I'm Sick of the Brewers Hitting Willson Contreras, and I'm Glad Two Messages Were Sent

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I’m Sick of the Brewers Hitting Willson Contreras, and I’m Glad Two Messages Were Sent

Chicago Cubs

The ongoing battle between Willson Contreras and Brewers’ pitchers inability to pitch safely up and in continued last night, with another HBP for Contreras up and in. Once again, Brandon Woodruff was not hitting Contreras intentionally in the sense that he did not affirmatively want to hit him. But once again, the pitch was reckless in the sense that after SEVEN HBPs in the last 14 games between these teams – all up and in, the most dangerous area for possible hand/wrist/head injury – the Brewers just flat out refuse to pitch more safely.

Contreras got his revenge in the 8th inning, though, hitting a two-run homer that gave the Cubs the lead and then the win. Given the situation, the Cubs Twitter account had some fun:

That had to feel good. Well, not the TWELVE hit by pitches by the Brewers, but the two-run homer that wound up winning the game. Contreras wanted to make sure the Brewers and their fans knew that the boos don’t bother him, and he was happy that he was able to send a message with his bat.

“It feels good to shut them up,” Contreras said after the game, per MLB.com. “When they boo me, I don’t really care. But, don’t get sensitive when I do something like that. … Tonight, we sent a message. I think they picked the wrong guy to throw at. That was a message sent.”

OK, so speaking of throwing at guys and sending messages, there was more to the story. In the middle innings, Cubs reliever Ryan Tepera was facing Woodruff, and uncorked a really wild one behind Woodruff’s legs:

There can be no question that this was an intentional pitch, and Contreras implied after the game that it wasn’t a team decision. So Tepera went a little rogue there, but I gotta be honest, I’m not going to dog him for doing something – in his mind – to protect his teammates, since there wasn’t really any danger in that particular pitch.

Like I said when this first popped up after Contreras was hit for the second time in Chicago (and 6th time in 11 games (now up to 7 times in 14 games)), the Brewers have clearly made a decision to pitch Contreras way up and in, and keep doing it without regard for their own apparent inability to control those pitches:

In other words, if you cannot reasonably locate your pitches on the inner half, then you should be thinking quite a bit about whether it’s worth going in there. Not only because you might give up a quick free baserunner, but because you might risk a serious injury for the batter, and reprisals for your teammates.

I’m reminded of something former Cubs catcher John Baker discussed when it came to a period of time when the Pirates were notorious for hitting batters. Retaliation – or the threat of retaliation – wasn’t just about getting back at a team or whatever. Sometimes, it was about sending the message to the other team in precisely a situation like this: you have to stop hitting our guys, accident or no. If you can’t pitch inside safely, you should reconsider your approach.

Hitting a batter in retaliation is not something I can get on board with. It’s too dangerous to try to control where you’re hitting a guy, and, moreover, it doesn’t always produce desired outcomes. But throwing low and way behind a batter as a message because you’re flat sick and tired of a specific team being unable or unwilling to pitch safely? I gotta admit, this whole situation with the Brewers and Contreras has me thinking that maybe there was just no other way to send this message. If you do it in a way where you’re going so low and far behind the batter that you don’t have to worry about losing control and really hurting the guy? I’m much less likely to have a problem with it in an extreme situation like this.

Also, Contreras tried to voice his displeasure the last time he got hit, and he wound up getting fined because other guys left the bench. So, again, if he can’t protect himself, what exactly are he and his teammates supposed to do? At some point, it’s just too much. And that point came and went a few HBPs ago. It’s a miracle that Contreras hasn’t suffered a broken hand or worse.

So, the Cubs sent two messages in the game, one from Tepera’s arm, and one from Contreras’s bat. The latter was definitely better, but the first one is probably important, too.

After the game Woodruff focused on the fact that Contreras hasn’t been hit intentionally, he didn’t care for what happened in the moment, but he doesn’t necessarily want ongoing beef given all the games the Cubs and Brewers have left:

I’ll agree with Woodruff that the best path from here is to leave this all behind. Increasing back-and-forth from here really isn’t likely to yield positive results. The last thing anyone wants is this leading to an injury.

But will behaviors actually change in service of that path? Will the Brewers stop taking so many unsafe risks with their pitches up and in? Will the Cubs let this all go and sin no more?



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.