A changeup is gonna come . . .

2019-05-30 TimAnderson
Tim Anderson takes a spin after having his helmet knocked off his head Wednesday.

“Revenge,” Don Vito Corleone advised his in-training son Michael, “is a dish that tastes best when served cold.” Tim Anderson isn’t in training to take over an organised crime family, but he did provide evidence to support the concept Wednesday.

Knock Anderson’s helmet off his head in the bottom of the second? Might not clear both dugouts and bullpens, but he’ll knock what proves the game winning run home for your trouble anyway. And leave you looking like fools without so much as a hint of a bat flip.

For the moment, forget what the pitch actually was that Royals starter Glenn Sparkman threw up and in that hit the bill of Anderson’s batting helmet and blew it clean off the White Sox shortstop’s head. Even a changeup traveling at 86 miles per hour looks frightening when its trajectory takes dead aim at a human face.

Home plate umpire Mark Carlson took all of about two seconds to pounce out in front of the plate as Anderson spun after the helmet took its flying leap and ejected Sparkman no questions asked. If that outraged the Royals’ broadcast crew (Whaaaaaat? one of them asked) and anyone else watching, keep in mind that last month Anderson took one in the rump roast from a Royal arm the next time up after hitting one out and performing one of his signature bat flips.

Royals catcher Martin Maldonado pounced out likewise to protest the ejection, prompting his manager Ned Yost to hustle out there to keep him from an early night off. “As far as we’re concerned,” Yost pleaded to reporters after the game, “coming into this series we had no animosity toward that young man. None. To think that we’re going to hit him is ludicrous . . . We’re not like that.”

Apparently, Yost forgot that his pitcher Brad Keller drilled Anderson to clear the benches 17 April. He may or may not have been aware that Carlson and his fellow umps came into the game well aware of that incident. Hence Carlson taking no chances. And, perhaps, hence why the White Sox, though obviously alarmed over what just happened to their man, didn’t even think about pouring out of their dugout, after Anderson righted himself from his unexpected spinout.

“[T]o think that we’re gonna hit him on purpose is ludicrous, one,” Yost continued. “Two, it was a changeup. It was forgotten. He’d done his part, we’d done our part. It was done. It was over. It was nothing. There was no ill feeling, no ill will, no nothing. It would be totally ignorant on our part to hit him again, for what? We don’t play that game. We’re not like that. It was done, it was forgotten. He got under a changeup and hit him in the helmet. You saw what happened from there.”

It may also be totally ignorant to deny the optics of a pitch sailing up into a batter’s face the first time he hits in the next set during which you face him after he took one in the tail the last time around.

“It could have went either way,” said Anderson himself of the pitch that knocked the helmet off his block. “A ton of things could have happened. Good thing it didn’t do any damage. I was able to stay in the game and keep my composure.”

It ended up damaging the Royals more than anyone else in the yard, and not just because their starting pitcher got himself an early night off for his trouble. After Royals second baseman Nicky Lopez tied the game at seven with a two-run single in the top of the eighth, Anderson stepped in against Royals reliever Ian Kennedy—who’d surrendered Anderson’s first major league double back in the days when Kennedy was still a starting pitcher.

With White Sox catcher James McCann aboard on a one-out double, Anderson looked at a cutter for a strike, then pulled a Kennedy knuckle curve down the third base line, right under a diving Hunter Dozier, for the RBI double that ultimately meant the game when the Royals mustered nothing more than a one-out single against Alex Colome in the top of the ninth.

The two teams hook up again come July. Don’t think for one moment that eyes won’t be upon every trip to the plate Anderson makes against Royals pitching. And this may not quite be the most ridiculous feud in baseball this year. That honour may yet end up going to Pirates broadcaster John Wehner, who thinks about as highly of Reds bombardier Derek Dietrich as a cobra thinks of a mongoose.

Dietrich has come from the Marlins’ scrap heap to become a prize Cincinnati find and a particular Pittsburgh headache, hitting seven home runs in nine games between the two teams, including three on Tuesday night alone. Wehner is not amused, not just because Dietrich has made the Pirates a particularly favourite victim but because Dietrich, like Anderson is not shy about savouring every blast he delivers.

Wehner obviously doesn’t want the kid to have fun. Especially not after Tuesday, especially not after Dietrich hit three two-run bombs in Great American Ballpark, helping his Reds to an 11-6 win. And Wehner takes it even more personally than Pirate pitchers who surrender the launches do.

Wehner can’t start a bench clearing brawl as did Chris Archer on 7 April, after Dietrich hit the first of a pair that sailed into the Allegheny River, Archer greeted the outfielder his next time up with a ball behind his bottom, and five players were ejected before order was restored. But Wehner can and does lament that Dietrich’s grandfather, one-time Pirates coach Steve Demeter, is “rolling in his grave every time this guy hits a home run. He’s embarrassed of his grandson.

“It’s just being arrogant,” Wehner continued, on a radio program. “I don’t get it. I don’t get why you do that. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” He didn’t get the memo, either, that throwing at a batter for no reason better than that your ego was turned into a splash hit makes even less sense than a batter feeling it when he can and does hit one for that kind of distance.

“I think everyone should play the way they play,” Dietrich says. “I’ve got no problems with it . . . I’m just coming to play ball and hit the ball hard. We’re having fun and trying to win. This is baseball.” Having fun and trying to win. The horror.

Do you remember what Dietrich did in that 7 April game the next time he batted after his can felt the breeze from Archer? He hit another home run. Into the Allegheny River. Again. The only thing more foolish than awakening any sleeping giant is thinking you have to awaken him when he’s already wide awake.

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