The Heat of the Moment

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It’s late in a game and your star player is up at bat.  The pitch is inside, but not aggressively so.  Your star player reacts by moving his hands into a hitting position where they are plunked by the ball.

Take your base.

Sadly, that star player’s hand is broken.  Other than a few words exchanged after the game, that would seemingly be it.  After all, it’s not like the pitch was malicious.  There is no history of bad blood between the teams and there shouldn’t be going forward.  Yes, a player got hurt, but it’s not like that is out of the ordinary.  That’s why batters wear increasingly elaborate body armor while at the plate.

What happened, happened.  That should have been the end of it.

But for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the gutter is where they wanted to be.

Before the game the next day, the umpire warned both teams that he wouldn’t tolerate any retaliation, nor should we have really expected any.  There was no cause for it.  Honestly though, the Pirates did expect it because Kirk Gibson, the Diamondback coach, is “that” guy.

Fast forward to when the game was out of reach.  Pitcher Randall Delgado received his orders as Andrew McCutchen strode to the plate.  This happened:

Malicious.

What that video doesn’t show is the first two pitches of the at bat.  The first was thrown at McCutchen, but he was able to get out of the way.  The next was a curve ball low and away.  The third was directly at McCutchen’s spine.

Do not pass GO.  Do not collect $200.

An Unhappy Cutch after being attacked by Delgado

An Unhappy Cutch after being attacked by Delgado

This all begs the question:  When is it OK to retaliate, if ever?

I fully believe that  paying back an opponent for going to far has a place in sports.  Too often, leagues are soft on discipline and refs / umps are inept; so a little vigilante justice can often be necessary.

However, it’s about context and timing.

First let’s look at context.  How often do we see players doling out punishment for innocuous or legal plays?  Happens in hockey all the time.  A player gets up from a big hit only to follow and board the player that hit him.  This is an example of “heat of the moment” insanity and while not an ideal situation, it can be understood.  Sports are, by nature, deeply contested violent activities where there is a winner, a loser and not much room in-between.  If the play was dirty, and no penalty was called, then the retaliation is an act of justice.

This brings in the timing aspect. While Ernesto Frieri’s pitch to Goldschmidt had no intent behind it (as he’s simply not someone who has enough control right now to be accurate), the Diamondbacks mistook this part of the game as being above and beyond the game.  Now, having them plunk a Pirate later on in the same game would be understandable, if misguided.  After all, in the “heat of the moment,” blood lust is a very real thing.

However, the Diamondbacks couldn’t get back at the Pirates for their perceived actions.  They had to wait a full day before unleashing their planned assault.  That required foresight and planning.

That’s malicious.

That’s also something that should be further punished by the league through fines and suspensions.

Now, McCutchen is injured because of the actions of the Diamondbacks and there is no excuse for it.  It’s amazing how small a man Kirk Gibson is to mete out punishment like a bawling child who didn’t get his way.  If I were a fan of Arizona, I’d be embarrassed.  However, some in Arizona are an indictment of America’s educational system.

 

Yeah, that makes no sense. Most of that last guy’s timeline can’t be described as comprehensible English. He has an ignorant opinion of other Pittsburgh Sports too!

In the end, the Diamondback organization and their fan base come out looking foolish here.  It’s because they didn’t understand that there is a time and place for vigilante justice and retaliating for a perceived slight the NEXT DAY isn’t it.  If payback is warranted, it better be in the heat of the moment.

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