This season has been disappointing in plenty of ways. From the get-go, there was nothing but bad news. Ryan recapped a bunch of that yesterday, and it’s so frustrating that I sure don’t feel like re-hashing it all over again. Honestly, we’ve been over this a hundred times already and you know the story: everything has gone terribly wrong this year, and although it’s not a total surprise given some of the characteristics of this organization, it’s sure hard to to swallow nevertheless. But the injuries, poor signings and traded prospects aside, the worst part of being a Diamondbacks fan right now is the backlash from Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers’ repeated throwing at opposing hitters.

Lets reset the stage for those who aren’t quite up to date. On Friday, Paul Goldschmidt got a day off. I know, right? Goldy never gets a day off! Well he was awarded one last Friday, at least sort of. Jordan Pacheco got the start at first base, but losing in the ninth inning, manager Kirk Gibson went to his bench to have Goldschmidt pinch-hit. Rather than getting a knock, he was hit in the hand by Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri. The result was a fractured hand that will likely shut The People’s MVP down for the remainder of the season.

Hitting Goldy was unintentional, period. Anyone arguing to the contrary had better have some video of Frieri, who isn’t known for his control, stating that he’s planning to drill Arizona’s star player. Of course, the Diamondbacks couldn’t let it go. They responded by plunking Andrew McCutchen in the ninth inning while down five runs the following night. We all knew this was coming, and that’s the whole problem: with Towers calling out pitchers for not retaliating in the past and Gibson encouraging an eye-for-an-eye mentality, of course ‘Cutch was going to get drilled. He took a painful heater from Randall Delgado, went to first, then pulled up lame the following day, landing himself on the DL. Are the two items, his plunking in the back and his strained oblique, related? Maybe, maybe not. We won’t ever know but the media has surely tried to link the two events. That may not be the most sparkling of journalism, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility either, and it’s not for us to decide.

The real problem, as I just alluded to, is that this is a trend that’s gone on way too long. Already an embarrassment in the standings, now the team is an embarrassment in the headlines. Again. Don’t forget there’s quite the precedent for this behavior with Gibby’s team.  Earlier this season, rookie reliever Evan Marshall earned his stripes by hitting Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. Why hit Braun? Because Diamondbacks fans feel cheated out of losing the NLDS in 2011 to a guy who used steroids (although no one knows just how many D-backs have juiced over the years). Despite Braun’s suspension served and having his reputation publicly destroyed, the D-backs sought more justice by drilling the former NL MVP. Like the wild, wild west, they were determined to exercise their own form of vengeance, no matter the fact that it was in poor taste and executed two and a half years after their NLDS defeat.

Of course, Arizona didn’t even wait for the season to officially begin to get the bruises rolling. They retaliated after Rockies farm hand Tommy Kahnle hit Mark Trumbo in a Cactus League game this March. Why this minor leaguer would intentionally hit Trumbo is beyond reason, but sure enough, Wade Miley threw at and hit perennial All-Star Troy Tulowitzki the next inning. Tulo missed some time while Trumbo didn’t miss an at-bat. Clearly intentional, Kevin Towers stated“I think come spring training, it will be duly noted that it’s going to be an eye for an eye and we’re going to protect one another.” That’s pretty cut and dried, Tulowitzki was hit on purpose to “send a message.” 

Leaving Ian Kennedy’s drilling of Zack Greinke and other beanballs aside for the moment, I think I’ve pinpointed the real problem, which is two-fold. One, modern baseball fans aren’t as interested in the “old school, unwritten rules” of the game as traditional fans, and truth be told, if baseball as an entity wants to grow it’s role in today’s sports market, it needs to cater to modern fans. These fans see the intentional drilling of All-Stars, resulting in the game’s best players getting placed on the bench unnecessarily, as utterly senseless. Don’t believe it? Consult your twitter timeline from a few nights ago.

The second half of this problem is perhaps even more critical: the Diamondbacks aren’t good and it’s their own fault. If a team that was a total juggernaut on the diamond wanted to get some revenge while defending their top spot in the division, I think we could stomach the “we’re just defending ourselves” mantra. But what exactly is Arizona defending? Fourth place? It was clearly a missed location that stung Goldy and everyone knew it. But Towers and Gibson can’t help themselves, and as fans of the team, we’re left to shield our eyes from the negativity. Some poor roster-building and poor management has been amplified by injuries this year and there’s plenty of blame to go around. Adding fuel to fire is surely not needed and the times have changed. People across the country aren’t watching McCutchen get nailed while cheering, “yeah, you deserved that.” They’re instead incensed at the stupidity of an overreaction to a common mistake that happened to hit the D-backs’ best player.

Kevin Towers is going to be fired. If the Diamondbacks’ PR people are smart, and I can assure you some of them are indeed very smart, they’ll recognize the firestorm of negativity this has created and not be too upset when Kirk Gibson is fired, too. This team has been the butt of plenty of jokes about backwards baseball teams, whether people mock trades, signings, the lack of advanced metrics usage or the mismanagement of resources. Operation Beanball is just another example of the organization being out-of-touch with modernity, and unlike some of the things listed above, this example in particular is highly visible.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m tired of being embarrassed by the team’s management. There is talent here and a hell of a fan base. I’ve lived in multiple major league baseball markets and I’ll take D-backs fans over any others I’ve ever encountered. They deserve a winner, and one can be delivered if this organization would just get smarter. They’ve mismanaged their assets and ruined the product on the field. Now they’re continuing to ruin their reputation. It’s sad to see something you love struggle so much, especially when the struggle is unnecessary. It’s time to get smarter in Arizona, and that starts with a replacement of management, which at this point, has to be a matter of time as long as someone logical is paying attention. Someone is paying attention, right?

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13 Responses to Operation Beanball is the Newest Embarrassment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I see your point but you leave out the transgressions of all the others involved. the dodger incident ironically started with Greinke brutally retailiating after trying to pitch inside on Puig. Remember Kennedy was rolling and was up 1-2 at the time, and had gotten him out moving him off the plate previously.

    Lohse was throwing at Chris Owings head, yes that what I think he doing, and has had many other transgressions as well in his career. That was why Braun got paid back.

    Don’t get me started on Hurdle. Yeah Martin called up and in on Goldy, can you prove he was trying to hit no, but don’t let the fact the Pirates have hit 60plus guys this year Dback pitcher 32.

    Let the players police themselves.

    • anon says:

      Pirates have been hit themselves 60 times. Chicken or egg? Maybe they protect their own too, though I doubt the 18 batters hit by Charlie Morton’s highly active curveball are crying as much as being thankful for the free base.

  2. Tyler Olson says:

    Your premise is better stated than most, but is still rather similar to a lot of the “Fire KT and Gibby” demands. Agreed, those guys need to go, but short of MLB suspending either of them for this incident, all that firing them NOW does is say that the DBacks’ upper management responds more to the complaints of opponents and of opponents’ fans than they do to their own better judgement and local fanbase.

  3. Hunter says:

    I feel the grudge goes back to last year when PIT broke Aaron Hill’s hand. Also, PIT has hit more batters this year, by a wide margin, and twice as many batters as AZ.

    • anon says:

      … and it got James McDonald what? Is he even sticking in AAA this year? Like Frieri’s poor control, maybe there were other issue at play than intent to injure.

      Are you going to blame Jordy Mercer for hitting line drives up the middle with a 5 run lead?

  4. Seth Juneac says:

    The point is not whether each individual incident is justified, but that it’s a bad mark as interpreted by everyone else.

    Sure, the Diamondbacks can be that cool kid in the corner who doesn’t care what people say, but this franchise is better than that… Losing Goldy sucks. There’s little reason to watch my DBacks with him hurt the rest of the season, but the fact of the matter is we don’t get to decide to inflict that same judgment on another team’s superstar.

    All that being said, I’m pleased with Braun getting plunked. As a fan, I’m still upset from the NLCS a couple yeas ago.

    And Greinke. God, I hate him so much. He deserved to suspended more than Kennedy did. He basically did everything the media says the Diamondbacks did. But something was fishy about that, I still believe.

    All the other incidents feel gratuitous. At the end of the day, I don’t like hearing B and C level journalists call my team thugs, classless or anything else like that.

  5. Anonymous says:

    yes and no. unintended consequences on cutch. the burden is on hurdle, and his style. of course, hurdle has the team in first with his style, that why you dont hear him sniffling. it was a clean hit.

  6. Truxton says:

    Are you now or have you ever been an actuary, Jeff? All numbers can be used to defend a circumstance. To you a .500 batting average might be great while to me it might just be 1 hit in 2 at bats. It seems your focus often is the tree and not the forest. Hill, Pollock, and Goldschmidt were all team leaders in hitting categories when their hands were broken with up and in pitches. (Note numbers 7, 8, and 9 batters in the Dbacks line up aren’t hit by pitches that get away, only the offensive leaders.) To throw up and in on a game in hand to Goldschmidt by the Pirates, and it was almost certainly a called for pitch location by either Hurdle or the catcher, was criminal. All that Pirate explanatory talk about the pitch slipping is the cover up to avoid fines and suspensions. In this instance, McCutcheon should have been dealt what Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale threw in their day, chin music. You end our star’s season and we will end yours. Neanderthal, tough, you bet. Had you played baseball competitively, had you watched games back to early t.v. days this is pay back for changing a team’s season and for threatening a teammate’s career. Forget spring training, if any thing the management of this team was late and soft in calling for a regular season payback pitch now. The season Upton was drilled 19 times without any response was when other teams should have been warned. So your ethical dilemma is off base. As for Hall, Towers, Gibson, Duncan, the pitching joke, and the ineffective hitting coach, Ward you are right, they are incompetent and need to be replaced. However, LaRussa is a loyal team guy and probably will keep most of the on field staff. Too bad because Gibby and his constantly finessed and destabilizing line ups, his resting hitters during hot streaks, his placing Goldschmidt at risk in a meaningless situation scream for replacement. Towers can be summed up in 2 situations, Upton for Prado and a totally incompetent pitching staff, acknowledging injuries along the way he lacked a backup plan. Ownership needs to get a handle on the nature of competition. In warfare you go into battle unprepared and you don’t come back. In sports, you are only given so many opportunities to throw, to catch, to bat, to win before you are replaced. Each and every minute is a gift. Each moment of competition must be defended and cherished because like Ross you might break a body part never to recover. Desperate, unrequited love for that competitive minute must drive every team member from owner down to clubhouse guy, not the paycheck. The Dbacks do not have this motivation. How do I know? Inciarte’s base running errors. The multi-million dollar pitchers’ excuses for not pitching to their locations. Game after game inability to produce a situational hit with runners in scoring position. Pitchers not having multiple delivery throwing angles. Pitchers lacking control of their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th pitches. Gibson defending what every fan can see is a marginal closer. It goes on but so what. Too few of us care. I can only say that a home won loss record like this group of professionals has produced deserves fans either boycotting the games or if given complimentary tickets attending with paper bags worn to protect their identity. Shame is an ugly thing to be earned. A $110,000,000. payroll wasted.

  7. mikkyld says:

    Never liked unwritten rules; never will. If they are rules right them effing down somewhere so everyone is following the same version. With paybacks, everyone follows their own unwritten rules

    Writing them down will also get rid of a bunch of them as the concept of hitting one of theirs for hitting ours is patently stupid. If you think it is a good idea, at least (in the NL anyway) whack the pitcher who did it.

    Now for the brouhaha about this instance (in the first case, hitting braun, there is really zero excuse) – the pirates are serious headhunters. Maybe they dont intend to hit every specific hitter they hit but they DO intend to throw not just in but up and in. They have hit more people than other teams in NL – that does say something.

    In a world with unwritten rules involving payback for transgressions, the pirates deserve to be paid back, period.

    Of course I still stand by the need to get rid of unwritten rules, double period

  8. lynn pattison says:

    Pirates pitch in and up s a strategy to keep players from putting ball in play. Higher risk of hitting a player but they do not headhunt!

    The problem was not hitting Cutch it was waiting 8 innings. It was pitching in followed by a slider and than a 95 mph to the spine.

    Lets stick to the facts. Cutch expected retaliation because old school boys want it but the way your management went about it was WRONG!

  9. […] comments about how the team should not be “catching [    ]” about retaliation. As Jeff Wiser detailed last week, the situation is a little more complicated than others may make it seem, but that doesn’t […]

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