Baseball is a great game. Almost every game has some sort of unique situation arise, allowing fans to try to get in to the minds of the players and managers. Is the starting pitcher beginning to lose his stuff or can he go another inning? Is the centerfielder cheating a bit by playing shallow to keep a runner from advancing or to cut off a short line drive and will the hitter be able to get something past him in to the gap?
Yes, almost every game provides opportunities to wonder what’s going on in the minds of those on the field and in the dugouts. Even 16-4 games where the outcome was never in doubt past the second inning.
I didn’t see that mess of a game the Twins lost to the Brewers on Sunday, but from what I’ve read, there was at least one such, “what were they thinking?” moment. It came in the top of the 9th inning when Brewer relief pitcher Tim Dillard threw one pitch low and inside at Jamey Carroll and, having failed to hit him, threw his next pitch behind the Twins infielder. Dillard was immediately ejected by umpire Hunter Wendelstead. Carroll indicated that he asked Brewer catcher Jonathan Lucroy what it was all about and Lucroy told him the purpose pitch was in retaliation for Jeff Gray plunking Nyjer Morgan.
Let me just say that I admit I’m pretty much “old school” on the subject of Purpose Pitches. In this case, that means I believe there is a time and place for purpose pitches. Yes, while I know others disagree, I believe there are times and places when a pitcher should… maybe even MUST… intentionally throw a ball with the intent of hitting the batter… or at least knocking him down.
I started hitting batters intentionally when I was 13 years old. The “recreational” league I played in had time limits. You couldn’t start a new inning after the game had gone 90 minutes or something along those lines. This meant that there were times when the home team was at bat with a lead and, with the time limit approaching, some hitters got pretty deliberate about getting in to the batters box. When I was pitching in such a situation, that batter got one fastball in the ribs and next hitter got a stare that dared him to screw around. I seldom had to throw a second purpose pitch.
Of course, the more common “purpose” behind throwing at a hitter, especially in professional ball, is in retaliation for something deemed unsportsmanlike or for your own hitters getting hit intentionally. Of course, a guy like Bob Gibson didn’t need a “purpose”. A bad cup of coffee with breakfast might have been enough for Gibby to knock three opposing hitters on their butts.
But here’s where pitchers today lose me.
If the guy you’re throwing at has to ask the catcher what the purpose of that “purpose pitch” was, you have to question the decision. In the situation Sunday, frankly, I can understand the Brewers getting a bit irritated with the situation. Twins pitchers hit not one… not two… but THREE Brewers hitters in that game. Did any of those HBPs occur because the Twins thought the Brewers were “piling on”? I have no idea, but that’s one “purpose” I’ve never seen as being a legitimate reason to throw at a hitter. If you don’t want the opposition to keep scoring runs, you should do something about getting more outs and giving up fewer hits.
Anyway, as I said, I didn’t see the game. I don’t know what the circumstances were behind the Twins hitting three Brewers batters. But I do know that the last of those three occurred in the bottom of the seventh inning. That means the Brewers had plenty of opportunities in the top of the eighth inning to send the message to the Twins that they didn’t appreciate what had been going on.
But they didn’t do that.
They waited until Carroll came up to lead off the ninth inning… knowing full well there would be no “bottom of the ninth” where a Brewers hitter might risk getting “purposed” himself.
That’s chickenshit. I hope the Twins will have memories long enough to make that point to the Brewers when Milwaukee visits Target Field next month, but I doubt it. That’s simply not the “Twins Way” (gag).
Since this got me reminiscing about my days as a 13 year old pitcher, there was another event on Sunday that brought back a memory of those days.
My dad used to catch me in the back yard as he was schooling me on the finer points of the art and science of pitching. As 13 year olds and their fathers tend to do at times, there were occasions when the schooling led to… shall we say… differences. Yes, I would, at times, get angry with my father during those sessions.
When I got angry, I would wind up and try to throw every pitch right through him. Of course, I never succeeded in doing anything except motivating him to remind me that he could throw a ball much, much harder than I could. Invariably, I ended up with a very bruised glove hand to go along with my bruised ego.
All of which is my long way of pondering this question.
Now that we know catcher Drew Butera is capable of throwing a baseball accurately at a speed in excess of 94 mph, how tempting must it be for him, at times, to rifle a ball back to one of the Twins pitchers, as a way of saying, “is that weak-assed 87 mph crap all you got?”