First Pitch: Why the Diamondbacks Are Pretty Much the Worst

I don’t know if Andrew McCutchen’s injury had anything to do with getting hit with a 95 MPH fastball from Randall Delgado. What I do know is that McCutchen WAS hit with a 95 MPH fastball, and the next day he goes down with an injury swinging a bat, which is something he’s managed to do his entire career without an injury. The place he injured? Just where he was hit with that fastball.

You could draw theories about how the Delgado pitch injured McCutchen. Maybe it was a direct result of the pitch. Maybe the pitch was the start of a chain reaction. You can’t say for sure that the pitch caused the injury, like you could with the pitch that hit Paul Goldschmidt in the hand. But if you’re saying that the pitch probably played some impact, then you’re not just throwing out wild theories.

Even if the pitch didn’t play any impact in McCutchen’s injury, and even if this is all just the biggest coincidence ever, there is one thing I know: the Diamondbacks need to be disciplined by Major League Baseball.

This all started because Ernesto Frieri hit Paul Goldschmidt in the hand with a pitch that got away from him. It was an inside fastball that faded in late in the pitch, and hit Goldschmidt as he was checking his swing. You can usually tell when a pitch is intentionally thrown at a batter. That pitch doesn’t break at the last second and hit the smallest target on a player’s body, while that target is moving. If Ernesto Frieri had that kind of command on his pitches, then he’d be the best pitcher in baseball today. Usually the pitches that are thrown intentionally are thrown straight, and to a large target on the body — like the middle of the back, for example.

Over at Grantland, Michael Baumann wrote a great article about the situation involving the Diamondbacks, and how this isn’t the first time this has happened. One of the links in the article talks about how hitting players in retaliation is an institutional policy for the Diamondbacks. The article talks about how Arizona did the same thing to Troy Tulowitzki during a Spring Training game. The summary of the article is as follows, with my emphasis in bold.

For MLB to take no action on this is shameful, and they will regret it once concerns of serious injury, like the Rockies had with Tulowitzki on Friday, are fully realized. As long as Towers is allowed to preach violence and retaliation, as long as violence and retaliation are requirements of wearing the Diamondbacks uniform, it is only a matter of time.

Tulowitzki wasn’t injured, although it gave the Rockies a scare. MLB did nothing. Now we’ve got McCutchen, who is injured, but there’s not 100% proof that the pitch is what caused the injury. And so far, MLB is doing nothing.

What’s even crazier is that the Rockies said nothing. They downplayed the incident. Now the Pirates are doing the same thing, with Clint Hurdle saying that he didn’t believe the hit by pitch resulted in an injury. This is an obvious situation where a team is targeting the best players on other teams, all in retaliation for their own players getting unintentionally hit.

Meanwhile, on the other side of this situation, the Diamondbacks are speaking out. Tony LaRussa, the chief baseball officer of the Diamondbacks, defended his team, and complained about the Pirates pitching inside. And in the process, he offered one of the most ridiculous lines I’ve ever heard, and that’s including every argument ever about how pitchers can be valued by their won/loss record.

La Russa said the issue is how some teams, the Pirates being one of them, have embraced the philosophy of pitching up and in to get hitters out. That can lead to incidents like what happened with Goldschmidt.

“So what’s happened is some teams have developed this idea that they can pitch in and up,” La Russa said. “Well it’s got rewards because I don’t care if you’re a right-hander or left-hander, that spot right there, nobody gets to that pitch. So it’s a hole for everybody. The problem is, unless you have Greg Maddux pitching, that’s a very risky area to throw in.”

To recap:

**Regardless of whether it’s a right-hander or a left-hander, there’s this spot where no one can get a pitch.

**Teams know this, and as a result, they pitch to that spot. You know, because baseball is a game where you try to score more runs than the other team, and a big way to do this is finding a way where the other team doesn’t get hits.

**Unless you’re Greg Maddux, you shouldn’t be allowed to pitch inside. Let’s ignore the fact that batters stand right on top of the plate, which leaves no margin for error when pitching inside.

Overall, the idea that pitching inside is the problem here is overlooking the real problem. Pitching inside is risky. It’s going to lead to some hit batters. It’s not a coincidence that the Pirates are constantly at or near the top of the league in hit batters at every level from the majors through the bottom level of the minors. It’s not that they’re throwing at people. It’s because they’re throwing inside, and that’s one of the risks. But there’s a reward that comes with that risk, and the reward in this case is what the game is all about — finding a way to win.

The real problem is what happened when Randall Delgado took the mound. He threw at McCutchen. He did so because the Diamondbacks were looking for revenge. This doesn’t involve risks or rewards. It’s just dirty baseball.

What the Pirates are doing is the equivalent to speeding. Everyone does it, and there are risks, but there can also be some potential rewards. What the Diamondbacks are doing is the equivalent to getting in your car and running down someone, all because they accidentally hit your car with their car.

The big issue here is that nothing is being done about this. Major League Baseball did nothing when Tulowitzki just missed an injury. They’re doing nothing now that McCutchen is injured. And for whatever reason, the teams who are the victims aren’t going after Arizona. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks are making public statements against those teams, basically explaining why they had it coming, and acting like it’s totally normal for Delgado to hit McCutchen.

Eventually someone will get seriously injured because of this. And when that happens, we’ll be able to look back at this article, and the articles linked above, and every other article that could have predicted this. And MLB will have done nothing to prevent all of this from happening.

Links and Notes

**Andrew McCutchen Has a Rib Injury

**Prospect Watch: Austin Meadows Homers Off Top Prospect Lucas Giolito

**Gerrit Cole gets roughed up in second rehab start

**Pirates Activate Starling Marte, Place Pedro Alvarez on the Bereavement List

**Josh Wall Clears Waivers, Outrighted to Triple-A

**Top 10 Pitchers: Walks or No Walks, Tyler Glasnow Continues to Dominate

**Top 10 Hitters: A Sleeper Catching Prospect in the Lower Levels

**Minor League Schedule: Luis Heredia Looks to Finish Season Strong

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Keenan Funk

    Someone is going to have to die before anyone involved in major league baseball does anything about this.

    • FrankRestly

      It already happened,

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Chapman

      Major League baseball took action by outlawing the spit ball and requiring that umpires replace baseballs after they have been hit.

      This is also the reason why MLB will never allow pitchers to apply pine tar or any other foreign substance on the baseball.

  • pilbobuggins

    I agree with everything you just said 100% tim. I never gave the dirtycracks ( dbacks) much thought until this incident came up, now I have zero respect for them. Mainly because of towers and now larussa. While I understand and agree that pitching inside and retaliation if one of your guys gets hit is a useful part of the game,what the dirtycracks are doing is intent to injure plain and simple. I might and I mean might be able to understand their position if they were in contention for anything other than the first draft pick but even that would be a stretch. What towers and larussa are condoning and even worse encouraging needs to be addressed by mlb with fines and suspensions starting with the main instigator towers.

    • cmat0829

      dont forget Gibson who is as neanderthal as they come.

    • Skinny Merlino

      Please stop with the play on the diamond backs name every attempt has been cringe worthy …..that said f la Russa Gibson towers and the whole franchise let’s just drill a d back in the face next time and say oh well that’s payback it’s ridiculous u wanna flex charge the mound and throw hands don’t throw a weapon at a guy like a chump

      • freddylang

        Punctuation is free.

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Well, after reading La Russa’s remarks I feel a lot less sympathetic about Goldschmidt getting his hand broke.

    • emjayinTN

      That is one of those unwritten rules – if you stride into a pitch, chances are you will get hit. If pitchers give up that inner third of the plate, they cannot hope to be successful. Many power hitters stay in the box to tee off on inside or middle in pitches, and if a pitcher is able to hit the outside corner, they cannot get to that pitch. But, there are a few dive-in guys who want to tee off on a pitch middle to outside and go straight out or opposite way. Regardless, Tower may be the culprit, but Gibson/Trammell are both punks, and should be unemployed after 2014! The pitch from Frieri was inside, and the results are regrettable for the player to lose the rest of the year, but the pitch was in and the batter was diving in – trying to make more of it by hitting ‘Cutch is simply idiotic baseball by people trying desperately to save their jobs. Maybe we can get to the point where the 25th man is the Enforcer/Goon.

      • wkkortas

        Hey, Paul Bissonette is looking for a job! Can he play center?

      • unfurious

        I was just thinking that Arizona looks alot like the Philadelphia Flyers.

  • szielinski

    Pitching inside is legal. It’s legal as per the rules of Major League Baseball. It’s legal as per the law in every jurisdiction in the country. Intentionally throwing a baseball at someone is aggravated assault.

    Speeding, like intentionally throwing a baseball at someone, is illegal. The penalties may differ, but both are illegal acts.

    • szielinski

      Oh, and LaRussa is a hypocrite.

  • glassers

    After reading LaRussa’s comments well I am without words , honestly , not kidding , really don’t know what to say .

  • forkball

    You respond by pitching the same way. Larussa has lost a great amount of respect from many in the game.

  • John Lease

    Tony LaRussa is a hall of famer. Hall of Fame jackass, that is.

  • csnumber23

    Great article Tim! I have no doubt that pitch contributed to this injury. Reading what they said made me sick!

    • Matt Beam

      MLB needs to issue suspensions to the Dbacks and warn the Pirates that the issue is now dead and they will be suspended for any future retaliation; otherwise, the Pirates are left with no choice but to protect their one star and retaliate asap next year when these 2 teams play… which could mean Goldschmidt (who seems like the only reasonable Dback who has spoken so far) getting hit right in the middle of the back again. Personally, if the league remains silent and gutless, I wouldn’t go after Goldschmidt next yr but Delgado if/when he ever steps in the batters against the Bucs would be wise to wear a suit of armor, just wish he batted LH instead of RH

      • leowalter

        Delgado was just doing what he was told to do. The coaching staff,GM and the catcher are those who should pay a price.

        • Dylan Bott

          It would be kinda hard to hit them though

          • leowalter

            Not if you are the Commissioner it isn’t. Montero is a different story.

            • Dylan Bott

              Ya it upset me that Martin was hit twice in one game(I forget which exactly) against the dbacks

  • Macchamp74

    And how about the Pirates going forward. Cutch will not play for weeks but Huntington not putting him on the DL and again playing short handed.
    The same thing is happening with Walker. He needs a couple weeks to get his back in shape. Now shorthanded by 2 players.

    • moose7195

      I think the theory behind not putting him on the DL is actually because it is possible that McCutchen might not miss weeks of this baseball season. I don’t actually know but this injury may be one of those things that cannot be injured further by playing baseball. If there is any chance of him getting hurt worse by trying to tough it out, then I’m with you. But if he wants to try it, and he can’t injury it worse, I wouldn’t be 100% against it

      • FrankRestly

        If you have ever tried to do any physical activity with a cracked rib – it is excruciatingly painful.

        The fear is your body tries to overcompensate when you injure something. You are more prone to injure something else when you are exerting yourself while hurt. For instance, if you do a lot of lifting and hurt your arm, you are likely to use your back muscles to compensate and are more likely to hurt your back.

        Injuries can snowball if not treated.

        • moose7195

          I bet it is very painful. But not all injuries are created equal, and I
          think that where he cracked it may matter in this instance. Otherwise
          why wouldn’t they DL him? My thinking is that he may give it a try after
          a week, which I’m not saying is a good thing if he has the opportunity to hurt himself further

  • The Regent of Regent Sq
    • IC Bob

      Guys lets not act like the Pirates don’t retaliate all the time. Just last week the Bucs drilled Turner with a 97mph fastball after one of our guys was hit unintentionally. The Bucs were near the leaders in HBPs last year and have routinely drilled Brewers for what they felt was showboating. If we are going to call Gipson and the D backs brass every name in the book for this we better look at our own team and ask do we do the same thing? The anwser is yes and it hapens all the time. Now if you want to argue that it shouldn’t happen at all I will agree but lets not act like our Pirates don’t behave like this.

      • jaygray007

        i’m not mad they retaliated on the bucs’ accidental hitting of Goldschmidt.

        it’s more 1) throwing the slider on the second pitch and 2) their s***ty attitude about all of this. They’re morons.

        I don’t like the retaliation, but as long as it exists, at least do it in a non awful way.

        • emjayinTN

          jg: Very well stated. Maybe the message was not relayed well enough on the second pitch, and that is why I think that Gibson and Trammell are punks. They had the whole day to consider the proper action or retaliation but, as you stated, it was more of an afterthought. If they felt that strongly about Goldschmidt getting plunked, they would have taken out ‘Cutch on the first pitch to him in the first inning. Bush league crap and I hope neither of them gets another job in MLB.

        • SportOMania

          jaygray you are right. Retaliation is done early in the game and not setup by an outside slider. Also, retaliation pitches are not 95mph. The pitcher usually takes something off his fastball. Also retaliation pitches are messages when a pitcher’s teammate is plunked just because he homered his last at bat or because he was the hitter that followed back to back home runs.

        • leowalter

          Exactly jay. Exactly.

      • Jared

        There are reasons to retaliate/stand-up for your players. The DBacks retaliate just to retaliate. They’re run by goons who do not understand how to win baseball games.

  • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

    The only thing I’d disagree with is “What the Pirates are doing is the equivalent to speeding.” Speeding is against the rules. Pitching inside isn’t against the rules. What the Pirates are doing is the equivalent of, oh, I dunno, taking a home-office deduction on your income taxes or something. It’s perfectly acceptable, even though it might annoy those people who can’t or don’t do it.

  • bucsws2014

    This was Goldschmidt’s comment after the game:

    “Guys have to try and get outs. What do you want them to do? Just
    throw it down the middle? They pitch inside as a team. We do it too. We
    want our pitchers to be able to pitch inside. You don’t want to see
    anyone get hurt but sometimes it may or may not happen”.

    How is it that Goldschmidt understands this yet Gibson and Towers and TLR don’t. Maybe Goldschmidt should be running the D’Backs. Seems like a class act.

    • krinks

      It is too bad that not even that loser LaRussa see this.

  • piraddict

    So, the Diamondbacks don’t pitch inside for fear of hitting a batter? Is that what LaRussa is implying? What the Diamondbacks ought to fear is when unruly fans start to take retaliation into their own hands. It won’t surprise me to hear that a manager or player has been attacked outside the ballpark in retaliation for an incident on the field. It will be regrettable, but predictable. What will LaRussa say then? That it is okay for him to retaliate, but not the fan?

  • leadoff

    Somewhere Bob Gibson is chuckling.

    • leowalter

      I have been watching professional baseball since the early 1950’s leadoff,and I have seen Sal Maglie, Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson among others,and I have NEVER seen any of them throw what were called beanballs,after they had better thrown a beaking. NEVER ! If you showed a guy up, or tried digging in close, You got a ” purpose ” pitch, a fastball up and in. If you really did something they considered flagrant,you got one in the thigh or butt. But I never have seen a situation handled like that the other night. As for Hurdle, he is just as wimpy as the rest of these go along to get along people in MLB today . That’s is why there has been very little coming out of his mouth about that, or that umpiring fiasco Sunday. The rules CLEARLY ( 7.09 ( f ) )state how that situation should have been handled, but they never really pursued it. He might have hurt Lance Barrett’s feelings I suppose.

  • leadoff

    The Pirates can’t really say much about the D,backs because the Pirates don’t want the league to get involved, all the league has to do is start policing the inside pitch and you might as well kiss pitching goodby, the Pirates know it and so does every other team, this is a pandora you want to keep in the box.

    • bucsws2014

      You do know Pandora wasn’t actually IN the box, right?

      • leadoff

        I think you got the point.

  • Dave Parker’s Unfiltered Camel

    Throw a curve ball in the first inning and hit Cutch. Then it’s over, and we’re back to playing baseball. It would have been like saying, “we know it was unintentional but our big guy got hurt, and we’re not happy about it.” This way you show the opponent that you have a set of balls.

    Instead they took it too far. The message sent was one of revenge.

    • leadoff

      It is always revenge, something the D,backs got, now it is over and there is nothing anyone can do about it, so IMO, the Pirates are saying lets move on.

  • reddfoxx39

    Can we just let Justin throw at Larussa.

  • reddfoxx39

    I loathe Tony Larussa, who employed a culture of Steriod use in STL. See McGuire, Edmonds, Vina, Molina, etc. The biggest hypocrite in baseball. Throwing inside is off limits but pumping your players full of bull seman is perfectly OK. What a jerk. If a manager or GM calls for a HBP on purpose, they should have to stand in the box vs 95 MPH cheese…..

  • DPMILL

    The Dbacks will continue to be a joke, until they put winning baseball games ahead of winning these stupid “who’s the baddest kid on the playground” games. The fact that Towers and Gibson promote this mentality while the team is 15 games under .500 is the true crime. The game against the Brewer’s will forever show that this team cares more about revenge then winning baseball games. http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=340617129 Arizona fans should be embarrassed of this team. Luckily for them, Towers and Gibson will likely be gone at the end of the year.

  • lonleylibertarian

    Great column Tim.

    I have always wondered how players like MM and Bonds are kept from the HOF when a manager who orchestrated much of the PED problem and rewarded abusers – like MM and Canseco – and allowed the precursor drugs to anabolic steroids to be in the clubhouse – MM was “caught” with andro in his locker as I recall – makes it on his first ballot. I actually emailed several know voters at the time and pointed out this hypocritical side of their voting.

    LaRuss is not a class act – not worthy of the HOF IMHO

    So his comments come as no surprise.

    That being said – I do think retaliation for hitting Goldschmidt was fine – should have been done differently – earlier in the game – 85 mph slider or curve in the same location would have done the job and we could move on.

    • SportOMania

      That is how I feel about LaRussa completely. He either is a moron or accepted/enable steroid use. In his defense he dis come out and say PED users should be in the Hall of Fame not just the manager who benefited from them so in this regard he is not a hypocrite.

    • leowalter

      Agree on all of your points lonely.

  • cmat0829

    TIM, excellent article. LaRussa’s quote is arrogant and just plain WRONG. Some facts:

    1) Hitters are more than ever crowding the plate, to drive outside pitches
    2) If pitchers throw inside AND hitters lean into the plate, HBPs will happen
    3) Sometimes pitches get away and HBPs will happen

    So D-bag Tony seems to think that the answer to teams, like the Pirates (and to listen to Paul Goldschmidt also the Dbacks), pitching inside is to deliberately hit the opposition’s best player in situations and ways that could risk serious injury. Really? What if the situation was reversed…the Dbacks do indeed pitch inside…what if Cutch was hit on the hand in the same fashion Goldschmidt was, and the Pirates retaliated….pretty sure Kirk “Zombie” Gibson would be leading the team out to the brawl and we wouldn’t hear the end of it. But since the Dbacks are the offenders, instead of someone like LaRussa offering needed perspective, he blames this all on the Pirates pitching inside. The Dback organization is a joke, and the hope that LaRussa would lend some professionalism to that ragtag group is now evaporated.

    I will say that I was sitting there in Chase Field as Cutch was hit and the large percentage of Dback fans lamented the whole thing… were embarrassed of Kirk Gibson and their approach.

  • http://batman-news.com sdimmick3

    the pirates retaliated when Cutch got hit a few weeks ago by LAD…Wilson hit Turner on purpose. The same converstation could be said for the bucs, except, the Pirates didnt wait to hit their star, they went after the first hitter to come to the plate.

    • Lukas Sutton

      That “Except” is the entire reason for the issue. Okay, we pitch inside and your guy took a shot of the hand and is out. You gotta have his back, no problem. Entire problem comes when you wait 8 innings and give any pretense of actually pitching to the guy. If the purpose is to send a message, do it early and make it obvious.

  • SportOMania

    If Larussa believes no one should pitch inside unless they are Greg Maddux no pitcher should sign with Arizona because Tony does not want you yo be successful.

  • ecbucs

    LaRussa is ridiculous because while the Bucs pitch inside they do not pitch up and in.

    Good evidence of that is that while the Bucs hit a lot of batters they don’t hit them in the head. LaRussa is a total hypocrite and has probably ordered his pitchers to hit more batters than any manager in the modern baseball era.

  • Nick Rexilius

    Duck the Fiamondbacks!

  • Andrew

    This fairly simple, don’t throw at hitters intentionally.

    I have no idea want point La Russa was attempting to make but mealy mouthed, blame shifting, moral relativism is par for the course following these incidents.

    I really have no interest in debating the details of this, the MLB is not the Beer and Whiskey League, I don’t care if you are McCutchen
    or Jacob Turner the league should not condone players being intentionally target for slights real or perceived and should not allow players to self-enforce discipline.

    There needs to be cost on the parties involved and it needs to be enough of a deterrent, other leagues impose retroactive discipline after
    video review. It is going to be hard to remove all instances (I have little doubt that Wainwright intentionally hit Marte earlier in the season,) but punishing the more theatrical events is at least progress. However asking the MLB to be forward thinking is very unrealistic.

  • William Wallace

    I am very concerned about Walker. If he has a chronic bad back he will not be able to play the infield. He can move to first but I think his back problems are being downplayed by everyone.

    • leowalter

      ” Downplayed ” ??? I’m not sure where you are coming from with that one. Walker had an operation for a herniated disc that was public knowledge, and I am sure 99 % of the commenters on this blog and others are very aware of his back issues.

    • Lukas Sutton

      Not sure many downplay it, its the main reason a decent amount of people are wary on extending him. Love the output he gives but id like to avoid his back at ages 34+.