Let the kids play—unless they hit you into the river

2019-04-07 RedsVPirates
This is what happened Sunday after Chris Archer threw at Derek Dietrich for enjoying a little too much the blast he sent into the river two innings earlier . . .

Too much is more than enough and has been too long. Chris Archer needs to be suspended. Not six games, which is nothing for a starting pitcher who goes to the mound every five days. Six starts should be about right. Because this nonsense about “the unwritten rules” and “respect” is just that. Nonsense.

So what if the Reds’ Derek Dietrich lingered at the plate a few seconds before running the bases after hitting one into Pittsburgh’s Allegheny River in the top of the second Sunday afternoon? Archer, the Pirates pitcher who thinks nothing of a few elaborate little celebratory moves of his own when he strikes hitters out, decided, so everything.

Not to mention, so hypocrisy. Because before the game the Pirates tweeted a small montage of Archer’s moves with baseball’s “Let the Kids Play” promotional slogan as a tag line. Apparently, Archer believes in letting the kids play unless they send splash hits into the river on his dime, or at least on his fat enough two-seam fastball.

And the next time Dietrich batted, in the top of the fourth, Archer threw one toward his hip that sailed just behind his back. On the first pitch of the plate appearance. Anyone who thinks there was no intent involved in that pitch should probably surrender his or her credentials as a baseball commentator or analyst.

So should anyone who was surprised that Reds manager David Bell pounced immediately on the umpire who issued a mere warning, or that the Reds were unamused enough by Archer’s intent to pour out of their dugout and bullpen in hand with the Pirates pouring out of theirs.

“I was trying to go in,” Archer said. “I air-mailed a couple balls today, a couple that I was trying to elevate, a couple that I yanked when righties were up there. Another one that I just yanked. I missed—missed my spot.” Like hell he did.

“It’s just completely unacceptable for anyone to try to intentionally hurt one of our players,” said Bell, who knew what everyone in PNC Park with eyes could tell. “It’s that simple. And it was obvious.”

The pitch was about as unintentional as the driller Hunter Strickland threw into Bryce Harper’s hip two years ago. Archer’s sole saving grace, if that’s what it was, is that he wasn’t looking for revenge over an almost three-year-old pair of home runs. But he was looking for something to take the edge off his ego being flown into the river.

Which makes Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle a prophet without honour yet. “I promise you, they’re not disrespecting the game,” Doolittle said last fall of the bombardiers who hit long distance and celebrate it on the spot. For the pitchers who surrender those bombs, Doolittle had a further message: “If you got your feelings hurt, that’s on you. If a guy hits a home run off me, drops to his knees, pretends the bat is a bazooka, and shoots it out at the sky, I don’t give a shit.”

The Sunday scrum’s highlights involved Yasiel Puig, who’s having a slow start to his own season but who doesn’t suffer either fools or those throwing at his teammates gladly. He had to be restrained by teammate Joey Votto and Pirates catcher Francis Cervelli after trying to headlock Pirates bench coach Tom Prince, then broke away pouring back into the crowd in the front of the infield before being restrained again.

“When people watch the ball go far away or do bat flips,” Puig said after the 7-5 Pirates win, “like I do before, in the next (at-bat) try to strike out the guy. Don’t try to hit the guy, because we can’t defend you back because we can’t hit you with a bat or nothing.”

Pirate relief pitcher Felipe Vasquez made two mistakes. One was coming onto the field without his uniform top on to join the scrum, which got him ejected along with Bell, Puig, Reds pitcher Amir Garrett, and fellow Pirates pitcher Keone Kela. The other was what he said about the Dietrich river bomb.

“He shouldn’t have done that. That’s against the principles. If you do something like that, you’re going to pay for it,” said Vasquez. “We’re trying to play the game like we have to, respect the game. He shouldn’t do it. (Votto) can do it because he’s been here a long time, but for a guy like that, he’s not supposed to do something like that . . . I think it was a little too much.”

Oh. You’re only allowed to have fun based upon your major league service time. (The 29-year-old Dietrich has returned from being designated for assignment during the offseason, and he’s bounced between the Show and the minors quite awhile.) Vasquez must be a regular riot at weddings, checking to see who’s been friends the longest with the happy couple before pronouncing who shall or shall not be allowed to bust what moves on the dance floor.

If that’s the Pirates attitude, they should play baseball in business suits. Come to think of it, they wore throwback uniforms on Sunday, replicas of their late 1970s-early 1980s uniforms, the ones that made them look like a cheap beer-league softball team. They’d have looked better in the business suits.

But they’d be better off remembering the words of their own Hall of Fame legend, Willie Stargell: “The umpire doesn’t say, ‘Work ball’.” Those defending Archer should ask themselves why baseball should be all business on the field but off the field, when it comes time for players to get their fair market value, suddenly it’s a game, to be played, again?

So Dietrich couldn’t resist admiring a shot he and everyone in the park knew was going to land in the drink? Big deal. The next time up, put your ego to one side and just get his ass out. It really is that simple.

The Pirates won the game but Dietrich had the last laugh, after all. In the top of the eighth, he hit one that settled for landing in the right center field seats. They can’t all be splash hits.

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