We’ve been down this road before. Unfortunately, we’ve been down it a lot, recently. A pitcher makes a bad pitch and a batter hits it a long way. The batter looks at the ball, or flips his bat, and the pitcher gets upset about it and decides he’s going to teach the hitter a lesson the next time. Rather than simply trying to not let the guy hit a baseball 700 feet, he throws the baseball at the hitter instead. And for the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, this seems to happen far too often.
Back in early April we saw Derek Dietrich hit two long home runs off of Chris Archer. The Pirates, the bastions of “you play the game like it’s 1912 or we’ll throw a fit, and a baseball at you”, took exception to Dietrich watching a baseball hit completely out of the stadium and into the river. A baseball was thrown at Dietrich later in the game, and fortunately it missed, going behind him, instead.
Before we get into what happened on Wednesday between the Pirates and the Reds, let’s talk about what happened on Tuesday. Derek Dietrich once again homered against the Pirates. And apparently he looked at the baseball a little bit too long for the liking of some. “Some” included Pirates broadcaster John Wehner. He played for Pittsburgh for 9 of his 11 Major League seasons between 1991-2001. Derek Dietrich has as many home runs in the last three games against Pittsburgh as Wehner had in his entire 11-year Major League career. And no, he wasn’t a pitcher.
Wehner, on the radio call straight out said “I don’t like him. Just because of that (referencing watching the home run he just hit 3/4 up the stands in right-field). He’s got family in the area. I don’t like it. It just looks bad.”
Yasiel Puig followed with a home run on the next pitch, not giving Wehner much time to really dive into Dietrich, says “Go ahead Puig. Go. Run. He’s running. See! He’s running. I like it. I like that better.” He followed up with “I think after he hit it he realized it was gone. And so he didn’t want to look like Dietrich. He probably saw how bad it looks and maybe he’ll start running.”
The inning ended quickly after that. Derek Dietrich didn’t get another at-bat. That, however, wasn’t going to deter John Wehner. He was on local radio in Pittsburgh the next morning and, well, give it a listen, starting at the 3:40 mark.
Before Derek Dietrich steps to the plate for the first time tonight, here what John Wehner had to say about him today on @FanMorningShow.
He was heated.https://t.co/4LSKu58fvQ
— Chris Mack (@THEChrisMack) May 28, 2019
Tim Benz of Trib Live broke it down on Wednesday morning, and rightfully took Wehner to task. But here’s the key break down of what Wehner said about Dietrich on the morning show:
“I can’t stand him,” Wehner said on Tuesday’s “Fan Morning Show.” “I don’t understand why you have to do that. It’s different if you’re a Hall of Fame player, you’re a 60-homer guy, you’re an established guy. Nobody ever heard of him before this year. I heard of him because of his grandfather (Steve Demeter) who used to be a minor league coach for the Pirates. He was the sweetest guy in the world. He’s rolling in his grave every time this guy hits a home run. He’s embarrassed of his grandson.”
Read that again. What absolute garbage. Beyond the fact that he totally self-owns himself as to the lack of preparation he does for his job in not knowing who Derek Dietrich is prior to this year, he also shows some real lack of compassion by bringing up that his DEAD GRANDFATHER is embarrassed by him. Because he watched a home run longer than John Wehner would have liked.
Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. On Wednesday it continued in the first at-bat for Derek Dietrich. In his complete lack of understanding of the situation, the broadcast crew begins his at-bat with this conversation:
If David Bell was out prior to the game talking to the home plate umpire discussing whether or not Dietrich gets a ball thrown at him, then that would suggest that he thinks Dietrich did something wrong.
You’re right. You’re right.
No, guys. That’s not what that means. What it means is that he believes that the Pirates, who have a long history under Clint Hurdle of throwing baseballs at people, were probably thinking about throwing a baseball at his player and he wanted the umpire to be ready to take action against them for it.
Derek Dietrich hit three home runs on Tuesday against Pittsburgh. And in what you’ve come to expect, he showed a little bit of swagger on them. If you don’t want guys to watch baseballs hit over the fence, don’t put pitches over the plate that they can hit 375+ feet.
Thom Brennaman, who is given plenty of grief in and around Redleg Nation for some of the things he says on the air, addressed some of the stuff from his counterparts on the air. He went to bat, so to speak, for Derek Dietrich, his grandfather, and just how personal John Wehner got in his criticism. Brennaman did call Wehner a good guy, to which I question because there’s definitely a line that “good guys” don’t cross. I feel like Wehner certainly crossed that. Jeff Brantley broke it down rather simply: Out game has changed. It really has. “We’re the older ones. We’re the ones that have to adapt to the changes on the field. The issue at hand is do the fans love watching what they see on the field? And I think Reds fans love to see the swagger. They like to see the action.”
That brings us to Wednesday afternoon. Up 7-0 and late in the game, the Pirates reliever Clay Holmes came high and tight to Eugenio Suarez and hit him on the hand with a pitch. Suarez went to the mound, rather calmly, and asked him if he was trying to hit him. Holmes reportedly said no. And then Suarez continued to first base before he was removed from the game.
After that, David Bell was on the field talking with the umpires. For the first few minutes he was rather calm, but then things began to get heated and he was eventually tossed from the game. After the game, Bell was still upset – as he should be.
We know that team will intentionally throw at people,” Bell said. “I was doing what I could to protect our players. Clearly, we’re not going to get protected, so we’ve got to do whatever we can. We’ve got to take matters into our own hands. It’s unfortunate that our players aren’t going to get protected. That’s been made clear.
The first sentence above is key. “We know that team will intentionally throw at people” – and Cincinnati Reds reliever Jared Hughes backs that up. He told Jay Morrison of The Athletic that he saw it first hand when he pitched for the Pirates from 2011-2016.
“Yeah, I think so for sure,” Hughes told The Athletic. “Is it something that I saw when I was there? Yeah.”
Very plain and easy to read. The Pirates have told people, while being managed by Clint Hurdle, to throw baseballs at hitters. At least according to a player, Jared Hughes, who played six seasons for him.
The words from David Bell are disappointing, at least to me, somewhat. I understand the frustration of the umpires seemingly not caring one bit about the Pirates throwing baseballs at hitters. And it’s even more disappointing that Major League Baseball and Joe Torre, who is in charge of handing out suspensions, don’t care one bit about it, either.
But the Reds shouldn’t stoop to the Pirates level. They should continue to be the bigger men. Perhaps I’m reading it incorrectly and Bell isn’t implying that the Reds need to retaliate and throw at Pittsburgh hitters. But it certainly sounds that way. In a perfect world, Major League Baseball steps in and start issuing suspensions to pitchers that actually matter and harm their teams. We’ve seen no evidence at all that they will do anything of the sort.
Throwing at the Pirates isn’t the answer, though. All that is going to do is risk injury to their players. And to yours, because you know they are going to throw back at your guys. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation for the Reds. But it’s not as bad as a situation as there is in Pittsburgh, where it seems they’ve got losers and a losers mentality all the way through the organization. Their manager can’t handle his emotions better than a 5-year-old, so he asks his pitchers to throw baseballs at people. Their pitchers can’t handle their emotions either, so they do it. And their announcers, well, you have read what they said. Children. All of them. I hope the Reds can be better than that.