cueto didn't like the looks of Cub David DeJesus, or some such utter BS or perceived slight, and threw over his head. Last season, the day after Chapman drilled McCutchen up high (the above video), starting pitcher Mike Leake hit second baseman Josh Harrison. The day after that, Homer Bailey hit (then) Pirates catcher Rod Barajas, and later in that same game, Reds reliever Alfredo Simon hit Starling Marte.

Last night, the Reds were at it again. In the 4th inning, Leake threw at and successfully hit McCutchen, who must feel like he's wearing nothing but a giant bull's eye the moment he sets foot in Cincy. In the 9th inning, Chapman rooted around in his typical bag of tricks and threw right at Neil Walker's chin with a 99 mph heater. It was actually kinda scary.

If the fish rots from the head down, no river carp laying dead on the banks of the Ohio River ever stunk as much as the Cincinnati Reds and their skipper, Dusty Baker. Heck, after Chapman went after Swisher, Baker said baseball players should be permitted to fight, a'la hockey. Just as hockey is actually trying to clean up head hunting, Baker is all for it. Cretin much, Dusty?

The problem for the Pirates (and MLB, I would say) is this -- What to do? How do you stop dangerous blitzkreig of the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff?

Well, the Pirates Clint Hurdle has tried the New Testament approach, which is to say, turning the other cheek. Pirates pitchers have not gone after Reds batters.

Needless to say, after last night's display by the Reds, this is not a very effective approach.

Which prompts many to say that the Pirates should go all Old Testament, retaliate eye for an eye baseball style. Basically, one of the Pirates pitchers should just go out and bean every Reds batter he can, as Dock Ellis did in 1974?

This appeals to many baseball purists, the people who talk about the good old days of chin music and coming in to 2nd base, spikes high. Baseball is a strange sport, shrouded in nostalgia almost from the day it was born, filled with unwritten rules, codes of conduct, acceptable modes of trash talk and, probably if we dig deep enough, preferred methods of tobacco spitting. Those of us who love baseball have tacitly agreed to love the nostalgic baggage and codicils (above), or at least tolerate them. Not only in baseball, but most pointedly in baseball, are folks likely to grab onto the sepia toned cloth of yesteryear. All of which brings me back around to this strange nostalgia baseball fans have for pitchers retaliating.

I used to joke that I wanted to develop a children's cartoon wherein Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez roamed the land, vigilante-like, felling various evil-doers and miscreants by drilling them right in the ear with 95+ mph heaters, the equivalent of the old ACME anvil dropping on Wile E. Coyote's head. I still think it's a good idea for a cartoon, but out here in the real world,  it's not Yosemite Sam being blown up by his own dynamite, but the potential for career-ending, life-altering injuries we're talking about.

Seriously, if you threw a baseball at somebody's head anywhere but the baseball diamond, you would be charged with attempted assault. In fact, it might be considered aggravated assault, given that you were using a weapon, not merely your bare hands. Now, that's just you or me, I'm talking about. In terms of velocity, we're nowhere near what a professional can do, to say nothing of the flame throwing Aroldis Chapman vis-a-vis danger to another human's noggin.

Here's what can be done. Enough of this warning both teams BS. Enough treating Baker with kid gloves. Don't warn both teams when one team is throwing at guys and the other isn't. How about umps start using their brains, too? In the 2012 sequence laid out above, after the Josh Harrison beaning, the umpire warned both benches. What the ...?

Hey Blue, this isn't pee wee baseball. Not everybody gets a trophy. And not everybody deserves a warning.
The warning should have been issued to Baker and Baker alone.

And the same goes for the start of the game tonight. The Reds bench should get a warning before the national anthem singer begins warming up. Tell Baker, if your pitchers hit one more batter, I'm tossing you and the pitcher. (In the words of Sheriff Bullock, "I put you on notice.") And if it happens again, MLB has to suspend Baker. Maybe that will get the message through to him. Although, maybe not.

But MLB won't do that. Because MLB loves it's silly unwritten rules and players "policing the game" and blah, blah, blah. You know what that gets you? That gets you the beanball orgy and ensuing ridiculous bench-clearing brawl that took place between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers just about a week ago. Remind me -- exactly what was the point of all that stupidity and machismo parading as hallowed baseball traditions?

And so because baseball doesn't have the guts to punish their bullies, I guess Clint Hurdle is going to have to have his guys throw at Joey Votto. And then the Reds will throw some more at McCutchen. And then the umps will warn both benches. And the next night the Reds will go after somebody else ... lather, rinse, repeat.

You know what I would be down with? One of the Pirates pitchers firing 98 mph heaters. Right at Dusty Baker's head.

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