Monday, August 4, 2014

More Barbarism In Sports

Baseball is becoming hockey.

On Saturday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Diamondbacks' season is all but over; they're 14 games under .500 and are third-to-last in the National League standings. The Pirates, meanwhile, have plenty to play for. They're a half game behind the Cardinals for the final wild card spot, and just 1.5 games behind the Brewers for the NL Central Division lead.

But because of a non-issue the previous night, Saturday night was apparently going to be alright for fighting.

Friday night, after the Pirates exploded for eight runs in the final two innings, Ernesto Frieri came in for mop up duty in the bottom of the ninth, leading 9-4. An inside pitch against Paul Goldschmidt got away from him, and hit Goldschmidt on the hand. It was a non-issue that night, because it was just something that happens in baseball.

Saturday afternoon, we learned that Goldschmidt had a broken hand, and would likely miss the rest of the season. A season, as I mentioned, that was already ruined by the way the Diamondbacks play every day. That's the only thing that changed between the end of the game Friday night and the beginning of the game Saturday night. But apparently, manager Kirk Gibson decided that it was enough to warrant a bit of headhunting.

Early in the game, it looked like maybe everyone was going to act like grown-ups and let it slide. It was an unintentional hit batter, and with the Pirates in playoff contention, every game matters. But as the game got out of hand, maybe we all should've known Arizona was going to snake out and bean someone ("snake out" is a new term I just made up; similar to "rat out" meaning act like a rat, "snake out" means to act like a snake).

With Pittsburgh up 5-1 in the ninth inning, Andrew McCutchen dug in against Randall Delgado. He dodged the first pitch which sailed in on him, then watched another ball go low and away. Apparently the threat wasn't enough for Gibson, as the third pitch was aimed directly at McCutchen's midsection. He twisted away, getting beaned in the dead center of his back. Delgado was tossed, heated words were exchanged, and McCutchen, to his credit, didn't escalate the situation, just slamming his bat and taking his base. But nobody would've faulted McCutchen for charging the mound. It was a gutless pitch, a pitch that had no intent other than to cause pain to McCutchen.

I have no problem with coming to your teammate's aid when you can intervene with direct damage being inflicted. I do have a problem with beanballs. I do have a problem with most circumstances of fighting in hockey. And this felt like hockey thuggery. Late in non-competitive games, hockey teams sometimes pick fights to "send a message" that they're...well I don't know what the message is. I guess that, when they're getting outclassed on the ice, they'll resort to trying to bully the other team around.

That's what this felt like from the Diamondbacks. "Well, we were hoping to just beat you on the field, but since we were getting creamed late in the game, instead we'll just try to hurt you." I have no patience for this crap. Even the thought that this was "retaliation" was ridiculous. Sometimes guys get hit by pitches (just ask Craig Biggio). Goldschmidt got hit in the course of regular baseball. It happens. Nobody retaliates when a basketball player twists his ankle landing on someone else's foot. Because that would be absurd.

Bud Selig hasn't shied away from baseball history at all. He instituted PED testing, he added the wild card teams (and then more wild card teams). He added World Series home-field advantage to the All-Star Game. He has the chance here to set an example for what baseball is going to be like going forward. Suspend Delgado and Gibson each for a month. Baseball already involves a person throwing baseballs 95 miles an hour to a spot within a few feet of another person's face. Making it any more dangerous than that by allowing egos and thoughts of vengeance to get involved is irresponsible.

And don't get me started on hockey fights.

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