Baseball is a noncontact sport.
There nonetheless seems to be lots of testosterone flying. The occasional baseball gets pegged at somebody. Nobody gets tackled or body-checked. But manhood is constantly defended, often in ways that are less than manly.
I was watching a baseball game Wednesday, and fourth-grade recess broke out.
Pitcher Clay Holmes of the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates hit Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez in the hand with a 95 mph fastball. Suarez approached the mound, but the benches stayed put. To quote Will Arnett in Semi-Pro, “These girls aren’t gonna fight.”
But after the game, Reds manager David Bell threw a hissy fit: The Pirates throw at us! Nobody protects us! We’ve got to protect ourselves by any means necessary!
Right, like Suarez did with a menacing glare. Lucky he didn’t pull out a feather duster. At least Suarez didn’t whine like Bell.
The Pirates-Reds “rivalry” is like a slap fight. It’s hard to take seriously, especially with the Reds no threat to make the playoffs and the Pirates a marginal one.
The Pirates and Reds don’t play again until July 29 at Cincinnati. That gives plenty of time for the SWAT team to get organized.
The big fallout from this week’s series is what Pirates broadcasters Greg Brown and John Wehner said about Cincinnati’s Derek Dietrich excessively celebrating his four homers vs. the Pirates (one Monday, three Tuesday). It blew up. It’s everywhere.
Dietrich did some big pimpin’. He did a slow trot. He did the Michael Jordan shrug. Upon taking a curtain call after his third homer Tuesday, Dietrich luxuriously spread his arms to the crowd at Great American Ball Park like a fascist dictator on a balcony.
When your guy does that, he’s having fun. Like when Pirates pitcher Chris Archer moonwalked off the mound after a strikeout last year. (Dude’s ERA is up near 6.00 this season. Archer should get a ticker-tape parade whenever he retires anybody.)
When their guy does it, it betrays the grand old traditions of the American pastime.
Wehner has taken the brunt of the national media attack — which has been mild, if widespread. Most note Dietrich hit as many home runs in two days as Wehner did in his 11-year MLB career, and that Wehner’s home-run trot was boring. As Deadspin.com said, “Don’t take it out on Dietrich because you chose not to live a little, John.”
Wehner lasted 11 years in the bigs, mostly as his team’s 25th man, partly because he did buy 100% into baseball’s self-righteous code. That goes a long way with managers.
But Wehner went too far when he said Dietrich’s grandfather — Steve Demeter, a former Pirates minor-league coach — was “rolling in his grave every time this guy hits a home run. He’s embarrassed of his grandson.” He also said Demeter would “slap (Dietrich) upside his head.”
Don’t invoke family, especially dead family.
I guarantee Demeter would not slap Dietrich upside his head, or be embarrassed. Mostly, Demeter would be thrilled his grandson hit three bombs in one game. Blood is thicker than baseball’s stupid unwritten rules.
Wehner is a good broadcaster and a top man. Same goes for Brown. This is a tempest in a teapot, one fueled by the echo chamber of social media and too much media.
But it’s also rooted in the expectation that flagship-station broadcasters should vehemently support the home team at every turn and, by extension, viciously attack every perceived wrong and slight the home team suffers. Wehner and Brown didn’t put Archer on blast when he did his moonwalk.
Cheerlead less. Calm down.
Dietrich pimped his home runs. So what? The way to stop that is to get him out. Not by throwing at him — which, ironically, Archer did after Dietrich admired a homer a bit longer than baseball’s decorum says he should April 7 at PNC Park.
Throwing a baseball at a defenseless hitter with intent is the single most cowardly act in sports. Do that, and your grandfather should slap you.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).