We hear often that the St. Louis Cardinals are God’s gift to major league baseball. We hear they do everything the right way. The national media never misses the chance to put the saint in St. Louis.

Right now, the Cardinals are the class of the NL Central in the standings. They have won the division each of the last three years, 9 of the last 16 seasons, and reached the postseason 11 of the last 16.

But the hype about The Cardinal Way is over-the-top. Just last weekend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz wrote “Maybe the Cards work too hard.” I mean seriously, a professional writer wrote an article about a professional baseball team trying too hard? Give me a break.

Corey Kluber pitched a historic game last night. He struck out 18 batters and allowed 1 hit and walks in eight innings. In the second inning, Kluber hit Matt Holliday with a 94 MPH pitch on his elbow. Holliday had to leave the game, and is now listed as day-to-day following the injury. While it really stinks for the Cardinals to lose one of their best players on a hit by pitch, there was no intent from Kluber. It was clearly accidental. The pitch was inside, tailed toward the batter and Holliday leaned in at the last moment.

Holliday

Along comes the 4th inning. John Lackey cemented his place in The Cardinal Way. With two outs, and the bases empty, Lackey drilled Jason Kipnis with a pitch in the back. Crystal clear, this was no accident. It was retaliation and deliberate.

Here is what the Cleveland broadcasters had to say about this:

Well, historically The Cardinal Way is you hit one of our guys, we will hit one of yours. There was two outs, and no one on, and Lackey did what he had to do. He hit him right in the back of the numbers.

Kipnis

There you have it boys and girls. Chalk it up to The Cardinal Way. A pitcher accidentally hits our guy, we will bean yours right in the back. That is the RIGHT thing to do.

I am sorry, but that is not baseball. We’ll see if anyone in the national media criticizes St. Louis. But I won’t be holding my breath. Imagine if the situation had been reversed. Just think what the modern-day Chris Carpenters and Tony LaRussas would have said. What Bernie Miklasz would have written. Their track record shows they are second-to-none when it comes to airing their grievances to the world. That’s one way which the Cardinals really do outwork every other organization – complaining.

There’s plenty to respect about the St. Louis Cardinals organization. But that doesn’t mean they should get a pass for unjustified and dangerous retaliation. Maybe they just work too hard.

Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.

Join the conversation! 57 Comments

  1. I had to crawl out of the shadows to comment on this one. My question is Nick, “What are you talking about?”

    This IS baseball. Has always been. Will always be. I don’t agree with it as don’t most fans. I agree that it is a stupid and dangerous thing to do. But this has nothing to do with the Cardinal Way. It’s the Baseball Way.

    • Agree, and it goes beyond an eye for an eye. IMO, it is also as much about, “teammates, I have your back”. Not making a judgement call here just stating the facts as I see them.

      • No, it’s not “part of baseball” to intentionally hit a guy when your guy was clearly NOT hit intentionally. Should the Reds have plunked Freddie Freeman because the Braves hit Cozart on the wrist a couple of weeks ago? I don’t remember anyone advocating for that in the game threads, thankfully.

        • Thank you Eric. Thank you.

        • Unfortunately, it is about perception. I didn’t advocate for this type of action.

          Remember:
          “Not making a judgement call here just stating the facts as I see them.” ☺

        • But Charlotte, by positing it’s about “teammates, I have your back” without differentiating “I have your back if the other pitcher intentionally hits you” from “I have your back even if there was no intent” you are making a (positive) value judgment. Also, Lackey has now clearly put his teammates at risk of a justified plunking, so he didn’t really have their backs after all, did he? He’s the one who turned a benign situation into a potential problem for his teammates.

        • The Royals are the best at this stuff, ask them.

        • Sorry, I am in the eye for an eye camp. You send a message to your team and other teams. You can’t truly determine accidental or not with 100% nor do I care. I have always disagreed with the approach of the Res on this. You hit our guy we hit yours. If you can’t field pitchers that can’t throw inside without hitting the batter you don’t have a good team. Either way each team should be held accountable for pitching without hitting batters. I never advocate hitting one unprovoked, but if Gerrit Cole hits Votto in their next encounter I want to see Chapman hit one of their’s. You do lose a competitive advantage when other teams hit your players intentionally or not. They get enough bumps and bruises during the season. We saw what happened to Phillips in 2013. How do you think those hit by pitches affected Mez. last year. You lose even more than the physical side of it when you don’t defend them. It tells the team they can pitch however they want. On top of that when St Louis, Chicago, and Pittsburg all of which take a hard line on this retaliate against you. Hopefully you see the snowball here. This is pro ball. Pitchers and teams should be held accountable. No one said they wern’t accidents, but we as a society hold people accountable for accidents all the time, as well as, the organizations that employ them.

      • Retaliation should be reserved for pitches with INTENT to hit. Kluber’s HBP should be brushed off as an accident.

        But Lackey’s pitch definitely deserves retaliation. That pitch could not have been more obviously intentional. A Cardinal should’ve been laid out on his back the very next inning.

        • Hitting anybody with a major league fastball, for any reason, is a dangerous and potentially lethal thing to do. For some reason–probably the money–pro athletes get a pass for criminal assault, but that’s just wrong.

      • Charlotte, TC, it seems pretty clear to me that the first was unintentional and the second was intentional. Do you really think that every hit-by-pitch is intentional?

        • Doc, you and I may perceive it was unintentional but the Cardinals apparently did not. Obviously, our opinion holds no water as far as the Cardinals are concerned.

        • Er, Dayton not Doc.

    • It’s not always the “Baseball Way”. Not all teams act like idiots over an unintentional HBP. But the Cardinals and the Pirates sure do. They have to be the two biggest bunch of crybabies I have ever seen.

  2. How am I going to explain this to my son?!?

    • You explain that if he makes it to pro ball he is expected not to hit people with 95MPH fastballs or their are consequences. Pretty simple guys. If he chooses to drive a car he is expected not to run people over etc…. Not complicated. Please don’t compare a pitcher making millions of dollars to pitch baseballs to your 10 year old.

      • What an strange view. Comparing pitching to driving? You really think every major leaguer has exact, precise control over every pitch he throws? You could hit 50 batters over a pitching career and never once do it on purpose. I could drive for 10,000 years and never once hit a pedestrian. What a terrible analogy.

        So what you mean to say is “Son, one of these days a ball will slip from your grip and then the other team will attempt to injure one of your teammates.”

        It’s ignornant, ridiculous, and frankly cowardly. I’d like to see one of the pitchers make someone wear one when they are the batter leading off the next inning. I bet that never happens. Pitchers who retaliate after a clear mistake pitch are putting their teammates at risk. Not sure how you spin that as a positive.

        • Perhaps the analogy should have been better, and is not meant to be precise only to provide an example of consequences for unintentional mistakes. My point is the same. Don’t compare your son to a pitcher making millions to pitch a baseball at an elite level. Those pitches are dangerous whether intentional or not. You have to have some protection. No doubt there could be a more structured way of enforcing this through MLB, but that isn’t in place. Hitting someone intentionally in the back is not as dangerous as someone who lacks control and hits a batter from the face to the hand. If your pitcher lacks the control to throw inside then he shouldn’t throw inside or he shouldn’t be pitching. Teams should know if they field that type of pitcher they endanger opposing hitter. Why should the other teams suffer those consequences?

  3. Why wasn’t Lackey ejected?

    • Chris Carpenter has to be one of my all-time least favorite players. A complete tool.

    • Because the umpire is a coward.

      “Don’t worry, Donny, these men are cowards.” – Walter Sobchak

  4. Kipnis got hit twice in thegame makes it even more suspect.

  5. The Indians are another team that throws inside, and no pitcher that does not throw inside will eventually get lit up. With batters leaning and lunging into the strike zone, people will get hit. Retaliation is a part of baseball whether fans like it or not.

    • I mean that a pitcher needs to command each side of the plate and if they do not then they will get lit up.

    • I don’t think the folks arguing for “retaliation” know what it means.

      You can’t retaliate if there was nothing to retaliate for. If a pitcher hits a guy on accident, retaliation is not possible.

  6. I don’t see too many batters crowding the plate against Chapman. Self preservation is a natural instinct.

  7. Holiday made little effort to get out of the way—not that he could have anyway—but the ball to Kipnis looked square in the spine and a kidney shot if it had been a few inches either way. It was hardly a harmless “little stinger” like Tony’s Approved Unintentional Retailiation™ from back in the day.

    I hate the Cardinals. I hate that they are good. I hate that thy are lucky. I hate that they think their waste material doesn’t stink and that they walk some elevated moral plane only glimpsed by us lesser beings. That said, retaliation is part of baseball. Hitting Kipnis TWICE was above and beyond.

    • Retaliation isn’t the right word because ‘retaliation’ cannot exist when there is nothing to retaliate for. A clear mistake pitch, followed by a beaning.

      Retaliation implies the person doing it has some justification. When the orginal HBP was an accident, we can’t say ‘retaliation.’

      • Just want to say here that being hit in the back in NOT a “beaning.” A beanball is a pitch that hits the head (‘the old bean’). Not that I don’t agree with the other aspects of this argument, but just putting in for a little clarity. Good piece on the whiny little beotches of St Louis, tho, and great discussion.

  8. If you go back 4-5 years via team pitching sortable stats you will find that save for Milwaukee, the NLC teams in particular generally tend to reliably cluster around the top quadrant of the NL in both how many opposing batters they hit, as well as # of times their own batsmen are HPB. Not only LaRussa, but also Dusty & Hurdle were clearly old school in this regard

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/pitching/year/2014/league/nl/sort/battersHit/type/expanded/order/true

  9. FWIW, both Kipnis and Holiday are starting in today’s game.

    • In today’s game I would have drilled Holiday or another Cardinal immediately in the back in retaliation for the obvious Kipnis beaning. Part of the issue from the game was this, Kluber was looking good early, fastball tails just inside and hits a frozen Holiday in the elbow only 6 or 8 inches off the plate.

      Lackey beans Kipnis and NOW you get warnings, so a rolling Kluber can’t retaliate for the Cardinals dirty play. Cleveland should have retaliated today, get the warning and put the Cards in the same position of not being able to retaliate without losing their starting pitcher.

  10. Remember, it was that tool Cleveland announcer Tom Hamilton who openly wished on the air for Aroldis Chapman to be killed when he threw on near (not at) Nick Swisher in Cincy a couple of years back. So, they’re not the brightest up 71.

  11. To me, Cleveland owes St Louis one now.

    The pitch that hit Holliday was accidental, so it should’ve been no harm, no foul. But the pitch from Lackey had clear intent behind it. One of Cleveland’s pitchers should light up a Cardinal ASAP.

    • ……so eventually it leads to a brawl where players will likely get suspended and possibly injured. The next team rolling into town will be playing with a full squad and you won’t.

  12. I don’t even think the Cardinals are the worst team in the division for juvenile retaliation tactics. That honor belongs to the Pirates.

    That said, I think these episodes speak volumes about the amount of ‘luck’ the Cardinals seemingly have. The fact that they’re not willing to concede even an inch of ground to their opponents or the umpires has unquestionably paid dividends over the last 15 years. A little bit here and a little bit there add up over the course of a season.

    • I expect that you are correct, but I also expect that the amount of talent they have in the pipeline–seemingly perpetually–has a lot to do with it as well.

  13. I said this up above, but not all teams act like idiots over an unintentional HBP. However, the Cardinals and the Pirates sure do. They have to be the two biggest bunch of crybabies I have ever seen.

  14. One guy who definitely does need to get plunked on purpose is Jon Jay. That guy makes Shin Soo Choo look like Neo in the Matrix in regards to dodging potential HBP. On behalf of competitive integrity some pitcher needs to say “you don’t want to get out of the way? Fine…don’t get out of the way of this 95 MPH fastball in the ribs.”

  15. Cards are definitely WLB’s. But now that Chris Carpenter, Dave Duncan, and LaRussa are gone, I don’t think they are as annoying as they used to be. The Pirates seem way worse to me.

    As for the supposed fawning over the Cardinals, I think it is less about butt kissing and worship than just respect for what they have done over the past decade. They have been the class of the NL for the last ten years. If you want to be successful at something, one of the smartest things to do is to study other people or groups who have had success to see what you can learn. You should also study people who have failed to see what to avoid.

    Around 2009-2010, the best teams in the NL were the Cards and Phillies. Since then, those two orgs have gone in completely different directions. A smart team would ask themselves what the Cards did to have success, and what the Phillies did or didn’t do to cause them to fall so far. Which team’s model do the Reds seem to mimic the most?

    • The Giants have won 3 World Series in that time, and they don’t get fawned over nearly as much as the Cardinals. I want to be like them.

      • It’s tough to bottle and sell getting streaky in the playoffs.

        Since 2010, here are the ten teams with the most regular season wins (some surprises for me here):

        1. Yankees – 456
        2. Cardinals – 451
        3. Braves – 449
        4. Tigers – 446
        6. Rangers – 437
        7. Giants – 436
        8. Dodgers – 434
        9. A’s – 433
        10. Reds – 433

        That’s why people don’t talk about the Giant’s way. Because no one wants to bet on building the 3rd best team in the league and winning then getting hot. You want to build the team that will win the most.

        • Actually, this has been one of my arguments for signing Cueto regardless of the cost. I want to win the playoffs, not just get there. I’m OK with winning not quite the most as long as we get to the playoffs with a top of the rotation that can win a couple of short series.

        • How did that work out the last time Cueto was in the playoffs?

        • You mean after he hadn’t pitched all season? Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to put too much weight on that start. But sure, it might not work out. But do you want Leake as you #1 in the playoffs? Or Disco? Getting to the playoffs and then going home right away is not what I want for the Reds.

  16. I have no problem with beanballs in baseball, intentional or otherwise. Obviously, no one should throw at another person’s head, but I’ve never seen, in all my years of watching games, a pitcher intentionally throw at someone’s head and hit them in the head. So that seems like a non-problem to me.

    I will say, the Larussa / Chris Carpenter era cardinals were the biggest whiners I have ever heard in baseball, and many teams and reporters mentioned it. Since they have turned over a lot of that roster and the manager, it seems like things are much more under control.

  17. I’ve always wondered why umpires don’t exercise their right to call guys out when they do not attempt to get out of the way of a pitch. I saw it one time called against Craig Biggio years ago, and never since. In 2013 there were at least 4-5 pitcher where Choo very obviously stuck his leg out to get hit, so I think it certainly happens more than is realized, but umps don’t ever inforce it.

  18. I don’t really see the point being made. Sounds like a little Cardinal envy. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a “Reds way” of doing things. What Lackey did was not unusual and is certainly not just the “Cardinal Way”. He also hit the guy in an area that will not injure the player. Much ado about nothing.

  19. I think the scenario where I get why a team retaliates is when your own teammates get hit several times “accidently”, i.e. like what started out two years ago versus Pirates, they hit a bunch of Reds early in season and when Reds complained, Hurdle basically stated “well we throw inside you sissies” and it was on until per stories Pirates Neal Walker told his pitchers to stop, he was getting tired of being hit and worrying about being hit. and if a pitcher cant control pitching inside consistently, then expect payback to help that pitcher understand. At some point, no matter how accidental/unintentional the HBP was, guys will get tired of it and will want a message sent back.
    I don’t advocate drilling players, but I get it why it happens.

    Heck, as coach I have been hit by 70mph from kids in Pony baseball, and went all “Dorn/Major League” over it. LOL. Getting wacked by a 90+ and these guys lots of times are able to “man up” and shrug it off, I find a bit amazing.

  20. Now, at the risk of my comment being deleted and permanently banned from the blog, I offer full disclosure- I am from St. Louis and am a very loyal Cardinal fan. But wait, before the pitchforks come out and I am chased off, hear me out. I’ve been a regular reader for several years now, I like perspective and to be honest, I really enjoy coming here and hearing what you all think. There are some great baseball fans here.

    Now, this thing, it really is about nothing. To say it was a complete accident is a true guess, at best. No one knows. Also, I don’t think anyone cares, it was over last night, today’s game was played and it was non-eventful, to say the least. I can only chalk it up to that’s baseball, it’s been going on for how long? Only the players know what the real story is and they’re not going to say anything. We can speculate all day on this and other similar in-game situations. But, in the end..Who cares. No benches cleared. It was a great, well pitched (understatement) game.

    Lastly, this Cardinal Way thing. This isn’t something that just came about a year ago when SI wrote the article. It’s not five years old, or even ten. I’ve been hearing about the Cardinal way since I can remember, going back some thirty years plus of watching baseball. For anyone who really cares, it is basically due to the fact that the Cardinals were fortunate to have a couple of minor league instructors in their system for decades, teaching the fundamentals and the approach which the Cardinals, as an organization, wished to be followed. The Dodgers, Giants, Yankees and I am certain the Red’s too, have a “Way”, an approach which they teach at the earliest levels of ball. This thing has gotten way too overblown, right up there with the BFIB, which by the way was a moniker bestowed upon us by our newspaper in an advertisement inside Busch II. It’s nothing a true baseball Cardinal fan will identify with and, honestly, a good number of us are truly annoyed by this false coronation as the entitle, the best. We’re not all idiots as we are presumed to be.

    Sorry for the rant. Thanks again for allowing me to enter your domain and I hope I can continue to at least read your thoughts and opinions.

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About Nick Kirby

Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.

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