Sunday, August 9, 2009

"You're killing us, Youkilis!"

You know, even though I’ve been a fairly involved Rays fan since last season and a moderate follower since they came to Tampa in 1998 and my father has always been a Yankee fan, I never really had anything against the Red Sox. I rooted for them against the Rockies in ’07 and these days I like them more than any other team in our division, although this spot might be sometimes contested by the Toronto Blue Jays. My last post, “yesterday,” in this fictionally presented “blogaday” (as the label reads), for the month of August, talked about the irrationalities of baseball and how these are all embodied in the intentional hit by pitch.

Now as anyone reading this blog would know, I’ve obviously slacked off to a regularity by this point in the month, but I can somewhat excuse my course of action in this case (that is for this post), and although my excuse doesn’t really amount to much of anything, it is an interesting situation to be in. But before I move on to that discussion, I’d like to add a little color commentary on the blogging itself. Brad Sucks, a one-man band consisting of Brad Turcotte, has invented, to some extent, the persona of being in love with unpopularity. His band name, slogan (“a one man band with no fans”), and even debut album title (I Don’t Know What I’m Doing), all work on this level. This is a sort of style that I’ve tried out in various horrid introductions to even more horrible writings, but usually knowing the fact that no one will in fact read them. If I do pick up the style here, I guess any readers will just have to bear with me.

If this post had been made on Sunday, half a week ago, now, I would not have been able to bring up the current story of Kevin Youkilis’s storming of the mound at Fenway last night. Youkilis has garnered himself a five game suspension and also one for rookie pitcher Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers, who is currently high in the standing for AL Rookie of the Year, and may now see his chances quickly diminish, in response to this.

As I cited earlier (on Saturday, August 8th), I’m no fan of pitchers throwing at hitters, but there are way too many misreads in the major leagues. If you are a major league hitter, you should be able to tell if a pitch is thrown intentionally to hit you. Boston fans will, I’m sure, cite Porcello’s inside pitches to Victor Martinez in the previous inning, as Youkilis himself might point out, as proof that Porcello was paying back the BoSox for an earlier Detroit hit batsman.

This sort of comment is comically incorrect, since Porcello’s pitches against Martinez were brilliant examples of what the inside pitch can allow a pitcher to do. Porcello was able to later on in the at bat strike out Martinez on an outside pitch. By backing him off the plate, Rick was able to pick up the k and even more importantly, the out. The Tigers were up three to nothing when Porcello was pitching and this is a team that is very much in the heat of a division race of its own.

The Tigers currently lead what is debatably the worst division in the American League, ahead of the White Sox who have a pitcher in Mark Buerhle who has thrown a perfect game this season and another potential pitching threat in the inevitable return of their trade deadline acquisition, Jake Peavy, and also ahead of the Twins, who have quietly acquired Karl Pavano from Cleveland, a pitcher who has looked better than his former teammate Cliff Lee, at least while the two played together in Cleveland (as Lee is now pitching dominatingly in the National League, another Indian toss-off this season).

In other words, Porcello has every right to be pitching competitively, and when an inside pitch is direct set-up for an outside strike-out, there is no doubt in my mind that the pitch was intentional for that reason, and not to actually hit Martinez. Following his strike-out of Martinez, and returning to the mound in the next inning, Porcello does have a pitch get away from him. And this isn’t my expert opinion, since my opinion is obviously not expert, it’s the opinion of “Wild Thing” Mitch Williams, and various others on the MLB Network staff. And if anyone knows about pitches getting away from you it’s Mitch.

That said, Kevin Youkilis got hit by a pitch, and was in line to collect his tenth HBP awarded base of this season—I think we have to allow him some slack, you’re going to be angry when in two thirds of a season you’ve been hit a number of times in the double digits. But what Youk then did was to throw his helmet towards the mound and storm Porcello. Awkwardly, Rick stepped back, both hands raised, in a “Why are you coming after me?” stance, and continued to retreat, but Kevin wouldn’t run out of steam.

In my opinion, the man on the right side won in this battle, however, when Youk’s attempted tackle of Porcello ended in Rick throwing him to the ground. No matter how much slack you want to give to Kevin Youkilis, the main question I have to ask is “What the hell were you thinking?”

The whole idea of hitting a batter is to diminish the opposing team’s greatest hitter. If I were to think that Porcello had been after Youk and Martinez, this rule of thumb would hold true. Although he might have great respect amongst the Boston crowd, Big Papi, David Ortiz, has not been dependable this year, and a team that at one point had what many say as an “overabundance of pitching,” has been able to blame a lot of its failings on lackluster offense. In fact that is what actually sparked the acquiring of Victor Martinez in the first place. But one person you couldn’t blame for lackluster playing of any sort was Youkilis, who quickly became one of the most feared in this year’s Boston line-up, a position he has been in before. Now, as Boston’s pitching has begun to unravel, their offense is even more needed.

Kevin Youkilis, in running to the mound, tossing his helmet, and just generally acting like a hooligan in some pick up baseball game had to know that he was going to get himself tossed out of the line-up for a while. In fact, I find MLB’s disciplining weak and one-sided. I could see a fine towards Porcello, but he does not need to be suspended, and I don’t think Youkilis should be hitting again until September. In his storming of the mound, he has truly showed himself as a bush league ballplayer. Compare him to Gary Sheffield, who just a few days ago basically asked a pitcher to avoid his head, while accepting the fact that a pitch was coming at him.

No matter what it comes down to, the inside pitch and the intentional HBP (two different things in my opinion) are very much a part of baseball. The Red Sox’s fate during his suspension was apparently not on Youkilis’s mind when he gave in to rage.

[May it be said that the Red Sox would come back from a 3-0 deficit to win this game, mostly due to the play of Mike Lowell, who would replace Youkilis at third base. Boston is a very deep team, and with Youkilis only gone for five games, it is totally possible that they will suffer through his suspension only minimally.]

5:38PM Wed 8/12/09
Def: 2.5 pp

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