The beautiful weather today on the Northside of Chicago failed to bring an equally attractive result for the Cubs. A 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Pirates produced little talking points.
Kyle Schwarber went yard, and figured out how to beat the shift. Justin Wilson experienced a 7th inning meltdown, looking reminiscent to his 2017 performances. But the real news after this one came in the press room.
In the latest version of Major League Baseball’s affinity for being a living version of the “Old Man Yells at Cloud” meme, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle decided to take aim at Cubs players. For what, do you ask? Bat flips. How original.
Before Thursday afternoon’s game kicked off, Hurdle took it upon himself to criticize Javy Baez regarding an at bat in the 7th inning of Wednesday night’s ball game. The Pirates lost that game by eight runs, mind you.
Hurdle has this to say on Thursday, “You watch their kid flip that bat last night? Where’s the respect for the game? The guy hits four homers in two days, so that means you can take your bat and throw it 15, 20 feet in the air when you pop up like you should have hit your fifth homerun?”
First of all, Clint, that kid you are referring to is one of the most exciting players to put on the uniform in today’s game. The plays he makes with his glove and his bat on a day-to-day basis have captivated baseball fans since he broke into the league a few years ago. Never mind that Javy Baez is also an NLCS MVP, and a World Series Champion.
Hurdle’s comments just come off as tired and tone deaf. Major League Baseball has an identity problem, and old-school mindsets like that of the Pittsburgh manager are why. In order to keep the attention of a younger audience, the Commissioners Office is trying to shave a few minutes off games through pace of play mandates. Meanwhile, you have managers bombarding players to the press for playing with some flair. You have pitchers putting a 95 MPH fastball in a player’s back for watching a homerun sail over the fence.
This is not the first time the Pirates have had issues with opposing players. Back in 2014, former Pirates starter Gerrit Cole took it upon himself to confront former Brewer outfielder Carlos Gomez after he flipped his bat on a triple. The benches eventually cleared and Gomez, not Cole, would be ejected.
My advice to the Pirates is — if you don’t like hitters flipping their bat, try to avoid giving up so many hard shots.
Hurdle refers to respecting the game in his criticism of Baez. When you look back at a few moments from recent Pirates history, this feels a lot like a “don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house” type of situation.
How about this flip from Starling Marte? Is this OK, Clint?
How about Tony Watson and Sean Rodriguez humiliating themselves in the 2015 National League Wildcard Game against the Cubs? Watson intentionally plunked Jake Arrieta who was cruising through the Pirates’ lineup.
Rodriguez subsequently fought a Gatorade cooler after the benches cleared, probably realizing his season was over. This doesn’t seem all that respectful to me.
Back to Hurdle’s comments.
Baez caught wind of the criticism following Thursday’s ball game. The 25-year old handled it like a seasoned veteran. He avoided calling out specific members of the Pirates. Instead he referenced the fact that the last thing he wants to do is set a poor example for the kids who watch him play.
Baez’s most memorable quote came at the end of his comments on the matter, “People that talk about me can save it.”
Thanks for the bulletin board material, Pittsburgh. See you in May.
Quotes Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — Feature Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports