Major League Baseball pitchers can be such fickle, sensitive beings. They get touchy about when they pitch, how long they pitch, and follow a strict regiment when it comes to game preparation and execution.
Not to say batters don’t have their idiosyncrasies, but we aren’t addressing them today.
What I do want to discuss is the oft-debated home run admiration and/or trot coupled with the severe psychological implications this has on a pitcher.
Here is a list of the longest and shortest home run trot/celebrations as of June 2016. Interestingly, a certain player appears on it an awful lot, yet he was regarded as one of the most respected hitters in the game; double standard much?
Let’s move on and look at an example of hurt feelings.
So, what happens next…?
Madison Bumgarner’s world falls apart in an instant. I mean, he’s got a family watching him pitch!
Granted, I didn’t include Puig’s full HR trot and glossed over the bat toss; I still cannot find the rule where it states you have to drop your bat with in a certain distance of the batters box. Regardless, you can watch the epic drama unfold in full here.
This might not be the quintessential confrontation, but lets summarize the highly insulting at bat.
Batter steps out of the box unconventionally. Pitcher probably thinks “Wow, he’s not respecting me or the game”. Instead of thinking about the ways he can make him look foolish by striking him out, etc., he presumably holds onto that anger, loses focus, and tosses him a pitch right in the hitter’s sweet spot. The batter, who just smoked a pitch into the deepest part of the field, admires how he accomplished one of the hardest things to do in any sport- hitting a baseball (out of the park). Outrage ensues.
When you fail at something, you figure out how to do the task better the next time. This guy hit a home run, how can I prevent him from doing it again; how can I make him look foolish? Logically that makes sense, right?
What we don’t factor in is pride and humility.
According to the ever-referenced ‘unwritten rules of baseball‘, the best course of action is to throw a baseball at a batter; to react in a way that is tantamount to a crime outside of the baseball field. Now, it doesn’t matter if you clip the next batter or wait until the rude hitter comes back up again. Justice must be served!
It’s not always the pitcher’s decision to reciprocate. Managers and pitching coaches deem it necessary at times. They don’t get a pass, either. Especially sitting in the dugout where they are safe from the fallout.
What is the infatuation with retaliation in baseball? Why is it necessary?
How about when a team celebrates a victory, it should be customary for the losing team to run across the field and attack them for demonstrating?
When a pitcher gives up a game winning home run, how often do you see him waiting at home plate with a posse of his teammates at the ready to rough up the hitter? Is that really all that different from the concept of throwing at a batter?
Not the same? Then the problem lies with ego.
I know what you’re thinking, “This hyperbole completely ignores the integrity of the game!” or “That’s what pitchers have been doing for the last 100+ years of baseball!”
OK, so because things have always been this way, that makes it the best course of action? If only that was the way life worked.
There are players who can handle being ‘shown up’.
See? Gamesmanship is possible without having to prove anything.
It’s hard to handle losing in any capacity. No one can deny that. It’s a very difficult emotion to process and its easy to feel slighted. We’ve all fallen victim to its pitfalls, whether it be a team sport or a one-on-one engagement.
The true measure of respect and dignity is how you bounce back from adversity. Feeling as though you have to maintain your baseball ‘Man Card’ is an exercise in unsophistication; a demonstration of the phony tough.
Throwing at a batter, or feeling you have to, is just stupid and unnecessary. Its yielding to the fact that you aren’t as good as your adversary, so you have to resort to physical violence as the only way to gain that control back. Never mind the fact that you could potentially end a player’s career and destroy his livelihood, all because you got hurt feelings.
Again, this isn’t just a pitching issue. Catchers at times take exception and even batters get angry (although they tend to take it out on the poor umpire). But how often do you see a batter charging the mound with his bat when a pitcher fools him or strikes him out?
Its time we, as fans, and the game itself just got over it.
To the victor go the spoils.