Reigning National League Most Valuable Player, the Pittsburgh Pirates' center-fielder Andrew McCutchen, is most likely headed to the disabled list. The important cog in Pittsburgh's machine, looking to make a return visit to the postseason, was involved in a situation in a game played on Saturday, Aug. 2 in Arizona against the Diamondbacks that has brought an important issue to a head once again.
The altercation actually began during the game played between the two squads on Friday, Aug. 1. Pirates' relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri hit Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt on the hand, breaking it and putting Goldschmidt on the DL. General consensus by most involved in MLB are that Frieri's beaming of Goldschmidt wasn't intentional, but the Diamondbacks may have thought otherwise.
McCutchen came up to bat in the top of the ninth inning on Saturday with his team leading 5-1 and first base open. Arizona relief pitcher then put the third pitch of the at-bat, a fastball, squarely on McCutchen's back. Home plate umpire Ron Kulpa immediately ejected Delgado. McCutchen left Sunday's game with an injury that could be connected and Pittsburgh isn't certain when he will return right now.
I can't conclusively prove that Frieri's striking of Goldschmidt wasn't intentional, nor that Delgado's plunking of McCutchen was. Only they know their minds. The facts point to those two conclusions, however.
When Goldschmidt got hit, the outcome of Friday night's game was still very much in doubt. That was not the case in Saturday's game when McCutchen was struck. Anyone who has watched Frieri pitch this year knows that his control has been minimal. Delgado doesn't have that knock against him. Under manager Clint Hurdle, the Pirates don't have a history of "head-hunting." There's an element in the Diamondbacks' organization that lends to that thinking.
Many factors, like the team's poor performance, could play into this, but Arizona manager Kirk Gibson has been different since Tony LaRussa became involved with the franchise. LaRussa was known during his managerial career for retaliation and assuming that his players being hit was intentional.
It's time that this behavior of retaliation dies. It has no place in professional baseball. A league that has produced legislation to protect players from the dangers of home plate collisions should be equally interested in putting a stop to this practice.
The responsibility of enforcement of a new standard on this rule should fall to the Commissioner's Office. You could fine and suspend players for throwing the pitch, but that won't be effective at putting a stop to the practice. To really curtail it, you have to go after the managers themselves.
Suspending a team's manager for two or three games after one of his pitchers intentionally hits a batter with a pitch will quickly cause the league's teams to abandon the practice. Baseball has changed many times since its inception. It's time for the practice of throwing a baseball 90+ miles an hour at a human being's head to go into the garbage pail of stupid behavior forever.
In other news, Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton got a sizable contract extension, which despite what Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback Alex Smith has said to the media, will affect his negotiations with Kansas City on a possible extension of his own. Practices for fall prep sports on the lake have begun.
Looking ahead to this next week, the big story lines are the first full week of preseason games which start tomorrow night and important series in MLB which include Brewers-Dodgers and Blue Jays-Tigers. Mind your manners folks.