Tag Archives: Cincinnati Reds

What Jinx? Bailey Throws Into Doubt How Much the Baseball Gods Actually Care About Such Things

The official Cincinnati Reds Twitter feed mentioned Homer Bailey‘s no-hitter 12 times before he completed it, not to mention a steady stream of references during the telecast by broadcaster Thom Brenneman. It was the second straight no-no in which Bailey was karmically messed with.

Somehow, he completed it, anyway. Go figure.

Bailey nono

1 Comment

Filed under Homer Bailey, No-Hitter Etiquette

Chapman Goes Top Shelf, Twice; Cleveland Not Intimidated

Nick Swisher

Nick Swisher: Not delighted.

Head-high fastballs from Cincinnati pitchers were the order of the holiday weekend. First came Johnny Cueto on Sunday, riling up Chicago’s David DeJesus. A day later, Aroldis Chapman sent a 100 mph offering past—and well above—Nick Swisher, all the way to the screen. He followed that with an equally hot pitch that ran considerably closer to Swisher’s noggin.

Swisher can be seen on the telecast repeating the phrase, “Don’t do that” to the pitcher. After he flied out to left field, Swisher and Chapman exchanged words as he passed by the mound on his way back to the dugout. (Watch it all here.)

“The first one I saw go by and I was like, ‘Wow, that was pretty quick,’” Swisher said in a USA Today report. “And then that second one was a little too close for comfort—100 mph at someone’s head? Let’s be honest. That’s not exactly the best thing.”

Reds manager Dusty Baker wrote it off to wildness—“Is that the first time you’ve seen Aroldis throw one to the screen?” he asked—but it’s also plausible that it was Chapman’s version of strategic intimidation. (Last season Chapman struck out 122 while walking 23. Wildness does not appear to be an integral part of his makeup.)

Yes, even guys with 100-mph fastballs like to give themselves an extracurricular edge now and again. Just ask Nolan Ryan.

The first game in which Bobby Grich ever faced the flame-throwing strikeout king, in 1973, he laced a ball down the right-field line and made the mistake of verbally urging it to stay fair. The ball went foul, however, and Ryan ensured that Grich remembered the at-bat by putting his next pitch, a Chapman-esque fastball, up near his head. “I got the message,” Grich said.

During his rookie season, B.J. Surhoff took a big swing against Ryan, and ended up on his back as a result of the right-hander’s next offering. Mike Devereaux, same thing. Mike Aldrete bunted against him and was subsequently knocked down on consecutive pitches. Milt Thompson bunted and was hit in the ribs. Doug Jennings faked a bunt and was drilled. After avoiding an inside pitch, Bert Campaneris motioned for the pitcher to throw it over the plate, and was rewarded by being hit in the knee. The list goes on and on.

The purpose, primarily, was to keep the opposition uncomfortably on its toes. “The intimidation factor,” said Chris Speier, who wracked up 45 plate appearances against Ryan over the years, “was so high.”

“Quite honestly, there were a lot of guys who wouldn’t even play against [Ryan],” said Jerry Remy. “They’d just bail out. It was funny when you saw the lineups—there were a couple guys who, when he was pitching, you knew would not be in that lineup. They’d come down with a mysterious illness. I think because he was the most intimidating pitcher in the league.”

Dusty Baker not only acknowledged that syndrome, but labeled it: “Ryanitis.” It’s still unclear whether his closer is trying to foster his own brand of Chapmanitis, but it’s as good an explanation as any.

The modern game, however, holds far less tolerance for those willing to place a ball near a hitter’s head than it did during Ryan’s era.

Swisher handled things well, not even moving his feet before re-setting after the first wild pitch, then responding to the second one by putting good wood on a ball that was ultimately caught at the wall. The Indians as a team comported themselves accordingly when interviewed after Monday’s game, and on Tuesday responded on the field, with starter Zach McAllister drilling Brandon Phillips in the ribs in the fifth inning, an apparent response to Chapman’s antics.

Intimidation, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

“You’re only intimidated if you allow yourself to be,” said Andy Van Slyke, about his showdowns with Ryan. “It’s really that simple. If he hit me, I’d go take first base and steal second base and tell him to go fuck himself. That’s how you’ve got to play this game.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Intimidation, Retaliation

Hot-Headed Ways For Hot-Headed Men to Behave Like Hotheads

Cueto-DeJesusJohnny Cueto believes in responding should an opposing player disrespect him.

The guy also possesses the unfortunate combination of thin skin and anger-management issues. The same man who kicked Jason LaRue into retirement with a ridiculous display during a fight in 2010 was at it again on Sunday. Apparently irked in the first inning by David DeJesus’ decision to step out of the batter’s box during an at-bat, Cueto responded by flinging a fastball over the outfielder’s head—like, three feet over his head—when he came to the plate five frames later. (Watch it here.)

Plate ump Bob Davidson quickly warned both benches, curtailing retaliatory activity for the rest of the game, but the discussion was just getting started. And most of it centered on baseball’s unwritten rules.

Start with Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, who lasted just four innings. His postgame diatribe to reporters was long and pointed. Excerpts, from a CSNChicago report:

  • “I think that’s kind of immature on his part and totally uncalled for. He’s lucky that retaliation isn’t in our vocabulary here.”
  • “That’s kind of BS on his part. Just totally immature. If he has something to say about it, he knows where to find my locker and definitely I’ll find his.”
  • “If Cueto has any problem, he can throw at me and I’ll definitely return the favor. I didn’t like that one bit.”
  • “I hope he hears this, because I really don’t care. If we want to retaliate, we could have and lost a bullpen guy, but we don’t need that. We play the game the right way.”
  • “He needs to cut it out, because I’ll stop it.”

This from a guy who claims to have no personal history with Cueto. The message was, essentially, play the game the right way, or we’ll take care of it—the right way, via the Code. Problem was, Garza’s use of the media to address Cueto was itself against the Code, and served to puzzle one of the unwritten rules’ greatest practitioners, Cueto’s manager on the Reds, Dusty Baker.

Cueto hasn’t spoken to reporters since the incident, but Baker quickly picked up the slack. Rather than limit the scope of his conversation to on-field retaliation (perhaps spurred by Garza’s “find my locker” comment), he took things straight to the back alley.

“Take care of it then,” he said in an MLB.com report. “I mean, [Cueto] couldn’t hit Wilt Chamberlain with that pitch. … You got something to say, you go over there and tell him. Johnny ain’t running. Know what I mean? A guy can say what he wants to say, but it’s better if you go over and say it to his face.”

The most interesting part of the situation was when Baker recalled how, during his own playing days, situations were resolved a bit more directly.

“I just wish, just put them in a room, let them box and let it be over with, know what I mean?” he said. “I always said this. Let it be like hockey. Let them fight, somebody hits the ground and then it’ll be over with. I’m serious about that. I come from a different school. Guys didn’t talk as much. You just did it.”

He wasn’t just talking, either. As a player, was at the center of just such a situation. During a game against Pittsburgh in 1981, his Dodgers teammate, Reggie Smith, grew increasingly riled over the inside pitching of rookie Pascual Perez (despite the fact that Smith wasn’t even playing, due to a shoulder injury). When Perez hit Bill Russell with a pitch in the sixth inning, then hit Baker four batters later, Smith really started barking.

Pirates third baseman Bill Madlock motioned to Smith as if to say that he’d have to get through him to reach the pitcher, but Perez was not looking for protection. After striking out Steve Garvey to end the inning, Perez pointed first at Smith, then toward the grandstand. The two quickly retreated to the tunnels of Three Rivers Stadium to settle things, followed closely by teammates and managers.

As the 16,000 fans in attendance watched a vacant ballfield, puzzled, and umpires raced in an effort to intervene, a baseball fight broke out. Which is to say that, for all the dramatic build-up, tempers quickly cooled and peacemakers in the crowd broke it up before a punch, apparently, could be thrown.

The ultimate point, however, said Pirates manager Chuck Tanner, was that there was no carry-over. “It was taken care of,” he said.

If that incident somehow did not meet Baker’s criteria of guys not talking as much, another of his teams was involved in an off-field fight—this one in which fighting actually occurred, with punches and everything. Except instead of involving opposing teams, it featured only participants from his own roster. It was 1973, and Baker played for the Atlanta Braves, under manager Eddie Matthews. From The Baseball Codes:

The way Davey Johnson, then a star second baseman for the Braves, tells it, after an initial verbal disagreement with Matthews, the manager invited him into his room and challenged him to a fight. Johnson, reluctant at first, changed his mind when Matthews wound up for a roundhouse punch, then knocked the older man down. Matthews charged back, and as the sounds of the scrape flooded the hallway, players converged on the scene. In the process of breaking things up, several peacemakers were soon bearing welts of their own.

“The next day at the ballpark we looked like we had just returned from the Revolutionary War,” wrote Tom House (a member of the team, who, true to the code of silence, left all names out of his published account). “Every­body had at least one black eye, puffed-up lips, scraped elbows, and sore hands. It had been a real knockdown battle.”

This was something that couldn’t be hidden from the press. Matthews called the team together, and as a unit they came up with a story about a game that got carried away, in which guys took good-natured beatings. Flimsy? Maybe. Accepted? Absolutely.

“You can ask Hank Aaron and others on that team,” Johnson said, laughing. “Eddie said his biggest regret [in his baseball career] was not having it out with me again. That one never got out. It never made the papers.”

The Cueto-Garza-DeJesus situation will probably never come close to that. But that’s kind of the point. The call-and-response nature of baseball’s unwritten rules—taking care of things on the field, as it were—exists to prevent this sort of thing. And, save for the occasional below-decks brawl every few decades or so, it works pretty well in that regard.

1 Comment

Filed under Fights, Johnny Cueto, Retaliation

Don’t Mess With My No-No: Speier’s Meddling Works Out in the End

Remember when A’s manager Bob Melvin put the shift on earlier this month against Jarrod Saltalamacchia as pitcher A.J. Griffin took a no-hitter into the fifth inning? How Saltalamacchia took advantage, bunting for his team’s first hit? How Melvin bore ultimate responsibility with his ill-timed strategy?

Seems that he’s not alone.

Friday, interim Reds manager Chris Speier did precisely the same thing, shifting his infield to the right for lefty hitter Pedro Alvarez in the eighth inning of Cincinnati’s game against Pittsburgh, even as pitcher Homer Bailey worked on a no-hitter.

Unlike Saltalamacchia, however, Alvarez failed to appreciate the fact that, with a simple willingness to poke a ball down the third base line, he’d not only have achieved his team’s first hit, but he’d have brought the winning run to the plate in a 1-0 game. Instead, he swung away and hit a line drive toward the shortstop position, manned by third baseman Scott Rolen.

“If [Rolen]’s not there that goes right between short and third,” said Bailey in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought that was it.”

Speier’s maneuver was the same as Melvin’s, save for the fact that it worked. Perhaps he had intel saying that Alvarez doesn’t bunt under any circumstances, and he took advantage. Barring that, though, it’s difficult to criticize Melvin without laying down a similar dose right here.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under No-Hitter Etiquette

Delayed Gratification: Pittsburgh Strikes Back, a Month Later

The hubbub surrounding Brandon Phillipsaccusations of racism helped obscure a profound truth about baseball’s unwritten rules: Teams will wait as long as is necessary to respond to events in which they feel they’ve been significantly wronged.

Phillips getting drilled Monday was at the heart of it, but had little to do with the genesis of the situation. It began on Aug. 3, when Reds closer Aroldis Chapman drilled Andrew McCutchen with a 101-mph fastball. The following day, Reds starter Mike Leake hit Josh Harrison, then descended the mound toward him to deliver a follow-up message.

Of concern to the Pirates was the fact that umpire Brian Gorman issued warnings after the latter incident. It was, I wrote at the time, “an unfortunate development that precluded—correction, delayed—any type of Pittsburgh response.”

The delay is now over. In the eighth inning Monday, Pittsburgh reliever Jared Hughes placed a fastball into Phillips’ left leg. It certainly looked intentional, although the surrounding factors—a 3-3 tie with one out in the eighth is not the prototypical moment for retaliation; a hitter like Phillips, who can run, is not an ideal target, especially with Joey Votto lurking two batters later; and catcher Rod Barajas reached out as if to catch a wayward pitch—suggest otherwise.  (Watch it here.)

Phillips got in some jabs of his own, first picking up the baseball and tossing it toward Hughes—this is the act that is widely assumed to have precipitated Phillips’ post-game tweet claiming racism—then stealing second. (He did not score, and the game went 14 innings.)

As McCutchen jogged toward his dugout following the Reds’ half of the eighth, a clearly perturbed Phillips engaged him with a clear message for somebody on the Pittsburgh bench. That turned out to be Hughes, but by Tuesday the feuding participants reached an accord. Nobody was hit in last night’s game, and no fireworks are anticipated for the teams’ four meetings through the end of the season.

Leave a comment

Filed under Retaliation

Deke Softly and Carry a Big Stick: Castro Falls for Misdirection, Gets Himself Gunned

Contrary to Brandon Phillips’ actions, no ball was headed his way.

Starlin Castro has for the duration of his career been criticized for an ongoing failure to pay requisite attention during the course of a baseball game. From forgetting the number of outs in an inning (which kept him from attempting to turn what would have been an inning-ending double-play against the Giants), to failing to slide into second on a stolen-base attempt, to facing the wrong way as his pitcher was delivering the baseball, the guy’s career has been a laundry list of mental lapses that temper an exceptional skill set.

The latest came on Friday—though to be fair, this time the All-Star had some help in botching things up.

That assistance came courtesy of Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. Castro, at first base, took off on a stolen-base attempt—itself a questionable move, what with the Cubs down five runs—as Josh Vitters singled to right. Phillips acted as if he were about to receive a throw from the shortstop for a play at second; despite Castro having the entire left side of the field in his direct line of sight, he somehow fell for it. (Watch here, at the 1:16 mark.)

Castro was deked into a full stop, and by the time he figured out what was happening and tried to motor to third, it was far too late. Xavier Paul threw the ball in to Phillips, who relayed it to third baseman Wilson Valdez, who tagged Castro for an easy out.

After the game, Alfonso Soriano said in an ESPN Chicago report that Castro “needs to concentrate more on the game.” This is undoubtedly true, but it also helps to understand the basics of Phillips’ misdirection.

“You know not to trust middle infielders—it’s their job to deke,” said longtime middle infielder Bip Roberts.

If Castro (a middle infielder himself) lost track of the ball between the plate and the spot in right field where it eventually landed, he always had third base coach Pat Listach (a former middle infielder) to clue him in. Then again, if a guy can’t be reliably counted on to face the game when fielding his position, it’s probably too much to ask that he pay attention to coaches when running the bases.

“A ball is hit, and I’m supposed to know where that ball falls at all times,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington. “If I run blind and get deked out, whose fault is that? Is that the infielder who deked me out, or is that my fault for not knowing what’s going on?”

Lonnie Smith, of course, was deked by Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch in the seventh game of the 1991 World Series—a play that likely cost Atlanta a vital run in a game they ended up losing, 1-0, in 10 innings. Smith, however, was 35 years old, a 14-year veteran and on the game’s biggest stage. Castro is only 22, and, one would hope, is still at the early end of his learning curve.

Still, said Cubs manager Dale Sveum after the game, according to MLB.com, “If you’re going to steal a base five runs down, you better [darn] well know where the ball’s hit.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Brandon Phillips, Deke Appropriately, Starlin Castro

Reds Push Pirates, Pirates Bide Their Time. Slugfest in the NL Central, Anyone?

Clint has his say.

It’s on in Pittsburgh.

Friday, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman drilled Andrew McCutchen with a 101-mph fastball. (Watch it here. Note: No rubbing.) On Saturday, Reds starter Mike Leake hit Josh Harrison, then walked toward him to deliver a follow-up message. (Watch it here.)

Umpire Brian Gorman warned both benches after the latter incident, an unfortunate development that precluded—correction, delayed—any type of Pittsburgh response. (When Pirates manager Clint Hurdle questioned the decision, Gorman promptly tossed him.) It was enough to lead Sunday’s starter, A.J. Burnett to point toward various Reds players from the dugout, the message being that accountability can sometimes be a painful thing, and he was willing to wait to enforce it.

Warnings may have been issued prior to Burnett’s Sunday start, or perhaps it was because it ended up being a close game until the ninth, or maybe it was because the Pirates had already dropped the first two games of the series to their NL Central rivals and were desperate for a victory, but the right-hander went 8 2/3, giving up only three hits and two runs in a 6-2 victory without hitting anybody (and despite two more Pirates, Rod Barajas and Starling Marte, getting hit themselves).

“No one in here has forgotten about what happened to ‘Cutch,” Burnett said in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We needed a big ‘W’ today.”

“There is a time and a place for [retaliation],” added Barajas. “Today was the time to win. We got that done.”

Pittsburgh did figure out one warning-proof way to make a statement, however. On Saturday, 6-foot-7, 245-pound reliever Jared Hughes tagged out baserunner Dioner Navarro (all 5-foot-9 of him) with a marked shove—a move that Dusty Baker later called “a bully move” in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The notion of bullying is prominent in these teams’ shared history. It was raised Saturday by Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister, who took over as manager after Hurdle’s ejection. “This is their turf, and they’re trying to bully us,” he said in an MLB.com report.

We’ve heard this story before. From The Baseball Codes:

[Dock Ellis] possessed a clear understanding of the power of intimidation, having seen it in action as his Pittsburgh Pirates teams terrorized the rest of the National League, bullying their way to three division titles and one World Series between 1970 and 1972. In ’73, though, things began to change—the Pirates inex­plicably lost their bravado and many more games than expected, finishing below .500 and in third place in the National League East. When they opened 1974 by lurching into last place with a 6-12 record, Ellis took it upon himself to spur a roster-wide attitude adjustment.

He chose as his victims the Cincinnati Reds, themselves coming off two straight division titles and on their way to ninety-eight wins. If Pittsburgh’s new timidity tipped the balance of swagger in the National League against them, the prime beneficiary was Cincinnati. Ellis wanted to reverse that trend.

“[Other teams used to] say, ‘Here come the big bad Pirates. They’re going to kick our ass.’ Like they give up,” said Ellis in Donald Hall’s book, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball. “That’s what our team was starting to do. When Cincinnati showed up in spring training, I saw all the ballplayers doing the same thing. They were running over, talking, laughing and hee-haw this and that. Cincinnati will bullshit with us and kick our ass and laugh at us. They’re the only team that talk about us like a dog.”

When Ellis took the mound against Cincinnati on May 1, 1974, he had only one strategy in mind: to drill every batter that stepped in against him. The first was Pete Rose, who ducked out of the way when a first-pitch fastball sailed toward his head, then jumped forward to avoid the second pitch, which flew behind him. The third pitch, aimed at his rib cage, found its mark. Man on first, nobody out.

The second batter, Joe Morgan, caught Ellis’s first pitch with his kid­ney. First and second, nobody out. Third up: Dan Driessen. Ellis’s open­ing shot sailed high and inside for a ball. The second pitch found the middle of Driessen’s back.

The bases were now loaded, but the pitcher was hardly deterred. Cincinnati’s cleanup hitter, Tony Perez, took stock of the carnage and realized his only possible salvation was to stay light on his feet. He pro­ceeded to dance around four straight offerings—including a near wild pitch that flew behind him and over his head—to draw a walk and force in the game’s first run. When Ellis went 2-0 to Johnny Bench, Pirates man­ager Danny Murtaugh couldn’t take any more and removed the pitcher from the game.

“[Ellis’s] point was not to hit batters,” wrote Hall. “His point was to kick Cincinnati ass.” His point was also to inspire his teammates, to instill a measure of toughness in a languor-prone Pittsburgh squad. It might be coincidence, but after that game—which the Reds won, 5–3—the Pirates went 82-62 and won the National League East for the fourth time in five years.

Trying to intimidate an upstart is hardly new in the pantheon of baseball—just ask Cole Hamels. How the upstart responds is what really matters.

The teams meet again for three in Cincinnati starting Sept. 10, and three more in Pittsburg two-and-a-half weeks later for the season’s final game. Mark your calendars.

1 Comment

Filed under A.J. Burnett, Retaliation

La Russa’s All-Star Snubs Have Cincy Clubhouse Crying Foul

Johnny Cueto: Still not an All-Star.

Remember when Brandon Phillips called the Cardinals “little bitches,” and in the ensuing fight Johnny Cueto kicked Jason LaRue onto the disabled list for nearly the final two months of the 2010 season, effectively ending his career?

So does Tony La Russa, who proved Sunday that baseball retaliation can take myriad shapes.

There’s no way to prove it, of course, short of La Russa admitting as much, but the ex-manager, picking reserves for the National League All-Star team, conspicuously left Phillips and Cueto off the roster.

Both are worthy of inclusion; then again, the guys La Russa ended up picking are also fine choices. That wasn’t good enough for Reds manager Dusty Baker.

“A snub like that looks bad,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Johnny and Brandon were at the center of a skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of the Cardinals who aren’t there anymore are making some of the selections.”

Joey Votto chimed in as well, saying that he was “frustrated” and “disappointed.” Cueto took things a step further, adding “I don’t if know the manager of All-Star Game is pissed at me because I went out with one of his girlfriends.” (Stay classy, Johnny Cueto.)

Snubs happen every year, of course—which is probably where this discussion would have ended had La Russa himself not spoken up, telling the Enquirer that Baker was “attacking my integrity” and that “no way am I going to penalize anybody for any kind of past history.”

Which would have been fine, except that La Russa then tried to justify his position by pointing out that Cueto will be pitching on the Sunday prior to the game. In 2010, MLB implemented a rule stating that pitchers who start on the Sunday before the All-Star break are to be replaced on the roster. This year, they changed it a bit. From the new collective bargaining agreement, as reported by the Enquirer: Any pitcher who starts a game the Sunday prior to the All-Star Game “shall have the option to participate,” but “will not be permitted to pitch for more than one inning” and can set his own pitch count.

Well, then. It’s difficult to believe that La Russa was not made aware of this.

The manager is within his rights to pick whoever he wants, and to leave off those players he’d rather avoid over several days in Kansas City. But like the pitcher who admits to hitting a batter intentionally, La Russa now has more questions to answer than he would have otherwise.

Part of me thinks this is all intentional, and that La Russa’s just looking for a little extra excitement now that he’s retired. Either way, it’ll be difficult for any of the Reds to respond once he’s returned to his post-career life promoting animal welfare. Which is probably just how he wants it.

1 Comment

Filed under Retaliation, Tony La Russa

Stop, Drop and Roll: Chapman’s Tumble Has Folks Talking

The evolution of self-congratulation in baseball has been long and storied. Reggie Jackson lingering in the batter’s box.  Barry Bonds’s twirls and Sammy Sosa’s bunny hops en route to first base. Earlier this season we had Yoenis Cespedes, who in his third major league game took some liberties while watching a mammoth shot off of Seattle’s Jason Vargas.

It’s that last one that holds the most relevance to today’s story, which features another recent Cuban émigré, in possession of perhaps not the firmest grasp of baseball mores, celebrating his own achievement with a literally over-the-top display that was well-received by neither opponents nor teammates.

When Aroldis Chapman tumbles, people pay attention.

After closing out a 4-3 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday, Chapman celebrated by doing a double somersault toward the plate. The guy was delighted after getting back on track following consecutive blown saves and an 11.37 ERA over his previous seven outings, and his display of exuberance was unlike any baseball had yet seen. (Watch it here.)

It’s unlikely that Chapman intended to show up the Brewers, but there’s little gray area in baseball when it comes to this sort of thing; rarely is an example of unnecessary showboating so blatant.

“It’s about professionalism . . .” Joey Votto told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s just not how you do things.”

Chapman, of course, has a bit of history when it comes to making curious decisions. There’s the ticket for driving nearly 100 mph with a suspended license. There’s the stripper girlfriend who may or may not have been involved with robbing his hotel room. Both are the mark of a young guy who hasn’t yet achieved full maturity. So, for that matter, is his tumble off the mound. One difference: The first two don’t inspire opposing pitchers to drill him.

Actually, since closers rarely bat, should the Brewers opt to take his celebration the wrong way it’ll likely be one of Chapman’s teammates who ends up paying for his mistake. Which is why members of the Cincinnati clubhouse were so quick to pile on following the game.

“We don’t play like that,” said manager Dusty Baker in an MLB.com report, adding in the Enquirer that “it’ ain’t no joke,” and that “it won’t happen again, ever.”

“You can’t be doing that,” said catcher Ryan Hanigan. Votto, Jay Bruce and pitching coach Bryan Price spoke with Chapman after the game. From John Paul Morosi’s report: “By the time Chapman returned to the clubhouse, the smile he wore on the field was gone. He rested his forehead on a bat as he sat silently at his locker. He declined comment through a team official, saying he was not ‘mentally ready’ to take questions from the media.”

This was important. It told the Brewers that, regardless of how they might respond the following day, the Cincinnati organization was on top of the matter. That kind of thing can make a difference, as evidenced by the fact that Wednesday’s game featured no hit batters. That could have been due to the fact that the score was too close to chance retaliation until the ninth, or that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spent parts of three seasons as Baker’s teammate on the Dodgers, and understands how his counterpart feels about this kind of thing. Or maybe it’s just that Milwaukee has considerable recent history with its own displays of showboating.

Still, some comfort can be taken from knowing that a situation has been handled; Baker has seen it first-hand. From The Baseball Codes:

In a game in 1996, the Giants trailed Los Angeles 11–2 in the ninth inning, and decided to station first baseman Mark Carreon at his normal depth, ignoring the runner at first, Roger Cedeno. When Cedeno, just twenty-one years old and in his first April as a big-leaguer, saw that nobody was bothering to hold him on, he headed for second—by any interpretation a horrible decision.

As the runner, safe, dusted himself off, Giants third baseman Matt Williams lit into him verbally, as did second baseman Steve Scarsone, left fielder Mel Hall, and manager Dusty Baker. Williams grew so heated that several teammates raced over to restrain him from going after the young Dodgers outfielder. . . .

At second base, Scarsone asked Cedeno if he thought it was a full count, and the outfielder responded that, no, he was just confused. “If he’s that confused, somebody ought to give him a manual on how to play baseball,” said Baker after the game. “I’ve never seen anybody that con­fused.”

In the end, it was Eric Karros [who had been up to bat when this all went down] who saved Cedeno. When he stepped out of the box, as members of the Giants harangued the bewildered baserunner, Karros didn’t simply watch idly—he turned toward the San Francisco bench and informed them that Cedeno had run without a shred of insti­tutional authority, and that Karros himself would ensure that justice was administered once the game ended. Sure enough, as Cedeno sat at his locker after the game, it was obvious to observers that he had been crying. Though the young player refused to comment, it appeared that Karros had been true to his word. “Ignorance and youth really aren’t any excuse,” said Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, “but we were able to cool things down.”

If there’s any ongoing resentment toward Chapman among the Brewers, we likely won’t know it until July 20, shortly after the All-Star Game, when the teams meet in Cincinnati. (Then again, if rosters hold, Votto and Ryan Braun will have all kinds of time to discuss the situation as members of the National League squad.)

Unlikely as the eventuality may be, should the Brewers decide to retaliate, and they do it in appropriate fashion, it would be shocking to hear a peep of protest from Baker.

4 Comments

Filed under Aroldis Chapman, Don't Showboat

Sign Stealing in C-Town? Mat Latos Thinks So

With a runner at second base in the fourth, Casey Kotchman takes Mat Latos deep.

Mat Latos thinks the Indians were stealing his signs. To judge by the evidence, he may be on to something.

After a 10-9 loss to Cleveland on Monday, Latos—who gave up seven runs on eight hits over four innings—identified what he felt were telltale signs:

  • When Cleveland had runners at second, possibly peering in to catcher Ryan Hanigan’s signs and relaying the information toward the plate, hitters were sitting on what Latos felt were good pitches.
  • After reviewing video, he said that the Indians hit the ball significantly better with runners at second base than they did otherwise.
  • With Shin Soo-Choo at second in the fourth inning, Hanigan changed things up. What had been the sign for a curveball turned into the sign for a slider; Latos said that the next hitter, Asdrubal Cabrera, was subsequently looking for a breaking pitch and got jammed.

All of this, of course, could be mere coincidence. It could also mean that Cleveland is a team that likes to know what’s coming.

Either way, it doesn’t much matter. A team’s primary recourse in such a situation is to change signs, and that’s exactly what Cincinnati did; the following day, the Reds held Cleveland to three runs over 10 innings.

Situation solved.

Even Latos, who was more outspoken about the practice than most pitchers who are similarly (allegedly) victimized, was quick to admit that his lack of sharpness prevented stolen signs from being his primary issue. And he didn’t come anywhere close to threatening retaliation.

“Stealing signs is part of the game—that’s not the problem,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker in an interview for The Baseball Codes in 2006. “The problem is, if you get caught, quit. That’s the deal. If you get caught, you have to stop. . . . That’s the truth.”

Then again, Baker also made the point Tuesday in an MLB.com report that “you don’t really have to steal signs when the ball is over the heart of the plate and up”—which it most certainly was for Cleveland on Monday.

Indians manager Manny Acta denied that anything was amiss.

“Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the players don’t want to know what’s coming, anyway,” he said in a Cleveland.com report. “Because you really don’t want to be taking a chance of leaning out over the plate for a 78 mile-per-hour change-up and have a 95 mile-per-hour fastball in your helmet. By the time you go and complain to the runner on second base, you might be with the paramedics.”

Acta is certainly correct about the negative repercussions, but there’s no way he actually thinks that only three-quarters of a player (yep, that’s the math on 99.9 percent of 750 big leaguers) wants to know what’s coming. There are certainly some holdouts and guess hitters out there, but it’d be a safe bet to say that at least half the hitters in baseball would jump at that type of advantage.

Look no farther than one of Acta’s own players, Johnny Damon, who, while denying that he stole signs against Cincinnati, added that he’d want to know if any of his teammates were, “because I would like to know what’s coming next time.”

There is also another possibility to explain Latos’ frustration on Monday—one that could hurt the pitcher far more than the occasionally pilfered sign.

“Tell [Latos] you don’t have to steal signs when you’re tipping pitches,” said an unnamed Cleveland hitter at MLB.com. And so the intrigue begins anew.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mat Latos, Sign stealing