Prior to Friday night’s seventh inning [inert expletive here] meltdown, Tweets condoning retaliatory pitches were running rampant. Tensions were already high after the Ortiz Bat Flip Incident. Fan frustration was further exasperated by Josh Beckett who managed to plunk Derek Jeter in the bottom of very first inning. Before most of us had a chance to really start grumbling however, Curtis Granderson took it upon himself to deliver compensation as he blasted a two run shot into the right field stands.
Unfortunately, in the third inning Beckett struck again; this time Alex Rodriguez was the benefactor. At this point, three things were clear to those watching. First, Beckett’s control wasn’t totally sharp to begin with. Second, Yankee fans (and possibly some Yankee players) were calling for blood. Third (and most importantly), there was an ideal target for retribution already in mind; everyone could sense it was only a matter of time.
As to be expected, CC Sabathia obliged fan yearning and reciprocated in kind during the bottom of the fourth. The target was none other than David Ortiz. Thankfully, the HBP didn’t adversely affect the Yanks, although it certainly did make for a more eventful inning (as Kevin Youkilis was already on first base with only one out and a mere two run lead). As to be expected, the obligatory warning was issued.
Now on the one hand, the guys in the YES booth defended the decision as one might expect. If a pitcher chooses to pitch inside, he needs to be accountable for any lack of control. If that same pitcher hits players repeatedly, a response will (has to) be made. The purpose of the response is not only to deliver a warning to the opponent, but to instill a sense of protection for one’s teammates. Furthermore, the case was made against Ortiz for showboating – basically, his pomp was reason enough already. I get it.
Several of my fellow writers here at TYA weren’t so enamored with the decision. The cost of “protection” (and often times, one’s ego) is a free pass to the opposing team. The outcome of the intentional HBP is inherently counter intuitive as it makes the real objective (winning) harder to achieve in a very tangible sense. Simply put, the cost of a personal vendetta does not out weigh a “W” in the standings. In a more pragmatic sense, even if Ortiz “learns his lesson,” will any of us really feel gratified if the team loses regardless? Likewise, do players ever learn their lesson?
Personally, I am rather indifferent about the intentional HBP. I could care less about David Ortiz strutting down the first base line or even flipping his bat for that matter. He could do cartwheels around the bases (theoretically), and it wouldn’t change the fact that one bad pitch was really the cause of the homerun. Instead, my response is more in line with that which is preached in the Book of Russell. Essentially, if you’re annoyed with the other team, go out and beat them unmercifully – get it done!
Where I hit a bit of snag with the whole process involves timing. It would seem to me that if there is an appropriate occasion to respond with the intentional HBP, the execution of the retaliation always seems dubious at best. If the game is in anyway close in score, it makes very little sense. The only time I’d expect a team to take a calculated risk such as that is if it were late in the game and the score was well out of reach. By that point though, what’s really the point? I suppose there is the possibility that the HBP could ignite a rally or some better performance. Hell, if it leads to a bench clearing brawl, there might even be some added entertainment value. Chances are though, the batter takes his base, and the inning takes that much longer.
Meh. What are your thoughts?
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