Imagine you have a Ferrari. You’re driving during moderately high volume traffic and you’re kind of in a rush. You don’t do anything dangerous or crazy, but you take a few liberties with pulling in front of people and maybe speeding up a little to get through a light. Then BAM!
I, in my ’74 Pinto, t-bone you intentionally, taking both of us off the road, into a ditch. Because you’re driving faster than I am and I want to teach you a lesson.
You: “Dude, you could’ve killed me.”
Me: “Well, you’re driving more efficiently than I am – that has to stop.”
That’s my allegory for the day. Feel free to use it.
Fortunately for us, the response to the Jose Urena/Ronald Acuna incident has been overwhelmingly on the side of common sense, and that Urena acted in a really (pick one of about 50 adjectives or adverbs here) manner. Except for Joe Torre, however, who punished Urena with a missed start and a few bucks. (…? Rubs temples…)
Fortunate because I don’t need to go on as long as a rant as I normally would have to, but I will, as always take the opportunity to remind you about…
Tony Conigliaro. Conigliaro was the only player to hit over 20 home runs as a teenager prior to Bryce Harper. He was the youngest American Leaguer to reach 100 career home runs. In August of 1967 – exactly 51 years ago tomorrow – he had a 142 OPS+. For some perspective, that’s higher than what Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Billy Williams, Tony Oliva, Lou Brock, Joe Torre, Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson and Tony Perez had that season. Then he was hit with a pitch in the eye. He tried two comebacks but was essentially a league average hitter, which as a corner outfielder means you’re out of a job.
Dickie Thon. I wrote about Dickie Thon last season HERE so I won’t rehash, but I will remind you of this: In the early 1980s, Dickie Thon was the best shortstop in baseball not named Cal Ripken. Yes, better than Hall of Famers Alan Trammell and Ozzie Smith. Then Thon was hit with a pitch in the eye and he was no longer a good player.
Giancarlo Stanton. We’re all fortunate that Giancarlo’s story has a happy ending, but let’s not forget he had multiple facial bones broken and multiple teeth shattered with a pitch that hit him in the face. Imagine how less fun baseball would be without Giancarlo Stanton. Or Ronald Acuna.
But unfortunately, we have to deal with the “pitchers have to pitch inside”, “batters can’t get comfortable”, “make them move their feet” mantras. Or worse. Here’s cranky, old, illogical ex-jock Keith Hernandez on Acuna:
“You lost three games. He’s hit three home runs. You got to hit him. I mean seriously, knock him down if you don’t hit him. You hit him in the back, you hit him in the fanny.”
Point one, for anyone who has never seen a baseball game – because people who have seen a baseball game know this: Pitchers miss their targets by two feet all the damn time. If you throw at their back there’s a good chance you’re going to hit them in the face. Michael Kay fudged up a few things during yesterday’s game, but one of them was saying “these guys are surgeons” referring to major league pitchers and their accuracy. In addition to not understanding the rules governing runners missing bases, I’m pretty sure Kay doesn’t understand what surgeons do either.
Point two: This make them uncomfortable, make them move their feet nonsense does…not…work.
I remember Paul O’Neill talking about batting against Randy Johnson, and O’Neill said that being afraid of an inside pitch wasn’t the problem – the problem was that you couldn’t see the ball until it was too late, given Johnson’s arm angle and length. “If you’re scared of the ball, you won’t be in the major leagues in the first place” O’Neill said. I remember it well because I think it was the only illuminating things he’s ever said on air.
Flash forward to yesterday, when former major leaguer and very good hitter Michael Young took to Twitter and basically said the same thing. I’ll paraphrase, if you want the exact quotes, follow Young on Twitter. Young said the make him uncomfortable, make him move his feet approach does not work because major league hitters do not get uncomfortable – if they did (wait for it) they wouldn’t be in the major leagues. And that everyone who mentions Drysdale, Gibson, Pedro, Johnson, etc. as pitchers who pitched inside/intimidated miss the point. Their success wasn’t because of intimidation, it was because they were great frigging pitchers. For every one of them, there are hundreds of pitchers who threw inside who weren’t any good and aren’t in the big leagues anymore.
Don’t come at me with “why couldn’t Thon and Conigliaro hit anymore then?” They suffered from vision problems post beaning, not fear. If you think they were scared it’s because you’re transposing yourself on to them – you and I would be scared, but you and I aren’t major league hitters.
It frustrating that such a pointless conversation has to be continually repeated, but apparently as long as the Urenas of the world are allowed to get away with this nonsense we have to deal with losing Ronald Acuna. Or Tony Conigliaro. Or Dickie Thon. Or Giancarlo Stanton.
And in a similar vein to yesterday’s post, I wonder why the Keith Hernandez’ of the world don’t come to the defense of those players. I wonder how Keith would feel if his career had been ended in his early 20s. Or if he woke up from being knocked out, realizing that his teeth were floating around his mouth in blood they way Stanton’s were.
I wonder if he’d still be saying “You got to hit him.”
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