The Arizona Diamondbacks aren’t the only team to hit batters intentionally. They are, however, the only team whose GM publicly decreed before the season even started that they will retaliate, and any pitchers on the roster not willing to “protect” teammates won’t be on the roster very long.
So when something like what happened on Saturday night takes place, it’s going to get a lot of attention. More than any team, the “Gosh, I don’t know what happened, the ball just got away there!” excuse doesn’t fly for the Diamondbacks.
Last October, Kevin Towers said if Paul Goldschmidt was getting hit in the 2014 season, someone else was going to wear one, too:
“If Goldy’s getting hit, it’s an eye for an eye, somebody’s going down or somebody’s going to get jackknifed.”
Goldschmidt was hit on Friday night and broke a bone in his hand. On Saturday, Andrew McCutchen was drilled square in the back once the game was already a lost cause.
That’s the thing about the Diamondbacks’ stance — they only seem interested in Protecting Their Own when they’re losing. Luckily for them, they’ve been doing that a lot this year — only the Rockies (a mess in their own right) and the Cubs (actively trying to be bad) have done worse in the National League. When they hit a batter, Arizona is 8-20 this year. The only time they tried to score tough guy points in a close game, they hit Ryan Braun (for using PEDs against them in the 2011 playoffs) to load the bases, only to have Jonathan Lucroy hit a grand slam on the next pitch.
On Saturday, Gibson said the ball “got away” from Randall Delgado when he needed two tries to hit McCutchen.
Last year, the ball “got away” from Ian Kennedy when he nearly hit Zack Greinke in the head.
Sense a theme?
For all the big talk about protecting their own, they refuse to admit to it when they try to do it. They play dumb after the fact. That’s being a coward.
Waiting until a game is out of hand to throw at somebody? That’s being a coward.
Using rookies, career minor leaguers, and generic relievers to throw at guys because you don’t want somebody important getting suspended? That’s being a coward.
Intimidating those rookies and minor leaguers into throwing at guys because they fear for their roster spot if they don’t? That’s being a coward.
Kirk Gibson, face of one of the most iconic moments in baseball history, has also become the face of manager cowardice. And that’s a shame. Can you think of a manager more closely associated with the beanball mentality? When Twitter blew up over the McCutchen incident Saturday night, the most common response from those who didn’t see it was, “What did Gibson do now?”
Maybe he’ll redeem himself at some point, but he’s running out of time. On top of developing a reputation as a whining coward, he’s also a bad manager. After this stop, it’ll be awhile before he gets another chance.
Maybe baseball will be better off for it.