Colin Dunlap: Pirates Must Act Against Reds
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Retribution doesn’t have a statute of limitations.
That said, Joey Votto should be hit with a pitch tonight.
Or Brandon Phillips.
Or someone who wears a Cincinnati Reds uniform.
That’s the way baseball works — or at least the way it should work.
Revert back to Aug. 3 of last season, the Pirates were riding high as they carried a 60-44 record into the first game of a three-game series with the Reds at Great American Ball Park. In the ninth inning — with two outs and the Reds up, 3-0 — Andrew McCutchen was drilled with a 100 mph fastball from Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.
The intent appeared obvious.
McCutchen was incensed.
He was also never the same in 2012, as his average slipped precipitously after being plunked. The Pirates’ star centerfielder hit .360 in May, .370 last June, an incredible .446 in July and then saw that huge drop, hitting .252 in August followed by .254 in games played in September and October.
The Pirates were also never the same, drifting home on fumes the rest of the way.
From the very moment that fastball struck McCutchen, the club’s record was 19-39 the rest of 2012.
Go ahead and have all the theories you’d like about how that beanball didn’t deeply impact the Pirates and/or McCutchen; I’ll settle for looking at his production and the team’s record thereafter and safely arrive at my conclusion that it did.
Now here’s where that whole Baseball Code thing comes in.
It’s time to have Andrew McCutchen’s back.
Heck, it should have already happened, but better late than never — as was pointed out, retribution doesn’t have a statute of limitations.
Now, let’s square something away: This is, by no means, a column calling for someone to get injured. No, you do it by that Baseball Code — you drill in the numbers, in their backside or legs, under no circumstances do you headhunt.
The very day after McCutchen was drilled by Chapman should have been the time to settle the score. The Pirates starter that day, James McDonald, should have hit someone — preferably in the first inning.
However, it needed to be made clear that the Pirates’ superstar was hit and a measure of vengeance was going to be taken.
McDonald didn’t do it.
Shame on him.
Before McDonald could — or more accurately after he failed to — do anything in the game following McCutchen’s beaning, Reds starter Mike Leake hit Pirates utility man Josh Harrison with a pitch in the top of the second.
That brought on warnings was from umpiring crew.
Quite simply, McDonald had his opportunity in the first inning that day and ducked it.
Again, shame on him.
In the final game of that three-game series in August, a game started by Pirates ace A.J. Burnett, umpires issued warnings to both clubs before a pitch was thrown thus an immediate ejection would have come had it been deemed a pitcher threw at a batter intentionally.
It would have been unwise for Burnett to do anything then as his team, just starting a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, couldn’t afford to tax the bullpen.
In addition, the Pirates played the Reds six more times last season; one time fighting to stay in the thick of the Wild Card race, another time scratching at that .500 record that’s eluded them for 20 years.
One can see why, perhaps, nothing was done.
Tonight, however, sets the perfect stage — again, within those strict confines of baseball’s pillars as you don’t headhunt, don’t offer any chin music.
Instead, redemption should be had in this eye-for-an-eye structure with one of the Reds superstars — Phillips or Votto — being made to catch a fastball in his back, butt or legs.
Why now? Why tonight?
Burnett is the leader of this pitching staff, both by example and vocally. He is the person meant for this duty.
In addition, there are no warnings, no true consequences if Burnett plunks someone in the first inning tonight. Certainly they might be made afterward, but Burnett’s message would have already been sent.
Also, the Pirates could use a jolt. This is a club that is 2-5 in the last seven games and could use a rallying point.
Lastly, and perhaps the biggest component here is this: The Chapman-McCutchen incident is still open, the book has yet to be closed on it. In short, the Pirates never got even.
Tonight is the night it should happen and then it’s over; that’s just the way it works in baseball.
Nothing personal, just business — and Burnett should be the man to handle the business.
Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. -2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.