I’m just sitting here shaking my head, even though this is completely predictable behavior from the current Pirates organization.
Some background: almost two weeks ago, Anthony Rizzo slid into Pirates catcher Elias Diaz at home plate, breaking up a double-play opportunity in the process. The slide was ruled legal at the time, though it was probably not in the spirit of the kind of play MLB is trying to eradicate. Thus, a day later, the league informed the teams that the slide was – in their view – illegal.
The Pirates were very angry about the play, which could have resulted in a leg injury to Diaz. Retaliation was expected, but – at least as far as Rizzo was concerned – never came. Instead, the Pirates hit Willson Contreras twice, and I’m not so sure each was accidental. Moreover, Joe Musgrove later slid late and past second base into Javy Baez, an aggressive move clearly tied to the Rizzo thing.
In any case, apparently the Pirates have harbored bitterness ever since about the decision not to immediately plunk Rizzo when he next came up to bat.
Fast-forward to last night, when Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley hit Josh Harrison up in the shoulder, and also went up and in on Austin Meadows. The next half-inning, Pirates starter Joe Musgrove hit Chris Owings in the butt with a retaliatory pitch, about which he was very honest:
Musgrove didn't exactly hide his motivation, pointing to the Harrison HBP and Meadows getting knocked down by a pitch up near his head: "It’s nothing more than just protecting your teammates. They go back and they hit Sean there. It’s baseball. That’s how the game is played."
— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) June 12, 2018
Later, of course, the Diamondbacks plunked Sean Rodriguez in the hip. Retaliation begets retaliation.
Musgrove went on to tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he learned that you don’t let your guys get hit, apparently even if it’s inadvertent: “That’s how I was raised to play the game. You protect your teammates, especially when a guy like that gets hit high up. And then [Harrison] got hit 25 or so times last year and got hit in the hand earlier this year with the same injury as last year, and that’s something that we don’t want to allow to happen anymore.”
Given the history, that would be enough to discuss this situation, and revel in the fact that the HBP kicked off a huge Diamondbacks comeback – 5 runs in that 7th inning to tie the game – and then the Pirates lost. But it was actually this quote from Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon to The Athletic about the previous decision not to hit Anthony Rizzo, in the context of this Diamondbacks HBP, that really stuck out to me: “Trust me, we’ve talked about [giving up a single to Rizzo instead of pitching inside]. We’ve had internal discussions.”
Just to really lay it out clearly: internally, some Pirates players were ticked off that their pitcher didn’t drill Anthony Rizzo for his slide, they had discussions about it, and evidently made it clear that the next time there was an “opportunity” for retaliation, they were going to take it immediately, as Musgrove did.
How you feelin’ about that, MLB?