As long as the uniforms are throwbacks, Matt Cain beaning David Wright throws me back to a common theme that I keep harping to. So if I'm repeating myself in this instance, it's not because I'm old and senility is setting in: But Mets pitchers haven't thrown inside with purpose and consistency since Turk Wendell left. If you don't think that's a problem, tell that to David Wright and the fifteen miniature Kung Fu Pandas that are circling his head in the hospital.
Pitchers have been throwing inside on Wright all season long. He's been dusted, turned around, brushed back, all of it ... it's happened to Wright. It's good strategy. It's part of the game. And without having looked at the scouting reports I can pretty much surmise to the extreme of guarantee that the reports mention something to the tune of: "you can pitch inside on this team." The word "intimidated" might have made its way into some of those club reports.
I'm not talking about beaning, I'm just talking about commanding the inside part of the plate, which teams have done on Wright. He's the one hitter worth the effort to make uncomfortable, so why shouldn't they do it? Especially when the one time Wright is thrown at and not merely brushed back (Brad Thompson), he doesn't do anything. I don't believe that Cain tried to hit Wright in the head. But he did have intent to come inside and the pitch got away. I have to wonder if the Mets were a team that at least tried to command the inside of the plate more in the past
I'll go as far as to say this: If Wright had charged Thompson two weeks ago for throwing at his head, does today happen? Does Cain intend to come inside as much as he intended to? (Sidebar: Let's not compare the Cain/Wright beaning to the Clemens/Piazza incident. Clemens hit Piazza because Piazza had success against him and poor Roger's ego was hurt. Wright has one hit in two at-bats lifetime against Cain.) I might very well be wrong on the last two paragraphs, and I understand the arguments against them. And I also don't say that to place any blame on Wright for what happened today. But I also believe it's a discussion worth having.
Here's another discussion worth having, and it relates to the bush league move that Cain pulled, tipping his cap antagonistically at the Mets fans for daring to boo him: Was there a new unwritten rule written in the last five years that opposing pitchers can't be thrown at? Sure, Santana threw behind Pablo Sandoval's back and that's all well and good (at least nobody had to die before that happened, which I wondered aloud for three innings). But baseball's adopted this "you hit our star we'll go after yours" policy, and I'm not sure bad behavior by pitchers is going to be curbed if they personally aren't going to be held accountable. I realize that the opportunity to retaliate against pitchers in the N.L. has dwindled with all the specialization, and the fewer at-bats starters get in general. But Santana had a couple of cracks at Cain after Wright was sent to the hospital.
"I was just adjusting my cap. They can take it how they want. All I know is I wasn't trying to hit David Wright on purpose. If they think that, that's their thought." -Matt CainAll right, maybe I will compare him to Clemens ... because I haven't heard a load of garbage like that since "I thought it was the ball." Don't you love when people insult your intelligence?
Why was Cain not eating dirt instead of Sandoval? Maybe it's because of the belief in the Mets dugout that Cain wasn't responsible or didn't hit Wright on purpose. Fine. But then why hit anybody at all if that's what you believe? That brings me to my next morsel of food for thought: If we still lived by rule of the old days, and Cain was plunked in the ribs or sent scrambling to the ground, does he have the cajones to pull that cap tipping stunt to the fans? You have to have a feeling of invincibility to do that, and that's a feeling I believe is absent if he had a welt on his ribs. Look, I know some of the younger baseball fans here are tired of hearing about the old days and about how "if this was 1986, that no-class punk would be missing three teeth right now." You're more than entitled to think that way. But at the risk of sounding like a cranky old man, I can't help but think that we could all use just a little old school. Not a lot, not wool uniforms or anything like that ... but self policing isn't a bad thing.
Full disclosure: Although I was wondering about who to hit before the cap tip, Cain's stunt put the thoughts into sharper focus for me. So for whoever says "yeah, well this wasn't an issue until Cain tipped his cap", you're right. I think there's nothing wrong with that.
But if you really need some silver linings, here they are:
- The Mets don't have a west coast trip coming up until the first of September, thus preventing any further dizzy spells caused by the club stupidly putting David Wright on a cross country flight.
- Wright can now get that rest he so desperately needs, ensuring that he'll be refreshed for the final three meaningless games of the season.
- Tony Bernazard isn't around to recommend a cortisone shot to his frontal lobe.
- Now maybe Jeff Francoeur will wear the safer helmet and risk looking like a clown.