Don't Steal with a Big Lead, Retaliation

Lack of Respect in the Windy City? De Aza Pays for Rios’ Mistake

Alejandro De Aza contemplates just having been hit with a pitch.

There is a persistent debate about the point at which a team should stop playing aggressively—the lead size that constitutes a blowout, and when it begins to matter.

According the Cubs, those numbers are six runs and the seventh inning, respectively—at least if Alajandro De Aza is to be believed.

De Aza, the White Sox center fielder, was drilled by the first pitch from Cubs reliever Manny Corpas leading off the eighth inning on Wednesday. It wasn’t that he and Corpas had any beef—to the contrary, said De Aza in a CBS Chicago report, “we’re cool, we’re friends, I’ve known him for a long time.”

The inspiration for the pitch—which De Aza felt was intentional (it certainly looked that way; watch it here)—was likely White Sox right fielder Alex Rios’ decision, after he led off the seventh inning with a single, to take off for second while his club led, 6-0.

Rios never made it, getting forced out on A.J. Pierzynski’s grounder, but the action was unmistakable—as was the response. De Aza said he thought Corpas was told simply “to hit the first guy.” (Watch some of his comments here.)

After the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum played coy. “I don’t know,” he said in an report. “He hit him. It happens sometimes.”

Especially when somebody is paying scant attention to the score. Rios has stolen 171 bases across his nine-year career, so he should have a pretty good idea of what’s appropriate in that regard. It’s also possible that the order came from the bench, probably as a hedge against the double-play more than as a straight steal. If that’s the case, it’s less likely that Robin Ventura simply lost track of the score than that he was insufficiently comfortable with a six-run lead at that point in the game. (Why he would feel that way when facing a Cubs offense that ranks in the bottom five of the National League in hits, runs, doubles, homers, OBP, OPS and slugging is another question.)

Either way, it was the final meeting of the season for the Chicago clubs, so we won’t see a response any time soon. And if De Aza and Corpas meet up during the off-season—you know, like friends do—they’ll hopefully come to the conclusion that the incident was strictly the business of the unwritten rules.

3 thoughts on “Lack of Respect in the Windy City? De Aza Pays for Rios’ Mistake

  1. That is silly. The way today’s baseball game is played and the “live” ball, there is no safe lead. Why then, managers still employ the “shift” on some batters regardless of the score?. In other words, a soon as a team gets a big lead (6 runs or over?), the competition is over and the fans can go home after 7 innings. I do not buy that.

    1. That’s a really good point. I’d be interested to see how frequently the shift is utilized in blowouts. I’d guess not often, though the unwritten rules are generally geared toward finishing lopsided games as quickly as possible. Case in point: teams failing to hold runners on first in a blowout, with the understanding that they won’t run, which gives them a defensive advantage of playing the first baseman more toward the hole.

      1. If the point at hand is to finish a lopsided game as soon as possible, why then the next batter has to get hit? All it does is stop the action and possibly start a bench clearing brawl. Baseball is a unique game different from other sports. It does not depend on the clock for completion. On the other hand, fans hate to see a baseball player jog to first base on a ground ball hit to an infielder regardless of the score. Another thing. At what point of the game the players decide to stop hustling on a blowout?. Who makes that decision? There are more questions than answers.

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