Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Charging The Mound, For Beginners

AUGUST 6th, 2013-I'm not a guy who really cares for this sort of thing. But if you gotta throw down, throw down. And after hearing of Legends LF Terrance Gore's beaning at the hands of Asheville Tourists righty Rayan Gonzalez a few hours ago, I was 'inspired', shall we say, to broach the subject of bench-clearing brawls. (Note: Gore was the first batter Gonzalez has hit, this year, but he beaned him. And hard, too). I don't want to focus on that particular incident, though it got me a little hot under the collar to hear that T was potentially badly hurt (he's not, as far as I know).

Ty Cobb once said that baseball "is something like a war". Zack Greinke thinks he's dead right.

Greinke made the mistake of targeting Padres OF Carlos Quentin earlier in the year for something like the 15th time in his career, and Quentin decided to audition for the Chargers while he had the chance. Why, exactly, Greinke has such a need to drill the Padres linebacker/occasionally healthy outfielder, I have no idea. But lo and behold, on April 11th of this year the slightly-built Dodgers righty thought he'd send a message to the unfortunate batter, and that message was "I'm dying for a beat-down".

Quentin was happy to oblige.

As you can see in the above video, Greinke has a poor grasp of basic tackling skills (and physics), as he only slightly lowers his shoulder into the charging rhino that is Quentin. He got mildly stomped for his trouble, and suffered a broken collarbone to boot.

My personal feeling on this fight is that it never should have happened. Problem is, Quentin has been plunked by Greinke so often that I suppose he got the idea that Greinke had some sort of vendetta. It used to be that 'misunderstandings' like this were settled on the field; one pitcher would hit a batter (whether accidentally or intentionally), the opposing pitcher would respond in kind. End of story.

But it seems nowadays that most players can't just let it go at that. Some will even get bent out of shape when a pitcher has the GALL to pitch on the inner part of the plate. How dare they! As if that part of the plate even belongs to the pitcher!

What a steaming load of horsecrap. So many sensitive hitters out there. Makes me wonder if modern players have a full understanding of the game. But I digress.

Brawls have been a part of the game for as long as it has been played, at every level. One of the more famous was the Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura bout back in 1993, in which Ryan instructed the young Mr. Ventura in the finer art of noogies:

In this instance, Ryan had 21 years on the 25 year-old Ventura, and it's believed (citation needed) that his love tap of a fastball to the White Sox third sacker's spine was merely his way of telling him that he had neglected to buy a ticket for the Ryan Express. Ventura was kind enough to offer the demi-god pitcher the top of his skull as payment for the ride. And had his fine motor skills beaten out of him, because of it.

Ah, the olden days. Hey, kids! Remember black and white TV? Course, you don't.

The date was July 22nd, 1986. The SF Giants were lost in the Busch, facing off against the Cardinals. RHP Frank Williams was the pitcher, OF Vince Coleman the batter. Williams was in the middle of what would be an outstanding season, posting a scintillating 1.20 ERA over 52 1/3 IP for the Giants. Of note is the 4 batters he hit, on the year. Four. Indeed, over his career he hit only 20 batsmen in 471 2/3 innings. Mr. Coleman would be one of the twenty.

As you see in the video, Williams had already come up and in (way up, way in) to the left-handed batting Coleman, and manager Roger Craig took some exception to this. As it turns out, so did Coleman.

On the very next pitch, Ol' Frank nailed him. Benches cleared, anger simmered, blah blah blah...

Next thing you know, C Mike Heath literally has to carry Vince off the field. This is just after Heath had to subdue him by wrestling him to the ground. So Vince was perhaps a little miffed by the whole experience.

Other highlights of this bout: IF Joel Youngblood in what appears to be a reversed sleeper hold, Cards skipper Whitey Herzog shoulder-blocked by Giants IF Randy Kutcher, and #43 of the Giants (who I can only assume is a coach) entertaining thoughts of causing mayhem in the stands. This one had it all.

Rewind even further to August 12th, 1984, Padres @ Braves. San Diego was on their way to a 92-70 finish, a narrow victory over the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, and a 5-game elimination in the World Series which came courtesy of the Detroit Tigers. Atlanta, on the other hand, was fighting for its place in the annals of mediocrity; however, though they would finish tied for 2nd in the NL West with the Houston Astros, their record was a less-than-compelling 80-82, good for 12 games out of first place. So San Diego was the only team in their division to finish with a winning record in 1984. Baseball is a funny game.

Anyhew, the game starts off on the right (wrong?) foot, with human Jheri Curl and RHP Pascual Perez went right after the lefty-batting 2B Alan Wiggins, who would steal 70 bags that year and 242 in 631 ML games before his life was cut tragically short in 1991 at the age of 32. That, however, is another story.

Not a team willing to forgive and forget, the Pads waited all the way until the bottom of the 8th, when LHP Craig Lefferts decided to express his disapproval with the offender himself, laying a love tap on the right-handed batter Perez.

When I think about it, I can't remember the last time I saw a pitcher actually get plunked in retaliation. Hm.

That should have been the end of it, right? Wrong, again. Enter RHP Donnie Moore (another tragic story) in the top of the 9th. Moore ended up pitching to one batter, that man being 3B Graig Nettles. Did Nettles get a hit? Well, sorta.

So Moore, perhaps misunderstanding the meaning of 'turnabout is fair play', keeps the beanball war going as he makes Nettles the third victim of this game. That didn't go over as well as perhaps he had hoped.

Again, another fascinating exchange of testosterone-fueled man-love: Champ Summers gets assaulted by fans, one of the Padres (unidentified, but one of the balder ones) gets his jersey ripped off, and Perez gives the cameraman a long dramatic stare after attempting to fend off numerous Pads while still armed.

Yep. Perez never dropped his bat. But since when would a pitcher know how to use one?

Oh. My bad.
And last, but certainly not least, there's this little gem out of South Korea. They do things a little differently, over there. Uh...yeah. 

Professional athletes have a lot on the line, every time they take the field. There's tons of pressure, and some guys handle it better than others. There will always be moments when that frustration, anxiety and rage boils over. When that happens, there will always be some nameless fan, video phone at the ready, who will immortalize and capture the moment for the rest of us to argue over, analyze, or just plain laugh about, at our leisure. 

It's all part of the process.  
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